Posts Tagged ‘publishers’

From Tiny Blog to Book Deal to Oprah

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Here’s a true story to help you understand how to get noticed by hundreds of thousands of people and eventually have the media begging for interviews with you.

If you want to be in this position *before* you publish your book, follow the lead of Christopher Greenslate and his partner, Kerri Leonard, who teach English and social justice in a southern California high school.

Teachers Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard got a book deal after they ate on just a dollar a day.

Teachers Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard got a book deal after they ate on just a dollar a day.

One day, while they were discussing their extremely high grocery bill, they thought about people in third world countries who lived on just a dollar a day. Then they asked themselves a question that would literally change their lives: What would it be like to eat on a budget like that?

They decided to conduct an experiment to find out. Greenslate and Leonard would subsist on a one dollar a day diet.

(more…)

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What Adam Sandler and Sandra Bullock Can Do For Your Book

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
If you want a literary agent, mine the humor in your life story, like Carrie Fisher does in "Wishful Drinking."

If you want a literary agent, mine the humor in your life story, like Carrie Fisher does in "Wishful Drinking."

In my interviews with publishing professionals, one thing has come across loud and clear: You can make literary agents and editors take a chance on you if you’re funny.

So even if you’re writing a serious account about your life, you have to mine the humor in it. There’s always something funny.

Carrie Fisher’s new book, Wishful Drinking, is about recollecting the memories she lost through electroshock therapy, which she went through voluntarily to beat depression.

Nonetheless, she had me laughing so loudly in just the first chapter, they almost kicked me out of Borders.

When one of my clients read me her pitch for her screenplay and her novel, it came across,it came across as too sanctimonious.

Though her book is about a very difficult personal challenge, some of the relationships in it reminded me of Driving Miss Daisy. Plus there were elements to her story that reminded me of Three Men and a Baby.

So I asked her to look at her pitch again. This time, though, I told her to imagine the people  in her life story as being played by Dwayne  “The Rock” Johnson, Brendan Fraser, and Bette Midler.

She immediately understood how her pitch could be more light-hearted.

Just because something’s serious doesn’t mean there isn’t comedy in it.

I was once in an acting class where a guy was doing a monologue from a play called The Strongest Man in the World. He read every line like the toughest guy you can find.

The teacher asked him to recite the monologue again, only this time, to say the line as though he was the queeniest gay guy in San Francisco.

He did it, and it was brilliant, because he found all the humor and  sarcasm that he had missed the first time.  After that reading, he took what he discovered and blended  into his original interpretation.

So whatever you’re writing, particularly if it’s serious, sit back and imagine that the people in it are played in it are played by whoever makes you laugh. For me, that’s Adam Sandler, Jack Black, Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Aniston.

I guarantee you’ll see your work in a whole new light.

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Vote for Your Favorite Cover for Rick Warren’s New Book

Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Vote on Rick Warren's next book cover.

Vote on Rick Warren's next book cover.

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life,  which has sold 30 million copies, has done something unusual for the cover of his next book, The Hope You Need (From the Lord’s Prayer). He is holding a design competition at 99designs.com where hundreds of designers are competing for $5000 and the chance to have their artwork seen by millions of people.

Trust me, this will be a huge coup for whomever wins.

It’s also an educational opportunity for authors. How often do you see a ton of designs for one project?

For me, from just the first page, there was one cover that stood out from the rest. (It may not be on the first page by the time you look.) This cover was a clear winner.

But one person’s opinion is a very small sample size.

So here’s what I’d like: I don’t think you can actually vote at 99designs.com.

Instead, vote on this blog– and I will announce the winner both here and to my email list.

Go to http://budurl.com/l87r and look at the cover designs.

Then make a comment on my blog as to your favorite design– ideally both the number and a little about the design itself and why you like it best.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Oh, and one last thing: I read about this on Yahoo Finance. I’m writing about it, as I’m sure others are. This was a masterful stroke on Warren’s part to get early publicity for his book. If you are clever, virtually everything about your book can help you get the word out.

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A Surprising Way to Create a Fanbase

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I just created a new feature for my e-zine:
Author Freebie of the Week.

I’m finding some great ebooks, podcasts, teleseminars and videos that people are giving away. These items are extremely useful for authors, so I’m enjoying passing them on.

There’s always somebody who is suspicious– in one email
I was asked, “You have got to be kidding nothing is free,
what is the bottom line?”

The truth is, because you’re competing with a simple
Google search, if you want to sell anything, you have
to give a decent amount of content for free. Otherwise,
it’s too hard to land a customer.

A lot of the time the free stuff that’s available on the net is behind a “squeeze page”
where a prospective customer is required to give up their
name and email address in order to get the material
they were promised.

But Ryan Deiss has created a new model where
he gives away the first part, which in his case is a
video, without asking for anything. Then, once you like
part one and you want parts 2,3,4, and 5, you’ll
need to *pay* by giving him your contact information,
which  allows him to pitch you
his products.

You can see an example of how he does this on his Million Dollar Napkin page.

Get a Literary Agent by building a fan base by giving away free information.

Get a literary agent by building a fanbase. Start by giving away free information.

Chris Anderson, whose last book, “The Long Tail”
created a phrase that became a standard part of
current business vernacular, has a new book out
called Free: The Future of a Radical Price. In it
he describes how several offline businesses are profiting
from giveaways. Think cell phones– they are being sold
or given away for free in order to get your subscription.
Publishers Weekly mentions  a surprising example in their review of Anderson’s book:

” . . . In China, piracy accounts for about 95% of music consumption—to the delight of
artists and labels, who profit off free publicity through concerts and merchandising.”

Anderson gave away more than 210,000 copies of his book over a 5 week period. You can still get the first fourteen pages.

And Amazon.com has a twenty minute podcast of Anderson.

Of course, in the book business, there are dozens of stories
about people giving away books for free in order
to develop a following. Seth Godin is the most famous
example in the US. He allowed several hundred thousand
people to download his book, Unleashing the Ideavirus
for free, and then offered the book in hardback for $30.
He sold 40,000 copies–and grossed a neat $1.2 million
dollars. (It may have been 30,000 copies at $40 apiece,
I never remember. But the total value was the same.)

Paulo Coelho, a much richer author, was disturbed that
his books weren’t selling in Russia. He used the same
model–and a million copies were downloaded. He ultimately
wound up selling more than 10 million books in Russia–
and we’re talking novels, not non-fiction.

So if you want to build a fanbase, in today’s market, you have to give things away for free. Everybody’s doing it. Why? Because it works.

And if you want access to my Author Freebie of the Week, plus  a list of top literary agents seeking authors, fill out the form to the right.

Hey, I practice what I preach.

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Get in Chicken Soup for the Soul

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

If you want a literary agent, it can't hurt to get a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

If you want a literary agent, it can't hurt to get a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

If you want a literary agent, it helps to have some writing credits. One good writing credit to put on your resume is a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

You probably already know the fairy tale success story behind this series. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen put talked to all the speakers they knew and put together a collection of their best stories. Then they tried to get a publisher.

Literary agent extraordinaire Jeff Herman sent their proposal to 50 editors and couldn’t sell the book.  Jack and Mark pitched the book to an additional 75 publishers and still got turned down. Finally, they convinced HCI to take a chance on their book by showing them a box with 20,000 order forms ready to go.

144 million books later, there are a lot of people who have had to forgive themselves for saying that a collection of short pieces would never work. One of my friends is in that group.

At any rate, there is a  unique scoring process that’s used to build the Chicken Soup books. They take 101 stories out of all the submissions. The finalists are sent to a fairly large group of readers who rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. (I heard this story from Mark several years ago, so I hope I’m getting it right. I’m thinking there are about 40 readers.) Only the stories that get the highest scores from the group wind up in the book. As I recall, a story really needs a 10 across the board to get in.

That’s what makes this a wonderful credit for you. If your story gets in, beause of their careful vetting process,an agent doesn’t need to read it to know that you write well.

Oh, and last I heard, they’re paying $300 per story.

Here are what they are looking for during the next few months. Remember, a Chicken Soup story is supposed to warm the cockles of your heart– though I suppose they won’t turn down something that makes  you laugh, either.

Dieting and Fitness

Got a story about how YOU changed your eating or exercise habits? Got a system that lets you cheat with a hot fudge sundae once in a while. If you have a story that can inspire others, this is the place to share it.

Deadline: September 30, 2009.

Endurance Sports
Do you run, cycle or swim? Or are you a triathlete? The Chicken Soup team wants your best story about your triumphs, tragedies, life lessons from your sport or even how you the hours of practice into your life. You can be an amateur, a student athlete, or a pro. Deadline: September 30, 2009.

Mothers and Daughters
The relationships between mothers and daughters can be both complicated and wonderful. If you’ve got a mother-daughter or a mother-daughter story that’s moving or funny, this book might be for you.

Deadline: December 31, 2009.

Christmas and Holiday Stories
Share your Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa stories. Deadline: January 15, 2010.

Grandmothers

Whether you are a grandmother (or stepgrandmother or honorary grandmother) with a story about your grandchild, (or vice versa if you’re an adult), if you’ve got a wonderful story, send it in.

Deadline: March 31, 2010.

Grieving and Recovery

This next Chicken Soup collection is meant to be a support group in the form of a book for anyone who has suffered a loss.  They are looking for stories that let people know they aren’t alone, that they can get through the grief, and that there is life on the other side of their pain.

Deadline March 31, 2010.

Grieving and Recovery for Cat Owners

Losing a cat can be a painful process. This book will help cat owners deal with their loss. Stories about aging cats and getting a new cat after losing a  cat you adored are also welcome. Deadline: March 31, 2010.

Grieving and Recovery for Dog Owners Everything mentioned above for cat owners applies to dog owners, who will get a separate book of their own.

Deadline: March 31, 2010.

For submission details, go to:

http://www.chickensoup.com/form.asp?cid=possible_books

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Sweet and Sour Literary Agents (and Rumi)

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This is a tale of two pairs of literary agents. Each pair includes a sweet one and a sour one.

Sounds like a fairy tale? It kind of is– with both a happy ending and a moral.

The first tale involves  literary agent Carol Susan Roth. I hate to call her the sour one, since we had a very pleasant lunch a while back. But for fairy tale purposes, she was.

Literary Agent Carol Susan Roth sold "The Infertility Cure" at auction

Literary Agent Carol Susan Roth sold "The Infertility Cure" at auction

Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure, had two agents who were interested in her work. The first was ready to send out her book proposal as it was, right away. The second was Carol, who said that Lewis’s book proposal wasn’t ready for prime time yet. Lewis went with the first agent, who sent it out to three publishers, resulting in three rejections.

So Lewis went back to Roth: “ . . .She introduced me to a wonderful ghostwriter who totally revamped my proposal. Carol sent it out and after an auction with six of the major publishers, it was sold to Little, Brown & Co. for a very big advance!”

Pair number two involves a novel.  It has basically the same setup. The “sour” literary agent was interested in  the work based on the author’s query letter. But after she read the manuscript, she said to the author that their work had merit, but  just wasn’t ready yet. This literary agent suggested that the author  improve it, and that she would be happy to provide commentary on subsequent drafts until it was a salable book.

But there was a sweet literary agent who was willing to take the work on as is, right away. The sweet agent submitted the novel to dozens editors at a wide variety of publishing houses—and they all turned the manuscript down. They rejected this novel for the same reason that sour literary agent had declined to take it on in the first place.

So the author decided to go back to the sour literary agent—who agreed to work with her to improve the manuscript—even though it’s next to impossible to get an editor to re-consider a manuscript he’s already rejected.

The sour agent twisted some arms and sold the book. But that’s an unusual outcome. Rejected books are almost never resurrected. And because an agent sent this manuscript out before it was ready, it almost didn’t get published.

So both these tales had happy endings. The moral of the story reminds me of some lines from one of my favoirte Rumi poems, Borrow the Beloved’s Eyes. The translation, as you  might expect, is from Coleman Barks:

“Worry about the others, who give you

delicious comforts that keep you from prayer.

Friends are enemies sometimes,

and enemies Friends.”

So when you have a choice between a sweet literary agent who wants to represent you right away, and a sour one who wants  you to wait and improve your work, it’s usually wiser to choose the sour literary agent.

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What Literary Agents Want to See When You’re Not Famous, Part I

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

When you’re trying to get published, the first thing literary agents tell you is that you have to have a platform. A platform is an audience of people who know who you are. Typically it’s achieved through becoming a well-known speaker, having a syndicated column, developing an e-zine with a large following or a Web site or blog with lots of traffic or having tons of followers, friends, or links on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

A platform takes time to build. But certain strategies can help you land a literary agent and get published even if you’re not already well-known to tens of thousands of people.

First off, timing is everything. Literary agent Grace Freedson says you can sell a book without a platform “if it’s a topic that a publisher … feels if I had a book on this I know I could sell it.”

Even if publishers don’t realize they want a book on a particular topic, but yours covers a trend that affects lots of people, you can get published without a big platform.

Here’s an example:

In today’s economy, millions of people are losing their homes to foreclosure, going bankrupt, and missing credit card payments. How do you do things like rent an apartment, get a job, buy a car, get a credit card and start a new business after your credit is shot? Chris Balish and Geoff Williams answer that question with their book LIVING WELL WITH BAD CREDIT, which literary agent Laurie Abkemeier of DeFiore and Company sold to publisher HCI.

If you’re a book publisher, publishing this book is a no-brainer. It’s filled with timely information that the media will be happy to talk and write about. A morning talk show like the Today Show could literally do a week-long series on living with bad credit. Each day they could show you how to overcome one of the problems the book solves.

So if you come up with something timely that’s already on everybody’s minds, or if you happen onto a topic that publishers think is hot, you can attract a lot of attention from book publishers and literary agents.

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