Thursday, March 31, 2011

It is Personal ... When it Comes to Business Ethics

I have now had the unfortunate encounter with two different situations where trusted people blatantly lied to me (The Queen of Crap and now the Queen of Crap JR -- two monikers well earned). Rather than be discouraged that I can't trust people who I thought I could trust -- and in one case, the person was someone I thought was a loyal friend ... well, until she was no longer. In retrospect, I considered all the duplicity and disingenuous behavior and decided rather than not trust colleagues and associates, I would instead learn from the red flags that were raised. Here are some important observations I've made that may help others learn from my mistakes:

If someone conducts their personal lives in a unethical way, don't instantly believe they will separate their personal from their professional ethics. This person burned family, lied, connived and admitted it. I remember thinking at the time it was alarming. I didn't know anyone who had ever done something so low. It should of red-flagged it for me that if a person claims to love their family and then deceives, lies and manipulates them that perhaps you're not long to be taken advantage of and lied to as well. Most people say, "It's not personal; it's business." Well, I've discovered there is blurred line there. If you're involved or associated with a business person who would do something very immoral and unethical to someone in their family chances are you are not going to be protected from the same kind of behavior. Buyer beware if someone confesses something disturbing to you and clearly something that would bother your sense of ethics. You might want to get out of their way.

Patterns of behavior don't change just because you think you are someone's friend. If you see someone overtly lie about something, over inflate the truth, or just overtly hide the truth -- not to you but to someone they are associated with, again, get out of the way. Don't ever assume that if someone lies to others you would not be the target of their inability to tell fact from fiction. In one case, I was unpleasantly surprised and frankly disappointed (because I still wanted to think the best of this person) to find out how many different ways south of the truth this person had lied to me. Keep a keen ear and really listen to what other people say and whether or not it matches up to what you know is true. If you hear even a series of white lies, watch out. People who are adept at "white lies" are probably good liars in general. I also find it rather interesting that the Queen of Crap JR attracted in the Queen of Crap -- laws of attraction? Probably!

Forgiveness is always important. I think to be at peace with things, you have to take responsibility for your end. If you ignored a situation, whose bad is it anyway? And then you have to release it. Forgive yourself for being human; but don't ignorantly move forward and not learn your lessons. And I hope by my sharing this, that others will learn from my mistakes. So, if that is the "good" that comes out of my lessons, then I think that is the ray of light.

Life is a journey. It's what you learn from the journey that counts and makes you a better human being. And Queen of Crap JR -- if you read this, just know you got caught (your lies were all exposed). I know everything! I forgive you; but stay away from all of us!

The Writers Waiting Agony

I am waiting to hear back on my outside projects. I got asked how do I exercise patience as I wait for responses? Sometimes writers get very anxious about the wait to hear back from agents, publishers, editors, producers, etc. I have written three books and dozens of magazine articles and have sold two scripts. Here is the way to become peaceful with the "waiting." First, you have to imagine that these editors, publishers and agents have piles to read on their desks. What I say is "don't bake the cake before you put it in the oven." Writers often think the worst (rejection) long before any of these professionals have had a chance to even review or consider their projects. You can't assume the worst. What you can assume is that it takes time. It takes time to read the material; time to escalate it up the decision-making chain; and time to get back to you. So, your best approach is to periodically check in and gently push. That way you are proactive without being pushy and it will help make the wait easier by knowing you are taking actionable steps to move forward. And if you've submitted to us at 3L Publishing and call us and say, "Did you read the whole thing? What do you think?" I will have to gently slap you. We read the synopsis and first chapter and then size up the project. You can safely assume our very busy staff did not read the whole thing. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Rules of Work Horse

Over the years, a common theme in my life is that people call me a "work horse." For some reason my mind flashes to a Clydesdale humping the farm field, dragging a heavy plow. I shake my head and return to reality now. Since I'm no fan of the idea that one must pull a heavy plow to get a lot of work done in a day, I thought I would much rather give you some tips on why it is that most people seem to associate the Clydesdale with yours truly. The real reason is that over the years I have learned some important lessons on how to get a lot done in a day. I thought you would appreciate my insight.

Organization first and routine second -- when I first got into business, I set up my paperwork and got all my primary documentation stored and on-the-ready. I have central contracts, invoices and legal documents pre-written and on stand-by for when a need rises. I recently had a very unappreciative former business associate who worked with me and asked for assistance in this area. She blithely took it for granted that handing over this kind of paperwork was a no-brainer and lacked appreciation for its original creation. A lot of work was poured into the creation of that documentation. So, don't assume it's not a big deal like this person did, because it was just given to her. Pay close attention to getting it set up and done ahead of time so you can efficiently pull out the template each time you need to use a form. Incidentally I have found that whenever you give someone something, it's rarely appreciated or valued -- taken for granted, yes.

Routine second and goals third -- set up a daily routine of activities you do in a certain order. If you follow your routine you will also stay organized. I get up every day, and after taking my kids to school, I answer morning email followed by writing this blog. I look at the blog's analytics to ensure I'm on track, and then in short order, I move onto client work. First, public relations followed by editorial work. I do not break the routine unless there is unexpected project. This routine ensures I get X amount of work finished each day.

Goals always -- within that routine, I set up goals. I will do X number of pitches to the media. I will complete X number of pages edited. I actually edit per chapter. So, I would edit until I finished an entire chapter, which means authors see between 4-5 new chapters each week, which looks very productive. The same goes for the PR pitches to the media. The clients see X number of pitches transparently landing in their email boxes to show them who we reached out to.

Those key tips are what make my work so effective, keep work moving forward, and keep clients blessedly contented. And that my Friend-Os is the super secret sauce to my success.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The "Oath of PR Results"

Public relations campaigns can be tricky. We often have prospective clients show up who want us to "guarantee" results. I once had a guy shove another PR agency's one sheet under my nose and point to the "empty" promise of "guaranteed" results. He relentlessly insisted I make the same "oath of results," which I could not do. In PR you cannot promise anything when it comes to the media. If you know anything about the Public Relations Society of America code of ethics, you would know that true accredited PR professionals cannot promise media placements. It's unethical to make those kinds of promises. Why? Because (while most of us would like to believe it isn't so) we don't control the media. Have you heard of unbiased news reporting? Well, if PR pros were able to control the media, everything would be quite biased. As professionals all we can do is pitch our ideas and clients and hope the media likes what they hear. And here is one for you. Some media outlets don't even accept PR pitches. They dig up their own stories. So while some unethical PR agency might promise from here to the next continent that they can produce results with specific media, good luck on that one. Unless you're Rupert Murdoch, I'm thinking not.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Building Positive Morale in Employees

I hope that my staff agrees with this -- and I suspect they do; but 3L Publishing is an awesome organization to work for and to work with. What is my assumption based on? "Do you have empirical evidence?" you ask. Well, a few fun facts to help persuade you on my premise. We don't have a brick-and-mortar building. We will probably never have a building. Why? Modern business doesn't need these kind of physical establishments to be successful. When I started my company in 2006, it was to escape the constraints of corporate boundaries -- desks in offices in buildings. It was to create a way for me to lose the commute and the time wasted in the commute. My independence enabled me to spend more time with my family; be home when my kids got out of school; and to keep overhead costs down in fuel costs. As a result, I translated the needs to my team. As we've begun to grow, I don't put restraints on how people spend their time or where they spend their time working. I only ask for results. As long as the results are there, I pay no attention to how they got there. I also pay my team what they're worth. I don't put a premium on profits over people. I reward my team for a job well-done not just through monetary gain, but also through fun team-building excursions and retreats. Ours is a company built on the idea that your family's needs come first and you work your job around your family's needs. And because I am concerned with the quality of my team's lives, it engenders loyalty. My team will on their own initiative take care of the company. They feel married to it. They care about it. They treat it as it's their own company. And these things are priceless. And the results -- high-quality products. You can't beat that.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Small Business Marketing Fundamentals

I recently answered a questionnaire about marketing for small businesses. I thought I would share my answers with the rest of you to help other businesses. 

1) How important is having an organized and successful marketing plan? What key areas should one think about when developing a marketing plan? 

My personal opinion is that a marketing plan is your roadmap really toward your tactics. I think your overall strategies and goals are important but really drive what you are going to do tactically to take action to drive your marketing campaign. The strategies lay out your intention to reach what markets and why -- your goals are your milestones toward results. Your tactics, however, state what tools and techniques will you employ to reach those goals. Without a clear plan, marketing leaders will pursue their marketing campaigns in a much more haphazard and random way -- and stumble toward success or not achieve success at all.

2) What are a few easy online marketing strategies? 

I am a firm believer in using three online marketing strategies integrated together -- blog, e-zine and social media. The messages in each should be focused on your core business model and each drives the other's readership. Also, your blog, e-zine and Facebook (I prefer Facebook) should be service-oriented and not sales-oriented. These tools are geared toward increasing visibility and exposure for your brand and company. 

3) Easy offline marketing strategies? 

The most basic offline marketing strategies are networking and using something as simple as a great business card and investing in table displays or event booths where you offer more information through brochures and one sheets about your company or sell any related products directly to consumers. Nothing is more personal and more effective than meeting your prospective client or customers in person and personally putting a face on what you do and passionately explaining your company and services.

4) What are the top cost effective marketing strategies? Marketing strategies that can have a big impact for low cost? 

For our company the top-cost and effective marketing strategies are the four networking events we attend per month where we invest in table displays. The travel, time and resources invested cost us roughly $25,000 a year, which for a small business is a lot of money. But by marketing outside of our region, we created a national publishing company with clients in other states. We've been opened 18 months and produced 25 books with 25 authors scattered around the country. So the money to attend conferences, events and luncheons has paid off in spades. The low-cost, effective marketing is the use of free to blog each day. We have people who read our Facebook posts linked to our blog, which triggers sales. 

5) What are good presentation techniques? How can you sell your product or service without coming on too strong? What is the best way to approach a potential new client or customer? 

You focus on the benefits and value and information. You do not (and I emphasize this for the info-merical crowd), spend the majority of your presentation selling packages and services for low prices. You emphasize strong information and give away your knowledge and experience. This presentation builds credibility, and credibility builds trust, and trust generates sales. 

6) What suggestions do you have for our readers when they are pricing their product or service? What should they consider when pricing? What is a good way to know whether one has priced one's services to high or too low? 

Each product will have its sweet spot. Sometimes it's trial and error. If you're pricing something too low and you're not making money, it's simply too low. You have to believe in your product and its value proposition and benefits. What I've done is massage and be open to changing up prices to find the best price that people will buy. You have to use your instincts and gut to figure it out. But here is the truth, if you don't value something it will unconsciously come across in what you communicate. So make up your mind, find a price, and believe in your product's or service's value -- and so will everyone else. 

7) Why is branding important, and what advice do you have for our readers about branding their product or service? 

Branding is your distinguishing characteristics -- your look and feel. It's what makes your clients or customer easily identify you from the crowd. It creates perception of your company -- are you conservative or are you fun and entertaining? Are you more focused on creativity? Or are you focused on production and technical? Your brand should answer those questions through the use of logos, tag lines, colors and styles. It says who you are without you having to say it.

8) Name and explain a few different marketing methods. For example, affiliate marketing, joint venture marketing, mobile marketing, information marketing, relationship marketing, etc. Briefly explain what different effects these individual marketing techniques can bring to your overall marketing goal.

We focus on information marketing, as it has proved to be the most effective for us. We are known for being fun and interesting. We write about our industry and help prospective clients through information-based marketing such as our weekly newsletter First Word and our blog. We "give away the farm" in information, because our assumption is our audience cannot do what we do. But they learn through our open knowledge that we know what we're doing by our sharing the information. We ask nothing of them. And we work under the assumption, they will recognize we know what we're doing and come to us when they're ready. I would say it's working. We are working our way toward becoming a $1 million company.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Collaborative Writing

We just had a presentation of collaborative writing. I am a fan of collaborative writing -- even though I have been sullied on business partnerships in general. While I will firmly suggest I will not partner in business again (see Buddha, I learned my lesson), I will eagerly partner in writing books or screenplays again. When you have the right collaboration, you will find it enhances the process. You can brainstorm and bounce ideas around with someone else and get feedback from a vested partner, who is much less inclined to indulge you since he/she has a stake in its success. You can be each other's fan and support club to finish the project. You have someone to enjoy the process with too.

On the downside, a bad partnership or collaboration can have horrific and stressful results. So, make sure you have an agreed upon vision and compatible writing style. Do watch out for a collaboration where one partner takes advantage of the other's goodwill and generosity. Signs of abuse are the collaborator not doing her fair share of work, not contributing an equal amount of financing to the project, or going behind your back and making agreements about your project without your involvement. These signs are project and relationship killers.

The taking-advantage problem probably happens most often. So watch out for potential collaborators who might have a sense of entitlement on your time, money and resources. People like this generally show their stripes pretty quickly. What I've learned is that if a collaboration immediately starts to go out of balance, nip it. Do not keeping shoveling your generosity at it, because people who feel entitled will keep right on taking.

And do not get in the mode where you feel like you should because you think you have more to give. If the results of your collaboration will be a 50/50 split, the investment should be 50/50 regardless of any emotional blackmail the offending collaborator might pull. So just keep it even regardless, and it will set a precedence to keep the relationship from going upside down. Because how you set up and behave in the early part of the collaboration will set the tone for the future of the relationship.

The biggest mistake I've made is "giving away the farm" to someone who I should never have done so with in the first place. Would the outcome have been different had I never given so much of my resources and money and not received reciprocity? I don't know. But I do know that I wouldn't be standing looking at a finished product that because of this kind of bad blood, I will not put the right amount of effort into selling, because that person is still attached. Ultimately, though, this is my bad for not being more cautious and demanding equality. So learn from my mistakes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recommendation Conundrum

Here is a conundrum for you. Why do people ask you for recommendations and referrals when you have never worked with them? In the last few weeks, I've had several people ask me to refer them; however, I have never worked with or even know these people. I am scratching my head. Aren't you supposed to put your good name behind someone or something you had a positive experience with? How can I give a reference to someone I don't know ... or better yet barely recognize their face? I would imagine if I splatter my name all over the place and provide references for people I've never even met it might dilute the effectiveness of my recommendation. Am I right? So next time you ask someone to put their name behind your own name, maybe you ought to actually know the person. I'm just sayin'.

Pitch it and They will Come!

Pitching to the media is an art form. When you're promoting a book or product or person, you pitch their stories to the media. Your aim -- to get as much media attention as possible. The more promotion out there, the more visibility, and the more sales generated. Pitching, though, cannot take the form of a monosyllabic: check out my press release ... or I have a new book on Vegas out ... or I have a new book for you. As a magazine editor in another life, I have seen it all, and I can tell you the worst failures and best successes. When publicists sent me lame product pitches that consisted of nothing more than a line or two in the pitch, I wasn't impressed. You have to get the editor to stop for a moment. Editors, producers or writers are busy. They have often daily deadlines. They have little time to stop and read what can often be hundreds of pitches per day; so make your pitch powerful. Give it a strong hook. Make it interesting. Ensure it's about a story behind something. Do not send an editor a one-liner that reads: "Sign me up!" or "I'm all in." Your pitch should contain the inverted pyramid in journalism (who, what, where, when, and why), and as part of that pyramid convey something provocative, unique or interesting. And one more thing, next time you hire a public relations professional, make sure he or she is really a "professional," meaning they have education, training or certification in PR not a hope and a smile -- and zero background in the profession, because it is an actual profession.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Power of Persistence in Publishing

A good friend of mine dove into the screenwriting field with complete commitment to become a screenwriter. He put it well when he said, "What else can I do?" These words are the comments of a true writer. When writing is your art and represents your passion -- and you commit to your art and passion with 150 percent of your soul, it will work out. I wanted to become a writer when I was 10 years old. Some people marvel that a 10-year-old knew what she wanted, but it's true. I've committed my life to my craft. I've never wavered from the complete desire to go forward. And with that absolute commitment, I've always succeeded and became professionally published at age 22, and the journey doesn't end. Like my friend, "What else can I do?" And with that commitment comes the persistence to go forward. You cannot allow roadblocks, naysayers, critics or anyone else to put barriers in your way. You go forward and you keep going forward. You knock on doors -- and you persist until you've succeeded, but even then the journey is not over. You keep writing. You keep persisting. You keep going. Because ... what else can you do?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Excellence, High Quality and Superior Customer Service - My Pledge

I read on the airplane the book "Built to Last," which inspired me to reinforce some of our core business values. I've been beating the internal drum at 3L Publishing that everything we do results in high-quality products and customers beyond satisfied. What this book showed me is that companies that look beyond the bottom line toward a greater organizational value endure through the years as great institutions. I want my company to grow and endure through great vision and innovation. So, I got to thinking about our core value and those three thoughts -- excellence, high quality products and services and superior customer service -- resonated with me. I shared my thoughts today with Malia, our account and operations manager, and inspired her to think about it too. So as we as a full-service team build on those values and grow, I hope to leave a legacy of endurance -- and one we can all be proud to be a part of.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What are Great Results for Public Relations?

Public relations -- often referred to as the "airy-fairy" stuff can be hard to measure results, which is why concrete pick up with the media is the only clear outcome that seems meaningful to most people. What we've tried to do at 3L Publishing with our public relations programs is create complete transparency so the client knows exactly how much work truly goes into moving their campaigns forward. Without complete transparency, the client only sees that maybe they got one request for a book review. Our methods keep our clients involved and aware of our process so that there is no question of the time and resources invested in moving their projects forward with the media. Our key campaigns under way right now are showing those results. Each week on each project, we pitch and receive requests to review the books pitched. So for example, this week the book Daughter of the Caribbean received three requests to see the book, and two requests to discuss an interview with the author for respectively a radio show and magazine article. The book Beyond the Iron received four requests from media and coaches to review the book. These requests are a direct result of doing what I call "pounding the press." We consistently and redundantly send out pitches every week. By consistently pitching and breaking up our program hours to allow that consistency, we receive consistent requests. The clients are happy. They see what is going on with their books as far as the pitching goes, and they see the direct results of that technique. We have an excellent track record on the accounts we run, because of this methodology. As you can see, there is nothing "airy-fairy" in this approach. Sign up for your campaign by sending an email to

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Copy Editing: "But Ma! It Looks so Easy!"

New authors are often shocked when they discover that the final proofing process is often the hardest part of the publishing experience. You have to keep in mind that you sometimes have between 50,000 and 100,000 words and phrases -- and these words all have to be correct. Let's break that down: that's 100,000 words spelled right and grammatically correct. Oh! And don't forget the right style needs to be applied. Are you suddenly cringing? Copy editors are often the lowest paid editor on the rung. A truly gifted copy editor is priceless. A thorough copy editor not only knows her grammar rules backwards and forwards, she also knows something super critical. She knows when she doesn't know -- and she looks it up. I've now worked with several authors who have come up for air after the final proofing process to admit it was harder than writing the actual book. So, next time you spot a minor error in a book, give the poor copy editor a break before you decide to pull out your baton and bash her on the head -- especially if it's a 300-page book. I always say before you cast the first stone, you try doing it ... perfectly! Then we'll talk!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dear Tsunami Looky Loos...

Why are people standing out on piers to watch the tsunami roll in? Are you that curious? Really? You think it's a great idea to "walk" the beach right now? Really? Do you think it's wise to stand on the dock too? Really? Didn't you see what just happened in Japan -- and that wasn't enough of a message that perhaps tsunami watching isn't a good hobby. Really? And when I'm saying really ... I mean REALLY? Here is a piece of sound advice, go inland. Watch the news. Stay away from the beach. No, now is not the time to go fishing. No, now is not the time to gawk at the ocean from a pier either! I'm just sayin'!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No! You Can't Have My Homework

This statement came from my operations manager -- and I was so tickled by it, I thought I would blog about it. Cheating on your homework or asking your buddy if you can use her homework to copy is the same as asking an associate for her contract, forms and spreadsheets for your business. The answer should always be, "No, you can't have my homework," and that answer also applies to school-yard politics too. Friends should not allow friends to cheat. Business associates should not allow business associates to cheat either. It's also called taking advantage of someone -- and that's not nice either. You should never be disrespectful to another person's hard word and ask to "borrow" their "stuff" -- and you should most assuredly not be asking to take their stuff without paying them either -- that's called slavery. And in case you had not heard, that was abolished in 1865. So for the record if you're asking to use/borrow or steal (that if you do it on the sly and think no one is looking) your associates and/or friend's business administrative paperwork, contracts, files or forms, the answer is, "No, do your own homework." And that my Friend-Os is called having integrity! I'm just sayin'.

Create Your Ideal Work-at-Home Space

I am often asked how I manage to focus with so many distractions -- two children, loads of laundry crying to be cleaned, husband hanging around, and two barking dogs chewing their squeaky toys. When my children now ages 7 and 13 were smaller, believe it or not, it was easier in some respects. The nanny would come and scoop up the little one and distract them with a toy. When they got older, I resorted to locking my office door. What I teach people who want what appears to them to be the ideal work-at-home setup is to create a space and boundaries within the space. So, here are some tips to help other at-home workers.

Boundaries -- there is nothing wrong with locking your office door. A lock is the best clear boundary you can use. And don't feel guilty that you've locked it and unlock it the minute you hear junior knocking for attention. Junior can wait. Also, if junior routinely takes up the habit of pounding on the locked door, teach your wee one not to do that. "When mommy is working, I am not your mommy. You will have to wait until I get off work." Or to your teenager, "Mister! Get a life!" LOL

Childcare -- working at home does not replace child care. The ideal situation is to have in-home help. Some people still take their kids to day care, but if you sat down and did the math, you would find that in-home help costs the same. The best advice is to work out a schedule where the in-home help comes at only the necessary times. Maybe from 8:00 a.m. to nap time where you can stretch another hour or two without help. Flexible care helps cut overall costs. In my case, I use in-home help as an assistant too and as a tutor for my kids. My goal was to never send my children off to daycare. I wanted the next best thing to being a stay-at-home mom -- and in-home care combined with working and being present in the home was the closest solution. And now I don't have latch-key kids, which is actually a time in their lives when they need the most careful watch and supervision to stay out of trouble.

Office equipment -- back to boundaries. If your office equipment makes you money,  it should not be open season for your kids to use and crash your computer, erase files and cause general mayhem on your desktop. Invest in lower-end computers for your kids. Do not allow them to use your desktop, laptop or iPhone for play. You cannot afford to have them destroy your work.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The "Boo" Meter

Some actions, questions or comments just require the perfect tone of "Boo!" My dear friend and financial advisor Cindy Fuzie taught me this. You don't like something, just say "boo." So for your entertainment, here are some boo-worthy moments.

Asking me the obvious. This one just seemed kind of off-the-wall to me. A gal asked me if Daughter of the Caribbean, which is clearly a pleasure book, was a non-fiction business book. What about a beautiful cover of a young girl, strolling on a Jamaican beach looks like a business book? When I pointed out what seemed like it should be pretty obvious, she relented that she would read it on the airplane. I was completely lost. The branding on the book is sublime, but it just goes to show that in marketing some hurdles (as is my dog ate my brain) just can’t be overcome. For asking what is probably the most absurd question of the year (if not decade), major-league “boo.”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant!” I always give people the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes people don’t pay attention to how they phrase things in the email. Let me say this up front, e-mail is a dangerous media to communicate in. It lacks tone and inflexion. So even the simplest request without the word “please” inserted can come off sounding like a commander chastising the troops. Problem is when the commander is really a private – and they’re pushing the lines of polite requests from a company that doesn’t actually work FOR them. Be very careful when you’re actually asking for a f-a-v-o-r to not come off sounding like General Patton on a rampage. For “commanding” versus requesting – that gets a mammoth-sized “boo.”

Time to put on your big-girl pants. When the parties over, it’s over. Recent company events took place that severed certain relationships (yes, you know what I’m talking about). While in the beginning I was tolerant of answering what I considered tedious and ridiculous questions about how to do simple tasks, I decided what should be plainly obvious by now -- I am not your consultant or anything else for that matter. I am busily running 3L. Someone who supposedly owns a business should know the answers to the types of questions I've been asked. First, I understand my business. So, when a recent question came from said source, I immediately told my brilliant operations manager to ignore it. I mean what are we? Ask Jeeves? Uh, no! Asking someone you burned a few times over for common-sense information deserves a whopping “boo.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Your Book as Your Platform

Writing a book is more than having a book to sell. A book can create a wealth of opportunities by creating a platform for your business to grow. Most authors often make the mistake of focusing exclusively on book sales as a measure of a book's success. While book sales definitely matter, it's not the individual unit sales you should focus on. The real question is what kind of doors did the book's existence open for you? A book is a powerful tool to open the door for speaking invitations or to attract interest in your business in general. Even the existence of one book can beget another book. 3L Publishing as publisher last year invested in the book A Feast at the Beach. Why? It defied our traditional model. We did so, because we felt the title would add value to our overall catalog. It would help attract and grow that segment of market interest. In other words, while we want Feast to sell, whether it becomes a number one best seller doesn't measure its performance in the catalog. The author of Daughter of the Caribbean, while sold on doing business with us without Feast, was further sold and probably closed because we had this title in existence. 3L Publishing invested quite a bit of money in Feast. Have we seen return on investment? Yes, and that return has multiplied. The existence of Daughter of the Caribbean, in turn, attracted interest from the author of the forthcoming 3L book Fannie Mae's Daughters, which is due out this summer. Who knows what doors Fannie Mae's release will open. Do you see the overall domino effect? So back to the question of return on investment ... the obvious answer is "absolutely." Can a book do something similar for your business too? Yes, if you use it to build a platform for other opportunities. And here is the kicker, don't discount that value of those opportunities. When you reflect on your book's success, be sure to assess what it brought in outside of simple unit sales.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Romancing Melodrama and the Ridiculous

You may wonder why some writers produce work that could only be described as genius versus other writers, who may have the mechanics down, but their story is either silly, melodramatic or ridiculous. I receive a lot of submissions where the story is mostly melodramatic and ridiculous. The summary of your manuscript (unless you're deliberately trying to be dramatic -- only in a ridiculous way) should not read like the last episode of the Young and the Restless. Now one caveat: maybe you want to be a soap writer, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that if that's your goal, but if you truly want to be a dramatic fiction writer, watch out. You are teetering on a fine line between melodrama and art. If you read your book's summary and it does sound like the last episode of Days of Our Lives, don't submit it. Your drama needs to have drama, of course, in it, but something along the lines of: Sally met the love of her life when she was 12, but the stars would not align for them until her 50th birthday, because an alien got her pregnant, she thought she loved the alien, they started fighting, and she divorced the alien after five alien-human hybrids were born. Do you see how this stretches the limit of my ability to suspend my disbelief? And it fits two of my criteria for bad literature: melodramatic AND ridiculous. Of course, you can write that book and it could go on to win a Pulitzer Prize, but it had better be written like you're the next J.K. Rowling, and the synopsis has to build the case for why this book is so good and not just silly and ridiculous.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The No. #1 Mistake New Authors Make

This mistake shocks me. When I tell you what it is, it will at the very least surprise you. It's the number one mistake new authors make. A poorly written and executed chapter one, that they also profusely apologize for when they submit their queries. Here is the best analogy: Submitting a weak chapter one is like going to a job interview wearing a dirty suit and apologizing that today is, "laundry day." What happens is writers get confounded by chapter one. They struggle with the opening of their book. And instead of figuring it out, they give up. Then they submit this less-than-perfect work with an apology and tell me it gets good on page 100. Here is the truth. I don't have time to read to page 100. I barely have time to read to page 10. And most of the time, I can tell by page one that this book is good or bad (surprising as that is). So when you submit a weak chapter one with a profuse apology, do you know what happens? Two things: a trip to my "special file" and a rejection letter to you. The best advice I could ever give a new author, make your chapter one as strong as your final chapter -- and then submit it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Confessions from a Botox Addict

I've said this repeatedly. The only fun thing about turning 45 is that I don't look 45. That fact warms my vain little heart. And make no mistake about it, vanity kills ... your wallet. I never thought I would be one to turn to the magic "line-erasing" elixir fondly referred to in the media as Botox, but upon inspection of ever-increasing lines in undesirable places, I succumbed. Many of you may wonder why in the world I would make such an admission. Well, I have been forever irked by those women (and men) who stroke their Botox-injected face and make the false claim that it's "good genes." One glance at the glass-smooth brows of these people and all credibility flies out the cosmetic window. If you're going to belly up to the Botox bar, you might as well admit it. And thus, the confession made with a blithe shrug. Because here is the real deal, once you've done it and see the results ... well, it's like the worst addictive substance. The truth is, you look darned great (well, some people do). I'm not going to mince words here. I have Botox injected between my brows and on my forehead, and it looks fantastic. You get to watch lines dissipate within days. I used to say I would never have a facelift too. Now I'm kind of curiously pondering the idea. So, if you look at me and think I look like I'm still in my thirties, truth is I've had a little help -- and then the rest is, frankly, good genes ... oh, and a generous helping of sunscreen for the last 30 years. And there you go! I've now "confessed" on the eve of my 45th birthday. And if you want to get "you some of that," go see Cherry Frame from A Glow of Youth. Thank you Cherry!

Passion and Purpose

Where's your passion? What motivates you? Answers to these questions applied to your business are not all sappy and sweet -- the answers are meaningful to your success. When we do things motivated by either greed or a shallow need for attention, our success doesn't always follow. I'm not saying that greedy people don't get what they're seeking. Just look at the crash of Wall Street and those greedy souls. They got what they sought all right. I am saying that when we run our business without heart, it may not go as well as expected. In my business in particular, it can be a lot of flash in the pan. You can get a lot of attention as a publisher. You get to attend parties. You can a lot of media attention. You get to meet famous people. While that all sounds interesting and good to stroke someone's ego, it's not the reason we're in business. But for those who are attracted to this business with a desire to stroke their egos, it's always going to fly in the face of success. At 3L, we're in this business quite simply because we love books. We love publishing. We care about our authors. We are eager to see everyone succeed. We feel passionate about it. Our clients can sense it too. And many clients sign on with us, because they like what they see and observe.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Business Bloopers and Blunders

No better way to learn not to do something than to see what others blunder or blooper. I've seen some really funny bloopers as of late. I've also seen some shameful and sloppy blunders. Almost all of it, though, has to do with a lack of thoughtful attention to detail. The key to business and life, for that matter, is to slow down, think about it, and then do it. Business people who don't take enough time to slow down or give something its due, make often egregious and embarrassing errors. I thought I would share some of the whoppers I've been privy to.

Brochures, websites and press releases with the wrong company name. How does this one happen? you ask with complete confusion, as I did. I mean, really? You couldn't stop long enough to get the name of the company, product or service correct on someone's brochure, website copy, press release or any other collateral piece. What does this tell the client? Here are some not-so-good choices: A. You're too hurried to care B. You don't care or C. You're sloppy AND you don't care. Are any of these good answers? Not really.

Misspelled words, grammar mistakes and punctuation problems littering your collateral like a dump. My favorite was the press release where the person not only failed to get the product name correct, but the press release had spelling and grammar mistakes all over it too. This "piece of work" was shown to me by an unhappy client who had decided to leave "illiterate Irene" and work with me instead. After looking over what was essentially a mess, I couldn't believe someone turned this into the client as (get this) a "finished" product. Pass me the red pen! Again, the message here isn't very good: A. You can't spell B. You can't write and C. Why are you passing yourself off as professional? I'm just asking.

Incomplete and sloppy work should never be turned into a client. Another common error I've witnessed is the so-called professional who turned in marketing and PR materials that were incomplete. "Where's the rest of it?" is the question often asked. Maybe this "professional" (and I use this term loosely) didn't know the difference. Maybe the person didn't care to know the difference. Maybe she just wanted to get paid. Either of those choices don't say good things. This situation gets back to the necessity to pay attention to details, understand what you're doing, be thoughtful, and only hand over to clients your very best effort. Not the one where you were in a hurry and only wanted to add some income to the bottom line.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Entitlement, Part 100

Week after week, I am awed by some people's sense of entitlement. Just when I think it couldn't get anymore ridiculous it just goes to the next level. In fact, some people feel so entitled, I almost feel like I should just get it over with and hand over my ATM card with my PIN. When did this happen to our society? Or has it always been that way and I was just happily going along with my head shoved in the sand. I recently encountered a situation where even though we had already spent thousands of out-of-pocket dollars, the associate continued to press for more. Even when it was put in writing and demonstrated how much money had been poured into the project, it didn't seem to make any difference. The associate was still committed to the idea they we somehow owed her more. Here is the truth. "Give an inch take a mile" was made up because the person quoted experienced what I just described. You are not entitled to anything. Even those most privileged people are not entitled to anything. And I can assure you, my PIN isn't going to be given out to you because you've learned how to scream louder than me. I mean, really? Really Bob! Really?