Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm Just Saying ... The Salmon-Colored Under Roos Incident

OK, call me a crass audience member or a crazy publisher, whatever reaction you might have to this blog post, either moniker is fine. I was at an event last night to introduce the new book Mr. Date Night by the fun and fabulously dead-pan Cary Farley. The man can tell the driest joke -- so dry that I have to run for water to actually get it and laugh. Anyway, as part of the event, they introduced a ballet dance troupe. I enjoy ballet -- it's all good. And then, oh, three quarters of the way through ... out come the gentlemen dressed in skimpy, 1950-style men's swimwear, bare chested and all muscular. Part of me might have found the lithe, supple muscular frames sexy, if it weren't for the now infamous salmon-colored "Under Roos," as the gal standing next to me called them. My eyes started watering as I tried to not laugh aloud as I leaned over and whispered in Malia's ear. Malia lost it and laughed so hard she snorted. Whoops! And then the moment of the show came when our Under-Roo-clad dancers, looking gayer than the Snow Queen, bumped chests! Yes, a firm, could-be-heard-from-the-back-of-the-room chest bump! All of them. In watching this spectacle, I began to realize that it looked awfully close to perhaps a salmon-colored orgy that might break out at any minute. Not that we had any question about these guys' sexual orientation (and for the record, I could care less anyway), but oh the Under Roo, chest bash just got me! The snickers could no longer be suppressed. I was leaning against the wall and had to turn my back toward it to keep the laughter in check. So for the record, if you're wearing salmon-colored "costumes" that amount to no more than your underwear on stage, and you dane to bump chests with your fellow man, don't be surprised if someone writes this type of blog! I'm just saying.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tips to Prevent Copyright Infringement

I get often asked how protective an author should be over her work? My answer, "Always protect your work." You maybe unassuming and think, "Why would anyone steal my work?" Well, it takes all kinds and while this may sound cynical, I can tell you from first-hand experience, it happens all of the time. You may feel insecure about your fantastic work, but that doesn't mean it's not valuable, interesting or steal-worthy. I've had my concepts stolen. I've seen people blatantly lift my magazine articles and run them. If I were going to spend my entire life in court, I could have sued these folks. The main instigator in this situation is the same tool we all know and love -- the Internet. The Web has made it so much easier to take intellectual property. What will shock you, however, is the self entitlement attitudes of those who take. I once ran an article objecting to software piracy and you would be stunned by the sheer number of responses I got where the pirates tried to pose a legitimate argument to build a case for what is no more than stealing. After that, I realized it is that attitude that results in so much intellectual theft. While I wouldn't think to steal an author's material out my own sense of right and wrong and long-intrenched morality that reminds me that stealing is criminal, other people do not have the same sense of integrity or morality. Instead, it has been replaced with what I just mentioned -- entitlement. And this also goes for people who work with agencies that produce products for them, and then turn around and don't pay for those services. Or they don't pay what they owe for those services. In some invisible world where it's OK to take someone's work and use it anyway you like and chose to pay or not pay, these people have justified their behavior back under that sense of entitlement. So, do I warn authors to watch out when the ask me? Yes, absolutely. Protect your intellectual property the same way you would protect home and family. So with that, here are two helpful tips to protect your intellectual property:

1. Take your manuscript, place and seal it in an envelope, send it to yourself so you get the postage date stamp, and when you receive it, don't open it. This method is an inexpensive way to establish copyright.

2. Register it with the U.S. Copyright Office, but do know you should do step one too. It takes time to register the copyright.

3. If you have a screenplay or tele-treatment, register it with the Screenwriter's Guild of America. It costs $20 and you can do it online.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm Just Saying ... The Flip-Flop Debate

A very nice and high-profile gal was speaking at a networking event. She came up to me (we know each other) and asked if she could have my opinion. I looked at her and said, "I only give an opinion when asked." And those Friend-Os are good words of advice too -- only render personal opinions if it's invited otherwise you get into very dicey territorial. So, she asks, "What do you think about me speaking with the flip-flops on?" I now have cause to look down. What does she have on? Not just some cute pair of sassy flip-flops one could get away with in a pair of shorts. No, she has on some dirty (the dirt got me the worst) flip-flops that one should only wear while gardening or poolside. They were pretty dingy, so I would risk suggesting you only wear them in the garden. I was highly amused by the question from a gal who I know knows better, but yet still dared to ask. I think she was secretly hoping I would bless the dirty flip-flops. Being the consummate professional that I am, I very regretfully advised that while pain in the feet is a good excuse not to wear high heels, that those flips were definitely "flops" -- especially if she was going to be our sacred speaker. I also let her know that while most people aren't shallow enough to give a "flip" about her footwear there were always those few who secretly would be aghast and titter and gossip about it later on. I also warned that her choice of footwear at a professional event where image matters -- and most importantly matters if you're the speaker -- might end up fodder in my newsletter First Word. Well, now it's just fodder for the blog. A strong piece of advice. If you suspect your shoes will cause agony and discomfort, do not wear them. And don't ever replace them with your garden wear. I'm just saying!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Just Saying: Ageless Behavior

So I'm at this party and I have this fellow come up to me. We're chatting and somewhere along the way, I said, "You know people our age," as this fellow looked in my demographic. He replied, "People our age? How old are you?" I replied, "45," to which he refuted this as truth. It got to the point where I had to have Malia as my witness that I had, indeed, confessed the truth. This discussion then took a decidedly strange turn toward remarks how that just didn't seem possible. Look at the collagen in my expression lines and the resilience of my skin and the lack of wrinkles on my forehead. I have to tell you Friend-Os this was the oddest form of a compliment I've ever received. I began to wonder if he is a plastic surgeon. I half wondered if I should get out the Sharpe so he could prep my face for surgery (of course, the real gist was that I apparently didn't need it), but really odd! It seems now in this beauty-obssessed world, we all apparently have awareness of our collagen or lack thereof (in some cases). Do you suppose in the days pre-Restilyn that anyone knew anything other than, "You look good for your age?" I'm just saying.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Can I have your e-mail address, please?" "Um, No!"

Now these stores have these so-called "rewards" programs in which participation requires your email address. My favorite bread store Panera keeps trying to shove a "card" at me and telling me to sign up online. My answer every time, "No, you want my email address, and I'm not going to give it out." My favorite bookstore, Borders -- same thing. What gets me is that some of these so-called "rewards" programs don't give you any real advantages anyway yet they've now plundered my email address and deluge your my box with various hyped-up programs and offers -- none of which are really all that valuable either. I mean come on! Today with inflation as horrible as it has become and a trip to the grocery store costing $150 or better for just a few items, what is .10 cents off really going to give me? The point is, I should not have to give these big corporations access to my private email just to get a minuscule discount. The exchange is nothing more than a clogged-up in box. And since I use my email for business, I am completely uninterested in having a deluge of offers for more makeup, online dating site discounts (I'm married and that's called bad target marketing), vacation offers to exotic locations I have no time to visit, updates on news in San Diego (no idea how that got there), and constant chatter from any number of unknown and irrelevant business owners. All I'm suggesting is that if you're going to offer a rewards program, don't make it a requirement for me to give out my email address. Do a true rewards system like Safeway where, hey, you're just pilfering information on my buying habits.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Four Things I Hate to Do

This blog is getting much too serious lately. I need to get out of this funk of too-serious-for-myself and back into the playful side of life. As I was getting up to brush my teeth with my awful-tasting "whitening" toothpaste, it occurred to me that I should share (for the sake of your better edification and entertainment), four things I hate to do -- whether personally or in business. I figure many of you will probably relate.

Cold calling -- I have to at least try to keep this business-related, right? All right, who out there enjoys cold calling? None of you ... of course not. It's akin to teetering on the edge of embarrassment and raw nerve that someone you've never met will take time our of their precious schedule to spend two minutes on the phone with you, a person they've never met. Or even care to actually have a conversation with a stranger. I told Malia recently that if your intention when you cold call for media work is to avoid human contact at all costs, most likely the person on the other end won't pick up anyway, and off to voice mail you go. When I pointed out the cold-caller's prayer, "Dear God, don't let them pick up," and how counter productive that is, she laughed.

NightQuil -- god God, who at Vics invented this horrible-tasting cough suppressant. I think they should be taken out into the pharmaceutical field and shot. Or better yet, be forced to drink it without their nose plugged. Seriously, it tastes, in my opinion, like the foulest thing on Earth. Is there anything that tastes just as awful? Not that I know of. Here is my oath, I will stay well and avoid any need to ever again consume that foul syrup. I bet even my dog would turn his nose up to that stuff. In fact, I have never once even suggested that either of my poor children take a "sip." I wouldn't inflict that goo on anyone -- not even my worst enemy.

Confrontation -- Oh, yeah I am one of those people who totally hates good, old confrontation. I've recently pulled up my big girl pants to get over it. When you don't confront bad behavior, it just keeps on giving like a really bad re-gifted present. What has happened, though, is people who were used to pulling fast ones with no comment from old spineless will suddenly be shell-shocked that you're no longer willing to roll out the "walk-on-me" mat. You may get some heavy push-back when you no longer allow folks to get their inappropriate way, because you're avoiding that discussion as much as I am avoiding NightQuill. Just be prepared for those suddenly shocked by your brand new backbone to try all sorts of unsavory tactics to get that mat brought back out again.

Excitement or hyperbole -- I always hate it when people construe my joy about a win as something entirely different. I am a joyful person. I get excited about my business and life. I set goals. When I achieve those goals, I will shout from the rooftops; but don't construe my excitement with anything other than what it is -- joy! For example, I think it's important to set financial goals. Not because I am some money-grubbing idiot, rubbing her hands together, but because financial goals and money are the fuel to all business. We set goals to achieve them. We share those wins with others, often with glee and pride at having achieved them. It's fun to achieve your goals. It's exciting. So, if you construe my excitement with anything other than what it is, then you are sadly mistaken. My personal and professional values are reflected in my every-day life. And anyone well connected with my every-day life knows exactly what I value -- and the rest of you ... well, just remember there is absolutely nothing wrong with pride and joy. And there is nothing wrong with sharing that pride and joy. So take on the day with pride, joy and happiness as the wind under your sails!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Book Business is Tough

We have authors who come to us with dollar signs dancing in their eyes as they hand us their creation. I once even heard an author say, "I figured I would write, get published, and become rich." Well, in book land, that is not exactly how it goes. Some authors do strike the vein of gold for sure. Other authors will forever labor in mid-success world where their book sells well and makes money, but certainly not enough to invest in the mansion and Mercedes in the driveway. I typically recommend you keep in mind that your book should be used as a platform for something greater than the sum of the pages it's printed on. Hard number crunching shows you that a $14.95 book sold through the common sales channel of Amazon at $6.73 equals you better sell hundreds to get anywhere significant. With such a competitive marketplace, your book had better be really fabulous too. Because like the grocery-store shelf, the consumer has lots of choices these days. So add to that, your book should be visually appealing too -- this attracts the impulse buyer. But really the bigger message is that if you use your book as a platform for your business (and this can be done with fiction too) then you can reap the bigger rewards -- speaking gigs where you can do serious back-of-the-room sales, jobs to consult on other projects, and more opportunities to spread your point of view. I never recommend that authors get into the business of just the book. Notice even Harry Potter has merchandising.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The No Instant Gratification Zone

OK, one of the challenges in public relations is getting clients to understand that this isn't the fast food drive thru where instant gratification is satiated with a greasy bag of fries. So many of our clients suffer from instant-gratification-itis. We literally will start a campaign and three weeks later, the client is distressed. Where are the reviews? Why am I not on TV yet? What is your plan? I've decided I need a PR education program in place to quell these ever-arising and very unrealistic expectations. Let me put this into perspective for those of you who have never worked in the media. Here is the day in the life ...

Editor gets to desk. Editor turns on computer. Email pops up in the thousands! Editor must sift through hundreds of pitches but at the same time, Editor either works on a daily, weekly or monthly and has deadlines. Editor must edit and get feature stories for the issue at-hand out the door to production. Editor is maybe behind schedule that day or a problem arises with the current edition. Editor's top priority is to deal with the current edition that if it doesn't go out the door on time, advertisers and sponsors will go besierk. Editor receives the mail -- and three dozen boxes of books and products arrive to be opened and sorted. Editor doesn't have time, and because of the economy doesn't have an assistant either. Production has another problem and off the editor goes. Emails go unanswered. Packages go unopened. And now let's add to this, a request to review (an entire) a book that is perhaps 300-pages long. Maybe editor is interested, but the book doesn't fit in the current issue or the publication is 3-6 months out. What does this mean? If a review is OK-ed, the editor must take time to read, write a review, and the review may not actually appear in print for 3-6 months.

Now all the while, our clients are sending us notes, "What results have you got for me? How am I spending my money? What are you doing?" And these questions will come at us even after the client may very clearly see exactly what we're doing. And while we persistently and aggressively pursue the harried media person just described above, client may grow dis-satisfied and impatient. Can this become demoralizing? Yes, it can. It can become a thankless circle of frustration. Client wants results faster, better and more of them; and staff person is pitching media and pushing for results; and media is often growing annoyed -- especially if their intention is to run the piece but give them time to get it done. So as you can see ... public relation is not for the faint of heart. But I will tell you this. When you finally get the win -- the review in print and the rise in sales -- it feels darned great.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Internet Slander

The Internet and blogs have opened up a lot of freedom of expression. People like me have a wonderful platform from which to work and express our view and opinions. Blogs make great marketing and promotional tools to spread the word. All of this is a good thing. Then you have the under-belly -- the world where I have a blog hear me roar and spew whatever I please. Under the protection of a private room and a keyboard, I can let my horns grow and let my fingers do the clicking of my inner most angst. I can let the accusations fly ... or so I thought. Here are some sage words of wisdom for bloggers who think that the Internet offers a free-for-all to let it "all" out. Watch what you say about other people. Watch what you say about other people's companies and businesses. If you're going to make any kind of statement or assertion or accusation toward somebody or someone, you better have something to base it on. You better have proof that if you say someone has "scammed" someone else, you better be able to produce it. Because the Internet and blogging isn't the free-for-all you might think it is. Just because you want to "spew" doesn't mean you can do that publicly without any proof or basis with which to back it up. No proof. No basis. No information. Just your fingers going off? That all my Friend-Os is call slander and defamation -- and that can get you in a heap of legal hot water. I recently encountered a situation where the blogger had her free-for-all to make unsubstantiated claims against my company. (For the record, we don't even know this person or her cohorts.) I just spoke to an attorney about it. And everything I just told you above is going to come back and haunt this out-of-control blogger. She doesn't get to start a discussion and let her "friends" say whatever they please without being called to accountability. If you write stuff about a person or a company, be prepared to prove it. Because if none of it has any basis in reality and it's all speculation on your part -- you can be sued for defamation and slander, and you will win.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Value of a Book Launch Party

Michelle Gamble-Risley 
I recently attended the book launch party for Silent Voices, 3L newest non-fiction novel based on a true story that took place in Littleton, Colorado. It was a great party. People lined up all night (and I mean all night) to get the signature of author Debbie Nau Redmond. If you're about to release a book or have just released one, don't miss the opportunity for great initial sales by hosting a launch party. A launch gives authors a chance to personally autograph their books for friends, family and associates. It also gives your new book a opportunity to make a nice amount of sales. And even better, gives the media some news to promote your book and event to the general public. You can leverage feature stories, book reviews and calendar listings to spread the word about your book title and generate some buzz. Authors sometimes get uncomfortable with the idea of throwing themselves a party, but I say no worries. Your friends want to celebrate your achievement -- so let them!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Protecting Intellectual Capital

When working with the public and potential clients, we face some critical challenges related to loss of our time and resources when people come to us who are not exactly serious about going forward. We find that sometimes under the guise of wanting more information but not directly hiring us (yet), we walk a fine line in giving away too much time and research to answer questions and generate proposals. When your proposals are customized to each prospective client, it takes a lot of resources to research and meet their needs. What we run into are those proposed clients who will keep requesting more and more and more information before making a decision.

The dilemma is where to draw the line. Some people in their quest for information are either intentionally or unintentionally picking your brain and wasting your time. They are not likely to work with you, but will insist on meeting with you anyway and set you off in pursuit to answers to those questions. They will also ask for more of your time in meeting to discuss. What we've started doing is drawing the line on no more than two meetings -- and when it becomes obvious a prospective client isn't going to sign anytime soon, we protect our intellectual capitol by telling them that to get more out of us free of charge, they must sign up. Clients, who are not serious and want to use you as a researcher, will be offended and often lack understanding. Clients, who do want to move forward, will understand and sign up.

Signs to watch for to distinguish the difference include:

1. Requests for multiple meetings but lack of a request to see contract.
2. Requests for things like print quotes.
3. Requests for information on illustrators or graphic artists.
4. Requests for yet a third or fourth meeting to continue a well-hashed-out discussion.
5. Pages and pages of questions with still yet a signal move toward a contract signing.
6. All of the above.

Business owners who don't mind this draw on their resources, should! For every non-billable hour you spend being someone's grunt person and doing their work for them without an intent to move forward, is a loss of your revenue. Do not allow people to use your resources. Do create boundaries and allowable requests to a point before you insist a contract be signed. And never allow the idea that business might be lost to stop you from drawing the line. For all the bandwidth this person sucked up, you could have spent that valuable time on perhaps two or three other prospective clients -- and actual work won!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Who's Your PR Message to ... YOU?

Jill Lublin, author of Guerilla Publicity, gave a very good presentation yesterday. She spoke to San Ramon chapter of eWomen about using the power of publicity to increase business or sales. As a PR expert, I thought she was spot on, and she said something very powerful about media relations outreach -- it's about reaching your audience. What she said about pitching is to use "you" in the messaging. This book is a wonderful read for YOU. Not just the editor or producer. You're targeting their audience ... your readers or viewers. So a great pitch goes after the "you" and not the "him or the her or the person, place or thing."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One of those days ...

Yeah, Mercury is in retrograde so I should just crawl in bed and pull the covers over my head. Bo Bradley's Stress Awareness Workshop next Thursday the 21st at Borders in Roseville, here I come. A great deal of angst is coming from this so-called blogger that decided it was perfectly acceptable to unleash the flamers on 3L. You know how the Internet can be. Anyone with a Blogger account, and there you go. This woman either missed an etiquette class or just never had anyone give her an edit button. While my authors diligently tried to stamp out the fires of misinformed and just negative "flamers," this woman continued to just be a complete bull in the china shop. After essentially saying that only traditional publishers recognize talent, I was finally at the end of my rope. Fatigue set in. Maybe it's just been one of those weeks where fighting the good fights just doesn't seem worth it. This combined with a client who briskly lost her manners over such a petty amount of time spent on a project, and I have to say, tired is an understatement. First, to answer any insinuation about my authors' talents or lack thereof, one just has to read some of these well-crafted books to dispel that nonsense. Second, if you ever happen to work with a service provider and you don't agree with something or you have a question, just approach it (especially if it's a sensitive subject) with sugar vs. vinegar. This person who attacked and implied that perhaps I wasn't being honest about something, would have been better off to say, "Wow! I didn't expect this. Can we maybe work this out so that I feel better about it?" Instead, the vinegar was hauled out. And the worst part is, I would have probably shrugged and said, "Hey! You know what? We're all friends here. Let me just give you a gift!" Ah, but out came that old vinegar. And I'm just too damned tired! So, off you go. And off I go to a warm bed and TV time!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And Out Comes the Little Dictator

Yesterday was one of those days! Just one where you have a few situations that don't make you feel too happy. Client work, in particular, can be fraught with daily challenges. Most of the time, we work with people we know and like. Every now and again, we will get entangled in a contentious client relationship. The thing is some people are never satisfied. And attempting to satisfy the insatiable is an exercise in a lot sugary platitudes, a lot of futility, and frustration. One thing that hit me yesterday as we were brainstorming some problems was that I was treating my executive position like the leader of the free world. Sometimes when you're an executive, you have to make an executive decision which means it's time to sprinkle a little dictator in the mix. My little dictator came raging out when I realized the day was going to be one of those days. So the first thing I did was take charge of a client situation where these clients kept telling us how to run 3L -- of course, all in their favor. I made a decision and pushed it down. Imagine that leadership AND decision-making all in one -- impressive. And then I had another situation where I was in "shock and awe" over a client's reaction to a contract. Let's just say it was one of those situations where the nit-picker was going to join the program. It suddenly hit me, "Is this my ideal client?" Um no! So out came the little dictator unleashed yet again and yet another decision too. Wow! I was on a roll now. Here's the lesson: sometimes you have to take charge -- and more importantly remember who is in charge when you have so many demands coming at you all at once. You will actually find as a leader that it can feel darned good to finally lead!

Monday, April 11, 2011

In the Public Eye

I always find it amusing when an author finishes her/his book and then starts realizing there is going to be public fall-out and scrutiny from the project. Some will quake in nervous realization they just "put themselves out in the public eye." While I'm entertained by the fact that they perhaps didn't think this far in advance and realize the obvious about the results of publishing a book; I do have some words of wisdom about it -- especially in light of yesterday's realization that a group of nasty writers decided to take 3L to task without doing their homework. First, when it comes to your book you will run into critics. Most of 3L's books have done well under the harsh spotlight of public glare. In fact, we've only had maybe two negative reviews of two of our books in the catalog -- that's pretty impressive. Here is the thing. You will always have "haters" -- people who are either jealous, envious or just angry about something. I'm sure even the most popular authors have their fair share of "haters." I once had a writer do an entire editorial on one of my editorials and make personal remarks about me as a person (I was apparently communist ... who knew). This writer knew zero about me. We had never even met or talked. The same goes for the recent blog-fest where these vitriolic writers made some pretty serious accusations about our business with absolutely no basis for their statements -- not a one called 3L or spoke to any of my staff or our contented authors; but they sure had plenty to say about what they didn't know. You have to put your coat of armor on when you release a book. You get to enjoy the good stuff. The nice comments. The support and adulation. That's the stuff that feels great. At the same time, you will have a hater or two floating around out there. My best advice: unless what they're saying is as serious as those misguided bloggers who accused us of "scamming" authors, ignore them. Stay on your path. Keep doing your thing. Stay positive and focus on the positive. Keep your eye on the fabulous reviews, and if you happen to get one bad reviews, here is the thing: it's one bad review not 10. Is it really worth your angst to worry over the one in 10? Probably not.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Nothing to Beware of ...

I stumbled upon a reaction to 3L Publishing posted by someone who knows absolutely nothing about our company other than assumptions and speculation. I was disappointed that the word "scam" was used about 3L. I was further disgusted by the speculation that has no basis in reality was put out there as fact. I can tell you that not a single one of our authors would echo these sentiments. They would not agree. We have scammed absolutely no one and I take total offense with that accusation. Before anyone accuses 3L of "scamming" authors, they might want to actually speak to our authors. We have a very happy stable of authors who love their final products. Their final products are first-rate, high-quality and do, in fact, land on bookstore shelves. Before assumptions like that get made, you seriously might want to do your homework and know your facts -- especially since you're accusing my company of a scam! I know critics will always exist. I have seen it. I also know the writers community can be very vitriolic. But next time, a group decides to be nasty and chase my company with an ax, at least get your facts straight! And please note, we have four books selling very well -- Fertile Kitchen Cookbook, A Feast at the Beach, Daughter of the Caribbean and Our Stimulus Package. Why don't you ask these authors if they feel "scammed!" If I sound angry, I am. I was absolutely indignant to read these posts. P.S., why don't you pick up and read one of these "lousy" books that have received five star ratings next time you get so nasty!

3L's eBook Division Coming Soon ...

The eBook market is starting to explode. We're ready now to move forward with our eBook division. With the marketing flipping toward 51 percent of buyers now interested in eBook versions, we recognize the value of the marketplace to transition. We do anticipate that in the near future, the market will go more toward the e-version and paper will become secondary. We're still a few years off a complete flip, and it will not be complete. Print versions will not completely go away for any number of reasons, and it will also have an impact on what is or is not printed. The one thing that will not lose street credibility is being published by a publisher. Many self publishers will continue to leverage this model, but most people still recognize the value of a professional publishing company having vetted the book's quality and professionally producing it. Reviewers will still continue to not take self-published books as seriously as those published by true professionals. You will see a rain of products produced by self-publishers where some by sure promise of actually be well-done will do fine, but then the other products that were produced by inexperienced writers just looking to get a book out will be weeded out. I am not a fan of self publishing for those reasons among others. I've seen a lot of self-published products produced by amateurs where the problems jumped out. In fact, I can quite honestly tell you a product was self-published at a mere glance. And the reviewers can too. I think what is important for 3L Publishing is that we continue to produce high-quality products that on average receive five-star reviews. In fact, not a single 3L books has received anything on average less than five stars -- and there is a reason for that.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The "Ego" Behind the PR

We got asked a fun question by a client, "What is your favorite part of your job." My response was instantly writing. Malia, of course, admitted the wins on the PR side gave her a charge to which I responded, "Yeah, that gives you an instant boost." I joked that it's like Sally Fields infamous Oscars speech where she cries, "You like me! You really like me." The real reason for the rise is hidden in the satisfaction that your hard work is being accepted by the media as a good job. It's really an ego boost friends. As if we need mass acceptance to know we did a good job, but you know ... it helps. I have to tell you that response is my second favorite thing about what I do. It's the "yessss" moment we in the PR business work hard to achieve. And even better -- this week I had five of those moments! "Yessss!" Want to gleefully cry, "You like me," contact 3L to start your campaign today.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Big "Blog" Theory

Whenever I give my talks on building your marketing platform for your book or business, I get a lot folks who look at me with a grimace when the answer to, "How often should I blog?" comes back with "every day." Most people hold their groans only to replace it with an uncontrolled frown and a brisk, "Including Sunday?" Yes, friend-Os including Sunday. I know the horror, the horror. If you miss a weekend, don't despair; but I can tell you my analytics show that a decent number of readers show up on Sunday, because my weekly newsletter First Word (another horror ... "weekly" newsletter) drives traffic to my blog. Why do I blog so much? Is it that I have so much to say I can't constrain my type-hungry fingers? Not exactly. I watch my analytics (if you don't know what is analytics, Google it) and if I don't miraculously manage to make my fingers do the tapping, my readership drops. I know this is an ugly truth for the less prolific; but my blog and newsletter are part of my highly successful platform. This "platform" keeps me in business. Now when I mention doing a radio show on top of this, the frown does turn to an often loud groan. Suck it up people!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What I Know ...

Success in business isn't arbitrary, airy-fairy stuff. No magic-wand waving and poof! You have a successful and profitable business. I see people make it. I see people try to make it. I see people who want to make it. What I know with absolute certainty is that success and making a business work takes tenacity to overcome and plow through. Wear-with-all to hold up under fire. And a whole of persistence to make it work even when it clearly looks unworkable. You maintain your passion and dream, but also be open to retool and rework and reinvent when things don't go your way. I've had my moments to be sure when I watched my often shaky house of cards get a little shakier, but I've also been open to trying something different -- something with a fresh twist on an old model. Sometimes you just have to sit back and re-evaluate the what's next. And here is something super important: Be prepared to move your fixed thoughts out of the way. Sometimes those fixed thoughts may just be in the form of something you're not seeing or doing. So really, sometimes you need to be the one to get out of your way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Characters My Friends

This is a statement that probably only fiction writers can truly appreciate: when I write my characters become fully dimensional. Yes, the people peppering my stories take on real personalities. Here is another phrase you can identify with: Joe wouldn't do that ... or Joe would do that. Are you feeling me here? When I work on fiction, my story's characters become people. In fact, some of them are based on people I know. I recently memorialized my over-chatty daughter (who I absolutely adore) in my new screenplay project. The little girl talks fast and a lot. Now it's a comedy so her bullet-paced speech is over-the-top to be sure, but none the less based on my seven-year-old's rapid fire mouth. It's just interesting how our imaginations conjure up such dimensional characters that we understand them. People who don't write might suspect we're a tad bit crazy with a dab of lithium on top. Writers though right now are nodding. They get what I'm saying. I can assure you that if you are writing and don't understand this, there is a very good chance your characters will be flat and one dimensional and probably not very interesting. Understanding how to "birth" your characters is a talent -- and definitely not something I can teach. I can advise you, though, to try and base certain characters on real people and that will help you improve. BTW: I am a fiction coach. I can tell you my many clients appreciate my input. If you're in need of some unbiased guidance on a manuscript, send me an email at info@3LPublishing.com.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Facing the Need for Change Can be Hardest Part - But Change is Good

I am constantly going through different phases of reinvention. I used to loathe change -- and a big part of me continues to resist it even when the outcome is so rewarding. Sometimes it's so hard to even get started. Change usually starts with the recognition that you need to do so; but even then facing the confrontation some changes require can instill fear and discomfort in you. The last six months have brought on some great changes for 3L -- and the results have been outstanding. Our client list is literally growing by the day, and while six months ago, this growth would have only left me exhausted and overworked, the changes have only expanded what I can manage.

I remember the first time I faced the uncomfortable reality that I would have to make these changes. The first time, I actually brought the words into my mouth and faced it, it actually felt like a relief. Because by facing the need for change meant that positive change would and could begin. And here's how it unfolded ...

First, I was completely overworked the second, third and fourth quarters of 2010. I barely had time to myself. I found myself in a position where I had zero support yet was trying to support others. I couldn't quietly vacation or take time off. I was being pulled in so many directions. I had to manage all of the company's many facets all the while financially flowing cash in a useless direction. Somewhere along the way, my family got it in their heads I was enjoying this. I was being labeled a work-alholic when what I really wanted was downtime before I burned out.

Facing what it would require to regain balance in my life was pretty uncomfortable. It meant staring something pretty ugly in the eye, calling it out on the carpet, dealing with it, and moving on. Well, all of those things happened. And when those actions took place, another shift happen. The Universe opened up. I found the resources I needed and the support. I hired a trusted colleague full-time and re-arranged our business plan.

And then the work expanded, because I was able to expand my very openness to the change. And even more remarkable, I have regained my work-life balance. How can that be? It seems counter intuitive with the expansion. But it's the word "expansion" that you have to understand. I expanded my capacity to manage my business and life by bringing in the proper resources and support system. As of last Friday for the first time in many, many months, I took off early. I quit at 4:00 p.m., something completely unheard of in the months prior. I spent an entire weekend with my kids and husband. I've been calling it quits every day right on time. I've had time to be alone. And get this -- we've got our strongest and biggest client roster ever. Our revenues are at an all-time high.

So, I say don't resist change. Change is good. Change is sometimes needed and necessary. Don't be afraid to make a change! If you would like to learn how, invest in a copy of my book Second Bloom available on the 3L website. It's under the books section.

Absurd Moments in Life and Business

I have recently been challenged with some absurd moments or comments out the mouths of folks who should know better. I have to tell you, I think other people's absurdities -- especially when these observations are made about others -- are pretty entertaining. You can't take these things seriously, because they are so ridiculous. I thought I would throw out for your amusement some of the moments I found ridiculous or just plain absurd. Here you go.

"You don't understand what it's like to have a new baby." This statement came from a primary source of the ridiculous, and might I add, the invalidating. I have two children for the record. So, before I tell you why this statement was really just a way to invalidate my capacity to understand the difficulties of young mothers, my daughter is only seven-years-old so she is not that many years passed baby or toddler. For someone to make that suggestion about a mom who has two school-age children is absolutely absurd. And for someone to make that suggestion about a mom who started her business to be more present in her children's lives, also, absolutely ridiculous. But I thought all you moms of young children would find the statement very entertaining.

All grown up and gone away. Oh, and this same person made the ridiculous statement that my kids were (and I quote this loosely) "grown." Yeah, I just sent my seven-year-old off to college just the other day. "Bye-bye honey! Don't forget to learn to read while you're there." As many young moms, in particular, will discover as they go through the process of raising young ones, each state in their lives requires a different level of attention. I get why a mom who has yet to experience these phases would make assumptions about what each phase entails (or in this case does not entail ... maybe I should add the word "neglect" in here); however, (and this is my mom preach) we mothers need to be aware that as our kids mature, their needs change. And as they are better able to take care of themselves, other emotional and physical needs pop up. In my teenager's phase, it's more valuable for me to be a constant when he gets home from school. My very presence will prevent problems latch-key kids encounter. In my daughter's case, she requires a lot of one-on-one attention to help her with her reading, etc. (now off my soap box).

"You 'poached' my clients." This statement came in another round of the ridiculous where concern was expressed about another agency's irate clients deciding to change providers, and that in their quest for help, I went out for a little expedition to catch a few. To be sure, the conversations I had with upset former clients was hardly an unlawful pleasure trip to the Serengeti. I can't express the "joy" I felt while on vacation and people contacted 3L who were upset with their current provider, wanted out, and strongly expressed their feelings to me. In situations where different publishers and agencies exist, if you have concerns about client loyalty, my best advice: button down your customer service, deliver what you promised, and keep them happy. If you've accomplished these three goals, so-called 'poachers' can't make the hunt happen at all.

Competition doesn't exist. To be clear, I have never believed in competition. I believe people work with who they want to work with. They work with people they like and trust to do the job. Any loss of clients (if you're an agency big or small) is a direct result of actions (or lack of actions) on your company's part. To suggest that anyone from 3L went out on a big game hunt is ludicrous. We don't work that way. I have never worked that way; and quite frankly, don't need to work that way. If you are on the competitive bandwagon, have confidence in your company, products or services. And just stick to your journey. No one can take anyone from you that you nurtured, watered and cared for. Anyone else you neglected, didn't get the job done, or left hanging ... well, chances are like all neglected things, they will go in search of water and food.

Monday, April 4, 2011

So Many Marketing Media Choices: How do I Choose?

We have services like Blog Talk Radio and video blogs becoming much more common. Then you have numerous social media available to choose from. You have written forms of media -- blogs, eZines and online advertising. What is a company to do? All of them? Some of them? I am constantly having people try to persuade me to try video blogs, which someday I may try. But when presented with so many time-consuming options, it is difficult to know what to do. Should I become a radio personality? Should I become an entertainer and do a video? Should I become a writer and blog? What if you have none of those skills? You can hire out yet if you do this every day that cost can escalate and become expensive. Is the return on investment there to justify it? Here is my best advice: You should absolutely do some or all of those marketing tactics. If you're voice isn't radio-friendly, take Blog Talk off the table. If you're just not ready to shoot a daily or weekly video, take video off the table; but perhaps you have a radio-friendly voice, so put Blog Talk back on the table. You can't write, take blogging and eZines off the table ... or do what most of my clients do, hire someone (you could hire us ... how convenient LOL). My bottom line message: do something. Pick one or two of the suggested marketing tactics, and do them and do them every day. You have to have some sort of marketing mix to be successful in today's economic climate. I don't know a single business owner who does nothing and succeeds anyway. I am being honest. No one sitting back practicing the "they-know-me" strategy is winning. So find what you feel comfortable doing and then do it. If you need help, contact 3L Publishing.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Email "Favors" that Aren't Winning

The other day I recently received what I assume was a mass "request" in the email. I assume a net cast to a wide audience, because it didn't say ... Dear Michelle ... but launched right into the request. And the request was for me to spread the word that this person could help our authors understand marketing better. And would I please forward this information? Now this request is an example of someone who obviously sent out a mass request to do a personal favor, which is never good. And the request for 3L Publishing to open its contact vault to this person was absolutely inappropriate. First, it showed that the person doing the request either wasn't paying attention to the fact that what she wanted was, in fact, part of what we do and she was dismissing our value and benefit ... or equally as bad, she wasn't paying attention to who she was making this absurd request to in the first place. If you're an individual or company, the worst thing you can do is be so shallow or distracted that you would dare to send out this kind of email to a mass audience. Asking a "favor" to a group of people, is not personal and pretty much presumptuous on your part. It shows you don't care enough to send your very best. And it shows you're not really paying attention to what you're doing -- and maybe even don't care to. Either one of those attitudes is not good for your image or business. And all this "favor" did was alienate me even further away from wanting anything to do with the sender. If you're so dismissive about what I do or don't pay enough attention to know what I do, it's bad form to send out such an email. So, the real question: Will I help this person out? Of course not. Will I ever do business with this person. No. Either answer isn't exactly what she was looking for.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Watch What You're Saying -- It Impacts Your Company's Image

I have had the pleasure of working on two entertaining books - Smash and Vanity Circus. I've also talked to other comedic writers. For a while, I did nothing but comedic writing for my blog, but then I shifted a bit toward a lot of information-based marketing. If you don't know what is information-based marketing, it's definitely worth exploring. What I found is that you have to sprinkle the humor lightly when relevant but stick to more serious information on the whole. How did I make such a discovery? Well, I watch my analytics. I had what I'll call Blog 1.0 out there. And after about a year, I noticed the blog stats crashed a bit from 600 average page views down to between 100-200. I found this drop slightly alarming. In the blog 2.0, I began different tactics, mixing up the fun with the valuable content, and then I watched another shift where the stats exploded -- and in one day they jumped up over 80%. What is the lesson? Well, you can sprinkle a little fun here and there; but your entire blog cannot be about your last pizza-eating contest or your contemplative thoughts on the squirrels playing in your backyard ... oh, and maybe toss in something a tiny bit relevant here and there.

Also, there is a fine line between funny and just plain snarky and negative. I'm aware of this one blog where the person openly bashes clients. I can only imagine that the bashed and bruised clients won't have many warm-and-fuzzy feelings about the company. Nasty or snarky or sneering blogs do not attract anything but looky-loos who want to watch the train wreck. So, be careful if you do write humorous blogs to be sure to pack them with valuable information, and if you think nasty sarcasm builds word of mouth or you want to openly bash your customers, maybe that is not good for business. And believe me when I say, everything you put out there defines your company and impacts your image. Word of mouth is powerful! More powerful then any other form of advertising. Positive word of mouth builds business. Just this week alone we had 3-4 new client queries just from word of mouth or reaction to our website, blog and Facebook posts all integrated together. Had I spend my time ranting and raving about my distaste for my customers, it would have had the reverse impact. I know for a fact a newly won client came over after reading a blog I wrote on memoir writing. Can you imagine what she would have felt had I written what a pain in the ass some memoir writers are, and how I can't stand them. How might that have come off? Would she have called me? Probably not. I'm just sayin'.

Free or Cheap Marketing Tools You Should Use

Did you know some marketing tools exist that cost either very little or nothing at all. Most small business owners in particular will whine they don't have a marketing budget (which I think is fool hearty no matter how much whining about lack of funds you insert into that conversation). What some of these folks don't know or don't take advantage of are the services that either don't cost much money or cost nothing at all. If you own a small business, at a minimum there is absolutely no reason you should use what is sometimes free to market or promote your business. Here are some of those inexpensive tools you should be using. Now your time is not free, but that is a whole other discussion.

Blogger.com -- this blog is customized to blogger. It doesn't cost me a dime to have a blogspot. Other blog services such as Typepad cost a little extra and do have more bells and whistles such as built-in analytics; however, if you tie your blogspot site to google/analytics, it's free too and measures results. I do recommend you spent a few dollars on graphic design to customize your blogspot to match your brand.

Social media -- if you're not on social media building up your brand and image then you have missed the social media revolution all together. Facebook = free. Linked-In = free. Twitter = free. I suggest you pick your favorite social media (mine is Facebook) and then build your following. No, Facebook isn't your personal playground loaded with distractions. If you want to play on Facebook in the evenings and play Mafia Wars, I suggest you build a personal site away from your professional site. Again, your investment is time.

Constant Contact -- you can pay a very small amount to purchase some of their marketing tools including  their newsletter service and survey measurement tool. It's not that expensive and well worth the price, which runs between $35-$50 a month, depending on the service and contact numbers you purchase. I have my eZine First Word delivered through them, and I am very pleased with the results.

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) -- three times a day (for free), public relations queries sent from editors, writers and producers land in my in-box. I make it a priority to answer relevant queries. Want to know how I got quoted in Redbook or Success Magazine? I use HARO and I actively respond. The key naturally is response. Actually, Success Magazine ran a profile on my company 3L Publishing, and that one article produced over $60,000 in business. Hmm ... five minutes of my time spent ... $60K in business -- that is some return on investment!

Friday, April 1, 2011

How Much Time Should You Spend Marketing?

I recently spoke to a group of small business owners. The question came up, "How much time should I spend marketing my business?" The answer is minimally 25-30 percent of your time should go toward marketing and promoting your business. Marketing, public relations and sales are the lifeblood of any business. While the actual business activity is way more interesting to most people (me included), marketing and promotion keep the business growing and thriving. Then I was asked, "How do you make time to do it?" My answer, routine. I keep a very strict routine with set goals and activities. Here is a peek at what that routine consists of:

Blogging every morning -- I get up and blog every morning between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. I don't write long blogs (as evidenced).

Social media -- I make sure that sometime throughout the day, I post something to Facebook. I also link this blog to social media so that serves as content too.

Four events a month -- I attend and promote my business at four networking events a month. I purchase table displays at these events to ensure I am reaching out to my target audience. I also sell books at these events.

Newsletter -- once a week usually around Wednesday or Thursday, I carve out a couple of hours to write the newsletter First Word. The newsletter is also tied to social media; hence, providing content once more in that area.

Public relations -- I practice what I preach. I answer HARO queries as often as possible. As a result, I am regularly quoted in the mainstream media and keep 3L's name out in the public eye.

Those of you who shun routine in favor of open-ended schedules may want to reconsider. Routine enables me to be more efficient and get more done. While, it may seem rigid and uninteresting, it's vital to the growth of 3L Publishing.