Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's Only My Opinion: Skinny Bitch

I've decided that I'm going to start a segment of this blog dedicated to all things we are not allowed to openly say or express for fear of being flogged by the politically correct crowd for thinking outside of the proverbial box of public opinion. So, I'm going to start my first rant about over-weight people who when you listen to them talk privately scorn those who have not gained weight. I once heard a woman who was upset with her husband for flirting with another gal say with complete and utter disdain, "And can you believe it! The bitch was thin!" as if being thin was the far worse crime. Since when did being thin turn into something to look at with such utter scorn? I mean think about it. If we were to stand around and openly say, "And can you believe it! The bitch was fat!" and how well that would go over in the world of political correctness where we're not even allowed to say the word "obese" much less the word fat. Now I'm not mocking people with weight issues. I'm only pointing out that that just because thin is more socially and culturally acceptable (at this time in our society) doesn't mean you have open season to be nasty about it. And the other equally disturbing thing is that if you're too thin and maybe even having some kind of health crisis, other women think nothing of openly saying, "You look anorexic." OK, once again, I must point to the obvious that if I were to stand there and say, "You look fat," how socially unacceptable that is. And since I have been on the end of having had a health issue that precipitated a weight-loss problem and having had people openly say that to my face, I think I can freely say I know what I'm talking about. So, if the column has made you stop and think for a moment about the hypocrisy, great! I hope so. Because I'm going to keep posting what most people won't say aloud, but it should be said. Happy Tuesday!

Got Bad Boss?

We recently conducted a survey for the author Nancy L Clark, who wrote 18 Holes for Leadership. In the survey, we explored the question of whether or not a bad boss or weak manager could drive out competent employees even with the Great Recession in progress. The results were staggering -- 88.4 percent of professional polled said, "Yes" they would leave regardless of the recession. What does that say about the negative and detrimental impact a bad manager can have on his or her department? Symptom of a weak leadership could be high turnover in a single department while the rest of the company is stable. Another indicator might be turnover of long-term, competent staff that suddenly and possibly unexpectedly quit the company. As someone who has had experience with poor leadership, I would say "yes" to that question. And when it did come down to leaving without a clear-cut plan, I can emphatically say that I did. It only shows that misery doesn't love "company." With high turnover costing companies hundreds of thousands of dollar, executive cannot afford to ignore the problem or think it will magically cure itself. If you have a clear issue with leadership, it's time to dig deep, get your tool kit out, maybe bring in an executive coach, and make some changes. You can use books like 18 Holes for Leadership to glean some ideas and help you make some necessary and rapid changes. Because in the end, if you don't do anything about it, you stand to lose not only people, but resources and monetary capital. To purchase a copy of 18 Holes, visit the 3L website and purchase under books in the main menu or visit Amazon.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mid-Life Corporate Crisis

I've noticed an interesting trend among my women executive friends. Even those women who have had a great run in Corporate America seem to hit the 4-0 and suddenly something shifts. One gal I know loved her company and her job. She hit the mighty 40 and she slowly lost enthusiasm. It didn't help that she had a crazy boss show up and make her job less pleasant, but even with that issue resolved, her positive feelings about the daily grind waned. She seems to be one of yet hundreds of people I know that hit the forties and the zest for the job seems to get "zest-less." My friend became the restless tiger pacing the cage. It happened to me too. I literally celebrated my 40th birthday with a farewell and a hello to entrepreneur-land. I'm not sure what happens to us. We could blame bad bosses, but that's not the total reason. Maybe some of us realize that goals could never get realized. I used to think I would write all my novels in my forties, because I would finally have something to really say about a life that was at least half lived. So for me, part of it was looking at the timeline and realizing my dreams might go unfulfilled if I didn't do something about it. I mean when you're 40 how do you realistically put it off based on time? I'll do it in my fifties or sixties? What if I'm just tired by then? Or what if I just hit this point and regretfully never even try. The passage of time can slap us in the face and leave permanent wrinkles where skin isn't quite as resilient (and there's a metaphor in there somewhere). What I can say (if this helps anyone) is that if you have something you want to do, just do it. Don't be afraid. I did. I am now on my 5th year of business and we've consistently done well. We've definitely had our ups and downs, but even during this Great Recession, we've thrived. Last week was a book launch in Pittsburgh, followed by one here in Sacramento, and a third one in Las Vegas on Friday. Is that crazy or what. But you know I never imagined that my departure from corporate would land me in this spot, and I'm so grateful it did. So, if you need an extra hand and you want to leave corporate or a job, pick up a copy of my book Second Bloom: 10 Steps to Reinvent, Rejuvenate and Realize a New Life available on the 3L website under books.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Writing that First Novel - Get Specific

The number one mistake I see new writers make is lack of important and specific details. Weak writing often does what I call "glossing" over the story. Writers are often so eager to just tell the story, they forget the little specifics that paint the details to the picture. If you saw the heartbreaking movie "The Door in the Floor," the main character is mentoring a young writer named Eddie. Toward the end of the film, he mentions, "They were Nike Air Jordans ... details Eddie, details." This reference called back to the shoe his wife went to retrieve for her injured son only to discover the shoe still attached to the limb. It is these specific details that draw us in and help us understand what the scene looks like in our mind's eye. To simply say a shoe doesn't work on the same level. What kind of shoe? A boot, a loafer, a sandal? The specificity is what makes it stand out and creates clarity. I often see writers who will generalize an entire scene. He walked into the backyard and sat down. vs. He walked into the overgrown backyard where the tall grass touched the tops of his hands. Among the weeds, he saw a rusted lawn chair with the plastic straps decayed and falling down to create holes in the seat. He sat with a plunk into the chair, folded his legs, and gazed into the grass forest with a terrible longing. Is this picture so much clearer? It also sets an interesting tone and mood. Why is our character longing and lost (and when I say lost, you also feel that he is engulfed by the grass and lost in it). The background becomes your metaphor. So, next time you're working on a scene, keep it specific and use the setting to set the tone for the novel.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's Your Favorite Book?

I get asked all of the time two things, and one is really a silly question that I'm surprised I'm asked at all except, I swear there is always someone who does. The first is, "What is your favorite book?" The second (and drum roll please and wait for it), "Do you read a lot?" For any of you wanting to know the latter, the answer is "yes." If that shocked you, please, you have my permission to take the po-po paddle and head out to the woodshed. I'm just saying. So, anyway, "What is my favorite book?" is a far more interesting question and not a quick answer. I don't have an all-time favorite book. I can tell you my favorite genres or subject matter are always in the memoir or autobiography category. I am a sucker for a true story. When it comes to 3L Publishing's catalog, I confess my intimate and personal favorites are A Feast at the Beach and Daughter of the Caribbean. The most impressive -- and the only book that ever made me cry so hard I was almost embarrassed -- is Silent Voices. I'm talking crocodile tears, in my office, all alone, swiping them away and wondering if someone would come back and ask me, "Who died?" Now the deal with Feast ... between the charming and personal remembrances and the food, I had to add Provence to my bucket list. Daughter is just an engaging and endearing story of a young girl growing up in a most unusual place that on the surface looks like a fabulous island paradise, but the heart of the story is about family and notorious ancestors. I not only learned a lot but I fell in love with the family. In other books that I like that are not 3L ... a new favorite is Rob Lowe's Stories I Only Tell my Friends. Lowe is a nice surprise as a storyteller. I loved how down to earth he came across in his journey in Hollywood, and I appreciated his honesty in describing his own fall from grace. It was well-done and said to truly be typed by Lowe's own hand, so kudos to someone who is clearly multi-talented. So, here is the deal. If this is your holiday time off and you're looking for some great entertainment or you want the perfect summer read, any of those books will work. I know I am terribly biased, but the 3L books are true gems and so well written you will feel that a major publisher put them out, but truth is, we are a boutique focused on publishing excellent literature. We strive to maintain very high standards of excellence, and I think the catalog is a reflection of that effort. Give one of our authors a try and you will see what I mean. Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fun with Michelle and Cindy

Cindy is my fun friend who livens up my networking. Cindy is also 3L Publishing's financial planner who taught me the fine art of saying "Boo" when someone says something stupid, lame or negative. Let me give you an example. If you're at a networking event and someone's boyfriend or husband sticks their hand down your pants and can't keep their hands out of your top ... BOO. See how that goes. Another great example. Someone stops by your display table and asks you, "How much is the average cost of book production?" And you tell them your price and they say with disdain, "Oh! I don't want to spend that much!" And then they go to the head of the room and advise everyone to hold your value ... BOO! Oh, now you're catching on, right? A guy at a business function gets drunk and threatens to "spit" on you from a window overlooking the party ... BOO. All right now you're hanging with the program. I'm sure many of you right now are nodding with complete understanding of what moments require a resounding BOO. You see Cindy taught me well. And better yet, Cindy is doing really great things with my money at Mass Mutual. And that Friend-Os doesn't deserve anything but a YAYE!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You are Responsible for the Energy Your Bring in the Room

I watched Oprah's farewell show. And I loved what she said she put on her makeup room wall: You are responsible for the energy you bring in the room. I loved that statement and so true. Have you ever noticed how certain people can bring you down? They bring this negative haze around them much like Pig Pen's dusty cloud that blew up around him at all times. If you find that your fantastic mood takes a sudden shift with the very presence of another human being, take a good hard look at what that person "brings" and then really consider whether you want that energy along for the ride. You do have power over those you allow into what I call the "inner circle." If you don't want that negative vibe, don't invite it. We all are great balls of energy. We're vibrating electric wonders. Take "charge" over your energy vibe. Keep your energy positive, powerful and wonderful. Don't allow negative naysayers whose bolt of negativity only zaps your energy. You will find a powerful shift in your life when you keep watch over whose energy you let in your space.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Email Addresses Held Hostage

Here is my new pet peeve. Places like Panera or Borders who won't give you their member discount cards unless you give them your email address. In the old pre-Ether days, it used to be give me your phone number. Now it's go online, give me your personal stats, and hand over your email address. I've even asked whether or not I could have the card without going online and filling out the perfunctory forms and handing out my email address. I was told a firm "no." "Well," I said annoyed, "I don't hand out my email because I don't want it clogged with spam," I reply. "Oh, we won't spam you," the gal says with an earnest smile. "Yeah, you will." And off I go. My son soon pipes in he will fill it out and give them his rarely used address. I smile with that Cheshire feeling that I got them. But the real question is why do these vendors think it should be quid pro quo? I mean really? And they always pinky promise not to spam me. The last vendor making that empty promise was Mac Cosmetics. Want to know what sits in my in-box right now? I just think that I should be able to get the coupon or discount without having to give them important and private information so they can gather every buying habit and practice I make. See paper will never fully go away if people like me continue to clip coupons just to avoid giving out their personal information. And P.S. don't tell people you're not going to spam them. Really? We all know what's next and it's not some nice little gesture of sending more coupons. It's going to be your promo for eye shadow ... full price sent to me ... every day! I'm just saying!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tips to for Publishing Marketable Books

Sometimes we just want to write the book we want to write, damn it! It's my story, I'll write it if I want to. You can, of course, write whatever you like, but just don't assume a publisher will want to publish it. So many things go into selling that first manuscript, and the first thing you should do is find out whether or not your idea is wanted or needed. Research the marketplace. Do some searches on Amazon. If you do find a similar book, is it selling? Look at it's Amazon ranking. If it's up in the millions chances are people are not particularly interested in that subject matter. If you want to work with a particular publisher, look at what they publish. If you want to sell a book on hunting deer, going to sell your book to a Vegan publisher is a bad idea. Now while I'm kidding here, you get the point. Also, do look at that publisher's products. You are always in the driver's seat so you should not desperately accept whatever offer comes your way. Order one of their books. How's the quality? If you're going to self-publish, do the same. One thing about 3L Publishing is that all of our products are high-quality and held to those standards -- both for the exterior and interior. We are proud of our bragging point that we have a near-perfect five star rating on all 3L books. When you go to publish, look at their products with the same scrutiny -- whether self-publishing or traditional publishing. You want to feel proud of your final product. Nothing is worse than getting your book and wanting to hide it under your shirt and put it in the closet to gather dust bunnies.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Drunken Behavior at Networking Events ... Bad, Bad, Bad

If you're at a party that is a professional event, I have some tried-and-true advice about your drinking antics.  Now I'm not above a cocktail while I'm out networking. In fact, I've discovered that champagne makes a light, refreshing beverage with just about any meal. But when in public at an event with business people on hand and you've been discussing business with someone -- and perhaps "left your belly at the bar" to have liquor poured a little too much into then you ought to be careful. At a recent networking event, I was mingling with prospective authors, and one of them imbibed far more than he should have. Pretty soon he was being silly and flirtatious to the point where I wasn't comfortable with it. He joked about spitting on me. Not a good tactic to get any woman's attention (by the way). He pretended to throw ice at me. Yet another really terrible gesture. And then he grabbed me with his "iced" cold hands to make a point and shoved me backwards. Again, not a great gesture to pull a woman wearing heels -- and with an aversion to being touch ... with cold hands or even just hands on. Now the problem for my drunken would-be author is after that show of "bad form," I will not be doing business with him. Not even if his book promises to change the world. Nope! Not even that will make up for acting like an idiot and shamelessly touching me. Bottom line, I'm not up for sexual harassment as my choice of violations of the day. Not now -- not ever. So next time you're out networking and you let your propensity to drink too much go too far, think twice. I'm just saying.

Beyond the Iron Officially Launches

We traveled to Pittsburgh, PA this week to participate in the official launch of Beyond the Iron and join a great and festive party. Authors should never opt out of their launch parties. It gives you a chance to spread the word about your book and invite friends and family to celebrate your great achievement. Most launch parties also generate a fair amount of initial sales. I've seen authors rake in anywhere between $500 and $2,500 for one night of fun. You can't beat enjoying a great party and selling books too. Don't make the mistake of missing out on a celebration of your achievement -- and writing an entire book is no small feat. So you should be proud. Plus, you can beat the additional leverage of promoting the party too with the media! Just make sure you have a great news hook in the promotion. If you don't know what is a great news hook, call me anytime! I'll share. You can also email me at michelle@3LPublishing.com.

Friday, May 20, 2011

eBooks: The Changing Landscape of Publishing

eBooks now are starting to flip on the market. With Borders reporting a higher percentage of sales of eBooks than printed books, expect to see the market continue to shift. Much like iTunes and the iPod changed the music market, eBooks are in the process of upending the publishing marketplace and changing how we buy books. From a publisher's and author's point of view, this shift means less overhead costs and puts a great premium on the value of having a publisher publish your eBook in order to earn the ability to not only have the credibility to promote the book in the press, but also to demand higher prices in the marketplace. Top name authors and publishers are now starting to raise the bar on the value of an eBook, which is a big win for the authors and publishers that no longer have to invest so much capitol in the product. It raises the profit margins without lowering the value of the book, which early on was an issue. This issue was also combined with the high number of self-published eBooks where the lack of a publisher raised questions about the quality of the product. The eBook channel is growing in commercial value. And with the growth, more mainstream publishers have jumped in the game. The consumer is still going to be more likely to purchase an eBook from a real publisher, because that "logo" is almost like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. The consumer knows that certain names equal certain quality of work. And in the end, with publishers able to demand premium prices for their products and hence their authors -- all with the lower overhead costs -- the net result is a bigger paycheck for both authors and publishers. And while some might argue, the publishers are making enough, just look at the recent problems like Borders declaring bankruptcy to realize that the business is not quite as lucrative as one might imagine. The good news is that publishers will be able to raise eBook retail prices to a competitive level based on market demand and reap the rewards. It also means that publishers will be able to augment their sales strategies to focus more on electronic demand and reduce print costs, which is also good for the environment. So the bottom line here at 3L Publishing is that we're thrilled to see this market shift; we're embracing it; and we're launching our eBook division with enthusiasm and anticipation of the wins to come.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Can I Pick Your Brain?

I am blogging about this in response to another blog I saw on the subject. I didn't completely read that author's total opinion, but I read enough to post a big, "You tell 'em sister!" In my line of work as a publisher and marketing specialist, I run into prospective clients who basically through the excuse of preliminary research, put my staff to work to put together proposals, get print quotes, ask endless advice, ask for multiple meetings, etc. -- all under the guise of "picking our brains" and potential business. While we've gotten better about discerning the difference between real business opportunities and those who make endless requests only to spend time drinking coffee with us and going nowhere fast ... except off to either another publisher with our materials (usually one that in their minds is less expensive) or to try and self-publish (again, using our materials). Whether people set out to deliberately use and run, isn't the point. The point is that our time gathering materials and allowing you to quote "pick our brains" is time spent and money lost. Not to mention that while these folks might mean well, it's ultimately disrespectful when they don't acknowledge the value and cost of our intellectual capitol. In one case, we had a woman endlessly asking for more meetings to quote "pick our brains" and asking for us to gather more print quotes all under the guise of "information gathering." Yeah, we gathered the information and she took off with it somewhere else. I've even had prospective clients ask to meet me for coffee just to spend a couple of hours asking me endless questions about publishing, with absolutely no intent of ever doing business with us. Complete strangers, mind you, will ask to sit down and have coffee with me to take it no further than the opportunity to once more quote "pick my brain." So, here is the real deal (would I ever give you less?). If I have valuable knowledge that you want to possess then respect its value. It's knowledge that I earned through education, research and experience. If your sole intent is to find out what I have stored in my brain then hire me as a consultant and respect the knowledge's value. It didn't come to me for free, therefore, why should it come to you (someone I either barely know or don't know at all) for free? What makes you so special I should just give it away? If I'm going to be charitable, it's going to be for a cause or a person I care about. So, next time you ask endless requests under the guise of hiring someone, or you ask me out to coffee to ask me a billion questions about publishing (and I don't know you), please don't expect a "yes." It's not happening. Respect that brain you want to pick! Or heck, buy my book Vanity Circus on our website or Amazon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bang Your Head Against this Wall

Want to know the fastest, easiest way to frustrate yourself if you're a manager? Try to change one of your staff or team members. Go ahead! Knock yourself out. When you're working with a team, here is a tip. Get to know them. Understand them. Find out what motivates them. And then stick to that side of the fence. Trying to force someone to conform to your demands is a flop waiting to happen. Trust me when I say this, and it can go toward a relationship with anyone. We either accept those we work with and for, or we will constantly chafe and be frustrated. As one leader I know said, "We are who we are." I've run into this, and the one thing I have discovered though that is important. If someone has very poor or weak work habits and it's hurting the organization, trying to train, change or retrain is a waste of time. If you can't live with it, fire it. And while that may sound simplistic, it's really the gritty truth.

Writers Should Turn "On" the Film's Commentary and Learn

If you're a writer interested in writing screenplays, a great exercise to really learn the medium of film is to invest in the DVD of Blu-Ray discs and listen to the commentary. I've learned a lot about film and specifically the intent of the writing by doing this on a regular basis. The directors, writers and producers (and sometimes actors) will lend their insight into the scene-by-scene action. I recently purchased Generation Kill, an HBO series I really enjoyed, and watched it with the commentary on. The screenwriter was on discussing working with the book's author and how he wrote the series; how they filmed it; where they filmed it. It's also fun because the commentary often answers nagging questions you might have that you weren't clear about. For example, I kept wondering, "Where the heck did they film this series -- it looks just like Iraq but it couldn't be filmed in such an unstable country." I found out by listening to the commentary it was filmed in Namibia in Africa. The producers even commented how much that area of the continent looked so much like the Iraqi desert and later on the lush green areas resembled Bagdad. Any film-o-file will find this completely fascinating. And for a writer, it gives you a chance to analyze how scenes are written and constructed. No better way to improve your craft then by watching something that you consider great film, pull it apart, and figure out how you could do it better. Or at least do a great job with your own talents.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Public Relations Formula

Do you ever feel like everything is hurry up? Hurry up and get it done. In public relations work, the hurry up get my product known and make me famous hovers over the campaign like a fog unable to lift until a best seller is produced. So many authors and clients in general jump in ready to make their books a best seller. They enjoy their launch party and sell perhaps several hundred to family, friends and associates, and the lag time sets in. The campaign well under way may or may not produce results in the dailies and TV. The client though is eagerly awaiting the ring of the register to begin. This puts a lot of pressure on our team. Thus, the sense of hurry up and get it done hovers over us. I remember when I was promoting my own book Second Bloom that I would do a TV spot and then hit my Blackberry with anxious abandon. I thought, we just got interviewed, here come the sales. And then I was disappointed. No instant sales. What happened? Another time, we did an interview on the publishing company and instant interest arose and my in-box was full. Hey, this result didn't mirror my book's result, what happened? The truth is that even with the greatest PR campaign, good reviews and interviews, you're still facing a fickle buying public. The mood of the public sometimes dictates interests. Or maybe your product just doesn't hit home in the here and now. PR is not a magic formula for instant success. It's a tried model that we know can work; it requires persistence and perseverance; and it requires you hang in for the big picture. All we can do on our end is our job, which is to promote your product or service to the best of our abilities.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Writing Tip of the Day -- Keep it Simple

I am editing a new book titled Miss Fannie Mae's Girls. This uncomplicated story is about death and rebirth. It's not terribly new or profound; however, the story is peppered with a cast of extremely colorful and delightful characters. So you could say this is a character-driven piece. Many writers often try to over think their story lines, trying to razzle-dazzle their readers with special effects and new ideas. I am sure, however, you've heard there are no new ideas. I actually think Shakespeare covered the ideas pretty well way back when. It is how you put together your story and how you paint canvas that makes it unique and special. Miss Fannie Mae's Girls is the perfect example, because new author Larry Batchelor takes the simple premise of a family reuniting to grieve over the loss of the matriarch, whom we never officially interact with in the story, and then heal old wounds and go on to celebrate the marriage of one of the sisters. It is how the author executes the story; how he paints the nuances of the characters; and ultimately his voice that you can so strongly hear as the narrator that makes this book special and unique. Writers hoping to press on and write that special novel might take a lesson from this book. The simplicity of the overall story creates the canvas only to be painted by well-developed characters. So, as you sit down to consider what you might write about, try not to get overly complex about it. Focus more on your people and situations. I always say my best work has come out of the story that I could explain in a single sentence.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I'm Just Saying ... The Self-Proclaimed Genius Among Us

Where is the fine line between arrogance and confidence? I've pondered that question quite a bit lately. Well, I found it really interesting when I was talking to this guy we'll call "Bob" (I always use the fake name Bob for men I encounter that I find obnoxious for whatever reason). Well, Bob told me he was the "genius" behind this famous Fortune 500 company. Genius? Really? Genius is a pretty strong word. The company in question was a pretty big company too. And I would imagine the company founder might take offense at the notion that Bob, who is pretty unknown, was calling himself the genius to its success. As I stood wondering how in the world Bob got so confident that he turned over a leaf toward perhaps arrogant and a tad full of himself, it hit me that confidence and arrogance are really a fine line. Or maybe it's modesty. The flip side of conundrum is to be self-deprecating to the point of the ridiculous too. Nothing is more of a turnoff than when you give someone a compliment and they quickly put themselves down. I've always fallen on the side of a simple thank you and move on. No, need to discuss the rationale behind the nice comment. Nor is there a need to put yourself down either. But back to Bob ... maybe it's a pure lack of modesty when someone goes beyond the pale of any humility at all to call themselves the genius behind something. Famous actor Tom Hanks has always been reported as a super nice, modest guy. Maybe there should be the Tom Hanks' standard to measure confidence to arrogance or super-hubris. Would Tom Hanks, even though it might be true, ever say in an interview he is the genius behind Playtone? I've never once heard Mr. Hanks in an interview say anything of the sort. Is he excited, enthusiastic about his projects, yes, absolutely. So next time, you dub yourself the genius, master, uber-brain or just brilliant something behind something, maybe think twice. Because the moment "Bob" uttered the words "genius" in my presence, my first thought was, "Good God, who wants to do business with Mr. Genius?" Ack! Can you imagine ... nope! And no thank you! I'm just saying.

PDA = ICK

On the more entertaining side of life, I feel compelled to provide some unsolicited advice to business networkers who put their love life out on display ... in front of the room. Our favorite friend Margo recently nudged me at an event and had this look on her face. Someone was speaking so I couldn't hear why she was wincing so bad. Finally, Margo gets me alone and tells me our PDA-loving couple is getting way too amorous under the table. We're talking hands in the absolutely most inappropriate places. Now, here is the deal. You're out on a date and you want to get affectionate, just don't go too far and get cited for acts of lewd and lascivious behavior; but if you're at a business function, I think the hands need to be kept in check. First, can we say inappropriate in all caps? INAPPROPRIATE ... there I said it. And second, your hand action and constant kissing is making the entire people around you uncomfortable. Let me ask you the most important question of the day. Do you think that we want to do business with the Playboy Channel? Um ... let's just say I once had an offer to do business with the Playboy Channel, and I said, "No." No, always means no. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

TMI on Social Media

When is too much information (known in text-land as TMI), well, too much on social media? When I'm out speaking about marketing and social media, I've delved into this subject quite a bit. First and foremost realize that social media today is being used by employers to find out more about you. It is also being used by your current employers to find out what you're doing. Posting that you're using your sick day to go the Lady Gaga Concert isn't a good idea if your co-workers are followers -- and most especially a bad idea if your supervisor is too. Many social media users misjudge or miscalculate the value and importance of this new media. The knife can slice two ways -- both in a positive or negative direction. While posting your "wins" in business makes a great impression on some, it can also be construed by the "haters" (the word I love for people who can find negative in just about anything) as bragging or arrogance. The same goes for personal information. While you maybe excited about your upcoming frat party where you intend to drink yourself under the table, prospective employers could take that to mean you're an alcoholic or any other such idea idea that makes you look bad. So, you have to weigh out the potential fallout. And as for the first example of posting "wins" on your page, just know there is always someone who can read your excitement and passion over your success as something other than what it is -- excitement and passion. I've faced this problem a few times with people who I thought should know better. I get excited about a lot of things. I absolutely love what we do at 3L Publishing, but every once in awhile, someone will misread it as something that falls into the "hater" bucket. This negative response, however, isn't going to stop me from posting that information. I joked with Malia the other day that I don't know what folks like this want. Should we post on Facebook that our company sucks?! Would that make the haters feel better? My response to this sort of thing, ignore it, don't take it in, and keep going, because the majority of folks will be happy for your wins. As for TMI on the personal front, I error on the side of maintaining my privacy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Sales Strategies

The answer to the question, "Why does one book sell super well on Amazon while another does not but sells well in the bookstores?" is the question of the super sleuth. So many variables drive book sales. Public relations and marketing, of course, play important roles in exposure and visibility. But sometimes even a book that has received abundant, positive reviews may not sell well on Amazon but sell well in its market of interest. For example, Daughter of the Caribbean appears to be a big hit in the bookstores near the Caribbean, but still faces low Amazon sales. On the flip side, Fertile Kitchen Cookbook has enjoyed rich Amazon sales and can't sell worth a darn off our table displays. In each case it has to do with the markets these books appeal to. Most Daughter readers may be from regions of the country where online book sales don't appeal to those shoppers so they rely on the bookstore. Fertility is personal, and most couples don't want their personal problems out in the public eye where someone could question why they need that book. A Feast at the Beach is doing well everywhere ... but not my table sales. Why not? Well, I network with eWomen mostly -- and maybe most eWomen aren't terribly interested in France. So, it's not easy to predict the sales channel in which a book will enjoy the most success. The key and the trick to satisfaction is to enjoy where it does well and focus your attention on those channels and markets.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A River Runs Through My Blog ...

or a stream :). Actually, I got a little jealous yesterday when I was looking at some popular blog spots that had lots of visuals and pictures. For the record, you can't just grab people's pictures and post them to your site. It got me to thinking about blogs, though, and how I needed to make mine more interesting to look at. Hence the stream picture from my weekend adventures; but here is the real deal on blogs. Some bloggers have huge followings. I've found with book promotions, don't under estimate the value of a really well-followed blogger. With the book, A Feast at the Beach, we've had several high-value bloggers review the book -- and the sales went crazy. A fabulous blog can offer a real sweet spot to create sales momentum for your products. And then I got to thinking that my following here in First Word land needs to ratchet up. I would love to create a bigger following to help promote our authors and what we're doing. So, if you're reading this and you do enjoy it, play it forward and let your friends know. And for those of you want-to-be bloggers, you should definitely be promoting your blog to your social-media following, which also behooves (I like that word) you to build up your social media followers. Facebook and Twitter are valuable marketing resources that are also free. So, leverage these media for other marketing tools -- like your blog or newsletter. BTW, here at 3L Publishing we also provide general marketing and PR services to businesses and not just authors. Contact us if you need help.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Some Flowers for Your Thoughts

Beautiful bonnets hanging in the Gilroy Gardens.
If you have small children and live in California, I highly recommend you visit the Gilroy Gardens, home of the famous Circus Trees. I love Gilroy Gardens, because it's serene and beautiful and devoid of the loud noise most amusement parks produce. It contains numerous gardens and waterfalls throughout. Take a romantic moment while your kids play on the rides to sit and wait for them next to the waterfall or in the gardens. It offers such a romantic place for some cheerful family time.

Collaboration vs. Partnership

I get asked all of the time, what works best? A collaboration or partnership? I am currently collaborating on a creative project and will not form another partnership. I've had several partners, and I can definitely say that it doesn't work very well. For one thing when you form a partnership, you create a marriage of sorts that includes mixing finances and needing to agree on how to manage not only money but time and resources. In a collaboration, you keep out of each other's business and focus exclusively on the project at hand. If you're considering one or the other, here are some important points:

Ethics -- this one came home to roost. What is your prospective partner's ethical and moral outlook? Why does this matter? Well, if one person isn't particularly ethical in their treatment, for example, of clients, this behavior will affect your brand name. While one partner may act in one way, the other's behavior can definitely influence prospective client's decision-making process about that company. I certainly had enough people make me aware of such negative fallout. The problem for me is that people were warning me that while I might be acting with integrity and respect toward my clients, any negativity word of mouth from another person's action would absolutely hurt the business. In fact, when my problem was resolved, I had clients who had worked with me in the past, return to work with me.

Finance and ethics -- these two areas come together. It's unwise to allow the finances to upend. While your motives might be good to constantly invest more than the other partner, it's not a good idea for the long-term health of the relationship. When one or the other goes upside down and your profit-and-loss sheet reflects that one partner has clearly invested much more in the company than the other, unless the other one brings in valuable intellectual capitol and the other one is suppose to be the financier, this model doesn't work. Over time, the inequitable nature of the relationship will erode it. If your agreement is that one person is the financier, then a contract should be drawn up to reflect the investment difference. But a partner that simply shuns the responsibility of financing his or her half of the company and relies on the other person's generosity and goodwill, is just taking advantage. Avoid the problem by holding both parties equally accountable regardless of what excuses and justifications may be put on the line. Or redefine your partnership to reflect the financier model.

When to just collaborate -- If your business is established and successful, there is no reason to bring in a partner at all. If you need an infusion of cash to grow the business, then consider the financier model. But if you're creatively working on a project, keep the relationship strictly based on that project. Do not mix finances. Just keep it all separate with a 50/50 split in expenses. Do not open a bank account. Do not mix funds. Again, it's all about the project. And I largely recommend the collaboration instead of the partnership if you just want to keep it casual and produce a project in harmony.

Watch out for the partner hang-er-on-ers -- If your business is successful you will have people come out of the woodwork to ride your coattails. People will suggest partnering with you all over the place. Of course they will. It's easy street, and they can smell success. If someone wants to come work for you, great. If you need help, hire it. But watch out for so-called prospective partners who are the equivalent of business vampires. They will suck your business dry. They will want you to constantly prop them up; emotionally blackmail you to give them more; and try all sorts of ways to get into the driver's seat and crash your company. So, if you have a lot of folks proposing partnerships, simply turn them away, and take it as a good thing that clearly your success is an attractive, shiny thing they want a piece of, but don't give it to them.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Non-Stop Party-a-thon

Whatever happened to being invited to parties by friends or people you actually know? Do you know how many events, luncheons, dinners, wine tastings, networking, jewelry, cosmetics and every party known to mankind I'm invited to per hour (not day) via Facebook? This whole "click-all" mentality when throwing an event for something like "young singles" or "divorced dads of two" drives me utterly crazy, especially from a marketing perspective. First, while I want to build up my Facebook community, I don't want to become part of the "missed-the-target-not-even-close" brigade that sends out mass invites to everyone including Joe and his monkey to events like "I hate all the Joes in the world, especially those who owns monkeys." An invite to Joe to this event is not only offensive but it guarantees Joe will write a nasty letter to the "monkey-hating" crowd. My only point (and this is aimed at my Facebook community) is don't invite "all" just because you're too lazy or overwhelmed to carefully look through your invitees and select those who might really want to attend your event. An event for men, should exclude women; an event for singles should exclude marrieds; and the list goes on and on. What is happening is Facebook is become a spammers paradise because everyone and their cousins, aunts and uncles is inviting you to their never-ending events. And the events aren't even of interest to you. It's akin to sending Viagra spam to women. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Don't Act like a "Desperate" Chick

When doing business development, I've noticed some sales executives just don't know when to give up the chase. I actually think you shouldn't spend too much time pursuing a prospective client. Why? Because at some point the time you've invested in what I call fence-sitters ends up wasted. And fence-sitters can also make very difficult clients. Indecision doesn't bode well for how the relationship will go in the future. All the time you spend in hot pursuit could be channeled to a more productive client who is ready and steps up. Or that same amount of time could be spent on perhaps 4-5 prospective clients all ready to move ahead. Time and attention plowed into fence-sitters runs the risk of never paying off at all when in the meantime you could have had maybe four times the payoff just by shifting your attention. What I recommend is you put in a policy that you will take no more than two meetings (coffee meetings for prospective clients ... free meals doesn't little to entice serious clients, but definitely drains your budget and often attracts, well, people who only want a free meal) and one maybe two conference calls before giving up the chase. I actually believe it should not take more than a coffee meeting and a phone call in the best case scenario. Most clients serious enough to meet with you should be near the close. And the close is a whole other blog. One more note, never, ever wreak of desperation. At any moment in a meeting if the client looks like too much "persuasion" needs to go on, stop right there. Let them know that maybe your company is not right for him or her. Be ready to walk. First, you do not want to do business with someone who is uncertain all of the time. Second, you don't want to be a "desperate chick," no one wants to date the desperate chick.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chicken Noodle This ...

I was recently astonished when a former business associate failed to remove my information for her own PR material. We had done a project in the past, but we no longer work together. I don't know why I was surprised, it was just part of a long revelation of bad, incompetent or just careless work habits. This same person even failed (twice) to write the correct title of a product she was representing in press releases ... in the headlines (of all glaring places). The consistent lack of care to even ensure a product name was correct in the press release that was going out to media everywhere was a flashing red light for the clients, who ended up not wanting this person to represent their campaigns. And can you blame them? If your hired professional can't even take five minutes to double check details on your press release, it doesn't bode well for the person's professionalism -- and most certainly sends a less-than-subtle message: "I don't care enough to pay attention." The so-called "devil in the details" is your calling card as a professional. When you produce products for clients, you have to think of what you produce as the final product that will sit on the shelf. Misspelling the product or book title in the press release is akin to Campbell's soup spelling "Chicen Nodle" soup and still placing it on the grocery shelf for the public to puzzle over. What does that say about the company -- or in this case, the person who represents the company -- about their care about the quality of what they put out there? It sends a very bad message to the public, "I don't care enough about you to send my very best." When you hire someone to represent you, be sure to find out whether or not she does pay attention to what counts the most -- and your company's name spelled properly or your product title spelled correctly -- those things count. If your PR or marketing representative shrugs if off and says, "I had to get my hair done that day, I didn't have time to double-check it," you ought to either a. chastise their lack of professionalism b. fire them or c. a combination of both  a and b.

Monday, May 2, 2011

It's a Good Sign When ... Your Book Shelf Won't Fit Your Products

My desk started getting crowded. I always tried to put our 3L books next to my computer so I could remind myself about the various titles (another good sign of prosperity), and then I ran out of room. I split them up on another shelf. And then they outgrew that shelf. So, I put them on another shelf (displayed). Our second anniversary is July. I am very proud of the work my team has put in on the creation of these works of literature. And we added last week, the fun, hilarious and entertaining Mr. Date Night. It features the author's beautiful music, introducing our first book with music included. If you're single, I highly recommend you purchase a copy today on our website or Amazon. It is the "recipe for a perfect dinner date." Farley is a gifted musician, so if you just need something romantic for an anniversary or date in general, your wish will be filled with this one. And now Mr. Date Night bookends our incredible catalog. I am one proud publisher!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Three Habits of the Successful

Over the years, I have people admire how I managed to carve out an independent business and lifestyle. I've known many of my contemporaries, who upon seeing I did it, try to also join the ranks of the freedom. In watching those people try to start a business and head back to a "secure" (that is a very loose term these days) job, I've learned a few things about why my business is enduring. Here are three things to do if you want to be an independent freelancers or entrepreneur.

Focus and commit -- one foot left in the shallow end while you try to jump into the deep end won't work. What I really mean is that if you start a business with the backup plan to just go back and get another job should things not work out then you're going to lack important commitment to make it work. You are keeping that one foot in the shallow end. It may be as simple as having online job announcements sent to your email box, which shows you would consider it. I personally have and never will consider it. In fact, the idea is repulsive to me. I've been on my own for five years. I can't imagine working in a stuffy office and taking orders from someone else.

Realize it's not all fun -- I am always amused by folks who only want to enjoy the fun and try to leave the less-pleasurable to someone else or just don't address it. I know one person in particular who had such a bad case of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," she just partied on ... in front of clients even. When it came to critical business issues, she just either just ignored them or treated those around her like a personal slave and took advantage. And in the middle of that, things like tax season came around. This person was so prone to avoid reality, she didn't properly track what she needed to do tax-wise. The quickest way to "sink this ship" is for an audit to come round, and you don't have the proper records. Uncle Sam won't give a darn about your desire to party down and profess a total hate-fest over accounting. I've talked to business owners who got audited. Not good! When you're in business, it can't be only about 10 ways for you to play around. All play and no work = bankruptcy or a nasty audit.

Networking -- another deal-killer are those business folks who think networking is akin to a trip to the dentist to pull teeth. You cannot hide in your office and hope your own "Field of Dreams" is in process. Networking is critical. I know one gal who just hates networking. In fact, I know two gals who hated networking. Guess what happened to them? Can you say a nice corporate cubicle awaited them? You cannot be an entrepreneur and not network. I'm not saying you have to spend the day eating one ton of rubber chicken at boring luncheons. I'm saying, make your connections, get out and meet people, and spread the word.