Friday, February 28, 2014

It's a Double-Caffeine Morning: What is ... Editor?

Up with the rainstorm and noticed the white blossoms on the trees outside of my window ... beautiful! It's spring or wait! I think it's really winter. Oh wait ... no ... it's spring! LOL ... well, that just shows how confusing the weather in California has been these days.

So let's move on and discuss something that might actually matter to you. Last night we had a small meeting of Writers Who Mean Business, and we had an interesting discussion about publishers. I have to share something: I find it shocking how many (how shall we say) "low-rent" publishers exist in the business. I can't tell you how many times authors show me books just loaded with mistakes. In the early days of 3L Publishing we faced some of these challenges, so I do understand. But in business you cannot create a business, especially a publishing business, around lack of quality. Your "low-rent" publishing mistakes catch up with you in the form of a bad reputation.

Let's discussing the art of editing. Did you know there are many types of editors? Look on the masthead of a magazine, what do you see? I'm going to walk you through the types of editors.

Editor in Chief or Executive Editor -- this person typically holds what I'll call the overall "flavor" of the content. He or she is in charge of the overall "themes" in the magazines. Depending on the size of the publication, the editor in chief typically isn't involved with the day-to-day, but holds a more 180-degree overview of the publication and what goes into it. The editor in chief often works with the publisher on the business side, working on budgets and business issues.

Editor -- the editor is more hands on and usually edits stories from a more 180 degree overview, too. The editor will look more at the structure and organization of the story. The editor may or may not assign stories (depends on the size of the publication). The editor does major revisions and rewrites when necessary.

Managing editor -- the managing editor typically does what his/her title sounds like -- manages. The managing editor may or may not assign stories or may work in conjunction with the editor to assign stories. A managing editor on a larger publication usually doesn't edit. The managing editor is like a project manager and helps move the parts of the publication between editorial and publication. The person manages relationships with writers, editors and production.

Copy editor -- perhaps the hardest job and the least appreciated or valued. The copy editor has the last look at the nuts and bolts AKA words, grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage and style. The copy editor must be adept at the details and possess a high level of concentration. The copy editor often fact checks, too. A copy editor's job can be thankless -- one mistake and the poor copy editor gets flogged. And it's not easy to produce a publication without a single mistake.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

When "Satisfaction Guaranteed" Never Applies

Have you ever had a client who is such a major PITA you want to run for the hills every time you see his/her name pop up on your cell phone or in your in-box? PITA clients are the type who cannot be satisfied. No matter how much hand-holding, time and effort you put into them the tagline "satisfaction guaranteed" just never applies. You could jump 200 hoops and "how high" -- and this client would still complain about or criticize your efforts.

Want the solution? Fire them!

Yes, I said the magnificent two-word solution. Don't gasp. Don't cry out: "But I can't afford it." Here is the truth you're right. You can't afford it. You can't afford to have all of your time, effort and resources sucked into a vacuous hole of dissatisfaction. When your time and attention is mired in a PITA you are not open to other possibilities. You are spinning your wheels and most important spending all of your time on the insufferable demands of a PITA. And all of that time "wasted" could have been spent marketing and building relationships with prospects. Guess what else. For that one PITA client you could have five really great clients who love your services and products. They each cost you less time and effort.

So, don't hold onto a PITA. Don't get stuck in the PITA vortex. You can't afford not to fire them!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Three Things NOT to Do with Social Media

If you're working on building your social media presence for your business, I recommend a split between the professional and personal (small bits and bites about YOU personally but not a lot). The reason I add a "sprinkle" of personal is people like to know who they are working with. Here are three things NOT to do with your social media marketing:

Tip 1: Don't plaster marketing materials on other people's Walls (Facebook) without permission. Nothing turns off a prospect more than having a piece of marketing promo plastered on his/her Wall. It's like using their brochure or business card to doodle on. And worse, it's a marketing piece that is probably not something he/she would have put on his/her Wall in the first place. You will offend and not sell a thing.

Tip 2: Don't ever, ever get into "flame" wars. Do not make a public spectacle out of some argument. If someone gets belligerent on your Wall, "de-friend" them, and then delete the conversations. Protect your public image at all times. You do not want to come off angry or nasty in your prospective customer's eyes. Take the high road -- delete, delete, delete, and then move on.

Tip 3: Don't go for "over-exposure" in your personal life. Like I said, keep it to family and little things. Let your clients and prospects see just enough without going too far. Don't reveal your personal struggles to the point that people might perceive you as unstable. Always keep it positive and honest, but not irresponsible.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Predicting the Book Market

Want to know the no. #1 question I am consistently asked? Do you think my idea will sell? I honestly have no clue. When I get asked that question, I call it the million-dollar question. We're talking about a finicky market in which many, many factors come to bear. A book release literally can be derailed by a hurricane trumping the news. I kid you not. It depends on the market's attention on that day. It depends on tastes, interests and hobbies -- and what the public's favors on any given day, month or year is hard to predict. Is the public sick of vampires and werewolves yet? You think the interest has waned and then BAM! Some unique book on the subject hits the shelves and flies. Some people are really good at figuring it out, but even these people have some bombs, too. What do they say? You're only as good as your last movie ... it's true. You can have market cache one day and be the has-been the next. So when I'm asked that question, all I can say is this, "We've had four Amazon best-sellers -- and of those best-sellers I predicted only two of them raising the charts." It's honest. It's true. And that's my best answer.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Character Arcs: the Journey

In storytelling writing characters with a flat, straight journey in the story doesn't work. Characters who start one way in a story and remain the same at the end aren't interesting. The character arc boiled down is about how the character starts at point A and ends up at point B changed somehow. Even in script writing this transformation is important to create a compelling script.

How do you keep the character arc in mind. I'm going to give you an example from my forthcoming book Body in the Trunk.

Evan Garner -- philandering player whose sexually irresponsible behavior always leads to his downfall. He meets the beautiful and sweet Mia with whom he intends to con and swindle of her stock options. Then he actually falls in love with her for real. And through his first real love experience he is put in a situation where he finally has to grow up to protect and not abandon her. He is redeemed in the end by his desire to finally do the right thing.

So let's break this down.

Point A: Selfish player who doesn't care who he hurts to get what he wants. In telling the story Evan is transformed as he begins to experience a genuine love connection with Mia. It's the first time through their bond and deep connection that he experiences what "love" is really about. In experiencing love for the first time in his life when put to the test, he stays and doesn't run in an effort to protect her even at his own peril.

Point B: He stays with her even though he must make the ultimate personal sacrifice. In showing the audience his willingness to protect his beloved he becomes more likable. The audience feels sympathy toward his plight, and in his redemption he becomes a better man -- a man that is worthy of the heroine's love.

You see how this makes the story more compelling, too. Had Evan stayed unchanged and selfish throughout the audience would know the story's outcome (it would be predictable). But as Evan begins to change the outcome becomes less obvious. And in developing the character the story is developed right along with it. Hence the value and importance of character arcs.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Public Relations Tips

If you're trying to do public relations for your book (which I don't recommend), and you want to reach the media, here are some tips. If you have a publicist then he or she should know this information.

Regional press is easier to get attention. Regional press usually generously consider talent in their own areas. It's easier overall to get the attention of media in the author's city of origin then to try and get national reviews, which doesn't mean national reviews won't happen; it's just easier to first start with the locals.

News angles should focus on regional activities, partnerships or donations. A simple book release won't get the media's attention. Authors whenever possible should partner with for example a charity to promote along with their book. Give portions of proceeds to the charity. For example, the children's book Princess Josie partnered with Canine Companions and donated portions of profits to the group. The media is more likely to use that partnership to spotlight the author.

Major event tie-ins. Books should be tied to major events when applicable. For example, we tied the book So You Want to Live to be 100? to Healthy Heart Month, which is February. Pitch the media and tie the event to the book or position the author as an expert on the subject for articles or stories written about the topic.

Authors as experts. As I just mentioned approached the media and let them know your author is an expert and available for interviews on their subject matter. The interviews won't necessarily discuss the book, but will give authors exposure in that media.

If you're looking for exposure and media attention for your book, please contact us at 3L Publishing to discuss how we can increase visibility for your book. You can call 916-300-8012 or send an email to info@3LPublishing.com.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Business Boom or Business Bust

Growing your business can be a challenge. You have to manage growth effectively or all the work it took to build business in the first place will crash and burn. I was thinking about this concept at the new Farrell's on Watt Avenue in Sacramento. Yesterday we celebrated my daughter's 10th birthday. Every time we visit Farrell's while we enjoy the top-notch ice cream the service always fails. I immediately noticed that once again it took forever to be seated and once at the table I had to ask for water three times. And like so many other times, the wait staff bumbled and failed. One time I ordered a full platter of chicken fingers, and I ended up with a child's plate, which for my small appetite worked great but it doesn't change I didn't order that plate. We've waited sometimes hours for ice cream.

What is the problem? A young wait staff. A new restaurant ill equipped to handle the crowds. And probably an ill-managed service desk. Since I'm not an expert in restaurants I won't attempt to give out advice.

What is the downside? While people can be forgiving about an initial restaurant open that squeaks and grinds to a hum, it gets tiresome after a while if the hum just bonks. Your enthusiastic crowds will soon wane if nothing gets fixed. Farrell's is an example of sudden growth, but I doubt unexpected. I think the owners knew that it would be a hit right from the start. Many would-be patrons enthusiastically awaited its open.

If you have a business and hit unexpected, rapid growth what can you do? Here are some tips:

Scale: you have to hire judiciously. Demand = slow supply. How does that work? Start with contract work (if it's a service business). Once the contract worker's plate is solidly full-time (give it at least six months), hire them as a full-time employee. Do not instantly hire someone. Once someone is hired the expense is permanent. This arrangement is important over time. Business can ebb and flow -- and sometimes the flow keeps flowing, but you want to see historical trends. I prefer to study it from annual trends. For example, I know every November and December my business ebbs and then come January and February it flows, which leads to my second tip.

Keep your budget prepared for the ebb and flow periods. If you have full-time staff budget funds to cover the ebbs, and use funds that come from the flow periods. In other words when the cash arrives don't overspend. Set aside what you know you'll need during the anticipated low business period (cash reserves).

Once you're ready be ready to deliver. You cannot let business growth get out ahead of you. You have to be ready to deliver what you've promised. The minute you cannot deliver on your commitments the problems will rain down on your business. All the new opportunities will go away as quickly as they arrived.

Under-promise and over-deliver. I've seen sales people make the biggest blunder. They know their team doesn't have the ability to deliver the over-promises they've made to get the sale. So when I say "under-promise" I'm not encouraging you to hold back. What I'm saying is pragmatic. Promise what you know is do-able and then over-deliver. When you over-deliver clients will be impressed. When you under-deliver clients will not only go away; they will bad mouth your company, too, and hurt your reputation.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Your Perception of Your Value Influences Your Price

Do you know how Mercedes is just perceived as expensive while Hyundai is perceived as cheap. This is called market perception. When you build a perception of value and prestige your price can follow. If you build a perception of cheap and inexpensive value will follow. What perception do you want to build around your company, product or service? You are in control of that image right from day one.

Entrepreneurs might wonder, how do I create a greater perception of prestige and value around my product or service? You have to start with your actual service or product and how you "build it" (service is an act and that is another discussion). We're going to describe your value proposition in your product (although some of this applies to service, too).

Since I am a publisher I am going to describe how I create products to compete against low-value publishers. Some authors do not immediately recognize this difference. It can require an educated eye, but also high-quality products shine on merit, too. My company 3L Publishing produces award-winning products. The awards, though, are only the icing on an already stellar product. I often tell authors I can spot a self-published book on a table of books with just one glance. It's also the same "eye" that can spot if a book is good or not on the first page of the book, too (fiction or non-fiction).

Cover Design: a poorly designed cover just stands out, period. Most professional publishers design beautifully designed covers. Self-publishers often do stock images that are public domain. These covers aren't customized, and some images are easily recognizable. Do you want someone to look at the cover on your book and have seen it elsewhere? Also good design invites and pleases the eye. Poor design just jumps at the viewer. It displeases the eye. It makes you (for lack of a better description) want to avert the eye -- it's bothersome.

Yellow paper: low-quality books produced by low-value self-publishers and print on demand companies often produce yellow paper or yellowish paper. Cheap is as cheap does. Cheap looks cheap.

Mistakes on the back cover: read the book's back cover copy can reveal it's "heritage". Not only do mistakes give away it's self-publishing roots, but also how the copy is written. I can't describe it. Back cover copy is an art in and of itself. Just a glance at poorly written back cover copy screams self-published.

I've positioned my company as a high-quality boutique dedicated to producing award-winning books. I always say I am not the Mercedes (most expensive), but the Lexus (expensive but affordable) of publishers. I've positioned my company this way by the products we produce. And if you want a Lexus vs. a Hyundai of books, give us a call at 916-300-8012 or send an email to info@3LPublishing.com.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Two Keys to Longevity in Business

I opened my own company in 2006, and next month I celebrate my 8th year in business. Considering most businesses open and close in the first year, I get asked how I've stayed in the game this long. Well other than a lot of fairy dust, I guess I'll try and distill it down.

Persistence AKA never give up. Oh, a few times I've been about this "close" to throwing in not just the towel, but the baby, the dishwater and the tub it came in. A few lean months where my net suggested I could make more at McDonald's and contemplation of a six-figure income back in corporate sounded much better. Yet here I am still standing. Yes, I always give myself permission to have a brief adult tantrum, but once the angst tears and cries of defeat end, I get back to the business of my business. I buckle up, do the buttercup (more like marketing), and business goes on.

Speaking of marketing ... you must market every single day. Marketing is like brushing your teeth and bathing (If you're a clean person, that is) -- you do it daily. Find your marketing tools that work and keep it going. Let me rephrase this: do you think I want to get up every day and write this blog? I mean, I love to write; but some days I have no idea what to say. And some might suggest there is no payoff in this blog or blogging, but I'm here to tell you: Yes, there is! It keeps my brand in front of my prospective audience on a daily basis. It provides keywords to find my website (www.3LPublishing.com), and it bolsters my credibility and expertise in my field.

Note: if you've experienced the joys and freedom of entrepreneurship then you know that going back to a corporate job isn't an option. The freedom and ability to make lots of money doesn't exist working for "the man". And that is a flat fact. Plus, I love that I can work anywhere and any way I prefer. Life on my terms! You can beat it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Writing a Page-Turner, Part II

Yesterday's blog discussed eliminating exposition (AKA minutia) from your writing to help quicken the pace of the story. Today we're going to talk about the distractions -- those words and extra, unnecessary thoughts that bog down the story-telling process. The reason I am focused on these details is because I am doing the final revision on my novel Body in the Trunk so I am paying extra attention to these things myself. What do some people consider distractions?

Let's put a simple one in context with dialog. You can have too many "he said's, she' said's" and all those extra said's or ask's or whatnot can distract the reader from the actual flow. So here is the tip: if you've set up a scene clearly with two speakers you need only occasionally identify the speaker to keep it clear. You do not need to identify the speaker every sentence. In the scene set up, identify your speakers and then sparsely add the identifiers. Also, another tip: keep your descriptors to a minimum, too. Avoid using too many adjectives and adverds.

If you have three speakers or more you will need to track this better and add the identifiers. In those scenes without the identifiers the audience can get lost and not know who is doing the speaking.

Let me give you an example of two speakers from my book Body in the Trunk (note: you have no problem figuring out who is speaking and there are only a few identifiers).


Phil nodded and got up along with Leron. They both said thank you and walked out toward the beautiful Olympic-sized swimming pool. Once they got out of ear’s distance, they talked as they walked.
“Dude, she’s like a hot piece of work, huh,” said Leron. “One of those stuck-up wealthy bitches. And did you check out those fake tits? Man!”
“Is that all you got from that conversation?”
“No, dude. She’s a dangerous hot bitch.”
“Yeah, no remorse at all. She fucked Evan and screwed the Dad yet she sits there all smug and self-righteous like the boys have no reason to be upset with her arrogant ass.”
“What do you think, dude?”
“We need to find out who else had a vested interest in that subsidiary, and I have a feeling the trail probably leads back to Mia and … Evan.”
“What’s next?”
“We need to get some information on that partnership with Mia.”
“You think she had something to do with Swedish Designs II?”
“Possibility, but let’s go back to the headquarters and human resources. Maybe they know her name somehow.”
“Cool, but you know dude how about some of that clam chowder or something seafood like. I mean shit, we’re at the beach.”
“Sex and food – is that all you ever think about?”
“Pretty much,” chuckled Leron. “Damn! I would have fucked her, too. She’s a bitch, but shit did you check out those legs? Fuck!” 
Phil looked at Leron, rolled his eyes, and chuckled. He thought to himself at least Leron was consistent. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

How do you write a page-turner?

The grande dame of goals to achieve as a writer is the ability to write a page-turner. Now it's a talent more than a skill in my educated estimation. So I'm not entirely sure I could explain how to do it except to discuss "pacing" and how that can draw in readers and hook them to the story so they can't put it down. Now "intrigue" comes into play here, too. Pacing though is easier to explain. Pacing is how you capture the reader's interest and hook them into wanting more. A slow-paced story won't have nearly the effect to grab the reader's interest. So how to you create pacing?

Tip: Lose the abundant exposition. Nothing bogs down a story faster than too much exposition in a scene. For example, it's one thing to build a foundation for the setting, but also you can do too much. Give the reader an idea of a place or time without drilling into so much detail the whole scene gets lost in it. You can set up a scene early in the chapter, and that is typically enough. Let me show you can example from my forthcoming book Body in the Trunk (I'm highlighting the sparse exposition):


"Tess McGree stood in the lobby of the City of Sacramento Police Station, touching various icons on her iPad. She hardly noticed the door opening and closing as police officers passed her. She was a pretty strawberry blonde with light freckles on her face and chest, and she had bright green eyes that were lowered keenly to the screen. She was a tenacious 32-year old who came to the station every single day to wait for Detective Phil Harris, the subject of her book. She was determined to write a non-fiction tale based on a case being investigated by Detective Phil Harris of whom she also had a huge crush. Phil was a charismatic charmer with dark brown hair, and two eye colors (brown and blue) that Tess didn’t notice the first few times they talked. One day she was picking his brilliant mind and she noticed his eyes, which muddied her focus, because she suddenly didn’t know which eye to look at. Phil asked her why she stopped talking."

Do you see how simple? You write the scene with common experiences from a police station lobby. The doors opening and closing and people walking by the heroine is enough. I don't need to describe the people, the furniture, or anything more. Because we've all seen this kind of place, our minds fill in the rest -- and the story isn't bogged down. The story can then flow and move faster while the reader's brain does the work. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

It's Freaky Friday!

You ever have one of those weeks where you think: Is this my life? Always living and flying by the seat of my dress or skirt. The good news: 3L Publishing is just going faster than a speeding bullet, and yes I can leap tall buildings, too ;).

Today I changed my profile back to my favorite photo from Santa Cruz and got an instant marriage proposal LOL ... here is the deal (I may shock you with this one or not). I am not kidding you. I get marriage proposal all of the time from complete strangers. Now I wonder who in the world would ever make such a crazy suggestion without knowing a thing about the person they are striking up such a serious "idea" with? Just a question.

I've always wanted to comment on this topic and since aforementioned proposal just got messaged to me, I thought today was the day. I once had this diamond dealer in NYC made a ridiculous suggestion that he would (if I didn't say yes) "miss me forever..." Say what? How could you possibly miss someone you've never met? Oh, and I've had many silly suggestions I'm "crazy man's soul mate" ... again never met me. Are men that visual that marriage proposals based on looks make any sense whatsoever? Anyone interested in the person? Well, really the truth as told by my male friends goes like this: when a guy sees a pretty girl the first thing that pops into his mind is ... "I want to (four letter word) her." Maybe the more honest approach to such silly suggestions would be that little sentence. And good morning everyone! And this falls under the much-used phrase, I'm just saying ...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Storytelling: You Can't Break the Rules if You Don't Know the Rules

Did you know there is a difference between knowingly doing something in your storytelling process and just plain doing what you want to the point it will not attract a publisher? You must understand the structure and storytelling process in order to deviate from it. What do I mean? Well, I see amateur manuscripts where the writer clearly doesn't understand traditional structure, period. The writer will just do whatever he or she pleases, and it doesn't work because there is no context or construct in which the person is deviating. I will give you the reason why and an example. Readers understand certain principles about stories and how stories unfold. Readers have certain expectations about the reading experience, too. For example, readers expect characters to have something as basic as an understandable name. Now you say, what? Yes, I got a manuscript submitted once where the writer absolutely insisted the names be (wait for it) ______. Yes, you saw the right -- underlines for dropping a name in. It was silly and ridiculous -- the writer thought it was original. So how exactly is the reader going to differentiate one _____ from another _____? It's impossible. Our brains don't work that way. The author had a fit and insisted it be done that way or not at all. Guess what our answer was? Other structural breaks confuse readers. Again, readers have certain expectations when they open a book. They expect a beginning, middle and end (and not necessarily in a linear order), but they EXPECT those elements to be in the book. Now authors are free to artistically play with the concepts, but the concepts must be understood: you can't break the rules if you don't know the rules.

Tip: If you don't know the basic rules, but you have a book in your head, sign up for some creative writing classes at your local adult education center or college.

Tip: If you want a book coach to help you, contact us at 916-300-8012 or log onto the website at www.3LPublishing.com.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Marketing Tip: Book Festivals are Excellent Marketing Tools

An often-read post on this blog involves either book marketing techniques or storytelling tips. So I thought I would share what I think is the no. #1 book marketing technique that gives you the most for your investment -- festival participation.

Book Festivals: find a book festival near you that specializes in your book's genre. Book festivals are typically hosted by libraries and other nonprofits and sell booth space for as low as $400. Some of the big ones are the LA Times Book Festival (tables though run around $1800 for a 10 x 10); Miami Book Festival (tables cost $400 upward); RT Book Lovers Convention (this year it's in New Orleans); and Tucson Book Festival (where else? Tucson, Arizona).

What return on investment can you expect from a book festival?
  • Direct outreach with your audience/readers. You can meet and greet would-be readers and promote your book.
  • Point of sales, you can sell right to your readers and make some money and spread copies of your books in various markets across the nation.
  • Direct outreach with book reviewers who come by the tables to look at new titles and take them with them which saves postage. They find you, too.
  • Exposure for your title in a fresh market.
  • Media exposure if you promote to the regional media your presence in town.
Tip of the Day: Ship your book ahead of you vs. taking them with you on a plane, which will cost way too much. Ship them to your hotel room.

Tip: Bring a roll-along suitcase to take your books with you to the festival. Create smaller signage that fits in your suitcase that lies flat and then drop clothes for your table. Oh, and don't forge the book display holders, too. Get the kind that fold up and lie flat. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

The First Step of the Day: Get Organized

People always ask me how I get so much accomplished in a day. I have a very specific routine. Yes, it's boring and regimented but it works. One of the first steps you can take in any routine and to start any work day is to get organized. I call this the "first-things-first" model. Of course in my office that requires a cup of coffee ;) first; but the first step to any day is to get organized. Step no. #1 always involves getting the information downloaded for each of the projects from my email. Each client's email (if it contains documents) gets filed in the proper folder -- that way nothing gets forgotten or downloaded in some forgotten segment of the computer. I can't say what your first steps should be, but I always advise entrepreneurs and the self-employed to get a system of organization in place and work it. Routines might take some spontaneity out of the day, but they guarantee your step no. #2 happens, too: make goals. Routines and goals set the pace for the day. I make a morning list of goals each day. I check them off as I go. Once I accomplish my daily goals then I'm done for the day. If it takes longer than expected, I work longer (within reason, of course).