Friday, November 28, 2014

Why Test Marketing is Important

At the International Miami Book Fair I began phase II of the test marketing for my new book Body in the Trunk. With thousands of prospective buyers in which to gauge reactions, I watched body language, listened to comments, and took in overall response. My goal was to refine the book until it's ideal to begin the official release.

I discovered a few important things:
  • The cover works: it pops and attracts attention
  • The back cover copy first paragraph needs to be rewritten. It wrongly positions the book as a romance novel when it is not. I need to emphasize the mystery elements.
Those two pieces of information can make all of the difference when selling the book. People look first at the cover and then glance at the back cover. An ineffective piece of copy that positions the book incorrectly can kill sales. Romance readers are very specific, and I don't want to position the book as a romance novel in a largely mystery-oriented crowd. Now the book has romantic elements, but it's not strictly romance. The story revolves around the mystery of the body in the trunk ... hence the title. If nothing else, I learned what I needed to learn about the book for the best possible official release this spring.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Good Problems to Have with a Hot-Seller Book

The fantastic problem in the book world: running out of copies of your book. Dropped-Off Dog (A Mostly-True "Tail") by Catherine Lagorio is the best example of a hot seller and keeping up with demand. In publishing you try to stay ahead of print runs to ensure you maintain stock. In this book's case, it has been off press about two months and selling hotter than hot cakes. As we've juggled and shuffled books back and forth to meet demand, she hit her "out of inventory" moment this morning. So congrats! The good news we pre-ordered more copies. The trepidation -- timing the new order to the demand. Ah, the life of a hot-selling author! You do have to smile though. Give us a few days and then pick up your own copy of this sweet and endearing book about pet homelessness. Find out why she ran out of her first print run so quickly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

First Place Winner, Best Inspirational Book -- In the Footsteps of Greatness

 Freshman author Josh Mathe adds another award to his growing list of acknowledgements. His book In the Footsteps of Greatness took First Place, Best New Author, Best Inspirational book in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards.

I personally enjoyed this book, and I've lauded it many times over. If you want a feel-good Christmas present for friends and family this book will do it. I do want to clarify that this book is way more than a hiking book or a how-to backpack. It won the inspirational acknowledgment because it definitely inspires. It chronicles how Josh overcame his personal demons to do something he tried and failed to do a couple of times -- hike the 212-mile John Muir Trail in a week. He doesn't so much battle the elements as he conquers his own issues and mental outlook. How many of us can relate to how we hold ourselves back in life? I know I could easily understand the issues.

I personally can't wait until Josh's sophomore effort starts. This project was my "feel-good" effort for 2014. Buy your eBook or print edition on Amazon today or visit the 3L Publishing website ( under Books.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Painting and Miami Book Fair

So my building is being painted. I woke up to a conversation that sounded like it was right outside of my window. I thought, "It sounds like the painters are in my house ..." I got up to get coffee, and you know what? They were right on my balcony, and I have to be honest it was disconcerting. They were jabbering away right on my premises and I was sleeping in the other room. Hmmm...

Onto other topics du jour: this week is Miami time. We're off to the International Miami Book Fair (where else) in Miami, Florida. The logistical requirements to ship 400 3L Publishing books across the United State was something. I also had to think through every element of my marketing materials and how make it lightweight and fit in a suitcase.

For authors or those who sell products, here are my tips:
  • Suitcase-sized signage -- this will rest protected between my clothes
  • Folding book holders -- these fold up into a slim fit to reduce bulk
  • Cloth banner and drop cloth -- folded and neatly put in the suitcase
  • Slim-sized plastic container -- this holds and protects 300 flyers, bookmarks, business cards, and misc. items, and it fits right into a larger suitcase
Paring down a display to simple signage and supplies is best when transporting across country. You want to be assured it all arrives in the right place. You don't want to pay expensive shipping fees, especially when you're merchandise are on average $15 each and the sale of the items can be no more than a certain number. The idea is to make money not lose money. Expensive shipping costs can eat right into your profit margins.

Now let's hope tomorrow morning I don't wake up the painter drinking coffee in my living room. Miami here we come! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Morning Musings: Funny One-Liners in Publishing

As a traveling publisher, I meet all kinds of readers and people in general. So for your entertainment, we're going to use our Friday Morning Musing to quote the funniest things or comments I hear from readers.

"I don't like books." -- book festival patron(s)
"Do you read a lot?" -- someone wondering about my love of reading (I'm a publisher and editor)
"Is this a real publishing company?" -- I am inevitably asked this in my booth space with about 50 books in my display.

Now here are the funniest things authors say. I want to give you a preemptive strike. If you get the actual publisher on the phone, don't say any of these things. It will be a huge strike against you, and a publisher's time is precious. It's a deadline-driven business.

"My first chapter sucks."
"I don't know what my book is about."
"I don't think it will sell."
"It's not very good."

I realize you probably thinking I'm kidding... I'm not. Authors have said those words to me -- and on more than one occasion. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

USA Best Book Awards: In the Footsteps of Greatness is a Finalist

One of my personal favorites in the 3L Publishing catalog is In the Footsteps of Greatness, and it just placed as a Finalist in the USA Best Book Awards under narrative nonfiction (for more information, click here). Author Josh Mathe's first effort is this articulate, thoughtful and dynamic book about his experience not hiking the John Muir Trail, but running the 212-mile trail in one week. What I really enjoyed about Josh's book is the spirit to persevere and accomplish his goal. Endurance athletes will appreciate his insight into "fast-packing" and general readers will enjoy how Josh willing and honestly talks about the experience, life and all the challenges that he takes on with enthusiasm.

I highly recommend this book as a Christmas present, and you won't have to stay up all night on black "whatever" to get a copy. Buy it on Amazon in print or eBook (click here).

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sales Tip: Find the Hook and Close

I'm going to focus on consumer book sales as my example for the day. Here is the tip for authors who sell books or products directly to consumers at events (book festivals in my case): find the tagline. It's the one way to make the reader (consumer) stop in his or her tracks. My approach goes like this:

Michelle: Do you read thrillers?
Reader: No (keeps walking)
Reader: Yes (stops)

Now have a marketing promo piece or giveaway (your way of thanking them for their time to stop and talk to you).

Find the pitch (tagline):

Michelle: You'll never guess the killer (for the 3L Publishing book Vengeance is Now)
Reader: I'm pretty good. I might.
Michelle: I edited the book, and I swear I didn't guess. The author is right over there and he will sign your book.

Send them off to the author to sign the book. You have to find the "hook" or the temptation. Challenging readers who pride themselves in being able to identify the killer gets them every time. If you have to sell, find hook no. #1 (identify your prospect) and hook #2 (grab their attention) and then close them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


You can't teach creativity. You can stimulate creativity, but you can't teach it. You can inspire it. Some people are either super creative and some people are super scientific or math oriented. Did you realize though both disciplines can be creative. Thinking out of the box is creative. It's also inspired. What inspires an artist or scientist though is not definable.

How do you inspire? I think inspiration or motivation can come from example. You can be inspired by someone else who leads the way. I find inspiration in other artists' and authors' works. I am fortunate to read other authors' works all day long. But a really great story -- whether a story, movie or narrative -- can be inspirational. Anything that makes you think or question life in general can motivate you to be creative and put the ideas through your own lens.

I always say surround yourself with the very best people. People around you can inspire you on a daily basis. They can influence you. It's why it's so important to surround yourself with like-minded people. What goes up goes down. And the "gravitational" pull of those who go down more than up can also suck you in. So go with the up and not the down. Surround yourself with those who inspire your creativity and greatness. Leave the others to their own downs.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar

Rating: *****

Best movie of the year and best movie I have seen in years. The incomparable writer, producer, director Christopher Nolan delivers (again) in this mind-bending and exceedingly intelligent film (not movie ... movies are popcorn flicks and this is plain and simply film).

The premise is complex while at the same time simple: a plague is turning crops to dust and the atmosphere is declining with eminent extinction of the human race at stake. Now comes the complex: pilot Copper, who has two adoring children, is "called" to navigate a space ship through a worm hole to investigate several viable planets to relocate the human race and/or colonize the surface (Plan A and Plan B). Leaving his beloved daughter Murphy (named after Murphy's Law) and his son, Cooper faces the epic challenge of getting through the worm hole to the other side and battling time shifts (Einstein's Theory of Relativity) and other very real situations on foreign planets.

What I LOVE about this film is its sheer wisdom and intelligence. Nolan never tries to pander to us. He uses his characters to explain math and science in an understandable way. He keeps the story and the visuals extremely realistic and interesting, and the concepts and stories are reality-based. But it's his thoughtful spiritual ideas about love and interconnection and intuition involved in loving someone so strongly that you just know things that science cannot explain. The power of love becomes the underlining basis in this film, and I was so moved by the strength of the message, it brought tears to my eyes. Not all things we know are explainable. My new book Body in the Trunk touches on the deep spiritual connection and power of love. So I was happy to see other artists exploring those thoughts, too. GO SEE THIS FILM! It's a must. I haven't been so enthusiastic about a film in years. I loved it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Morning Musings: Ode to Cole

My son Cole has become a First Word fan. He reads my blog during his "boring" classes. He loves my "musings" so I thought today would be "Ode to Cole". First, you have to appreciate that Cole, 16, is about 6'5". What you have to know about tall people is that TALL doesn't spring over night through some adolescent growth spurt. It is obvious someone is going to be super tall early on. Cole when he was age 2 looked age 5, which was difficult for a nonverbal two-year-old who got judged by Kindergarten standards. "What? Is he 'special'?" "Um no! He's two!" I am not nearly as tall as my son, but I was always the tallest in the class or at various times, close to the tallest.

I'm 5'9" but I'm a girl so that's pretty tall for a woman. The only downside is I was often taller than some of the guys, too. Being tall has its perks. You can see (generally) over people's heads. They almost always put you in the back of the photo or they make you sit down (sitting rocks when it takes a long time). If I put on high heels, it's way more fun. I can totally survey the room.

But back to the guy thing. Nothing is less fun than towering over your man. Yes, ladies no one wants that "Amazon" feeling when with the opposite sex. Once though I had on high-heeled boots and I met a friend of mine who is 6'1" and dang if I didn't get the wrong impression that he is short. He's not (obviously) short. Once he had come in a room ahead of me. The host said, "Oh, yes that tall fellow who went upstairs." I had a chuckle. I always wore heels around him, and I had to finally acknowledge, "Oh yeah that 'TALL' fellow."

Back to my son, who if I put the right headline on this blog will be sucked into the "tall" discussion. His height has become so notable that it's the first thing everyone sees. Not only is he tall, but he's just BIG. Place his hand against mine, and the word "small" finally applies. I have very long and slender everything (legs, arms, feet, hands). Compared to Cole I am downright petite. If you ever happen to see pictures of the two of us you will mistakenly get the impression, I am his short mother. Well, sitting or standing by my "sweetheart of a giant's size" I do indeed look small. And that my friends is my "Ode to Cole".

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ghost Writing Vs. Editing Vs. Proofing

Not all editing is alike. Not all writing is alike either. I get calls all of the time for different kinds of writing skills. Clients often don't understand the difference between ghostwriting, editing and proofing.

Ghostwriting is writing for someone else on their behalf and then making it look like they wrote it. Many people have a story to tell, but they aren't professional writers. They are either looking to professionally publish their stories or they just want something for friends and family. A ghostwriter though does most if not all of the writing.

Editing is more global. The editor is looking at the overall content and the grammar and punctuation. A great editor will also do what we call book coaching. In looking at the entire story, the editor provides feedback and guidance to improve either a nonfiction or fiction book or just content for websites and marketing materials.

Proofing is drill-down and specific. The proofreader AKA copy editor is looking at every detail to ensure grammar, syntax, punctuation and style are correct. A great editor isn't always a fantastic proofreader and an excellent proofreader is not always a good editor.

In the editing and writing departments it's rare to have one person with all skill sets. It may not make sense but I've worked with great editors who are okay writers, and I've worked with good writers who are not good editors. You can't necessarily lump it together. We use at least two editors on manuscripts. I'm what you would call the editor-in-chief and editor (book coach) and then I worked with another editor who is more of a proofreader. You always want more than one set of eyes on your work. One person just can't do it all. Even if that person is really good at who he or she does, it's very hard to be a jack-of-all-editors. Getting a book nearly perfect is a real feat when you're working with some 50,000 words. So value the editorial profession. It's takes more skill than you learned in high school English.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Random Thoughts about the Post Office

Since I temporarily took over operations and fulfillment I have visited the Post Office more time than I can count. The workers know me. Here are some little-known facts about the Post Office.

Did you know they won't give you tape? Well, they won't give you anything at all. Tape costs $3.50 per roll. Even if you need a piece "yaye" big ... nope! Sorry. As a result, I have "tape sympathy". I can't tell you how many times a poor, frustrated citizen has been about to mope off when I've turned around and offered him/her tape. I feel sorry for the "tape-less" who now have to either spend $3.50 for an inch of tape or go across the road to Wal-Mart -- and god forbid anyone have to visit the aisles of Wal-Mart, so I offer it up like a loaf of bread to a starving person.

Media mail better not have any advertisements in it ... cause you know "it's subject to inspection". I had this immediate image of the Postal Police rushing in the door. "Stop! Open that package! A-ha! A business card! Send it back!"

"Anything liquid, perishable or lithium batteries." I have heard that phrase so many times I've memorized it. No, no and no. I have wondered aloud if the workers get sick of saying it. The lady laughed and said she's just used to it and doesn't even think about it. I had another image of the Disney voice saying, "Keep head, arms and legs" in the boat" (Small World). I need to say that in Spanish, too.