Friday, January 30, 2015

Finding the Right Business Partner

I've had several partnerships over the years. You could say I've had the good, the bad and the severely unattractive. Partnerships in business are no different than partnerships in marriage or life. Your husband leaves the cap off the toothpaste; your partner doesn't like the cap off the pen. Well, it's not quite that petty (most of the time). I've rarely seen partnerships that flourish over the long-term. I do think for overall success once you entered a business relationship/partnership, you should use this checklist.

Tip: Take your time in evaluating a prospective partner! Like a marriage it can end badly or it can work wonderfully over the long haul.
  • Are you like-minded in a good way? Oh, you can be like-minded in a bad way, believe me. For example, strengths and weaknesses. It's better to be yin-yang and then simpatico in thinking than yin-what-the-heck? Like-minded thinking in the positive means your outlooks match on how to do things or how to manage the business. In the creative arts (like 3L Publishing) it means my business partner creatively thinks the same way I do. So we overall agree and see things similarly.
  • Do you respect each person's skills and expertise? Working with a partner and keeping the relationship balanced and in harmony requires respect. You have to respect (or even better ... really admire) your business partner's skills, expertise and experience. Respect and trust -- see the same as a marriage. Either of those two things go awry and just like a marriage, it can result in fighting and discord.
  • Fine-tune your listening skills. You need to be able to hear what your partner says and his/her perspective. It doesn't mean you always agree. It means you can hear that person out and be able to make compromises, but only compromises that better the business somehow. Listen to your gut, too, and know when the argument is valuable and productive to business. But at the same time, listen to what the other person has to say. The aforementioned respect and trust sometimes at this point have to come into play.
Now I took almost four years before I decided to partner again. I had some sore spots from the last time I embarked on that journey. I evaluated my current partner very, very carefully. It had more to do with my conservative nature and desire to drive the company to the next level of success. Sometimes you can't do it alone. But you also can't do it together unless it's the right fit. The right fit equals the right success! Think about it -- but think about it carefully. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why write a niche book?

Writers tend to think first about just writing a book. Most of them don't think about marketability and business. If they do think about it, they don't consider the broader demographics and factors. When you write in a niche genre, for example, it's already going to have a narrow audience. A narrow audience though is relative when it comes to sales. What does this mean?
  • A narrow audience is like a narrow river. You have about "this much opportunity" in that space. It flows and people come in and out (your audience and customers). 
  • You probably don't have that much competition in that space, because it's not a common theme or idea you're writing about.
  • You do want to attract people from the narrow audience to your book.
  • Because you don't have much competition than your book might be one of a handful or the ONLY one on the bookshelf to select.
  • If you're one of a few, your chances of capturing those few buyers goes way up. So fewer consumers, but consumers who are serious about wanting to know about your topic won't have a bunch of choices, which leaves yours.
  • Capturing that niche market equals sales, and sales that are consistent and ongoing because there is no other book to lure away your customers.
  • People are always interested in certain topics, so they will keep buying your book over the long run. 
The net result is long-term, ongoing, consistent sales. Your sales might not be huge (could be though), but a long-term passive revenue stream is a good deal. Work goes in on the front end and you enjoy passive revenue on the back end, which is why I never dissuade authors off good niche books.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Publishing and Books -- It's Work

"The book business is hard," said an author.

"Yes, the book business is a business," replied the publisher.

The glamor of publishing seems, well, glamorous. Book signings, parties, congratulations, book reviews, and attention. Reality is though -- it's a business. No getting around it. No matter how you look at publishing and books, it requires effort, time and pressure. Have you ever been to a dozen signings in three weeks? Is it fun? It's always fun. But after the 200th signature and a lot of talking and selling, it hits home -- this is work. Doing the marketing and supporting the book -- work. Staying the course with book when you're exhausted and maybe worked a whole other job during the day -- work. Writing marketing material and blogs and social media posts and generally trying to be consistently brilliant and clever -- work.

Would I trade this business for any other? No! When authors want to publish their books, I always try to ensure they understand it's a great artistic, creative and wonderful process, but it's a business, period. Launching, starting and maintaining a book is akin to launching, starting and maintaining a business. When authors come into the effort with that squarely in their minds, they will be physically and emotionally prepared to take on the journey. When they show up with the idea that it's parties and mingling with the writing elite ... well, they are not prepared for reality.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lessons and Tips I've learned About Publishing

It's one thing to want to do something, it's another thing to actually do it. They can teach theory in the classroom, but until you've dug deep, gotten your hands sublimely dirty, and really entrenched yourself in the experience, you can't learn the most important lessons and realities. So, to help anyone else (and these are life lessons) here are some general tips.

Do not beat yourself up if you're an editor and there's a mistake or even two. All those meticulous copy editors out there who are single minded about not making one mistake in a 50,000 to 75,000 or 100,000 word book have truly put too much pressure on themselves into a never-good-enough reality. If I have learned nothing else in editing ... there is going to be a mistake ... somewhere. It requires minimally two sets or preferably three sets of eyes to clean up a manuscript. If you're sense of "perfection" (which there is no such thing) is about the erroneous belief you will see every mistake ever made, I counsel you to relax. A mistake or two or even three reflects nothing on your skills. It only reflects on the true fact we're all only humans.

Everyone is going to have an opinion about how you run your business. It's true someone somewhere has an opinion, and some of those someones are going to try and give it to you often unsolicited. If your business is highly successful and you're continuing to enjoy success then continue. If someone out of nowhere decides they have a judgment or piece of unsolicited advice about how you do business, tell them nicely it's none of their "business" ... and continue. Now if you need help that is another discussion, but my key advice is to only seek assistance from those who have gone before you -- successfully!

Deadlines are good but keep them realistic. Driving a project per a deadline is always good. It keeps accountability. It keeps momentum, but pushing a deadline vs. quality assurance is never a good approach. The true "finish line" of success needs to be aimed at quality. If a deadline comes faster and more furious and everyone scrambles at an unreasonable and often careless level then it's time to reassess it. Pushing back a deadline to ensure quality in the final result is far more important than time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Learning to "Empower" Your Business Leadership

I am one of those overly concerned CEOs who somewhere along the way of leadership and success in the middle of it lost her way ... a bit. Over the last couple of years, an eroding of net profit began. Under the idea that it was okay, I began getting too relaxed about collections and ensuring that 3L Publishing wasn't paying unintended costs.

Then I noticed something that was eating away at my leadership skills. We'll call it "client guilt". I felt like even though not a single client made a single complaint that our work wasn't somehow measuring up (especially on the public relations side where results are very "airy-fairy"). I felt awesome about the books for sure. Our books are award-winners. But self-doubt and that "guilty" feeling despite all of the efforts going into it, were eating at me -- but MORE important EATING our bottom line and profits as I devalued my time. I devalued myself. Are you identifying with what I'm saying? I bet some of you out there are nodding.

When we set unreasonable standards not for our clients but for ourselves ... when we set unreasonable ideas about quality of service not based in "reason" ... when we quit thinking our skills are valuable -- all of these situations make weak leadership and lead to all sorts of depreciating returns (meaning profits).

Empowering your business means empowering your business thinking. I said the other day that if I was in the mainstream private sector running another person's company, I would be making fives times or better income. It hit me! I have ran million-dollar businesses. Why am I not running my own million-dollar business ... or better $2 million or $3 million? Why is my company not where I want it to be? Because that personal devaluation led to the devaluation of my own company. Devaluation of my time. Devaluation of my services. Devaluation of me!

What was my problem? I woke up. I was making it personal ... too personal! I had wrapped up my company into a personal problem and making it personal to ME. This eye-opening moment led to some HUGE changes. Want to know what they are? I bet you do.

1. Scott D. Roberts ( became 3L Publishing's president. Roberts is enormously gifted in fiction and nonfiction books, but more importantly he augmented services to include video production, book trailers, expansion and pursuit of foreign rights, and further acquisitions. Roberts is brilliant, but here is something huge he brings to help. He's FIRM! He helps better define the value of the company and the services, and he's clear about it without being rude or impolite.

2. We developed a strategic business vision and plan. We know where we're going.

3. Strict, clear guidelines and policies -- and not being afraid to say it and hold the line. I used to think, "That's all right. We'll cover that cost. We'll do this ... we'll do that ... it's okay, we got the extra costs." No more! Costs are costs. Value is value. Stand up for both, and do it consistently. Lay out policies. Put them in writing. Be direct -- and polite, but hold the line.

In the end, let me share something with you. Much like children people like rules. They like direction. They like clarity. They like consistency. It is lack of clarity, lack of direction, and no rules (sort'a rules) and the profits go down the drain. Being profitable and successful is not greedy. It's about self-worth, company-worth, and more important knowing your value.

I hope this article helps other business people to at least think about it. If your net is waning, lift the hood, and get to work. Who is holding you back? Good question.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

American Sniper: Movie Review

*****Five Stars

Yet another really well-done movie from the incomparable Clint Eastwood -- and another amazing film in the middle of some really great and new films just released.

The movie is the true story of Chris Kyle AKA "The Legend" who shot down the most terrorists during four tours of the Iraqi War. The movie depicts a beautiful balance between Chris the man and Chris the sniper. In-between taut war scenes, we come to understand this is a man driven by intense personal integrity, humility, sensitivity and love of family and country. The movie begins with an authentic foundational scene where we discover Chris' gift with the rifle, but also what his father and mother taught him about life, bullies and heroism.

The movie then shifts to right before the 9/11 and finally the war. As we watch Chris meticulously take out one insurgent after the other, we also understand the emotions behind the acts. While Chris might have made the "shooting" look almost effortless, it was not emotionally effortless -- it took its toll on his humanity. The script was pitch-perfect and hit every beat with seamless effort and storytelling. Cooper's inward emotional performance resonates all over his handsome face, and it's obvious that this entire situation takes it's "pound of flesh" from this true American hero.

No spoilers here. Go see this incredible film. I sat forward in my seat the whole time and intently watched and enjoyed it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

*****Five Star Review, Readers' Favorite: The Little Bear Who Wanted to Fly

Reviewed By Joy Hannabass for Readers’ Favorite

There once was a little bear named Cubby who had big, big dreams. Bigger than he could ever imagine! You see, Cubby Bear wanted to learn to fly. He could do it, couldn’t he? As he sits high on his tree branch, looking out through the forest, he sees two of his friends watching him, probably wondering what he was up to. Couldn't Cubby Bear see that his friends were worried about him and wondering why he was acting so strange lately? Would little Cubby Bear let them in on his thoughts and secrets so they could help him?

This is the cutest story for little ones. The first time my now 6-year-old niece saw it, I ended up reading it to her about 5 or 6 times. Then she sat for an hour or more looking at the pictures, making up her own stories. This is a big book with an awesome message for those who read it. In The Little Bear Who Wanted to Fly, Cubby, Chatter and Crunch show kids of all ages that it is okay to dream, and how fun it is to put action to those dreams! Author Carol Shaver writes a story that is exciting and interesting enough to keep the attention of kids for hours. And I can’t leave out the awesome illustrations by Rachel Smith. From the front cover throughout the entire book to the end, the colors, scenes and characters are jumping off the pages as you read the words. I love books like this that tell the story so well in words and pictures. This is definitely a book you want in your child’s library!


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Erotic Writing is Not an Invitation to Send Me a "Selfie"

So those who have erotic content in their books will find this to be true. A friend of mine has an erotic chapter in his book, and he's constantly showing me Tweets or things "fans" send him based on a particularly sexy chapter in his book. When I wrote California Girl Chronicles (books 1 and 2) the consistent question, "Is that based on your life?" Now I have to be honest that my friend's salacious photos he gets sent from overly zealous fans I find a bit astonishing. A Smart Phone and a selfie stick will go a long ways toward personal debauchery. But we're digressing ...

If I wrote it doesn't mean I'm doing it or having done it or will be doing it. Let's put "fun" and erotic writing as based on some experience (I'm obviously not a prude) and a fabulous imagination. If you think all erotic writers are secret porn stars your mind has run amok. Are we great writers (especially if the scene is particularly hot)? Yes. Are we all running around mindlessly and without morals or values having sex with anyone who sends us a naked selfie? NO! Writing scenes for the sake of entertainment and inviting anonymous sex is a whole other thing. If you find a scene in my book alluring, great I've done my job. I'm happy. But if you turn around and want to send me your (a-hem) manhood, save it brother.

My new book Body in the Trunk does have some highly charged and sexy chapters. Hope you enjoy it once it's officially released. If you're entertained! Great! The rest let's just put it how your mother said it best, "Keep it to yourself."

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Drama Life

I have been working on a self-help book soon to be released by my company 3L Publishing titled Step Aside and Get Out of Your Own Way by Syndee Hendricks. I've also been working on a new program of meditation and hypnotherapy, which ask me sometime about. Hypnotherapy should never be discounted. I have several success stories about it. The sub-conscious mind is amazing. Anyway ... back to Syndee's book. She discusses drama queens and kings in the book. I would have to say that as I've gotten older, more grounded and rational, and aware I've been able to discern these personality types much better. I don't like or invite needless drama into my life. And the more I don't invite it, the less it comes to me.

How is that you ask? Drama people cannot knock through what I'll call the "grounded" wall of cool observation. When you learn to ground and stay grounded you are far less prone to provide the necessary response or "fodder" the drama people need to feed their endless "plays". How do you spot a drama person? The easiest is to watch and become "audience" and not participant. Watching drama from the audience's perspective makes it glaringly obvious.

In the list of drama behaviors, watch for:
  • over-reactions, "reactions" of any kind that are not necessary;
  • mountains that were once mole hills;
  • outrageous manipulations;
  • and a life in constant chaos (everything requires over-the-top emotions)
When you take the high road or openly decide to sit in the audience and not be a cast member of the play, your perspective on it will change. I've been taught to remember that it's all the other person's stuff. The grounded, mature reaction quiets itself, thinks, and then "discusses" and is proactive.

Life will happen all around you. Drama kings and queens will put on their plays. Your challenge is to stay out of it. Taking the high road while sometimes might seem uncomfortable is always the better choice. Investing any emotion in the "play" is just a "bad trip" into another person's junk. Stay out of it. My business partner said this the other day, "You have five-minutes to vent and then we move on." Good advice! When he got a little distressed over a project's future, I reminded him of the same only said, "Let it spin. It will do what it's going to do." Good management practices on either side. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Change Your Business Model for More Success

I had a conversation yesterday with a client about marketing. We were talking about why one method of marketing always seems to work, but it also worked for only a short period of time. Over the years the businesses I've seen thrive are those whose leadership is flexible and nimble on their proverbial "feet". Management is responsive and understands that "change" and more importantly the "ability to change" with the marketplace will take the company forward.

Companies that get stuck in a rut and unresponsive as the marketplace shifts will often find their market share erodes over time. Cutting-edge leaders in an area are often confronted with competition, and then that competition eats into that market share. Leading-edge companies know that the minute their competitors step into the arena, it's time to reinvent the arena. And that takes the aforementioned flexibility.

They key is to avoid being the old dog who begrudgingly learns the new trick. You should be the eager manager who when presented with an exciting idea doesn't say, "How do I do it?" but rather "When do I do it?"

This year, I'm am going to be the eager leader who embraces new opportunities and changes the business model to fit the shifting attitudes and marketplace. I have some major announcements coming up, and I'm in negotiations with a new business partner. The intention is to take 3L Publishing to the next level, grow into an emerging market opportunity, and then shift directions with our acquisitions. It's time to pull up and look under the hood (or in this case "book cover") and fine-tune the engine. I'm looking forward to the upcoming changes and shifts. 2015 is going to be our best year ever.

Friday, January 2, 2015

So You Want to Write a Book

Many people think they have a "book in them", but the difference between being an author and thinking a book is ready to be written is ACTION. It's not true that anyone can write a book just because they thought about it. I hear that all of the time, too, which demeans the art of writing. BUT with the right education, training and guidance, anyone can indeed write a book.

Fiction and nonfiction books have a framework of reader expectations. The key is to understand how that structure is set up, which is why education and training are helpful. Some people have a natural knack from reading and taking in other writers' works, but that in and of itself is another form of training. Readers do expect certain forms and techniques. They expect basics like a beginning, middle and end even if that structure is creatively redone. But notice that an exercise in experimentation that goes awry gets labeled "bad" and readers won't read it. So, it's important when writing to maintain some sort of construct of form and function around the work. You have to have a story. You have to have characters. Even if it's a true story or nonfiction, you still have to have a workable structure that is in a sense the story, and typically it surrounds a theme.

Stubborn writers who fall in love with their works and demand to do things that break the rules when they don't even know the rules are an editor's nightmare. I've had writers who from the start make unruly demands and come up with ideas that are so far out there, I can't even consider it. Art is one thing, but crazy is another. If you're going to stretch and try knew things in writing, my first piece of advice: always know the actual rules. Once you know what those rules consist of then go ahead. Break them. But always start with the basics -- grammar, syntax, usage, style and spelling. Understand the overall expectations of storytelling and character development ... THEN play with it.