Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Business Strategic Planning for 2016

Hello First Word Friend-Os! We are on the "eve" of New Year's Eve. Can you believe another year has passed? I'm not sure if time is speeding up or slowing down. At the end of the year I always like to do a roundup of things that have happened that amuse me. This year though I think I'm going to end the year by helping you get prepared to conquer 2016 Friend-O style.
Here are some tips and tricks to get your new year off to an effective start. Since my newsletter readership is a mix of authors and business people, these tips apply to your business and your efforts to promote and help your book succeed in a competitive marketplace.
Strategic planning - time to do what most executives and managers do, which is plan for the New Year. Most managers though will do the strategic plan and start the year off with gusto and quickly abandon the document in favor of "wing-it" management. The idea of planning is to plan and execute not fall back to status-quo. I've noticed authors and managers initially are energized to conquer the market, but within a few weeks return to old, (and most importantly) "comfortable" habit. If you're going to enthusiastically create a strategic plan then execute it. Realize you'll need to stay the course on the changes for it to be effective. Don't let the strategic plan gather dust on a shelf two weeks after you write it. Keep it on your desk. Remind yourself of your goals. Speaking of goals ...
Time to set some goals - I don't like to use the term "resolutions" when it comes to business. I like to set goals and then set out to achieve them. In my world I try to establish daily, weekly and monthly goals. The daily goals are written on my desk calendar (and yes, I still use paper in this digital world). I begin each morning by writing down my goals for the day. As I accomplish each one, I check it off. Goals not achieved that day get moved to the next day and so on. Breaking down your goals into bite-sized pieces makes them doable, which is why I prefer "daily" goals. If you can see your progress happening it makes it feel like you're moving and progressing forward nicely. Setting gigantic goals and then not breaking them down into "doable" pieces sets the stage for failure. My motto is "Success is built brick by brick not skyscraper by skyscraper."
Stay the course. Listen Friend-Os (and this is especially true of books) prepare to launch your book and stick with it. The most successful authors I know don't give up after the gloss of a new book release has worn off. True marketing momentum and the goal of creating the "snowball effect" requires persistence and determination to never give up. If I've learned anything at all one day it can look bleak and the next day it can all change to the sunniest, sunniest! (Hey, is that a new catchphrase or a new name for orange juice? LOL). I recommend trying one thing and then trying the next. If the first one doesn't seem to produce results, try something else.
Value yourself ... it's hard to feel worthy or valuable when people don't seem to recognize that what you do isn't easy and not everyone can do it (contrary to some misguided beliefs). In the publishing marketplace, we've had to deal with a lot of low-end self-publishers who offer ridiculous "publishing deals" for pennies. Many new authors don't understand that Createspace is not a "publisher" but a tool. Our job as we sell our services is to distill the myths, educate and inform clients of our "value" and why working with 3L Publishing is worth the investment. Our books win awards. Look at this year alone. In the Footsteps of Greatness by Josh Mathe won several awards including the Royal Dragonfly award. Just a few weeks ago Norma Jennings was named one of the "50 Great Authors You Should be Reading" and she placed as a Finalist in the USA Best Book Awards.
Well Friend-Os ... Happy New Year! Make this year the best it can be!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Things I find annoying

Smudges on my glasses ... don't you just hate it when you smudge your glasses and they don't seem to come clean. Smudges on my contact lenses are annoying too.

Phone calls before 8 a.m. ... that one is just obvious. Unless you're from the East Coast (I'm on the West Coast) you have no excuse.

Phone calls after 9 p.m. ... unless your lover or best friend that is simply too late at night for me.

Running out of coffee in the morning ... that one is just scream-worthy. I must have my coffee. And it always seems like the moment I realize I am out of it, it's while wearing a purple bathrobe and socks. So no way a trip to the local Starbuck's is on the agenda.

Running out of Half-n-Half ... that one is synonymous to running out of coffee. Either problem holds the same "annoyance value". 

People who keep calling and not leaving a voice message ... how hard is it to just leave a message? Quit calling and not leaving me a message; it's pointless and true to my headline, annoying.

If you've read this and nodded then you "feel me" friend. Hope I made you either nod or chuckle. Sometimes I blog just to entertain myself ... or you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Three Things Writers Do to get in Their Own Way

I've coached and worked with writers for years. All facets of talent have come across my desk. So today what I want to share are the top three things I see writers do to sabotage their own success.

Giving up -- yes, giving up is no. #1. At the first sign of low sales or reviews not kicking off enough sales (in the author's mind), some author will give up. They won't feel the project is either successful or successful enough. And to discuss the "enough" word. What is your idea of success anyway? Becoming a no. 1 best-seller? Or is it possible that your book touched and changed one life. Your book made someone's vacation perfect. Your prose made someone happy. We have this view of success in society based on monetary rewards, and don't get me wrong money is important. I just hate to see an author feel like a failure because they only sold 500 copies, which is actually a lot.

Speaking of quantity of copies ... here is the next thing authors do get in their own way -- not enough copies sold. I'm here to share that if you sold 500 copies in this competitive market, you've sold a lot of copies. Imagine 500 people standing in the room, and they all read your book. Wouldn't we call that a crowd? A "crowd" of people read your book. Here is another way to look at it. Your next project will have that extra leg-up when those same 500 people buy your book and then another maybe 1,000 buy the next one. Is 1,500 people standing in a room a crowd? I would say "yes". So don't get down on yourself because you only sold 500 copies. You have to start somewhere.

Flogging your editor because there are a few small mistakes in your book. This one is my personal pet peeve. Here we go with my jelly bean analogy (I use this one all of the time). Take 50,000 black jelly beans. Pour them on a big white board. Now go find the flawed jelly beans. When I use that analogy you won't believe how many people's eyes light up with the realization, "Wow! That's hard!" So, yes editing a 50,000 word novel is hard work and worth about 10 years of bifocals. If someone has the audacity to tell you that on page 50 you have a mistake and you feel really bad and now your book is (in your mind) loaded with errors ... um ... go to jail, don't pass go, and pay your tired editor $200.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Use a "Writing Coach"

You may wonder what is the difference between a writing coach and an editor. A writing coach is an editor, but his/her process is different than just editing. Why would you use a writing coach?

Accountability -- some writers (and people for that matter) benefit from the accountability of having someone to answer to about their projects. An effective writing coach is there to ask, "Hey, when do I see the next chapter?" Many people achieve goals more effectively when they have someone to push the process.

Professional and Personal Guidance -- a writing coach will analyze and critique your work. It's different than attending a class. Your coach is exclusively focused on your work. An involved coach will sit down and explain the changes or suggestions made for your manuscript. They will go over it with you. You get the benefit of that one-on-one attention to help create a publishable piece of work.

Editing -- your coach is really an editor packaged differently. An educated coach and also someone to correct grammatical and punctuation mistakes and help clean up your work. In the bigger picture though your coach is looking at your work as a whole. The broad guidance and instruction will help with technique, voice, organization, structure, character development, story development and more.

The best possible product -- a coach is the person whose goal is to get your manuscript ready to be professionally published. When you've gone through the coaching process your book will be the best it could be. You will now be in a position to at least know it's an excellent manuscript ready to be sold.

Coaching and being coached is fun -- yes, the writing experience is supposed to be enjoyable. Having someone to bounce ideas around and brainstorm is a pleasant experience with the right coach.

Do you want to be coached on your writing? Contact your host Michelle Gamble at 916-300-8012 or send an email to info@3LPublishing.com. For more information on 3L Publishing, log onto the website at www.3LPublishing.com.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Writing Tips: Building Tension in Stories

After meeting with a new writer about her work of fiction, I had some comments to help her develop her book and its characters. Since her story is a romance I thought I would pick out some of the tips I gave her to help others.

Building sexual tension between characters requires patience. This young writer had her lovers roll in the proverbial hay too fast. Their aggressive pursuit of each other sparked and happened within pages. Instant gratification either needs to be a part of the story somehow or it should be delayed to keep readers turning pages to find out and discover.

The "hurry-up-and-get-there" weakness. I see writers do this all of the time. They want to finish their stories and they want to get to the "hot" stuff way too fast. It's like being a reader who can't wait and flips to the end. Problem is when the author rushes to write the story all of those in-between pages suddenly don't exist. Writing takes patience in the author too. Developing the characters and story should be "paced" not rushed.

Character development and place go together. I had a lot of fun with this one and this author's work. It's important to use every piece of narrative to your advantage when you write. Use your character's behavior in a place or setting to convey something about that character.  In this case, the author's character was a neat and orderly woman. So, when describing her home the author had an opportunity to use her home as the way to convey these character traits. For example, don't just describe the sofa. Have the character straighten a pillow on the sofa before leaving for work. You got what kind of sofa the character owns and you convey her neat nature.

My company 3L Publishing does one-on-one coaching with individual authors. It's the best hands-on approach to learning how to properly write either fiction or nonfiction. We enjoy mentoring individuals and making their stories come to life. If you would like more information, please contact us at 916-300-8012 or send email to info@3LPublishing.com. We would be glad to set up a consultation to discuss your project.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Keeping the Pace: How Excellent Pacing Makes a Page-Turner

My partner Scott D. Roberts and I do book coaching as part of our services at 3L Publishing (www.3LPublishing.com). An interesting weakness we often see in writers is the inability or skill to pace their books.

Here are three tips about pacing:

#1 -- Using Too Much Exposition. A big no-no is too much exposition in the narrative that bogs down the writing. You have to keep your eye on what you're trying to accomplish on each page. Each scene, each moment needs to move the story forward or have a purpose in the story. We often see new writers who mistake a great description as building a colorful setting. Your description should only feature that which does the following:

#2. Helps define the scene so the reader understands the place. For example, if you have a scene in an office you need just enough exposition to convey the nature of the office and that's all. This gives the reader an idea of it so they can picture it in their minds. For example, a lawyer's office might have a "neatly arranged law library that any librarian would drool over." That's enough. The reader got it. We don't need to spend two or three more paragraphs describing that law library, especially if the scene isn't even about libraries and has no relevance to your story.

#3. Repeating what you just described in the dialog. If you told the reader your hero entered a bar and ordered a drink, don't have the dialog essentially repeat what you described. The reader got it the first time. For example, don't have the hero enter the bar and say, "Hey, I just walked in the bar," to his friend on the phone. It will bore the reader and bog down your narrative in redundant storytelling.

#4. Dialog that is more of a lecture than a conversation. Listen to how people talk. Most people don't go on and on and on. Unless you intend to make that a character trait specific to one person, it bogs down the work, and makes your dialog weak. People talk generally back and forth and don't use formal vocabulary unless it's a period piece. So make sure you keep the language current to slang and lingo, too.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mistakes Writers Make

When I do manuscript coaching and editing for new and emerging writers, I get a front-row seat on common new-writer mistakes. Here are some of those common errors that can bog down what otherwise would be a perfectly good story.

Redundancy -- the repeating of words or phrases within the same paragraph or even page. Keeping your writing fresh and interesting means you need to abandon your own commonly used words. It can be challenging. Even when we speak we have certain expressions we use a lot. I was working on a book the other day in which the writer used the word "okay" no less than 10 times on a single page of copy. If you can't think of a new way to say something use a Thesaurus, which is my opinion is an irreplaceable tool when your mind is getting tired.

Useless details that bog down the pace of the story. What I try to teach writers is to use the setting as part of the storytelling process. For example, if you've got a character's hometown don't simply describe the place (that's boring). Put your characters in the place and have them react to the place. You can use setting to develop your characters. How does your protagonist feel about the setting? What does the setting tell you about the protagonist's socioeconomic standing? What does it tell you about their traits and characteristics?

Don't repeat in the dialog what you just showed the reader. This redundancy is another problem that bogs down story. Your reader already read what happened. Why are you repeating it in the dialog? The dialog should be a reflection of what happened, but filtered through the lens of the story and how it drives the story forward.

Action vs. stagnant chatting and retelling of what the reader just saw. Each "chapter" or scene needs to make a story progress. If you have two characters chatting in a coffee shop then make sure the conversation is designed to progress the story. Idle, go nowhere conversations will once more not make your book a page-turner. Each chapter, each interaction needs to have a point designed to develop the story or something important about that character that is also relevant to the story.

Would you like to know more about how to make your project a success? We offer editorial services designed to guide writers to produce their best possible work. Please contact us at info@3LPublishing.com or call 916-300-8012.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Great Christmas Present for Mystery Lovers

Similar to such recent hits as Gone Girl, Body in the Trunk takes readers backward and forward in time as true crime writer Tess teams up with Detective Phil Harris to solve the murder of a young woman whose body winds up in the trunk of a Toyota Camry. As the team unravels the story behind the murder, the reader discovers through a parallel back story the real crime that involves a passionate affair and love-gone-wrong between neglected wife Mia and a stranger who shows up in her life named Evan.

On Sale for $10.99 at http://3lpublishing.flyingcart.com/?p=detail&pid=65&cat_id=