Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Content Strategist or Chief Storyteller or Writer? What's in a title?

The “terms” in the career fields seem like they’re always changing. I recently noticed that the title “content strategist” has become popular. Since my curiosity piqued I wondered, “What is a content strategist?” I soon learned it was a fancy term for the old fashioned title of executive editor or editor-in-chief or director of communications, depending on the organization. The other common term I’m starting to see pop up is “Chief Storyteller,” which is a fancy term for writer or author.

So what makes a content strategist any different than an executive editor? Well, except for the “content” mostly being electronic content to be used on electronic media, it’s really not that different. We’ve taken the word “articles” or “information” and turned it into aforementioned content. Content can be articles and information or it can be information to populate data fields. A strategist would figure out the best and most effective way to communicate information across multiple platforms. A better way of saying it, a strategist would not simply throw mud (AKA information) on an electronic wall and let the smudges mark where they may. The strategist is supposed to idealize where information can most effectively reach its intended audience with the best results.

Now my other favorite title is Chief Storyteller. It’s cute. All it means is the person is in charge of the company’s overall message and how it’s told. If you really want to give it more mileage it can also mean novelist or the person in charge of his or her fictitious story.

What does this all matter? Well, in the business world where people who perform these jobs and those managers who hire for these positions, communicating what exactly the job requires matters. Generally speaking many laypersons don’t know or understand the buzzword “content strategist”. What does that mean? Should I care about it? Do I need to work with a content strategist or a writer or a marketer (the Days of Yore terms LOL)? Sometimes all these words tossed around by business people seem to be words they’re just kind of enjoying saying it.

Q: What do you do for a living?
A: Why I’m a content strategist?
Q: A what?
A: Um… never mind.

I’ve been amused seeing the way these terms get bantered around sometimes very pretentiously. It’s like the business elite came up with a new way to say something and savor the words in their mouths like a fine wine. It makes them feel “in the know” – and for the rest of us average folk we frown and wonder, “What is that?” Being one of the average folk I checked it out and realized it was another one of those business terms some people were using in place of well-tread business idioms like (remember this) “low-hanging fruit”. When I worked in corporate I knew this guy who truly felt superior to the rest of the team because he used that phrase. In fact, he used to find the latest fad phrases and say them in various meeting presumably because he thought he looked smart. Frankly, I found it silly.

I have a revelation now. Just because you know how to say “content strategy” in a single sentence doesn’t make you smarter than the rest of us. Really if you pare it down to the basics, you’re communicating with an audience (either internally in your organization or externally AKA as B2B or B2C … are you rolling you eyes and getting my point?). Back in the aforementioned Days of Yore we called this communications.

Reality is nothing really changes just the delivery mechanisms. I still need to know how to write to reach my audience. I still need to know my ABCs, and I still need to know grammar. I know this might seem unfathomable to some, but spelling and grammar check only go so far. They haven’t created an algorithm quite yet to discern subtle differences in usage.

And this my friends is my rant for the day. So yes! Need to hire a content strategist or heir to the writing throne? I can do it. And I swear I won’t say “low-hanging fruit”. Call me at 916-300-8012 or send an email to

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

3 Hidden Secrets About Book Promotion

No. #1: Pitching your book means doing your homework. Let me ask you a question: Do you like it when someone approaches you with a pitch and knows nothing about you? They give you the generic form letter and it’s obvious they didn’t care enough to check it out. So the worst thing you can do to turn off any book reviewers or media professional is to pitch your book blind. For example, the reviewer plainly says he or she only reviews sci-fi and you’re pitching romance. It’s a major turnoff and shows you didn’t even look at the reviewer’s preferences. Go to the reviewer’s reviews and read them. If they have any information on a particular reviewer, read it. And when you pitch acknowledge somehow you looked at their material. It shows you cared enough to check it out. Reviewers know when you’re throwing mud at the wall and hoping something sticks. It wastes their time, and most importantly it wastes YOUR time.

No. #2: Want to stay in good stead with a reviewer? The power of old-fashioned thank you cards. When a reviewer reviews your book, send them a real thank you. This tip is super important for the long run if you intend to stay in this business and pitch more books. No one does this kind of thing anymore. I promise you a thank you will make you stand out in the crowd and start to build a relationship with the reviewer. Even if the review was so-so do it. Honesty is important, and if the reviewer made some valid points about your work, be open-minded enough to listen and improve the next time.

No. #3: Find the news hook and make your book relevant. What are the themes in your book? Pay attention to headlines and issues of the day. Tie your book’s theme to one of those current events. You will become a subject matter expert. The media may call you to interview you about the topic and then promote your book as a part of it. It might seem like a stretch, but be relevant.

Looking to hire a great publicist to promote your book and enhance your credibility? Call us today at 916-300-8012 or send an email to

Monday, August 29, 2016

Featured Author - Stacey Cotter, Harris Estate

1. What is Harris Estate about? 

Harris Estate is an alluring mystery that takes Leah Murphy from San Francisco, California to Oakdale, Texas when she inherits a long abandoned ranch estate. A grisly discovery on the property sparks an investigation with local authorities, which opens up Pandora's box and everything Leah knew about her life is changed forever. During the trials and tribulations, her marriage is tested, her desires are amplified and she has decisions to make that will affect everyone she loves.

2. What is the main take-away you want readers to have when they finish the book?

I'm in hopes that the reader enjoys taking a wild ride that makes them question what they might do in the various scenarios that our characters are thrown into. I want them to experience the same range of emotions: shock, fear, humor, passion and vengeance.

3. Your story centers on a strong female protagonist. Why did you choose to tell the story from a woman's viewpoint? 

Leah Murphy lives a full life in San Francisco, California. She is a busy mother of two, a wife and CFO, which makes her very relatable. So many of us are multi-tasking with taking care of our families, working and tending to our relationships. Having Leah’s perspective brings Harris Estate to life and pulls us into the mystery and her adventure.

4. How did you come up with the idea for the story? 

In January, my grandmother passed away at the age of 96. We celebrated her life and the love that she gave to all of us. Like many people after losing someone special, I found myself analyzing my life, past, present and future. A week after the service, I was on a several days long road trip for work when I drove past an abandoned farmhouse. My mind and imagination went into overdrive as I was curious what had taken place there over the past decades. By the time I finished work and was checked into my hotel, I had a blank Word document in front of me begging for words. That night I wrote the first chapter of Harris Estate and had the entire novel written within just a few weeks.

5. What is your favorite novel? 

The Moonlight Bay Trilogy by Dean Koontz has always been on my radar as an intriguing storyline with the main character who has xeroderma pigmentosum. However, I need to give a nod to Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, Cujo and Pet Cemetery, as those were some of the first novels I ever read. To this day, they stay with me.
6. Who is your favorite character in literature and why?
This in an extremely difficult answer as so many powerful characters impact your mind and life while reading the pages of a good book. Dean Koontz has the Odd Thomas character who has always intrigued me with his special talents and abilities. Having the series of books, keeps the character alive and the reader engaged in his life.

7. What would you rather read – action adventure or romance erotica? 

Both genres have their appeal, but I would need a darker element of intrigue to pull me in to either one. I’ve always been one to jump around to various types of literature. John Keats was an amazing English Romantic poet that I found myself studying regularly during college. In addition, William Shakespeare’s various sonnets and the play Romeo and Juliet still intrigues me to this day as well as many other poets and authors.

8. What is your favorite place to vacation? 

My happy place is on the shore watching the ocean waves crash up against the sand. Several times each year, we are able to escape to the coast for some fresh salty sea air and beach time.

9. What would you rather do: break bread with friends and family and laugh all night or travel to Europe? 

I would have to say that I would be mingling with family and friends doing a lot of laughing. It isn't much of a secret that my close circle knows how to have a good time. Traveling is a wonderful luxury. I feel fortunate to have family in Europe that we visit regularly. I'm in hopes to do more exotic traveling in the future.

10. Who do you admire the most? 

Without hesitation, I would say my mother. She has been dealing with rheumatoid arthritis for decades, in addition to being a two-time cancer survivor. Everyone close to her knows that she is in agonizing pain, but she never complains and is always smiling. Her courage, bravery and demeanor are all beyond admirable and are truly inspiring. It is a privilege being her daughter.

Harris Estate releases Nov. 1, 2016. To receive an Advanced Review Copy, please send an email to and indicate where the review will appear. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Business for the Greater Good and Success

Today’s blog we’re going to discuss doing things for the sake of business. I recently ran into a moral and ethical crossroads. Do I do a project that a writer owes me when I don’t feel comfortable with this writer’s moral and ethical behavior? Well, to give you some important information, the project has been long paid for and is beyond overdue.

My personal feeling was instantly no. I didn’t want to help someone whose behavior was reprehensible. Problem is the money had been spent. If I did the project I would have the chance to recoup the losses. A moral and ethical question for sure.

In business we will run across these dilemmas. Actually in life we will run across these issues, too. I felt the question was a test for me to approach as a businesswoman and from a strictly financial point of view. Letting my personal feelings run my business only works so far. Sometimes you need to look at your business as a business and what’s best for it. Of course what is best for me as a person matters so I don’t sweep that sort of thing away.

The key was to find a solution that I could live with. I had before me an opportunity to recoup my losses. Well, I had several opportunities to regain the investment. Here is how I looked at everything. 3L Publishing’s business model has been in decline with the competition we’ve faced from lowered margins and do-it-yourself products that marginalize our value. With things in the industry in the middle of flux with the eBook revolution having a heavy impact, I’ve been looking out ahead to make changes. If it’s not working anymore time to fix it.

I had to step back and examine my business management. I do think it’s personal when you’re making people’s dreams come true. On that level, I care very deeply about our authors’ successes. When it comes to keeping the business alive and thriving my methods haven’t worked. I’ve been too casual I think about holding the line on business is business.

Sometimes you have to step back and have that “keep-it-real” moment. Sometimes you have to look at the bottom line – and that line here at 3L Publishing is about keeping the doors open and bills paid.

At that point I realized my past best practices weren’t working. We’ve been treading water now for about two years. Time to switch it up. Time to look at business decisions through a different lens.

So, I decided to go ahead and seize the opportunities. Running a business using the idea that I CAN cut off my nose to spite my face is a fail point – not to mention an unattractive look LOL. Putting it squarely as this is the way to recoup some heavy losses, but switch up the management of the projects seemed to make sense. The question of whether or not I like the author gets thrown out.

The real question is: Do I think the book will sell and make back the money already lost. The answer is yes.

Look! That’s the answer plain and simple. When running a business or promoting your book you should just keep it simple. Money is the power to stay in business and continue to make authors’ dreams come true.

I made my decision based on the greater good.

As leaders and creative people sometimes the answer is really that straightforward.

So go conquer your own greater good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Publishing Myth Busters: Why I published my own books...

I have increased my outreach with this newsletter is my pedal-to-the-metal tactic to build and grow my business 3L Publishing ( My commitment is to continue to make not only my dreams a reality, but your dreams come true, too. I've recently been marketing my way through an uphill battle to stay competitive in a business being diluted by self-publishing tools and gimmicks that mislead people into devaluing the publishing profession. As a result, I have to market against cheesy self-publishing gimmicks and K-Mart prices. When I saw on my Music Choice channel that a cheese ball ad was running about selling publishing solutions, I groaned. Now as a professional with years of experience, education and skill I'm supposed to go up against $500 publishing packages that are like putting the creative process on an assembly line and expecting something creative, unique and professionally done.
Just so you know we don't publish publications, papers or documents like a machine produces a widget or a gumball machine dispenses bubble gum. I suppose if you want a gumball for a book or document that's doable, too, just not by 3L Publishing.
So in my ongoing "Publishing Myth Busters" series of articles, I want to continue to present my arguments against the article I read by the never-been-published writer who attacked our services. Now that I've reviewed log-lines and why they're actually necessary and the difference between publishing services vs. tools, I want to touch on background and experience.
One of this writer's criticisms was aimed at the notion that only 3L had published my books and she gave a small nod about my screenplay having aired on Showtime like this was some kind of no-brainer anyone could do. Let's start with why all of my books (not counting my hundreds of magazine articles, white papers, manuals, and documents that were published by others) have been published by my own company.
After 20+ years working for other companies and writing hundreds of articles for magazines such as Comstock's, Sacramento Magazine, Government Technology, Converge and many others, I decided I wanted to write a book. First, I didn't become a self-appointed publisher. I had work my way up at other companies from editor to publisher. Yes, I had also worked in Hollywood and wrote and sold a script that got made into a movie, and another script that got optioned. So, I wasn't coming at the idea of doing my first book green.
I decided to publish my first book Second Bloom independently. Why? Because why not? I actually knew how to do it. I knew what I wanted to say and how to make it look professional. I wanted to keep the lion's share of my royalties, etc. Now if I were an inexperienced writer who didn't already have the publishing chops I might have written a book proposal and shopped the book.
The critical reception received by Second Bloom is what launched 3L Publishing. Other authors asked me to publish their books. So, I ask you this simple question:

Why would I ask another publisher to publish my subsequent books? I'm not talking about vanity press here. I'm talking about basic common sense.
For an inexperienced writer to suggest my credibility was in question because I use my own publishing company to publish my books is really ridiculous. Now perhaps her point would be a little more valid if 3L only published my books, but that's not the case. We've published over 100 books in the last seven years. And while I wish I were that prolific I am not. I didn't write them all, but I surely edited them all.
Have we had books climb the ranks on Amazon? Yes, many times. Chocolate Flowers went to no. #1 on print and Kindle; Fertile Kitchen Cookbook did a sizable showing to eventually age out; A Feast at the Beach did very well on its Amazon ranking in its respective categories where I believe it went to #3; and that's just a small sampling of some of our successes. Yes, books age out and their ranking drop appropriately. Yet the writer also suggested our books hadn't sold well, and went on to say our books didn't win that many awards. Again, not true but I'm not going to get into a listing of the awards. You can see the front page of the 3L site ( that shows the honorable mentions and awards.
I hope this helps clarify and dispel some myths and ideas being spread by someone who really has no idea what she's talking about. I'm a "keep-it-real" person. I'm the first to admit what I don't know. I always joke to be a good editor "know what you don't know and look it up." When it comes to publishing ... well, I know what I know - and that's how to get it done.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Dispelling Publishing Industry Myths - Self-Publishing Tools vs. Publishing Services

As you know from last week I began to debunk some of the erroneous information some inexperienced writers spread around. Last week I discussed log-lines and why they’re necessary. This week I want to get into publishing industry costs. The woman who told everyone log-lines weren’t necessary is the same woman who is telling people they can get their books converted to eBooks for a mere $37 and that 3L Publishing book publishing packages were on the “high side”.

Let’s grab the $37 eBook conversion cost by the “3” and the “7” and call it insane. No, you cannot get your book (if it’s book size anyway) converted even in India for $37. Suggesting our conversion fees are expensive begs for a professional comparison. Please visit the Bowker website ( Here you’re going to see a number of costs for services including eBook conversion TOOLS. Well, actually all of the package prices are for TOOLS NOT services. At roughly half the cost of my basic 3L Publishing SERVICES you can do it all on your own (we mean "converting" it yourself), and Bowker, which is the most reputable ISBN and bar-code provider, will sell you TOOLS. Using these tools and hopefully your professional expertise as a writer and editor and conversion expertise you can self-publish and convert your own book. Now bear in mind you will also have to set up all of your own sales channels to sell your books, too.

The uphill battle I fight on a continuous basis is educating people about the difference between being a product provider (AKA tool provider) and a service provider (editing, writing, graphic design and publishing). Even the cost of the tools isn’t inexpensive, as you’ll see the packages on Bowker range from $350 to $750. Here’s the rub (and as my life partner Chris jokes): “Don’t get it twisted.”

If you want services, skill and expertise, you’re not going to get that custom and personal attention for the cost of a software program. We’re not an off-the-shelf product you can buy and upload into your computer. I am a professional editor, writer and publisher. Comparing 3L Publishing services to products sold to help you self-publish isn’t an equivalent.

Expecting publishing products to cost the same as publishing services is akin to buying a bottle of Windex and expecting the maid service to cost the same as the bottle.

You can see by this comparison the flawed thinking. Yet I come up against this kind of thinking all of the time. As a professional that can be difficult. People don’t understand the value of the service because so much misinformation and confusion exists about today’s publishing. When I come across writers like this woman who arrogantly posts on the Internet in a chat group that this is “the way it is” when they don’t know what they’re talking about my job is to educate. I have to through my own educational services like this newsletter help writers understand the flawed comparison.

When you self-publish you’re doing it all yourself! Packages sold on Bowkers are designed to help you do it YOURSELF. 3L Publishing is not a self-publisher. We’re a hybrid publishing service NOT a product.

Like any professional service it requires education, knowledge, skill and talent. These abilities come at the cost of an education, time and resources. When you visit a professional like a doctor or dentist you expect to pay for all of those skills. Hiring my team of experts to publish your book through our hybrid program is a professional service. Our costs are competitive and comparable to others. We can’t publish an entire book on the cheap. As Forrest Gump might say, “Cheap is as cheap does.” Do you want an award-winning book (several of our books have won awards) or do you want to look like you have a “do-it-yourselfer”?

Friday, August 19, 2016

How to Pitch Your Book

So, I always try to avoid reading stuff about 3L Publishing ( on Google searches. Every once in a while I will do a check-up, and ran across this scathing little chat about my company. While I do think all press is good press, this article and the source of it irritated me. It's always that one writer who thinks he or she knows it all, but his/her resume demonstrates they are fresh off the writing boat. Ignorance is not bliss when someone is acting like a subject matter expert and (excuse my roughness here) talking out their behinds ... LOL ... that made me laugh. It's good to be the CEO and not be censored when you want to call a spade a spade. If I were working a corporate job never in a million years could I say what I think needs to be said. It would be (a-hem) sanitized.
I'm going to start with some of the mythology this woman is spreading. The point is not to give her message momentum, but to answer the question. If one person thinks this way then it's my job as the experienced publisher to dispel the myths. Here we go:
I don't need a log-line to pitch my book to a publisher. It was funny because when this woman made that suggestion and then later left the meeting, the rest of the writers sat in bemused amazement over her assertion. She was stubborn in her assertion, too. So readers, yes you DO need a log-line. Want to call it a brief summary? Okay, we can call a log-line a "brief summary" if that clarifies anything for you. Here is what a publisher DOESN'T want to hear when you pitch:
Q: What is your book about?
A: I don't know.
Okay, now you're probably at least smiling about that one. I swear on my kids I've heard that answer. In my case, I'm patient and I'll sit through a phone call or pitch and try to help the writer who gave me that answer. In the bigger publishing business if you're lucky enough to get an agent or even a publisher on the line and that's your answer ... well ... let's just say a "disconnect" noise might be heard on your phone - that or a blank stare and a firm "next".
What I commonly hear when I ask writers to tell me about their books is a lot of stumbling and thinking aloud.
Tip: You don't need to tell me your entire story. I just need in 15 to 30 words a brief summation of your book.
Example: My next novel The Abused is about nine addicts who go to rehab only to have one of them start killing the others.
As you can see, it's brief and to the point and tells the listener exactly what the book is about. Did you know that a great tagline could get your book requested immediately? Yes! I've discovered that I know I have a hot property when I can come up with a succinct and intriguing log-line. When I give The Abused pitch, people's eyes light up. The interest is immediately high.
What happens when you give a "limp noodle" tagline pitch? As my life partner Chris says, "Wah, wah, wah." I love it when he says it that way. A weak pitch leads to weak results or more like no results. What happens when a writer gives a weak pitch? I usually watch the writer stumble and try to next tell me the WHOLE story to make up for the bad pitch.
In a successful pitching style it goes like this:
Pitch: Nine addicts go to rehab and one of them starts murdering the others.
Audience: Wow! That's interesting. Tell me a little more...
The "tell-me-more" part is when you have an expanded opportunity to share more about your book. Yet you still don't want to give a 30-minute dissertation on your book's entire story. When you get to Part B: Tell me more, be prepared with your 30- to 50-word summation. You don't need to tell the publisher or prospective reader the ENTIRE book down to each character - that's overkill.
If you've got them on the hook don't blow it by telling them too much and losing their interest.
Whenever writers start giving me the blow-by-blow accounting of the story and characters I find my mind wandering off. Unless it downright scintillating, which nine times out of 10, it's not I've gone from "Wow! That's great!" to "Ho-hum! What's for dinner?"
Keep it simple. Create intrigue. Make them say, "No wait! I don't want to hear anymore. I want to read the book."
When you've gotten a publisher or even a reader (because you will be pitching readers to buy your book) to the trigger point, that's enough. You've gone far enough. Overkill means exactly what it sounds like - you've "killed" your audience's interest.
FYI, the 30-second elevator pitch is how you pitch business in general. If you know how to create an elevator pitch then use that knowledge for your own book. I get asked all of the time how to write a great log-line. If you've written a book I'm assuming you're a pretty creative person. So ... get creative.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Power of Niche Books

In publishing land the summer heats up since most people want to sell their books, products or services for the holiday season. We just go the Harris Estate up on press and next up "Tails" from the Trail goes on press, too. Smile Power is wrapping up too. I've been encouraging author Ramin Bahram to get Smile Power printed in time for World Smile Day, which is Oct. 7.
Since we're on the subject of smiling, I wanted to share how much I learned in working on Smile Power about the "power" of a smile. You have absolutely no idea (or maybe you do) how the mere act of smiling can impact so many aspects of your life, from your health to your wealth, and from your relationships to your career. I never thought about the power of a smile. I just smiled, as I'm certain most of you do as well. It was fascinating to find out that while disparate research has been done on smiling there are really no books out there on the subject. So, Ramin's idea to write about smiling is brilliant.
Another really interesting project I just took on is Evil Information by Steve Ruport. I have an information technology background having worked on digital content and white papers for technology groups for years. I am book coaching Steve through the process. I found the entire thesis of his book quite fascinating and yet frustrating at the same time. The points he makes about the misuse and potential abuse of personal and professional information is relevant, especially with the proliferation of ever-invasive technology. So this project is going to be a winner.
Let's talk about niche books for a moment. Do you want to know why some niche books are often over the long-term winners? If you happen to find an original or fresh idea like smiling you're in the market for overall sales. Why? Niche books don't have much competition in their categories if any at all. When I mentioned the subject of smiling not being covered, it means that Ramin's book is going to be one of a few. So when someone does want to find out more information on this subject, whose book is going to stand out? Whose book is the one they will buy usually by default.
Niche books have staying power and generate long-term sales. They are not likely to become instant best sellers (although you can't rule that out either), but they will continue to sell over the long run because of the lack of other books in the marketplace. Your goal should be to find something that isn't covered overall and then write on that subject. Every time someone searches for that subject matter, what happens? Your book being the sole book on the topic will be one of a few choices. Fewer choices means yours is likely the winner.
Several of our niche books have had long-term staying power. What does this translate to? Habitual royalty checks being written each month to the author. In the big picture it also means ongoing passive revenue much like residuals. If you have a lot of passive revenue in the long term it can add up to a lot of money. I personally feel passive revenue comes under the old adage:
Work smarter not harder.
Any strategy that enables you to work smarter not harder is a winner. So, look for a great topic in a niche area. Long-term, ongoing sales win the game. You really don't want just a flash in the pan.
No go work smarter!!!