Apr
8
2015

Can we sell two new books by using 12,200 jumbo postcards?

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At 11” x 6,” the postcards are big enough to cover other books already on the potential buyer’s desk. But the real issue is, are the cards clever enough to lovingly pick the buyers’ pocket?

Said another way, it will cost us about $6500 to get the sales missive done right and delivered on time. But will the returns grossly exceed that cost while we are still in the same flesh? (Three months will tell the tale, hoping for a third of that in three weeks.)

I’m a niche publisher. A few years back my firm hit a bulls-eye designing, creating, and selling standard operating procedures manuals for dentists. Now we create and sell books to K-12 administrators: mostly principals, superintendents, school board members, and teachers. Flossing was pretty much what I knew about dentistry at the earlier incarnation, and avoiding the grumpy old dudes who ran schools was my gift as a kid. How the niche publishing came about is another blog, or several—go to the search box on this blog and write “niche publishing” and you can read what I’ve said so far. Or read my book: Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time.

The bottom line is that I don’t write education (or dental) books: I get first-rate leaders (preferably already speaking widely in their field) who are experts about the target topics. They are the heroes. They share their hard-earned well of knowledge—in writing. (I have had 46 books published that I did write, but that’s a different, and concurrent, life!)

Here the expert is my younger brother, Jim, and these are his fifth and sixth books for me. Why him? I can’t find anybody else with more experience, ideas, and recognition among other superintendents, principals, and teachers, nor anybody who has also given so many key speeches to conferences, conventions, academies, … Anyway, he’s a lot of fun, disciplined, and full of reliable genes, good ideas, and true stories…

But here’s what’s up now. Jim wrote two books that I want to sell simultaneously: The Art of School Boarding: What Every School Board Member Needs to Know and The School Principal’s Toolbook. (We try to make our titles so clear that a buyer knows what’s inside before lifting the cover, so I hope these too are self-explanatory.) They are dynamite books but running two separate selling campaigns costs money—and we think one campaign makes giant sense.

Here’s the most important item on the card:
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Our buying target is the SUPERINTENDENT, who is chosen by the Board and chooses the principals! If the other two don’t work, he or she doesn’t either, at least for long. The rest of the postcard explains the books, shows the covers, summarizes the tables of contents in key words, soothes the super’s soul in three paragraphs each of selling prose, all leading to four wee questions, “(Do you) want to review a free ebook copy (of one or both books)? … read testimonials? … check the author’s credentials? … or order copies, with the usual discounts?” Then it politely sends the mesmerized 12,200 superintendents (a large percentage of all of them in the U.S.) to www.meetingk-12needs.com for the rest, to decide and close the deal. (Go ahead: you needn’t be a superintendent to be curious—although admittedly there are a lot of curious superintendents!)

So that’s why I asked in the headline, “Can we sell two new books by using 12,200 jumbo postcards?

Here are the images on the (two) sides of the postcard:
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We don’t know. The cards hit the mail yesterday. Here’s what it looked like, scanned to blog size. I’ll report back right here every three weeks or so. It might be a pinch slow at first because the dust is still settling from the Easter break. The honchos are probably still trying to find their stray kids.

But I can share one thing now: what I had to do to put the jumbo postcard together and get the offer in flow.

1. Think up a way to sell two very different books to three school chiefs at once. Does it make sense? Was the superintendent the right target? Will I starve my wife, kids, and myself to death?

2. Find a reliable, current, affordable mailing list of superintendents. Google first, limit it to four, and call and let them (quickly) sell their wares and virtues to me.

3. Find a fast, reliable printer who is comfortable with jumbo cards and can also sync the mailing (I send the list) and provide inexpensive small adjustment art tweaks, if necessary.

4. Find a card (or graphics art) designer (or design it yourself if you are experienced) and get the copy, changes, colors, and the rest pulled together on time.

5. Find the money and distribute it gratefully when everybody does what you want—preferably, far better than you imagined.

6. Get my website up-to-date, and go through the link lines the buyers will visit so it’s all current, easy to follow, and delay-free. Like the supermarket, don’t slow the buyer down but be sure he/she at least sees your other products and services along the way.

7. Plan the fulfillment. Get the free ebook email ready; write thank-you model replies to your lucky customers; find envelopes, bags, or boxes for shipping; set up a meter mail system with the post office; get tape and all the incidentals; listen to your phone message and make it clear and relevant; set up an invoicing system for direct purchases (usually for purchase orders); double-check your shopping cart process (if used); line up helpers if needed, and lay in enough book stock to cover the initial surge, with a fall-back five-day POD replenishment lever ready to pull if good fortune gushes in.

That’s it. “Cross” is the word of the day. My fingers are crossed—or my banker will be cross. See you soon.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Mar
20
2015

A paid speech you can book at every association any year…

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I call it the “state of the art” speech, but it could have lots of similar names. And if you do it right, the sponsor is very likely to ask (perhaps even beg) you to give it again and again! (You can even build your own empire around it.)

An example helps here. Let’s say there is a Lighthouse Management Association, there are 50,000 lighthouses, and twice as many members who are involved in keeping the light lit and the coal stacked. (You can see what I know about lighthouses, born in suburban Chicago!)

The core of your “state of the art” lighthouse management presentation would answer these three questions:

(1) How did lighthouses and their management get to where they are now? That’s mostly quick history, some “march of time” visuals, problems along the way, and their solutions. Call this IN THE PAST.

(2) It’s 2015. How are the managers and lighthouses doing today? Numbers, budgets, the most common or most serious 5 or 10 current problems, plus visuals of several model lighthouses. Maybe a summary of the best and worst job requirements for the chief honchos. A look at salary ranges, lighthouse-related courses in colleges, anything they want to know more about across the country (or is it shore to shore?) This is RIGHT NOW.

(3) IN THE FUTURE might be at set dates (5, 10, 15, 50 years from 2015), or in the near future and the far future (provide realistic time spans like 2020-30 and after 2030…). Here you focus on changes afoot now, possible need solutions likely implemented in the future, long-range needs decades away and how they might be met… If possible, maybe even some sketched visuals of how lighthouses might look in 50 or 150 years.

Compiling (1) is pretty much a history dig, some search tools, lighthouse history accounts and books, a few retellings of relevant “as it was” stories by the pioneers. Humor helps here, as does brevity. (Summarize it in the speech, but you might do full research and write “the” or “a” key book about it in the future. That’s another foundational brick in your empire.)

The association may be your biggest helper in composing and organizing (2). It’s always amazing how little most practitioners know about the larger field they serve. (They are busy doing what they do where they are at. To know more is probably why they are at the convention you would address.) Gathering the present-day facts is another blog. Lists are good: lighthouses and managers (or how to find them quickly), money in and out (global to wee beamers), personnel job descriptions, most common local and national problems (financial, political, directional, technical), equipment (present, problems, solutions), and so on. The listeners should know in 20 minutes the current state of the lighthouse art (where they are, why, how they are the same and different—you fill it in.)

Number (3), probably the last 10-15 minutes, is the testiest because it’s “maybe” stuff and usually anybody’s guess. Of course the listeners will wonder if you are just pulling the guesswork out of the air–or their leg. One way to handle that is to say that you contacted 100 scattered lighthouse managers with a questionnaire, plus of course you asked the associationfolk and a dozen recommended “big names” in this field (you actually have to do it!) and here are the 10 trends or innovations or areas of most likely change they saw in the future. List the 10. You might place them on a horizontal “future line” with dates every 5 or 15 or 25 years when they would most likely be started or implemented. Then you discuss all 10, most in some depth (with source links, if available), a few shorter “who really knows but…” comments.

Why would associations or related sponsors jump at the chance to book this speech or seminar? Because it’s exactly what the members want to know. And in a small part because you are objective and aren’t likely to be pumping some company line. (The questionnaire will help you see what they do want to know. Just ask, “What do you really want to know the most about…” and “How will your lighthouse look in 50 (or 100) years?—or “ideally, how might your lighthouse (or your job) look in 50 (or 100) years?”

Why would they hire you to speak if you can’t tell a lighthouse from a farm house? Because if you present yourself and the topic right, they need to share that information. It would be easier if you were a 40-year lighthouse manager, or at least a manager, knew lighthouses, were an association soul, were a federal officer dealing with lighthouses, were a futurist and you did “state of the art” speeches (preferably about lighthouse management), taught lighthouse history, and so on. But an experienced speaker with a long interest in lighthouses might be plenty. (Long might be relative. Perhaps long vertically, with book jamming your new passion.)

Where does the empire fit in for you? If what you say on speech day is a resounding (or even moderate with clapping) success; it was honest, instructive, and even (heavens) enjoyable; it made huge sense to all listening, and they want a follow-up in two or three years (with more emphasis on (2) and (3), that’s a warm roar telling you to write a book in the general lighthouse management area. And from that book you spread out with more books, more speeches (why not a next-year follow-up about technology, management, and lighthouses, another related need the following year, and on the third year, “state of the art” again?) By that time you’re an “expert” in your defined (“state of the art in…”) area and attendees eagerly fill your hall to hear about themselves again. Emperors or empresses open the door with expertise, then expand it (and add other information dissemination means to sell more of it, like books, a newsletter, blogs, workshops, public speeches (at lighthouses?), videos, and so on…) An excellent way to begin the financial fiefdom is by starting with “a paid speech you can book at every association any year…” (Just pick one you at least really care about!)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I’m half done with a how-to “state of the art” book. I will run an occasional blog on this topic too. If you want to know more or know a “state of the art” speaker whom I might interview, send an email (glburgett@gmail.com) or get on my free, every-two-month, easy-to-escape newsletter and I will add you to the “state of the art” elist and tell you when the book has seen light. You’ll get a discount too!

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Mar
11
2015

How you can sell your articles 150% of the time…

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I know, 150% of the time?

Yes, it could be much, much higher, but it seems imprudent to scare you in the title.

Let’s focus on magazines here, where the pay is higher and acceptances are harder to get.

(Selling newspaper travel is easier and the possible sales ratio is higher too, but the pay is very modest. The process? Find a fetching location with something new, write a 1200-word “second” article, don’t send to the nationals, and keep the submissions 100 miles from each other. A photo or two sometimes helps. Write it once and submit it simultaneously, and since you wrote it once and if you sell it, say, four times, that’s 400%. My Travel Writer’s Guide, available only as an ebook now, at $10, tells all.)

With magazines there are no grapeshot submissions, the competition is tougher, the article space rarer, and you must change hats to earn that extra 50%–but often you can stick with the same topic!

Getting on their pages depends very much on how you ask. (If you don’t ask the editor in advance–you just write something and send it in–your selling percentage plummets, or you’re selling wee items now and then for wee pay.) For a full article you must ask the editor if you can send your masterpiece (but don’t call it a masterpiece). You need a “go-ahead,” a positive response to get through the buying gate. A go-ahead isn’t acceptance—yet. It says that the editor agrees to give your idea and its preparation full consideration for one of the 4-8 article slots still open for a coming issue. (The copy will probably be in print several or many months away). In other words, you write it and in the “let me see it” response the editor is saying “I’m interested enough to give it full consideration.” Not an assignment but if you do it right it’s almost a sale.

What is “doing it right”?

1. Probably half of your selling time is spent pre-query, the other half is sending on time what you promised in the query. (A day late, the ship probably hasn’t sailed. No apologies, but scold yourself. Late a week or more, wave goodbye—and stay out of that editor’s sight for 18 months or longer.)

2. Find a topic that is irresistible for that readership. Study earlier issues to 4-6 months back. What is the editor buying? Write down six topics. Find the cutting edge, new facts, new studies, trends about to break, laws changing, a look-back 100 years, celebrities or leaders the reader must know, what fits the season 4-6 months ahead? (Check to see that your choice wasn’t on those pages in the past two years.)

3. Don’t know much about it? Learn. You need facts, quotes, and anecdotes. See what others are saying—and aren’t. Think like a reporter. Build a fact base, list people who are leaders in the field or are current bright lights.

4. Then write a one-page query letter that asks the editor, in essence, “Would you be interested in an article about?” Make the topic jump off the page, cite the experts you will quote or interview, tell what’s new or different or what excites you as a reader, include a short paragraph about your credits (if none, say nothing) and that you can have the piece in their hands 2-3 weeks after a go-ahead. (Check my blog “Nothing sells more articles than a great query letter” from 3/14/2011–write the date or “query letters” in the search box at the top of this blog.)

5. One precaution before querying: see if the editor ever printed humor. If so and it’s your style of writing, inject something funny in the query and in the final copy. If they don’t, don’t.

6. Write other query letters to other editors about other things while you await a reply.

7. If/when the editor writes back an eager response, study the last two issues, pulling apart at least one article in each. (The blog “How to study a printed magazine article” will help here. It appeared on 3/31/2011.) Get the idea and words together and write your piece like the authors wrote to be in print in the target magazine issue you studied. Stay in the same ballpark. If the editor gives you specific instructions or suggestions, do them. Edit and edit again: make it as light and tight as a drum. Then mail it off, as clean as a Dutch stoop. (If photos are an issue, get them off too. Ask the photo/art editor if there’s a submission protocol, and follow it.)

8. Then if that editor just can’t or won’t say yes, don’t worry about it. They can have 100 legitimate or ridiculous reasons. Find a similar magazine, remold your query to its readership, and query again. (But only one query at a time.) That’s why you don’t fully research and write the article until the editor gives you a go-ahead.)

But if you score a bulls eye, super. You go the gilded nod. Write and rejoice. You only write the winning manuscript once–that’s your 100%. Query letters are door-knocking. Congratulations! You’ve done it like the pro’s do. Neither you nor they have time to do the full prep without having at least the 50% chance you get with the query and go-ahead.

The other 50% (which is really 100%, 200% or 500%)?

There are two paths (and a combo) into this post-sale heaven: (1) you sell the very same article described above (after it has appeared in print) as a reprint (also called second rights), (2) you significantly redesign the just-sold article (again, after it has appeared in print), then you rewrite its query letter so you can submit your redesigned article after you get a “go-ahead.” You can rewrite the subject as many times as it can be configured into a distinctly unique article. And (3), you can sell reprints of the rewrites too.

The reprinting and rewriting can actually be more profitable than selling the original article, but it’s seldom as exciting!

Let me share the specifics about the “Profits from reprints, rewrites, and reprints of rewrites” in a blog by that title printed here a few days back, 2/7/15.

I know that all of what I’m telling you works because I put two sweet daughters through grad school, plus fed several suffering wives, by doing it. Now it’s your turn!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Mar
1
2015

Multiply your book’s sales by turning your book into 6

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Here’s how that works.

Let’s say that you have written a book that is 240 body-copy pages long, excluding the front matter, table of contents, bio, and index.

Let’s also say that before you wrote the book you created an outline. That outline included an intro/explanation chapter, four systems chapters (each including a different concept and example), and a roll-out chapter that took the four concepts and told how they would work with other information dissemination means, either individually or by working together.

That sounds kind of vague, doesn’t it? Here’s an example that might be easier to envision. (I plan my books first, then write.) Its title is How to Sell 75+ of Your Freelance Writing Almost All of the Time.

While the book’s contents aren’t related to this blog, its Table of Contents below shows where the six ebooks might come from. It also shows how all of the book(s)—a major paperback of 240+ pages and six ebooks, each from a chapter or section of that paperback—should multiply your total earning power with only about 50-75% more time spent in the ebooks’ preparation, rather than 600% that six books might suggest.

Here’s a tentative Table of Contents of my coming book:

How to Sell 75+ of Your Freelance Writing Almost All of the Time
Introduction
1. Why just sell your writing (idea) once? Why not sell it again and again, then once more—and once again…?
2. Magazines and Newspapers: two magic systems with lots of sales in each
3. Books: sell the original in 11 different formats and each of those in six ebooks
4. Niche Publishing: where the gold is hiding in book publishing
5. Topic-spoking: one idea exploded, then filtered through the hungriest buyers
6. The roll-out: once the copy exists, why not make a lot more money from the idea by six other non-print information dissemination means?

It never happens that the 240 pages of your paperback’s content are evenly divided into six equal sections of 40 pages each. But my first thought is six books of 40 pages each. (I call these shorties wee ebooks.)

Still, 40 pages to me seems small, and once the six topics are separated from each other and pulled apart, they could easily be expanded into 50 or 60 pages apiece (perhaps by adding an additional example or two in each book). It’s your choice. You can make your wee ebooks as long as you want; they are your books and length isn’t anti-environmental or anti-anything, as long as the copy and concepts are tight and professional.

You might take the six chapters in my book above, extract each, and massage it into a stand-alone small book. It can include the same examples (or different ones) and almost the same prose as the original book. Just prune out links, references, and extraneous resources if they aren’t about this specific topic. Refer to the big book a couple of times, where appropriate, just as you would other books or support data. Also, include information about the big book and all of the other five wee ebooks on a page or so in or near the resources in the back.

After all, you’re publishing this wee ebook in part to direct its readers to good, related information and guidance in your big (or mother) book. So make its existence obvious, but don’t overdo it. The other reasons you are making it available are that (1) it confines itself to a specific subject offered in an easy-to-use, inexpensive edition, (2) it puts more published books in your featherchest, which can be very important if you wish to display your expertise in the topic and to speak about it, (3) it pays you additional money for your having shared clear, usable information—without huge amounts of energy and for very little additional expense.

How might this multiply your earnings? You will promote the big book, so it will bring in an usual book’s expected sales income. You can also promote the other five wee ebooks at the same time (since each book’s title must be different or you will drive sellers and buyers nuts), and that will pick up more buyers. The two books will excite different clientele at different buy levels.

Let’s say that you will sell your paperback at $17.95 (also test $19.95 and $24.95). And that you will sell each of the six wee ebooks at $3.99 each (though run it as a special now and then at $2.99). And, as mentioned, you will also promote the other six books in each of these books. So, for example, if you sell the wee ebook about Magazine and Newspaper selling, its readers may also be interested in another wee ebook, say about Books. And if they see that they now have a third (two slightly modified chapters) of the big book, they may well then buy the big book too—or recommend it to friends based on the solid content and writing quality of the wee books they have already read.

Another point: consider issuing the wee book as both an ebook and a paperback. Or test just one in both formats to see if there is more interest in having it in one form or the other. (In my field I find that writers usually want print-on-paper books rather than ebooks, so it would indeed be worth my testing both formats.)

And also that you will focus on the social media to promote the wee ebooks as much as the big book, plus of course list all of the books as widely as you can through the “open” publishers.

That’s it.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Feb
20
2015

4 proven ways to sell 75%+ of your freelance writing

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MAGAZINES and NEWSPAPERS

 

1. Here is the two-item formula for selling nonfiction copy to magazines and newspapers: (a) You sell more than 75% of your freelance writing by writing only when you have better than a 50% chance of a sale, and (b) You have better than a 50% chance of a sale by either querying your prospective market, and writing after you receive a positive reply, or by writing to markets where you can simultaneously submit the same manuscript.

2. You can also increase your sales percentage and income by simultaneously selling reprints or rewrites of the published material—or reprints of the rewrites[Reprints, Rewrites, Reprints of Rewrites, and Resales].

3. Fiction is excluded from this 75% claim in magazines, newspapers, and books. Nonetheless, if points made on these pages seem appropriate to selling your fiction, try them, but know that the selling ratio in fiction is very low.

4. The most important tool for selling to magazines is the query letter. [25 Professional Query and Cover Letters] You do not query to newspapers (except to their magazines); you need cover letters to sell to them. If you are selling to big-house book publishers, at least a query letter is required. If you are niche publishing and pre-testing, you will need a sales letter, a small note, and a prepaid response mailer.

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Items in orange are explained in far greater detail in blogs from blog.gordonburgett.com. Go to the blog and insert the highlighted word in the search box, upper right, title page. Often the search will bring up many blogs related to the topic or word you seek. For example, if  you are looking for more information about “query letter” (a good thing to know about) and you type “query letter” in the box, it will probably bring up a five or ten full blogs, one after the other. Please use all of the information that applies.)

Items in magenta are the subject(s) of related products. The product title is in brackets after the reference. There is more information at www.gordonburgett.com/order3.htm.

For more assistance, see www.gordonburgett.com and glburgett@aol.com.

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NEWSPAPERS

 

5. Usually the copy (and accompanying photos) sold to newspapers will be about travel [How to Sell 75% of Your Travel Writing, editorial commentary, food, reviews, and (very rarely) columns. That’s about all newspapers buy from freelancers. Mostly they buy travel.

6. You are more likely to sell to newspapers (particularly in travel) if your piece is short (600-1500 words; 1200 words is a good target) rather than long (to about 3000 words). The longer feature articles are usually written by the section editor, or one from another publication.

7. You can simultaneously submit the same material (copy and photos) to newspapers (unless they tell you no) if they are not “national” newspapers—like the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday, where you submit to them one at a time—or where the newspapers overlap in prime circulation (usually within 100 miles of each other), where you submit to only one newspaper at a time in the circulation radius.

8. Study others’ in-print newspaper articles in your target selections and write (and punctuate) like the original writers did to get in print. Focus on the topics [Finding Topics That Make Your Articles Indispensable], conciseness, quotes, timeliness, length of paragraphs, and the writing voice of the articles. The voice means: first person, I; second person, you; third person, he/she/it. (You mostly write salable copy in third person.)

9. Send your newspaper copy, ready to use, to the respective section editor with a cover note/page that tells the unique features in the copy, its timeliness, your credits (in a phrase: “I’ve sold 600 newspaper travel pieces”—don’t lie, say nothing if it’s nothing or very modest), any exceptional photos, how to get back to you—email and phone, and that you are marketing simultaneously (no nationals; to you solely within a 100-mile radius). If you are sending to a national newspaper, submit to one at a time (until bought). To national newspapers (or those few that insist), you are selling first rights to them only.

10. If you have the respective section editor’s newspaper email address, send your submission digitally—the cover note/page, text, and sample photos or link to a sample photo page. If you don’t, snail mail your submission to that editor, and include an SASE (stamped, self-address envelope). If that editor replies by email, you then have their email address. Remember to write out the full address to the photo links.

11. Assuming your salable photos are .jpegs, in your cover note (a) offer to send them if they want to review them, but you can briefly describe one or two extraordinary shot(s) in the note, (b) include a b/w or color page with samples of the best 6 or so with the note, or (c) post the best you have, very best first, on a cloud or website page where they can link and peruse. Let them pluck what they want to use and pay as the piece and art are published.

12. There is no firm photo submission protocol, so use the publication’s guidelines—or common sense. (Sometimes the guidelines are listed in Google—or the editor will tell you if you ask.) Let the editors decide if they will use the shot(s) in b/w or color. With the camera, seek clarity, get bright colors, focus on key items you wrote about. Remember, in newspapers, particularly for shorter submissions, the text is what they buy. (They might buy photo-first if you have an original shot of Napoleon—or something like that, or older.)

13. Newspapers pay from about $100-225 for short items, $200-500 for longer pieces. They pay after the submission is published. For photos, it may range from $35-150. But some may pay less for the items above and some of the larger newspapers will pay more. You have no bargaining power here but if you sell often to the same newspaper, the editor sometimes increases the pay as your value to them increases.

14. Do you see how selling simultaneously to newspapers lifts you well above the 75%+ goal? If you send a sharp article to six cities all distant from each other and four buy it (some with photos), you have sold the article 400%! It’s hard to top that sales ratio. What a shame that the articles themselves don’t pay much more…

 

MAGAZINES

15. Magazines do pay more. You usually know their pay range (several hundred to a thousand dollars and up) and the size articles they seek because most of the magazines that you will write for are found in the current-year Writer’s Market (in print or online version). That and a ton more information is explained in WM, so you should have that source accessible where you write. Also, if you check Writer’s Digest Magazine (in the library) it lists new markets every month—and updates current listings.

16. To get on the 75% magazine path find an idea you want to write about, then create a feasibility study. Think of the study as two boxes next to each other, both sharing the same idea. In one box you answer, “Is this topic feasible to write for X magazine?” In box two you answer “Is it feasible to sell an article about this topic?” If it’s a “yes” to both, you will write a query letter to the #1 market. (See “How to Prepare and Market Magazine Articles That Sell.”)  [Travel Writer’s Guide, ebook edition]

17. There is no need for a feasibility study for newspaper direct submissions because you will know if it’s feasible to write because you will, in fact, write it and send the prose to one or many markets simultaneously. And if it sells, that’s your answer to the second box.

18. To answer box 1, see if and where magazine articles appeared in print about your topic. Find copies of those articles and study what they contain. (See “How to Study a Printed Magazine Article.”) [Travel Writer’s Guide, ebook editionYou will likely need updated information, new quotes, or new examples to add to the information already in print. See if you have or can get access to that new information. If nothing has been in print, study the topic and list what readers would want to read about it. This should take several hours, not weeks or years. If you have a strong sense that if you queried an editor about that topic knowing what you can provide that he/she would say “yes, then move on to box 2.

19. “Who would buy an article about this topic?” is the focus of box 2. See the many categories of publications in the WM table of contents and list those where your topic might appeal to its readers. Let’s say there are six such categories; list all of them. Then go to the listed publications in each category and write down the magazine titles in that category where you think the reader’s interest would be greatest. Let’s say there are two magazines in each category, so you would end up with 12 possible magazines to query before you write.

20. Because you can only query one magazine at a time from your 12 possible candidates, you must prioritize the 12. Put the most likely first and the least likely last, and sort the rest in between. What criteria do you use to prioritize the list?

21. If you want to top a 75% sales plateau, then when the editors of those magazines pay for articles is the most important criterion. So put all of those that “pay on acceptance” (this information is in the WM) at the top of the list. Paid freelancers only query editors who pay on acceptance since that means if they accept your manuscript, you will be paid right away or within a month (when they churn that month’s checks). The other editors “pay on publication,” which means your finished manuscript (and photos) will sit in that editor’s “to use” pile until it fits, and then you will be paid after it sees print, which means another additional 60 days to get your reward. Even worse, those that pay on publication usually pay less, and a rare few forget to pay at all.

22. So once you know when your 12 possible markets pay, list the pay on acceptance publications on top (say six of them), with the remaining six that pay on publication on the bottom. Now ask the second question, “How much do they pay?” The highest payer of the first six candidates goes to the top of the list, the lowest payer is #6. (Don’t worry about the last six on the list right now.)

23. There are two more criteria that could move your target markets up or down. One asks, “What percent of freelance material do they buy?” The other, “How many issues do they publish a year?” Clearly, you’d rather be considered by an editor that uses 95% freelance copy than, say, 5%. The same with a magazine that comes out weekly rather than annually—it buys 52 times more copy! Resort the top six into their most desirable order—for you.

24. Now you are ready to query. You will write a full-page letter asking the editor of the top magazine on your prioritized list if she would be interested in an article about ______. (The query letter will make the topic jump with excitement and the editor jump with hope to get your writing genius on her pages.) If, in truth, the editor says “yes, let me see it,” that’s almost as good as putting the money in your bank because the “go-ahead (and write it)” is given seriously, with the expectation that you will provide ready-to-go copy that fits in the slot saved for you. But if the editor says “no,” however kindly, you will move to #2 on your list, read its write-up in the WM, and send its editor a query letter (often adjusted some to meet that new readership’s needs). You keep moving down the top six until you are out of “pay on acceptance” rejecters.

25. Why not just continue down the list of publication editors for this new article? It’s not worth the time for the risk involved. You will sell your reprints (or reprints of rewrites) to the bottom six. That’s what they often, sometimes only, buy. Better yet, you can sell reprints (or second rights) simultaneously as long as you tell the others that yours is a second rights sale.

26. A couple more points. Let’s say the first “acceptance” editor wants your article. Have you lost the buying potential of markets 2-6? No, just approach the topic from another slant or create another article idea from that topic, and query about that possible article. In other words, you can rewrite that first topic and query letter and start it down the selling ladder to those “pay on acceptance” editors that are still uncontacted. And what if you do that all six times and all six editors buy their own unique articles? Bingo, you just sold the same stretched idea 600%, rather than 75%. (And you’re still not done because each of those six articles can be sold as reprints of the rewrites! Heavens, you may get rich with just five or six different, fecund ideas!

27. But we are getting the cart in front of the horses. All we have done is have a kindly editor say that he/she wants to see our article—on speculation, which means, no obligation. So we still have to write one or many excellent articles that the editor(s) must embrace, buy, and use. Still, a “go-ahead” from most editors means a sale as long as you provide (in the article) what you promised by the date agreed, and perhaps also with the promised photos.

28.. Which means enough late-night oil, interviews, facts found and verified, anecdotes generously inserted—whatever is needed to make the article hum in print. It also means close scrutiny of the target magazine to see what that editor wants on his/her pages before you write. Thus, if this query-led system is followed, almost all magazine articles suggested and written will be sold since you will not write them without a prior ”go-ahead.” And with the reprint and rewrite fall-back sales, you should be far ahead of your 75% goal.

 

BOOKS

 

29. It used to be that selling any percent of your freelance writing through book publishing was as likely as having your books come out of a cloud. Guess what? Now it’s simple to publish 100% of your freelance book writing—you can just do it yourself. And it can sit in a cloud to sell once it’s written and prepped. Who knew?

30. Less than a decade back the chances of the Big 8 or 5 or whatever the number was of the big-house publishing firms picking up a random freelance book was like 1:1000. Even with agents or even with a solid writing reputation. Then you sent query letters with attachments.. You may as well have been sending pick-up laundry chits.

31. These days it’s hard to figure any strong case for going first to the big houses (which simply aren’t so big anymore nor are they so appealing). They pay poorly, it can take months or years for the book to appear, and their bookstore allure has faded as the bookstores themselves have disappeared. It’s kind of upside down now. Freelancers publish the book themselves [How to Get Your Book Published in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days]  and they earn a fast and decent return. Then if it smells of success the big houses will get in line to pay for the product—and often all the additional products that writer/publisher can create. So why would a freelancer go back to the earlier days when a big-house sale meant a meager royalty, poor sales, payment a couple of times a year, and no control?

32. If we are talking sheer percentages, you write a book that others want to buy; get it proofread; hire artwork and covers and some selling postcards; get the book designed; print some in-house stock to sell directly; save the final copy in .pdf, and send it to Create Space and LSI to get it POD printed and sold commercially through their giant selling machines, like Amazon and Ingram. In the meantime, you convert the original text into .epub, modify the covers a bit, and you create an ebook to sell yourself, at Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and elsewhere. And all the while you worm your way into the social media world to churn up some fan interest.

33. There are two ways to sell 75%+ in the regular book world now. The new open publishing world I described in 29-32. And you can do it the old way too. You sell the book to the big houses or other publishers pretty much the old way: you send queries and packages and proposals, alone or agent-aided, and you don’t write the final book until you are contract-protected, then you wait for the book to appear. That’s a 75%+ approach. Hard to imagine 25% of the publishers wouldn’t honor your contract.

34. But here’s the problem, even if you freelance and produce one book and you have another produced by an established publisher under contract (which is 75%+ twice), there’s no guarantee that any of that will make enough money to keep you fed, much less famous and prospering. So despite the fact that you bat 100% selling the copy that you create, and you do it many times with paperback and digital versions, all sold by six different publishers (plus you), most of the self-published general market books don’t make much money. They don’t even do much to imprint a perception of your expertise. Stir in platform-building, branding, You-Tube, Facebook, and all the rest and can still be a big disappointment.

 

NICHE (BOOK) PUBLISHING

and EMPIRE-BUILDING

 

35. Let me share the best way to sell 100% of your freelance book writing and make reliable money while you simultaneously build an empire that will feed, clothe, and support you very well for a long time. It can be built around your book or books—or you may not have to write much copy at all. You might use others’ expertise and writing, plus your editing, managing, and publishing skills, as the core of his niche publishing. [Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time]

36. It’s not the writing or publishing, per se, that distinguish niche publishing. It’s the existence of a niche, or tightly-linked group of people, that share common needs, interests, and lifestyle. For example, Chicago Cubs fans are a long-suffering niche. So are dentists, Norwegian ancestors in Wisconsin, and meat cutters. The niche often has a vocation, hobby, focus of interest, ethnic bond, social communality (like octogenarians or octogenarians in Tulsa), an ailment or cure (like prostate cancer survivors), or membership (in the Moose or in almost any thing or group.)

37. This might be easier to envision by using an example. To keep it simple, let’s use ultramarathoners, and let’s make that nationwide. And let me invent typical components of a niche and ascribe them to the poor sore-legged ultramarathoners (who share in common long-distance running, longer than a marathon, often 50-mile or 100-mile runs). They can be done by either sex and any age, though it’s not likely they are teens or under or very rarely 65 or older.

38. What makes niche publishing profitable is that members of the niche and supporters about the niche topic can be easily contacted. Core ultras, let’s say, are members of a national association (UOA, Ultramarathoners of America) and smaller associations in, say, 40 states (Minnesota UOA, etc.) The associations have a national convention, 18 have state conferences, and they informally gather at the dozen major races a year. They also have a national newsletter, office holders in the larger units, a membership address list (digital and standard direct mail) and a surprisingly large group of ultra aficionados and supporters who sell products and services (like special shoes, attire, diet and health additive programs, insurance, and much more. And as long as I am creating a model group, let’s say there are 25,000 members and possibly 2,000 others who sell products and services to ultras, plus many thousands of marathoners who regularly show interest in expanding their own running challenge.

39. To show you what a niche published book might be like in this niched setting, let’s say Bob has been an UOA member for 10 years—and, in vocation, he’s a life-style nutritionist. Over the years he has created an ideal diet-supplement-training program that has been very enthusiastically used by a dozen of his local group members, plus it has become widely applied by marathoners in his region. Let’s just call it the DST for Ultramarathoners (or DSTU).

40. Bob wants to write a book, sell it to ultras and marathoners nationwide (he calls it DSTM for marathoners), and he’d like to expand the book into classes, perhaps podcast/video components, a practice logbook and workshops, speeches, and breakout sessions. He would also like to expand his product base to include distance-running shoes, attire, special caps, and related diet and supplement components.

41. His strategy is to create the book first, and in its distribution (and early promotion) he will quickly expand into making his video/podcast programs and logbooks available. From his niche book he will roll out his empire to include speaking widely once the book is printed and promoted, and from speaking spread into workshops and classes. As he creates his buyer contact base (mostly through free subscriptions to a bi-monthly ultra newsletter) he will promote his product base. His long-range goal is to expand these activities into the DSTM group, for marathoners nationwide (even perhaps worldwide).

42. An aside here. Bob in our example can both be the expert writing the key book that helps practitioners meet important needs or solve frustrations and then build his own empire from the expertise recognition that his book brings him. Or if Bob wants to create his own empire doing the other activities we’ve mentioned, including publishing the book, he can hire an expert to write the book (that Bob might also edit and distribute) that his new ultramarathoning publishing and product company can grow from. Thus Bob wouldn’t really be using his running expertise—freeing any niche publisher to do the same about any topic. In fact, Bob could publish a string of ultra books using as many experts as members of his publishing family. How would the experts earn money? They would receive royalties (often 10% of the net received) plus they would get the speaking fees, and perhaps a special discount on their own books (or all the firm’s ultra books) sold back-of-the-room at the programs. A last thought, he could run parallel publishing programs in the ultra and marathoning fields, allowing him to double or multiply his empire-building base while the experts create the core books.

43. But the most appealing element of a niche publishing book is that it can be pre-tested (the format, price, contents, author, and purpose) on a sample list to guarantee its financial viability before any part of it is written or major production expenses are incurred. [How to Test Your Niche (Publishing) Market First]

44. Bob sees that the size of the ultra market (its contactable members) is 25,000, and that the three other ultra books have cost $19.95, $24.95, and $49. He decides to conduct a direct mail pre-test with 210 Nth-selection addresses from the ultra association mailing list. He figures that the entire pre-test might cost him a maximum of $700.

45. For the pre-test he needs a clean-looking one-page information sheet (with a reduced book cover on it) that includes the book’s title, subtitle, table of contents, a small photo to accompany Bob’s bio, an fact box (with ISBN, format [cloth bound], and the estimated number of pages and cost), and selling content copy that explains the book’s purpose and its benefits to readers/users. He also prepares a one-third page greeting note and a return postcard with two key questions, each followed by yes or no: would the card receiver be interested in purchasing a book about… and if so, would he pay $ X for the book. In this case X would be three different prices: 70 packets would have $19.95 on their info sheet and on its mail-back postcard, 70 would say $24.95, and 70 would say $29.95). The postcards would be addressed back either to Bob or (better) the name of his new niche publishing firm (like Ultramarathoning Publishers of America). Bob would also prepare a #10 envelope for each packet, stamp them, and adhere the direct mail address to the outside of the packet.

46. So Bob mails all 210 packets and in 20 days he has almost all of the replies he will receive. By day 20 he has received the following responses from each of the three price levels sent 70 recipients: 13, 10, and 7. So the potential buy income would be, respectively: $92,768, $81,196, and $74,875. (The calculating example in the 10-buyer case would be 10/70=14.3%x$24.95×25,000=$81,196).

47. The most profitable rate would be $19.95 which would bring in $92,768. Thus, if the preparation of the book and the mailing of the full 25,000 packets cost 50% of the gross income (here, $92,768) this book would result in a profit of $46,384.

48. It would be a modest empire with a kitty of $40,000 or so. But remember that Bob intends to expand into classes, videos, logbooks, workshops and speeches, ultra accoutrement, and diet and health additive programs. Plus a free digital newsletter to control his customer list and for bi-monthly promotion.

49. But what isn’t visible here is a huge market sitting right below the ultras: the U.S. marathon market, where indeed his book might apply as is or rewritten, and the other items should also be salable. How big is the marathon market? There were 541,000 finishers in US marathons in 2013 (despite the terror attack at the Boston Marathon). And the average entry cost is $75, but trending up to $100. A determined niche publisher might tooth on the ultramarathoners to test the market and response, then quickly back into the marathon world—and keep both going if there are common themes.

50. That’s it. How you can sell 75%+ of your freelance writing. At least three systems (or four, depending on how you count them) that will keep you off the no-income paths and close to where money can be earned and multiplied by wordsmithing. All of this stuff works–if you do!

 

My best wishes,

 

Gordon Burgett

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Feb
16
2015

Sample evaluation sheet for seminars and other programs

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If you are sponsoring or giving seminars you want to know what the attendees think of the presenter’s presentation skills, the worth of the information offered, and how that topic might be offered better.

The speakers want to know the same thing. (I have given 2100+ paid programs so I think I have distributed and reviewed almost every kind of evaluation imaginable. The worst (least informative, at least to me) were those that just fished for praise for the sponsor.

Actually, the simplest evaluations were the most informative, in part because they were most often completed before the attendees left. Let me offer a sample of this evaluation. But note that it is designed to capture the two prevalent kinds of responders: (1) those who just want to check boxes and flee!, and (2) those for whom the choices were never quite right and they felt compelled to add commentary as well. Two of the most important points simply had to be answered in written responses: “What did you find most valuable?” and “Suggested improvements…” They are wisely scattered in the middle of the questionnaire.

The last two items also require prose responses. I put them last because many leave them blank and I wouldn’t want that to set a precedent. Anyway, I suspect they don’t know what else the speaker can talk about or can’t think of what wasn’t said–probably because it wasn’t said. Still, if they do respond to them what they share is often very helpful.

I recall speaking one sultry day to about 40 dripping listeners. Three people made the same suggestion: in essence, “get your glasses fixed. It drove me nuts when you kept sliding them back into place.” Who knew? But that would have driven me batty too, so the next morning I went to the glasses booth at a mall megastore and asked the helper if there was any way I could stop my glasses from sliding down my nose all the time. It took her about 20 seconds to make the free repair! A wee thing but not to listeners who had to witness the sliding glasses for minutes or hours.

Here’s the model sheet that I think works best.

EVALUATION SHEET

Title of the program: ________
(City or School) ________
(Date) ________

We very much appreciate your responses. They help us determine whether this program meets your needs and interests–and what we can do to make it better!

———————————————————————————————————————————————–

(1) Your evaluation of the SUBJECT:

_____ excellent
_____ very good
_____ good
_____ fair
_____ poor

Comments:

(2) Your evaluation of the SPEAKER:

_____ excellent
_____ very good
_____ good
_____ fair
_____ poor

Comments:

(3) What did you find most valuable?

(4) Your reaction to the COST:

The cost of the seminar was…

_____ about right
_____ too high
_____ too low

Comments:

(5) Suggested improvements?

(6) Regarding LENGTH, the seminar was…

_____ the right length
_____ too short
_____ too long

Comments:

(7) How did you hear about this seminar?

_____ newspaper
_____ flyer sent by us
_____ told by another person
_____ radio/TV
_____ other: ___________________
_____ other: ___________________

(8) What other program(s) would you like (the speaker) to offer?

(9) What haven’t we asked here, and how do you feel about it?

Adjust this evaluation as you wish, of course. It’s a good starter form to build from.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. If you want to read more about this topic, my program “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” might also interest you. (The evaluation form is excerpted, and modified a bit, from that program.)

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Feb
12
2015

How much money do you actually earn selling through Amazon and LSI?

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Niche_Cover

“Is it worthwhile selling your book through Amazon or Lightning Source?” has to be an early question that a niche publisher must ask. “And how much worthwhile?”

That’s important because my niche publishing firm already sells 85% of our products directly to our target niche, much of that through its associations.

———-

A pinch of background: Our authors are experts in that niche field. They receive a royalty of 10% of the net price of the book (or product) when it is sold. (If they are co-authors, it is 10% divided by the number of authors.) The cost of five of our niche books is $24.95 a book, another of our books sells for $19.95, and a third, $17.95. If the books sell at less than 50% of list, the authors get a 5% royalty of those books.

We also have digital versions of each book, priced at $20, $16, and $14. We directly sell the digital books (ebooks) in pdf format; “open” publishers like Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and so on sell it in .epub or the equivalent. (We sell only about 7% of our books in digital format.)

———-

More often I’m asked about the sale of our niche paperbacks through Amazon and LSI (Lightning Source), which is also Ingram. The volume of sales is very modest for both because our niche books are written to professionals who don’t expect to find their books in libraries and through general book outlets.

Also, selling through other publishers and booksellers means that our payment will be modest, and the authors’ reward at royalty time, even moreso.

Let me share a couple of (almost) current examples to help answer that question:

At Amazon we sell through Amazon Advantage or Create Space.

Of the two, Create Space is a far better earner for us. We post the paperback version free, add a cover, and provide the descriptive selling copy. If a person buys from CS, they print a POD (pay-on-demand) copy from the master book text and cover that we sent them and they mail it to the buyer. It’s hands-free to us. We don’t print, stock books, or ship Create Space sales. They tell us how many copies of which book they sold (they pay 45-60 days later) and how much they will put in our bank account near the end of that month.

For example, in January, 2015, they sold 21 copies of a $24.95 book and one of a $9.95 book, paying us $12.13 (48.6%) and $3.54 (36%) respectively, for a total of $258.27. Because the price they charge is less than 50% of the net price, the authors will receive, total, $25.82.

Amazon Advantage, for us, is scarcely worth pursuing. We always lose money on single sale orders because we must print the paperback, shrinkwrap it, pay the mailing, and then wait at least 60 days for the money to reach our account. When they order about six books, despite the 55% discount and shipping, it gets profitable. In addition, the orders have become hard to understand—and, typically Amazon, if you have questions there is nobody to ask beyond what must be an email robot that always seems to respond to the wrong question!

An example. Today we sent an order for six $17.95 books. We will be paid $48.48, or $8.08 each—(45%). But a single order for a $17.95 book, which is very common, earns us the same $8.08—for a book that costs us about $5.80 to produce, shrinkwrapped; 15 cents for a mailing container, and $2.69 to ship media mail, their least preferred mailing means. That puts us 56 cents in the hole and doesn’t include the time to decipher the order, print out the mailing label and order info, wrap, and mail.

Why stay at Advantage? Inertia, I guess. I also stay there because folks see that our products exist at their webpage. And the hope that the ordering quantities of yesteryear might return, although even then it was cryptic and slow. We give everything a hard look in June and it may be eliminated at that time. But we will remain at Kindle and Create Space.

The other paperback giant is Lightning Source. It too starts with a 55% discount. You can offer to discount less but your books probably won’t reach many retailers, which is the LSI selling target. I think of it as 5% for listing, 10% for LSI, and 40% for the bookstore or selling intermediary. In addition, a $12/book annual fee is charged. But there is a big advantage here with paperbacks: I needn’t ship printed books. LSI will print the ordered books POD. (And I can order them to print books in quantity and ship them to me! That’s great if you are only stocking small in-house quantities.) Plus, there are human contacts who will guide you through the labyrinthine website and ordering/listing process.

Here are some fresh numbers from LSI, where one $24.95 book was listed for commercial sale two months back and another, at the same price, is a few days old. Here are some facts for the first book’s sales (in January, 2015): list price $24.95; discount 55%; wholesale price (what LSI charges the retail seller) $11.23; and the print charge, $4.46 a book. What is left is the publisher’s net comp: $6.77. That is, for every $24.95 book sold POD through LSI I receive $6.77. (Here’s how that is calculated: $24.95 minus 55%=$11.23 times quantity (13) times the book POD print charge ($4.46) equals $6.77 a book ($88.01 total net pub comp for January).

It’s worse for the author: My LSI net is $6.77, their royalty is 5% (since our return is under 50%) of $6.77, or 35 cents each (times 13= $1.69). Which is why we encourage niche sales to go through us so the author earns at least 10% of the net, but also can keep or use a 40% deduction ($9.98) per book that they sell.

I’m trying to answer the questions most frequently asked at my publishing seminars. I hope this is helpful. There is much more about niche publishing at Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Jan
29
2015

Great way to find your Smashwords earnings!

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I’m a publisher with a stable of six gifted authors, so knowing how many books each of them have sold at any particular time is a pesky problem. Especially if they want to know their Smashwords sales, where we had to wade through a mind-boggling list to make even an approximate tally.

Until now it was almost impossible to nail down the sales by item within a needed time frame, other than the quarterly checks that told the income earned for that quarter—but for what? Good news: that appears to be over. The headache at Smashwords has been fixed with a nifty, simple “Sales and Payment Report.”

Go to Smashwords, to the dashboard, to the “Sales and Payment Report,” find the respective year you want to check, and open the “Quarterly Earnings Mapping Report.

There, you will see a pick-the-buttons sort of keyboard where you will find four categories: (1) an author button, (2) ghost author buttons (like our six), (3) the book titles of [1] and [2] that are currently handled by Smashwords, and the (4) 15 channels (distributors)—Smashwords, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, Apple, Diesel, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor, txtr, Library Direct, OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, and Scribd. (You may have to use the Control key to open more than one item per category. Hold it down as you add more information to the lists.)

You punch all of the keys you are researching (I hit “all” in each category) and out will come your quarterly earnings total, in Excel. You can sort the information in an Author or Title format. (The Title list tells which specific channel bought which books, and seems a bit more useful than the Author choice.)

It’s a godsend, and is actually quite clever. It’s also fun to see Oyster and Scribd subscribers pecking at your offerings. One soul looked at one of my 99-cent reports—but only at 6 cents worth! This person was either an extraordinary speed reader or particularly discriminating.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. If this is helpful, use the search button on any of my blog reports to find other comments about Kindle, Nook, BookBaby, Create Space, LSI, and other “open” publishers.

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Jan
27
2015

How do you find interviewees for your articles?

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You almost always need at least one interview for a magazine or newspaper article. But it makes much more sense to get three or four, and even many more if you plan to rewrite the original piece again and again. (And if Reprints, Rewrites, or Reprints of Rewrites are your plan: bravo. My $2.99 Kindle book, just out, by that name should help.)

Most articles need more than quotes, of course. They need facts, quotes, anecdotes, and artwork (photos, drawings, charts, graphs, and so on). Sometimes no artwork, sometimes no anecdotes, but if you also leave out the facts and quotes it’s hard to keep that word house from tumbling down or blowing away from skeletal inadequacy.

The people you will interview might be those who know enough about a topic to be an expert. Or a celebrity, a person with a new idea or invention, someone who was a first-hand witness. If your article addresses a two-sided argument, you either get the strongest proponent of each side, plus another person or two that each suggests. Or just one side of the issue.

Beyond what the interviewee says, there’s another solid reason for getting quotes. Those interviewed give your facts a source of origin. Readers want to know first-hand information from a person who knows first hand, or is at least considerably closer to it than they are. If your piece begins, “Melinda Moore saw a sailor levitate for almost two minutes at Benny’s Grog House last night,” you must mention that Melinda is the daytime bartender at the Grog House. Then you find anybody else who can attest to the same levitation, with details about the incident, plus where they live or work or what they do. Your questions will mostly be about the levitation, how long the sailor has been doing it, did he float anywhere as he levitated, how high did he rise, how long he was he air-bound? You might also ask about the sailor’s (and the witnesses’) sobriety at the time. It will sound like a fish tale if you don’t also interview the sailor. Who is he, how long has he been levitating, how did he do it, what did it feel like, and on what date (and at what time) does he plan to repeat the happening?

The example of Melinda and the sailor is fairly obvious. But in truth, it’s no more difficult finding the best people to interview for almost any article. Ask yourself, what would you (or the editor) want to know about the topic or incident? Who knows about that best? You’re half way home!

If you interview your postman or a gas station employee, those are easy to get. But the more famous your interviewee is, the more likely they are to ask, “Where will it appear?” So if that’s likely to be the first (and major) hurdle, query first, get a “go-ahead” from the editor of the target publication, then the article has more than a 90% chance of being used on those pages.

Is it easy to get a person to agree to be interviewed? It’s never easy, but with the correct explanation of where it will be used and the benefits it will bring to the person and the editor, it’s not hard to arrange.

Four tips: (1) ask the question that must be answered, but make it the second question–unless that question is a door-slammer (“Is it true that you rob the poor box in every church enter?”), then you ask it last. (2) don’t talk about yourself in the interview. The editor won’t buy an article about you. (3) you don’t have to prearrange most of your interviews if the person featured is an everyday person. (4) I’ve never paid for an interview.

A few thoughts about the scariest thing for newcomers in article writing: the interview.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Jan
21
2015

Profits from reprints, rewrites, and reprints of rewrites

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As long as you have written a fetching article that an editor wants readers to read on his/her pages, why not sell the same blend as reprints, then mix the same magical facts, quotes, and anecdotes into a rewrite or two with different slants? You could even sell some reprints of the rewrites later on!

Lest that sound like a hapless hodgepodge of word play, it’s precisely what professional writers have done for decades to squeeze much more honest pay out of ideas, facts, interviews, photos, lists, and historical slants, plus similar retellings elsewhere in the world.

I blush only slightly to admit that my reprints and rewrites kept me and my family alive (and the girls later in college) for many years until books and speaking came to the rescue!

Alas, what baffles writing novices is how it’s done, where second-rights markets hide, how reprint-seeking editors are approached, and how copyright toes aren’t stepped upon. So I’ve tried to mentally untie the strings in 30-page wee ebook, now offered almost instantly by Kindle or us for the shameless sum of $2.99. It’s called Reprints, Rewrites, Reprints of Rewrites, and Resales: Sell What You Write Again and Again (and Again)…

Want some quick peeks under the printed sheets?

Think newspaper (or magazine) travel where almost any site almost anywhere has four or five different slants to be seen anew, or to be reborn in comparison with four other like places or three different epochs. “Downton Abbey” begs to be slanted a dozen ways (each an article or a spin-off), like fashion, class, downstairs/upstairs, pre- and post WWI… Or the Life of Lords in the 1100s; in the days of Shakespeare; in France, Russia, Sweden, or Spain (or any of them in comparison with Julian Fellowes’ currently created TV society and castle)…

Or the sidebars accompanying any article above: specifics about how to actually visit any site suggested, the state of health and medicine then or there, the life of children at any point or place, or of women, or the lame, the gifted, the odd. Sidebar shards gathered like caste-offs from unused research, then re-grouped to fill readers’ by-product curiosity and questions.

When are query letters needed (mostly for full articles), or how cover notes cover newspaper simultaneous submissions—see four samples in the ebook—or if/when you send sidebar copy, unannounced, with the expected text—when it’s short and you can’t bring yourself to throw it away!

When reprints are welcome (by “pay on publication” editors) and how their arrival is announced. Can you make changes in the reused copy? When should you? Which photos can be sold (any not bought by the original buyer). How many more complications arise when you sell the reprint of a rewrite?

And the breadwinners, the shiny new rewrites, mostly restructured, words and ideas in new places, a different article sharing many common bricks (and sometimes a few quotations). But how much must they be rewritten? Or whether they are rewrites must be said at all. And those photos again—just remember that those sold are toxic to resell.

A final point, if reprints and rewrites seem akin to journalistic thievery. The best return in writing for money comes from niche publishing, which can be the baronial foundation of empire building, where just one set of words about one need or frustration met can indeed be very rich mortar. Most of that long-life paying mortar comes from reworking and reusing the same words and ideas again and again, the same we are discussing here, but in niching more than the same.

Best wishes unraveling!

Gordon Burgett

P.S. If “Writing Travel Articles That Sell!” is the kind of four-hour seminar you might need, and Santa Rosa, CA, is within driving distance, I will be offering the program from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, February 7. Please check the details here.

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