What do I do special as a writing coach?


I just woke up to a question/discussion on Linkedin’s Promocave:

Carrie Golden, Citizen Journalist/Poetry Consultant to film-makers at Motionpoems, Inc., asked:

Writing coach…
Not sure if this group [Promocave] is the right place to post this question but…what exactly does a writing coach do to help writers?


I wear two hats (on one head): (1) “court-of-last-resort” editor, providing a last-chance no-nonsense review of what the writer is about to submit (the final final draft) for book publication and (2) a first-step writing coach (before much writing). So here was my contribution to the discussion that defines my view of what different do I offer as a writing coach—and why.

[As a writing coach] I think of myself as a nonfiction “what” coach. I prod the souls [rather deeply] through six or so what’s (?), then the “how’s” make sense (and cents). I’m there if they need me later, more as an action guide and (sometimes) a silent co-planner of their future empire.

Here’s a longer explanation of (2), if you are interested and it helps you (sans me) do your own early nonfiction book planning, writing, and publishing.

There’s not much mystery about the steps a nonfiction writer can and usually takes to prep and submit a book for publication. See a hundred books in libraries worldwide that address that, and I have two books that address it too: How to Get Your Book Published in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days and How to Pick the Right Kind of Publisher.

What distresses me most is the number of smart, organized, diligent would-be book writers who wander about, with perfectly good words and spelling, looking for something to say and, mostly, a reason to say it. Bewildered souls with hundreds of pages (at least it reads that way) of “what’s that?” copy that has no clear (or any) purpose (or buyers) presented in sweet-reading, grammatically correct prose. Their command of English is strong. (It’s worse if it’s not.) What’s missing is their grasp of elementary common sense about what a book must do to become a book…

The saddest thing is how easily that could have been prevented if they hadn’t been in such a damn hurry to see themselves and their brilliance in print (everywhere), with assumedly a fat advance almost in hand and many years of fatter royalties following assuredly behind.

About six questions will create the structure and map, plus point the writer to the most likely reader, why they would read it, what they would do with it, and how they just saved themselves about 75% in misdirected (or undirected) research, “what’s that?” writing, and the one thing they can’t get back, wasted time. Of course each question leads to deeper, related sub-questions which, in turn, lead to a dozen related books written (or waiting for you to write) that, combined with speaking, consulting, focus book series, perhaps audiobooks, and so on, can rather quickly create an empire based on their acquired expertise (which began with book one and is further proven and strengthened in subsequent products.)

So I guess that really makes me a pre-writing and empire-building coach (if being an emperor or empress is your thing).

That’s the longer overview of what my kind of writing coach does. (Most of the others start when the writing itself appears. Bless them.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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10 Professional Tips to Sell Your Own Books…


Here’s a great list of “to do’s” about how to sell your own books that was shared and discussed at the last (9/10/16) BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Association) meeting in Novato, CA. That is precisely what my clients (and publishing friends) want and need to know. Since you’re my friends too, let me share it with you–and invite you to share it with your friends as well. (The few notations in italics are mine to perhaps clarify the questions I had when I first read it.)

It is from IngramSpark, the huge distributor more known as Ingram or LSI through which most of us sell our books, mostly, to bookstores. It was shared at BAIPA by Jackie Thompson, a delightful soul full of fun, truth, and straightforward info and responses. From them, her, and me to you:

Before, during and after (l)earn what you can from industry data.
Leverage distribution opportunities, US and global.
Invest in professional editing, design and marketing, not inventory. (What good’s the inventory if your book is embarrassing to look at and worse to read?)
Use POD and digital to test demand for your book. (Not too many years ago you had to run 1,500+ copies just to see if a dozen unbribed souls would buy their own copy!)
Use POD to increase format choices (paperback, hardcover, large print).
Get to know your local librarian, learn from their collections. (You can do the same for niche books by studying the 10 newest books your nichees are reading.)
If you are publishing to children and YA (young adults) have the material rated for age, and add this to your metadata.
Use Social Media to build platform and market to your readers.
Own your ISBN. (Even if some of the open publishers don’t require it or will give you one of  their ISBNs, instead post your own in every format and edition you publish.)
Support your local bookseller and library. (Make it easier and a greater joy for them to later support you!)

Good stuff I wish I had read when Ben Franklin and I were setting type and telling old jokes about older yokes on the Olde Sod.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

[ More how-to writing, publishing, and speaking stuff at ]

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Leading your idea in print down its most profitable path…


So you’ve got an article or book idea that you want to turn into both big money and widely-seen expertise presence. That’s the way to think! I’d also add that the copy needn’t be completely rewritten again and again, so also think reprint, rewrite, reprint of rewrites, and more…

Let’s say you want to write about the 2016 Chicago Cubs and their playing in the coming National League baseball playoffs–and perhaps for the pennant, of all things! But, if you can’t tell, or wouldn’t want to tell, a baseball from a ball of wax, your idea and copy to sell again and again could be about the Trump-Clinton presidential election, kumquat delicacies from the kitchen, or driverless autos driving nonetheless on the streets!

Alas, I’ve been a baseball fan from/in Chicago almost since the Great Fire and the hapless Cubs haven’t won a pennant for 107 years. You know us by the fetching blue, red, and white “C” hats that we have had to hide in our cupboard for generations. Alas, this is our year, so we dusted them off and wear them on our heads for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and almost all the hours between—until October when we will know if the hex of the billy goat is true. So I’m picking the Cubs for this empire-building article writ long… (But if you’re reading this in the Philippines, on the Pyrenes, or in Peru, kumquat delicacies might be easier to understand…)

Let’s start with an article about the “plight of the Cubs” (or any fetching topic) for an American magazine. You do the usual things: some basic research to find the most interesting angles or slants, pick the best approach, and subject that idea to a two-pronged feasibility study—is it feasible to write and is it feasible to sell? (Go to the search box in the upper top right corner and type in feasibility study to see how the magazine approach works. The blog copy comes from either How to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing or The Travel Writer’s Guide. To read  those books, used and sold for a pittance, check the Amazon catalog.) The feasibility study tells how to test magazines vs newspapers, who are the most likely readers, the querying process, and (for magazines), should you get a “go-ahead,” how you best present the copy for sale. (If it fits newspaper freelance buying fields too, submit the written article in final form, without a query and sent in ready-to-go fashion.) If the idea is a “go” as feasible to write and sell, send your articles to the best markets in both categories.

If the magazine buys your submission, you can use much of the article’s contents again (at least slightly rewritten) two ways: as a reprint or a rewrite. Then if a rewrite is bought, you can send that off to a still-virgin magazine as a reprint. With cunning, you can have several of each of these three partially-completed masterpieces filled in (completed) and in print, all paying you! (Again, go to the Search box above and write in reprints or rewrites to see step-by-step blogs with more details.)

With newspapers, there are two paths: (1) you can literally sell the first copy to as many newspapers as will buy it as long as they aren’t “national” newspapers (like the New York Times, Washington Post, or the Wall Street Journal—sell them one at a time, and, after it is sold, thoroughly rewrite the piece before selling it to another “national”) and (2) don’t simultaneously sell it two or more regional newspapers within 100 miles of each other (‘distribution ranges”). Otherwise, you can sell the very same newspaper article(s) to any other newspaper (except the “nationals”) as long as they don’t overlap. Just tell the newspaper editor yours is a simultaneous submission and you are selling it outside of their 100-mile circulation orb.

What more can you do with reams of unused copy parts shouting to be read? Throw all the used copy into a cauldron, add the unused gems, mix them up again, and “topic spoke” them to find as many of the other potential eager buyers as will shriek and pay, delightfully, to use your genius and make you rich. Check the blog search for items about “topic spoking” in the 400+ blogs waiting to be used!

How many books can you pluck from that cauldron (adding in other sources still untouched)? You could write/publish a book for all kinds of Cubs’ aficionados: one for kids/young adults, one for the regular folk, another for seniors (some praying for the Cubs to win, others incredulous that they are anywhere near the top), another for the Cubs fans focusing on this year and the past two, another putting all 107 years in perspective, and so on.

And because each book requires a mound of research, interviews, anecdotes, photos, and more, you can turn this into new wealth of found and reworked copy and pluck out more articles, and thus more rewrites, reprints, and reprints of rewrites. You can also sell related photos where you sell copy (check photos in Search), often the same photo repeatedly since they are almost always sold on one-time rights.

Lost in this pile of print are the directly related spin-offs, like audiobooks of any or all of those books just mentioned; focus books about specific elements of baseball for the truly absorbed, of the past year or two or of all time, like the pitching, the records set and broken, ERAs, a projection of future years and records of new(er) players emerging in the 2016 excitement; even videos and movies, all being in print before being converted to other media. Then using the most visible of the platform builders, authors speaking about their (new) specialty from the platform: see rallies, speeches, how-to workshops, seminars, talks, and so on…

Every time your champion copy has your by-line attached to your super writing in a newspaper, magazine, or book, you are solidifying yourself as an expert in that field, building a following, and making yourself more wanted by information and product producers. They want to get more good items from you, a recognized “valuable and prolific source” of, in this case, baseball, Cubs, and sports ideas, information, and articulation.

The point here is that almost any word or idea has lots of legs (and ears) and can be multiplied very profitably many times by many means. The trick is to create interesting copy about ideas that others want to know more about that is spelled properly and has the facts, quotes, and anecdotes artfully blended into more good ideas. Most exceptional writers don’t stray too far from what others want to know, and they churn a fair amount of interesting text into many articles, then books, rather than just making one sale or two before wandering off to find unrelated subjects for articles that are also sold a few times. It’s wiser and fills your coffers faster by turning your related ideas and copy over and over.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

[ More how-to writing, publishing, and speaking stuff at ]

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A very new format for a seminar workbook…


In a now very long past—decades—I must have literally copied and carted 40,000 seminar workbooks (sometimes a half mile, too often up stairs). Most of those workbooks were 12-20 pages long! Too late to complain: that was the way it was done. But yesterday technology finally removed my shackles—and perhaps my blinders!

Some fact-setting now, then a detailed explanation copy of the new format that you may be interested in modifying and using. Explaining the 40,000: I have given more than 2,000 four-hour seminars, most as college/university extended ed offerings, almost all in California. They rarely had less than 20 participants, which meant 24 or so workbooks in case last minute registrants were waiting at the door. Ugh.

But yesterday a different request opened my eyes. I spoke to the NSNC (National Society of Newspaper Columnists) in L.A. about “Publishing for Profit” and, even though I myself had been a columnist several times, I had no way of knowing what other writing experiences the veteran audience had nor which of the dozen or so suggestions I would offer and expand upon they might wish to pursue.

Nor did I want to schlep any workbooks nor published books to sell BOR. (The airlines made that impossible anyway by charging for baggage—and rubbing in more salt by starving me en route!) But I did slip a copy of eight different books into my suitcase to display on a side table so they could see that they actually existed!

I know, I could have run copies off of the workbooks once I reached L.A. But I’m doubly convinced now, the day after, that the new format is many times better and smarter for the future, it gives the audience more options, and it reduces or eliminates the burdensome task of hauling products for sale. That’s why I’m sharing it now, while the fire burns, in case it would help you too. (If you have already discovered this “new” workbook process, congratulations! I’m sure you double agree! Why didn’t you tell me?)

The rationale: I knew that all of my attendees were writers, they used computers daily, understood how to find websites, blogs, and could figure out the free-book code. Therefore all I had to do was explain the media or means needed, where the items could be found, the links or addresses for each, and what the resource references referred to. I gave them the instructions needed in the first two paragraphs, where the program was going in the next two, and the broadest of explanations of what the four sections to be covered in the text that followed.

That took a minute or two to re-explain at the beginning of the presentation, but then I could focus on the most important ways columnists might earn more and live happier. When appropriate, I could direct them to one or several of the references and, in some cases, tell them the best subtitles to the critical step-by-step details. There must be 600+ printed pages in the three free books and 200+ in the other items. Thus, by knowing where the information is at hand, almost immediately, they can pick, select, or reject it as they wish—or go back later, if they change their minds.

The workbook: The two-sided page is the workbook. In this case the program was designed to show U.S. columnists how else they can share, market, and expand their written gems (now or later) into other lucrative venues or ventures. That is what I talked about. If they need the application guidance, the resources would then send them to the “how-to” support material.

Enough explanation. What follows is the “workbook” they received.

Workbook as delivered to the NSNC presentation:



I’m Gordon Burgett. It’s 2016, we’re all experienced writers, and the airlines won’t let me schlep boxes of handouts as baggage anymore, so I’m going to use the Internet to let you pick what specific information you think will be useful to you later. At that point, you can download what you want or need, if anything. The most important material is free, there’s no shipping or tax, and it’ll be in your hands almost immediately!

Thus you have no workbook or piles of paper to lumber through. Just sit back for the first hour and let me explain a sort of strategy and ways that should help you considerably increase your writing income, then I’ll answer any questions you have during the remaining 15 minutes. If you have more questions later, please email me at

My task is to help you fill your coin bags and increase your second-life options by doing more of what you already do very well—and make even more money (heavens!) by doing it.

I think the more-mullah quest starts with you strategizing at whatever point you are along your moneymaking-by-writing trail. I’ll address that.

The rest of our oral trek today roughly follows the other four sections on these pages. I’ve posted lots of backup resources here that you can download if/when you want or need them. The most important material is free—three full core books, three helper reports, four website articles, and 400+ blogs to pluck from. To download most of that information, use our order page at


Here’s how to download or see the resources: (1) find and separately order each free book on the order form—but before you submit each order write the coupon number [      ] in the coupon code box on that order form. Then submit the form, the price will drop to zero, and follow the download instructions that follow! (The freebies expire on 8/20/16.) Other items, unless noted, are from the order form and can be ordered separately or together at any time. They are also available from Amazon but if you want the three books free you must follow the instruction in (1). How to get the three free reports is explained below. See for the blogs listed. Once there, find the SEARCH box, upper right corner under the Twitter logo. In that box enter either the topic you want to see more about (like query letters or niche) or the word I will give you. The website articles are from the direct website link location.


(I) WRITINGTravel Writer’s Guide (free ebook)

Explains how to sell 75%+ of your freelance writing (mostly newspaper and magazine articles), how to triple your income by topic-spoking, how to earn more with sidebars, and how to organize profit-packed copy-, quote-, and anecdote-gathering trips…

Related resources:

“4 Proven Ways to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing” Go to blog, enter 4 proven ways

“How to Sell 75% of Your Travel Writing” (2 cassette program), $20 + shipping

“25 Professional Query and Cover Letters” (ebook), $4.99

“Reprints, Rewrites, Reprints of Rewrites, and Resales” (ebook), $4.99

“The magic of topic spoking.” Go to blog, enter topic spoking


(II) PUBLISHINGNiche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time (free ebook)

A huge percentage of the risk-free, market-guaranteed book money is found here. We made $2 million from dentists and are now following the same path from K-12 school administrators, supers, principals, and school boards. That process and business plan is explained in this book. If you write and publish, almost all the niche profits are yours. If you find experts in the field, you direct/edit, they write, and you publish, most of the profits are still yours but the fame is theirs.

Related resources:

“12-Step Pre-Test for Niche Publications” (ebook), $4.99

“How to Test Your Niche Book before Writing or Publishing” (ebook), $9.99

“How to Get Niche Articles in Print 75% of the Time” (ebook), $2.99

(III) PUBLISHINGHow to Get Your Book Published in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days (free ebook). If you’re not niching, use the “open press” revolution plus Create Space/Kindle [Amazon] and Lightning Source as your first or major paths to building your own empire. Publish here, then (perhaps) try the major publishers.


Related resources:

“Open Book Publishing: Almost a Miracle! (ebook), $3.10

“When Would I Always (or Never) Self-Publish My Book?” Go to blog, enter self-publish

“12 More Ways to Turn Your Book into Many More…” Go to blog, enter more ways

“Focus books and Selling a Book by its Parts” Go to the blog, enter focus

“Sample Focus Book: Rights and Responsibilities of School Principals” (ebook), $3.99

“Sample Focus Book: How to Create the Best Staff Possible” (ebook), $3.99


(IV) BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHEREmpire Building (O.P., no replacement book yet.) Ultimately, for big money, expand the perception of your expertise through related information dissemination means, like speaking, seminaring, giving workshops or retreats, audiobooks, classes, consulting, social media venues, radio-TV, guest performances, and so on. Or create/sell little empires along the way. Or align your writing, researching, interviewing, and publishing skills with others’ empires. Or do it all.


Related resources:

“How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” (4-cassette seminar), $40+shipping

“Six Special Tools That Get Speakers Booked First” (ebook), $9.99


Lifelong Wealth by Being Indispensable

Finding Indispensable Article Topics

101 Niche Marketing Topics

Just subscribe to my newsletter (seldom sent) at and all three reports are immediately downloaded. Nobody else ever sees your address. Then if you want to escape my elist, just email me to be removed. I’m not offended—I forget names instantaneously.

That’s it. If it helps, go to it.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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How to make your friends smile gratefully all day long…


If this were addressed to you, how would you feel if it arrived unexpectedly in your email box ?

This year (2016), I’ve decided to send one email each day thanking someone who has enriched my life.

It could be someone who is close to me, like a family member or a friend.

It could be someone I have only met once or perhaps admired from afar.

It could be someone I have known for a long time or only momentarily.



P.S. Please know that there is no hierarchy here. In the past few days, your name and who you are in the world came to mind. When that happened I realized that I wanted to honor and thank you for enriching my life.

My reaction was delight and total surprise. So rarely is unsought, free kindness sent our way! If you want to use this model or concept, just do it. Change the names, of course. There are no copyrights or restrictions at all.

If your curiosity is stirred, here’s a pinch of background. Allen Klein and I are veteran writers/speakers who have met, mostly in passing at presentations, for years. He’s very funny and has written many books that I have enjoyed and shared, so I was indeed honored–and quite surprised–when it arrived. The next day it occurred to me that others may want to say the same or something similar to those they know. So I emailed Allen, thanked him for the thoughtfulness, and asked if my sharing the idea with others would be okay. His reply, almost immediate, was “Yes, please do share it. Imagine if we all did this! What a great world this would be.”

So now it’s in your hands to use as or if you wish!


(Allen Klein’s most recent book is You Can’t Ruin My Day. See more at


Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett


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Emceeing: a Barbershop St. Patrick’s Day script



Here is another Barbershop presentation script–for those eager to read Barbershop presentation scripts. Enjoy!

I’m Gordon Burgett, blogmaster of my own blog, which you are now reading. 90% of the posts here refer to writing, editing, publishing, speaking, and related commentary about selling one’s ideas and information.

The other 10% discuss emceeing, which is an extension of my speaking activities, which are in turn linked to the 2000+ paid presentations I’ve offered in the past 30 years. Still, the scripts shared here are to a special group I have been part of for about 16 years: barbershopping, first in Santa Maria, CA; more recently in Marin County (north of San Francisco), CA. Through these blogs I have exchanged scripts written and techniques learned with other script writers for their barbershop groups. (You may see the other emceeing script info by writing in “emceeing” in the search box upper right on this page.)

So this is a short script when the Marin County Golden Gate group sang at a St. Patrick’s day gathering which I found in a box of past (but shamefully unblogged) emceeing material. I think it took place in about 2013. Sadly, I don’t recall anything more. I suspect it was in the middle of a speaking tour across CA when I came home that day to emcee and sing, and in the rush to get back out to complete the tour I forgot to leave any more details. That’s it. You can see that I’m a real person at!


Here, from the depths, is the script of this mysterious presentation:

Good evening, we are the Marin Golden Gate Barbershop Chorus, directed by Phil DeBar. I’m Gordon Burgett, and this dapper fellow is our Associate Director, Paul Wren, who Phil is about to ask to lead the group in “Danny Boy.”

[I’ve lost the actual text here but I must have introduced Phil DeBar, our Director, and he gave a short, audience-involved demonstration of what barbershopping is about. He had the audience sing one of the four voices in a short song, to try their talents at harmonizing!

Then I asked Phil to lead the Chorus in “Amazing Grace.”]


I continued:

“We’ve already heard some of our favorite Irish music and we’re enjoying St. Patrick’s Day festivities and food, so maybe a few Irish jokes would be in order.

Father Murphy, infused by religious fervor, swept into a bar in Donegal.

He grabbed the first man he saw and said, “Do you want to go to Heaven?”

“I do, father!” the man replied, so the priest told him to stand by the door.

Father Murphy turned to a lively lass and he asked her the same question.

“Oh yes, father, I do.” So he pointed at the door and suggested she join the other man already there.

Then Father Murphy saw Billy O’Toole shrinking in a corner, trying to be invisible.

“O’Toule,” he said. “What about you? Do you want to go to heaven?”

“Oh no, thank you, Father. No I don’t!” came a fast reply.

The priest looked bewildered and said “Are you telling me that when you die you don’t want to go to heaven?”

O’Toole replied, “Oh yes, Father, I do–but when I die. I thought you were rounding up a group to go right now!”


Are you ready for some more music? But let me ask you first,

Does anybody have a birthday today? If so, would you raise your hand?

(If a hand went up, I’d ask them to stand up and tell us something about themselves because we had a gift for them.)

(If nobody responded, I’d ask, “If any of you had a birthday in the past year, would you raise your hand?” The moment the hands went up, the chorus broke into “Happy Birthday!”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I wished them all when the music ended, then I suggested they give themselves a hearty round of applause for having lived so long!


When the chorus sat I asked, “How about some grand quartet singing?”

Not only can our first group make great sounds, they are international imports brought here today for your merriment. They come from four places, all hot beds of melody: fellows, raise your hands when I tell where you are from: our bass, ____ from Uruguay; ____ , the lead from England; ____, the baritone, from Texas, and ________, our tenor, from the Bronx. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Opus IV!


Our second quartet has lesser pedigrees—they come from Fairfax, San Rafael, Mill Valley, and Point Reyes. Let’s welcome ____, ____, ____, and ___ (they stepped forward when I gave their names). They are called the MarinTones…


You surely heard about Poor Paddy and his life of sorrow and pain. But things finally changed for Paddy–and it happened on St. Patrick’s Day too. He had found the love of his life, and had promised to mend his ways, particularly about not forgetting about their dates and that he would never again be as much as one minute late.

So you can imagine his distress when he arrived at the restaurant to dine with his sweetheart and he couldn’t find a parking spot!

Around the block he drove, then two blocks. He was in a panic when he pulled over and prayed: LORD, take pity on me! If you’ll find me a parking place I’ll go to MASS every Sunday of my life, I’ll quit drinking Irish whiskey, I’ll.…

Just then the car parked in front of him pulled out.

He looked to heaven and shouted as loud as he could, “NEVER MIND! I’ve found one!”


How about two more songs from the Marin Golden Gate Barbershop Chorus, directed by Phil DeBar?

Get ready to “Turn Your Radio On…”, then a favorite oldie, “I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad.”


It’s surely unfair and unkind to mix an Irish holiday, an Irishman, and some of the best brewed Gallic grog in the same joke, but I’ve been given special permission from old Saint Patrick himself–because when I told it to him even he too couldn’t stop laughing…

It’s about Muldoon who had been out drinking into the wee hours, and one suspects it was not his first time either.

So he kicked off his shoes and crept into his house so he didn’t awaken his true love, Kathleen.

He was heading up to the bedroom but only made it up two steps before he fell backward on his rump.

Unfortunately, he had a bottle of whiskey in each back pocket!

But he was so afraid he might have made too much noise for Kathleen, he fumbled back on his feet, found a light, turned around, and dropped his pants. There in the hallway mirror he saw his own rear end cut and bleeding. So he found a box of Band-Aids, and put one on each place where he saw blood.

Then he crawled up the stairs, fell into bed, and was barely asleep when he saw that the sun was up–and he felt his lovely Kathleen pulling on his big toe.

“Muldoon,” she said, “you were out drunk again last night!”

“Oh,” he groaned, “Have mercy. Why would you say such a mean thing?”

“Because when I went downstairs the front door was wide open, there was booze bottle glass all over the floor, and there was a trail of blood from the glass right into this very bed!”

“But mostly it was because of those Band-Aids stuck on the hallway mirror!”


I suppose there’s been a Muldoon in every house. Let’s sing two more songs to lift Muldoon’s holiday spirit. There’s no home on any holiday more forgiving than the HOME ON THE RANGE…or a promise more joyous than being “Once in Love With Amy…”


Finally, what day would be more appropriate for a miracle than a Saint’s Day? And who would be better equipped to shake loose that miracle than a local Irish priest driving back to Marin County from San Francisco after perhaps over-enjoying just such a celebration?

Father Timothy had just crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and was creeping down the hill when a cop pulled him over. The policeman leaned in, smelled the sweet aroma of alcohol, and saw an empty wine bottle on the car floor…

“Have you been drinking, Father?”

“Ah yes, officer, but just water.”

The trooper asked him, “Then why do I smell wine?”

The priest looked down, saw the bottle, and shouted “GOOD LORD! He’s done it again!”


Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of all of the chorus, we thank you for being such a welcoming audience. Let me once again acknowledge the MarinTones, Opus IV, and our director, Phil DeBar… [who asked Paul Wren to close the show with “America the Beautiful.”]

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You just have to read “Trees and Kids”


There is an unusual tree commonly known as the Chinese Bamboo Tree. It is real. Years ago I heard a speaker talk about it, using it to make a point. It stuck in my head. I even did some research to find out if the speaker was blowing smoke and made up the tree. He didn’t.

[The excerpt is from Jim Burgett’s Teachers Change Lives 24/7: 150 Ways to Do it Right.]

The story goes like this. You prepare the soil, pick the right spot, then plant the Chinese Bamboo Tree. You water it and wait. But you wait an entire year and nothing appears. No bud, no twig, nothing. So you keep watering and protecting the area and taking care of the future plant, and you wait some more. You wait another year and nothing still happens. Okay, you are a persistent person not prone to giving up, so you keep on watering. You water, check the soil, start talking to the ground, maybe even click your heels in some kind of growing dance you read about in the National Geographic. Another year passes and still no sign of growth.

It has been three years. Should you give up? Someone told you that it might take a while to really see the fruits of your efforts, so you keep on keeping on. More water, more talk, more dancing. The neighbors are wondering. And another year passes. No tree.

You now make a decision. If there is no tree on this date one year from now you will stop watering. Period. So you begin year number five with the same passion as day number one. You water, you wait.

You keep watering and keep waiting. You water some more and then, could it be? Is it really? Yep, there it is, something sticking out of the dirt. You come back the next day and WOW it has really grown! In fact you come back each day for about six weeks and finally the Chinese Bamboo tree stops growing—but it is over 80 feet tall! Yes, 80 feet in six weeks! Well, not really. It is 80 feet in five years.

The point is simple. If you had given up for even the shortest period of time, there would be no tree. It took almost impossible persistence. The Chinese Bamboo tree is there for one reason and one reason only—because you never gave up on it.

When I talk to teachers at workshops or institutes I find one who teaches first grade and I ask that person to mentally think of a student who they wouldn’t mind see moving to another district. You get the drift, a student who is a real challenge. Let’s give the student a name. I’ll use my own name to be politically correct. The kid is named Jim. I ask the teacher if they ever had a student like Jim that they really worked hard with, tried every trick in the book, searched for new ways to meet the child’s learning needs, and so on, but still felt that at the end of the year that Jim had not learned. That Jim was still a challenge, and although he met the minimum standards to pass, he was not on the teacher’s list of proudest achievements. Most teachers usually agree that they have, or had, a Jim in their class.

Now we move to a second grade teacher and we pretend that they get Jim in the fall, work with him all year, watch their hair turn from brunette to shades of stressful gray, and by the end of the year feel they did their best, but it wasn’t good enough.

Now, for a minute, let’s talk about little Jimmy. He’s not in special ed. Jimmy is just a jerk. Don’t fall off your chair and gasp, “Did he call that kid a jerk?” I did, but not the jerk you are thinking of. My JERK is an acronym for Just Educationally Resistive Kid. He doesn’t have ADD or any other alphabetized condition. He just doesn’t like to learn and he resists it. He isn’t a bad kid or a troublemaker. “Jimmys” exist in all sizes and shapes and even come in girl forms.

Let’s jump to grade three. We have the same conversation all over again. Jim is passed on but he is a disappointment to every teacher so far, and they all worry that if things don’t turn around Jim could become a troublemaker or an academic disgrace.

Jim holds his own in grade four. No big changes. He surely doesn’t love school, but he isn’t failing anything. He exhibits no passion for anything at the schoolhouse. And no signs of any real change either.

Grade five. Jim has a new teacher and all the other teachers try to warn her that Jim is, well, how do we say it? Jim is special, but not special ed. He exists, but barely. He will continue to be a challenge, but he’s not a threat to safety. Jim is Jim. Try anything, but nothing will probably work. If you don’t believe me, ask all of his previous teachers.

At semester break the new teacher makes a comment about Jim at a teachers meeting. With anticipated sadness, everyone listens. Here is what she says…

“Jim is quite a writer. He turned in a couple of stories and I told him he was very creative. He is now writing a mystery story and it is good! And he’s also showing some talent in basketball. He’s really growing too. I love his passion to play ball and write. He seems to thrive on the success of his hook shot and his imagination. I really enjoy that kid.” Jim has arrived!

Was it the new teacher who pulled out Jim’s hidden talents and secret love for learning? Was it some biological change that caused Jim to mature and become a better learner, a more serious student? Was it his physical abilities that expanded his self-esteem and made it easier for him to write?

Maybe it was a little of all these things, but it was also what I call the Chinese Bamboo Factor. Every teacher Jim had since he entered school worked hard providing opportunities for Jim to learn, to grow, and to become. Every teacher watered, fertilized, and cared for Jim. Even when the year ended and they were sometimes glad to pass him on to another teacher, they still knew that they had done their best to give him the best.

Oh, by the way, my story could stop and start at any grade. And Jim could be Janet, and the teacher could be a he rather than a she. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the Chinese Bamboo Factor—never, ever quit on a student. Even when you see no progress, it doesn’t mean that the kid isn’t processing something somehow somewhere.

One more thing, a big thing: the Chinese Bamboo Tree did start to grow very shortly after the seed was planted. The roots grew deep and strong for many years before there was any sign of a plant above ground. Sometimes that same thing happens with kids. They develop a foundation of learning. They learn to learn. They creep along doing the minimum, building their strengths (or finding them), and sometimes they just wait for the right combination of factors before they bloom. It may be the motivation of a certain teacher or a new found confidence or skill. It may be that all of a sudden “they get it” and learning becomes exciting. If we knew exactly what the formula was and how it worked for everyone, we could probably cure the ills of the world.

So what do we learn from the Chinese Bamboo Tree? I’d suggest the following:

* It takes patience to teach some, even most, kids.
* When you give up on a kid, you give up on a human being.
* Even when you don’t see progress, if you do your best, it is probably happening.
* If something doesn’t work with a kid, try something else—but never quit trying.
* Some of our best teaching doesn’t “break soil” until all conditions are right.
* When you think you are growing a tree, you may be growing a root.
* Strong roots support strong trees.
* Sometimes it takes a lot of patience to change a life.


The author is Jim Burgett, and he came by my surname honorably—he’s my famous kid brother, maybe the best known educator in the Midwest. Not only has he published six books for teachers and K-12 administrators, he also speaks at conventions and conferences just about everywhere. (Is my pride seeping through?)

Because I’ve been asked so often, Jim wrote (or co-authored) these books too:
* What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know (with Max MGee and Jim Rosborg)
* The Perfect School (with Max MGee and Jim Rosborg)
* Finding Middle Ground in K-12 Education (with Brian Schwartz),
* The School Principal’s Toolbook, and
* The Art of School Boarding

More information about Jim is at; specifics about the books here.

I shared this story here several years back but I have been asked repeatedly to do it again. So here it is, if it helps explain the other little “Jimmys” you know, or that teaching friends lovingly endure, or if it took an extraordinarily long time for you (or, you suspect, your kids) to pop through your own almost forgotten plot on your way to your own special gift.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Writers: how to find more people to interview…


Sometimes you’re writing an article or story and try as you may you can’t think of or find another person to interview, other than your kids or some shlunk on the street corner. So what do you do?

Let’s start with an expectation that few new writers know about or think they might be able to tiptoe around: that almost every paying editor expects you to interview at least several (think three or four) people for your article—and what the interviewee is asked or says is directly related to what the article is about.

After I say that in my seminar about interviewing a rather bizarre question usually pops up: “Must the interviewee be living?” I imagine they are really asking if they can use quotes from someone who has passed or, perhaps, can they include interviews with aliens or ghosts or the like? In the second case, no. But quotes from the defunct, yes. Still, the quotes must come from a source that did once live–and the words must have been “captured intact” at that time, preserved, and passed down. Also, they can’t be “helped” to directly pertain to the subject at hand.

An example where this worked. I sold several articles about Dom Pedro II and his visit to the U.S. to open the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. All of the quotes came from a detailed diary that the King of Brazil kept during the visit that was published a few years after his death. I sent the editor a copy of the relevant phrases from the diary that I had translated from Portuguese. No problem.

Thus historical comments from the living or dead might provide background information and, sometimes, direct quotes that apply as said.

The best way not to get caught without interviewees is to read many other articles or accounts about the topic and note all vital information you can about their speakers or authors. The challenge is finding those publications. Your librarian will show you the “trace” books, if needed. “Google” will too, as will the company or college they work for.

Another way, if the topic is being actively discussed in the media, is to find all of the related interplay in print: who is taking part, their position, the group or association they represent, anything else that gives a clue. And if you only have one side of the topic, ask the speaker defending that viewpoint the names of the three most frequent (or best) speakers on each side of the issue—plus for phone or mail contacts.

Or delve more deeply into the topic. Specifically: a cure for Parkinson’s disease, how to get ahead (and stay ahead) of road deterioration, one-world currency, age-based income equity? Focus as much on the best brains and problem-solvers in each field. Mine their expertise. Ask who you should contact to get a solid exchange.

Said another way, ask the best informed expert(s) on the topic if they could (or would) identify the top minds in their field, the top three or so best informed people who would identify the most important questions that must be asked, then offer their thoughts about possible answers or solutions to each. Sometimes that works. Sometimes they laugh uncontrollably, step back, and stare at you like you’ve just overdosed on your own brew!

Another way is to simply ask the chosen person after you finish interviewing them, “Would you point me to another expert as well informed as you that I can interview so my editor will have two points of view for his/her pages?”

Or just ask the shlunk on the street corner and take your chances. I did just that in a piece about the huge Schloss in Heidelberg. Seems there was a giant crack in a wall large enough to march an army through. So I asked a fellow just standing next to me if he knew anything about that crack and why the wall didn’t just collapse or slide down? He smiled, then gave me an eloquent, point-by-point response! When finished, I applauded his knowledge (and clarity of expression). He smiled even more, then told me that he was a professor of architecture at the University of Heidelberg!

If in this somewhat rambling blog there is guidance that helps you, great.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. You can’t just interview yourself, sadly. Such wit and erudite articulation untouchable! But if you have solid quotable comments in an article, book, or publication about the topic, you can say something like: “…in my 2016 book about … I mentioned that …” A bit awkward, alas, but better than just saying, “Somebody once said …”

I will be writing a book about interviewing soon. If that interests you, please stay tuned.

– – – – –

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FOCUS BOOKS: Sell your entire book and its chapters at once



Congratulations! You just printed your nonfiction masterpiece—but what do you do next? As the adage says, “You’re all dressed up with no place to go”! In other words, how do you find and get others to praise your new book’s genius, especially to their colleagues and friends, while also getting muchos congratulatory pesos in your pocket—fast!

Let’s half solve your selling dilemma and also suggest a new way to simultaneously shake loose some key focus book pesos too.

Most of a book’s marketing solution happens before the book is created. Like identifying the buyers before the book is written, and also by figuring out how or where potential buyers buy books like yours. Doing that keeps most bookfolk free from having to sell on street corners and at flea markets (unless their book is about fleas or how fleas market).

It’s also wise to determine what specific book your buyers most want or need—and then write a book about that. (It sounds obvious. Fortunately, the best way to identify those most-wanted books is also easy to do. Just ask the most likely buyers what they most need—or can’t find.)

Let me suggest a bias here that makes the marketing hunt far easier: zero in on a niche market first, then offer your how-to brilliance in print directly to them. But that’s another (or many other) blogs. In the meantime, see Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time.

Whatever marketing or selling path you choose—often Internet and bookstore selling, through catalogs, by word-of-mouth, social marketing, radiant reviews (even dumb reviews sort of help), other digital machinations, a classroom text, an Oprah highlight—think of selling both the big book and its contents (perhaps as chapters or sections) all at the same time.

Let me share what we are doing right now so you will have actual examples of this to peruse and verify. (Who am I to share this innovation? I’ve been doing and teaching article and book prep, and publishing, since about the time Ben Franklin was mixing ink. See Google.) Mostly now, when I’m not talking to groups, I edit and publish books to the K-12 school administrator’s niche.

That’s doubly enjoyable because my younger brother has been a luminary in that field for 40 years, and my firm snagged him and his illustrious cohorts to write our much-sought books about their expertise. Let’s look particularly at Jim’s newest creation, The School Principal’s Toolbook.

Our market isn’t hiding. We can directly contact all of them, plus others who particularly benefit by having our book in school principals’ hands: the superintendents (who usually select the principals), the school board (that usually approves the superintendents), and other school-related buyers. So to make the book visible the book’s author speaks widely to the respective associations at conventions and gatherings about the new Toolbook, we send flyers to principals, the book is reviewed in the respective newsletters, and so on. Still, we want to make sure it is even more widely known. So we have created what we call our “focus book” program. That’s how you “Sell your book simultaneously, intact and by chapters.”

We think that any educator reading any of the book’s 12 chapters will see why the principal needs to have at least the rest of this book, and probably all of Jim’s other five related books, in hand or on her/his desk at all times. (No vanity there. If we didn’t feel that strongly Jim wouldn’t have written the book and I wouldn’t have published it if he did. I’m sure you feel the same about your book.)

So my idea—no doubt 100 other publishers have had it too—was to take the most vital and needed topic, edit it to about 50 pages, and publish a focus book with the same words from the book as its content. Thus from Chapter 1 of The School Principal’s Toolbook we extracted Rights and Responsibilities and added of School Principals to it (so pile drivers, whiskey sellers, or accountants don’t buy it in error—and want refunds!) Next, we had that text set (with a frill-less cover) to be sold in paperback and ebook formats. We also priced them at $3.99 [digital] and $6.99 [paperback] and made them buyable at Kindle, Create Space, Nook, ECU (that’s us), and other outlets. (Incidentally, we also created a focus book of the fourth chapter of Toolbook and priced it the same. It’s called How to Create the Best Staff Possible: Building K-12 Excellence from Hire to Rehire—slightly reworded from the book so the public is, again, fully informed.)

ebook cover

We won’t earn much (if we break even) at the low focus book prices, but we are certain many superintendents will buy a couple to dozens of copies for district meetings with their principals. So that will meet a future need since they will prefer paperbacks to ebooks, and we’ll be ready.

The real purpose of the focus books—almost all will be ebooks here—is to have free sample copies to send (by email, as an attachment or download) to the superintendents to review (or skim), so they know the book exists, they have had it in hand, and they can validate the solid writing and expertise it contains. Most superintendents will be contacted by email or flyer (many may read about it in their respective state newsletters). It will also induce some associations to book Jim to speak to their gatherings where the books may be bought (in paperback) and given to all attendees.

The primary purpose of the focus books is to sell more copies of the “mother book,” The School Principal’s Toolbook; to draw attention to all of Jim’s other books; to provide a dandy and very useful focus book about particular topics principals need to know, and to encourage speaking engagements for our five authors.

I hope by sharing this new process (at least new for us) you will see how a book with 12 chapters, like ours, can result in selling as many as 13 books, all promoting each other, your firm, and the author(s). The exposure and quality also solidifies your expertise, standing, and presence in your niche.

At this blog site I will keep you abreast of how this program, just begun, is working and how we will expand it. To read more about niche publishing or focus books, write “niche” or “focus” (no quotes) in the search box above. It will direct you to earlier blogs, in posting order, about both topics. Or email me at and I will try to respond as time permits. Please keep them short—and in English!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Selling one article topic to 5-8 different publications!


“Could you sell the same text, unchanged, to both magazines and newspapers?” is the most often asked question at my writing seminars!

I suppose you could, but I wouldn’t because I wouldn’t know how to unravel the rights issues. Anyway, it’d be far more profitable with a lot less work just planning five to eight sales from the same fact (and photo) pool.

Here’s how I might sell one topic (in this case, the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day) as widely as possible for the most yield and the least amount of additional research, composition, and jpg taking?

1. I’d first query the idea to the highest paying magazines (in order, one at a time). Then I’d write my lead article for the first editor giving me a “go-ahead.” This article might focus on a St. Patrick’s Day special, a big deal in the Windy City because at 9 a.m. that morning the Chicago River turns orange for a few minutes until (it’s said) the leprechauns switch it to green so lush it puts tears in every O’Brien eye—and stupefies much of the rest of midland America as it flows in reverse to the Illinois River and the Mississippi to and past New Orleans! Some 400,000 visitors a year line the downtown Chicago bridges, then watch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade march through the city that day at noon, rain or shine.

2. After that magazine article (sold first rights) appears in print, I could sell it exactly as is to any other magazine as a reprint. (If you sold the photos first rights too—or for one-time use—you could also sell them to the same [or other] reprint buyers!)

3. But since I’ve got a box full of facts and quotes, why not query, then write another main article about a similar happening that takes place the same weekend: the Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier (nearby, on the same verdant river as it reaches Lake Michigan)? This is a loose example of a rewrite since you can slip in the key points about the concurrent St. Patrick’s Day festivities. All you have to do is rewrite that used text, which you’d have to do anyway because it must be in a different layout for both publications. Or you could call this rewrite “Chicago’s Greatest Gift: the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Flower and Garden Show Side by Side!” (What a title!) Since this magazine piece is a first-rights sale, why not sell this distinct offering to other magazines seeking reprints?

4. We’ve still not sold to the newspapers! I would significantly rewrite either of the magazine articles (or mix and match) in newspaper fashion, give the result a different title, and maybe try for a national newspaper sale first. Since this is a major set-date activity (like Christmas or Easter), most major newspapers look for event-related special articles. So I would query here several months earlier so it can get scheduled, then work out the special submission process with the travel editor.

5. Or if the national newspapers aren’t enchanted by the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers’ river magic, I’d send it simultaneously to all of the Midwest newspapers 100 miles away from each other to see if I can spin the special event one last time (this year), before the emerald is long gone.

6. And, of course, I’d handle the photos myself so I could sell them as widely as possible without messing up their rights!

By March 1, 2016 I will release a brand new book about this topic where each of the resale means to magazines and newspapers are explained in detail. Those are simultaneous submissions, reprints, rewrites, reprints of rewrites, rewrites of reprints, modified reprints, sidebars, overseas sales, and shorts. Check Amazon Books under Gordon Burgett for the still-undecided title and release date–or email for specifics and cost.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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