Jun
3
2016

How to make your friends smile gratefully all day long…

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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.

TODAY YOU ARE THAT PERSON.
I APPRECIATE YOUR BEING IN MY LIFE.

Allen

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 humor@allenklein.com.)

 

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett
www.gordonburgett.com

 

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Apr
26
2016

Emceeing: a Barbershop St. Patrick’s Day script

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Welcome!

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 www.gordonburgett.com!

————-

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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Apr
5
2016

You just have to read “Trees and Kids”

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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 BurgettGroup.com; 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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Mar
22
2016

Writers: how to find more people to interview…

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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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Mar
15
2016

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

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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 glburgett@aol.com and I will try to respond as time permits. Please keep them short—and in English!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Feb
10
2016

Selling one article topic to 5-8 different publications!

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“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 glburgett@aol.com for specifics and cost.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Feb
4
2016

Article you’re submitting need a sidebar? Here’s an example…

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Typically, as I write a “go-ahead” article, I encounter some additional facts that are so spectacular or unique I think they would make an interesting sidebar or box, in or near the printed article, to excite the readers and add much substance to the article without changing its primary structure. So I write and send a sidebar cover note (see below) by email or snail mail to the editor, reminding him/her of the subject of the article of mine they are considering or just accepted. Here, I share some of the most exciting facts (for baseball fans) that apply to the first year that the Cubs (and the National League) were in existence: 1876. That’s it. He/she will likely respond by email, a short yes or no, with a suggested content size.]

Sidebar Cover Note

Dear Ms So-and-So:

I doubly appreciate your giving me the go-ahead on the article “Wrigley Wouldn’t Recognize His Field.” I’m shooting to have it there within a week. But as I’m gathering current facts amid the cranes and disappearing bleachers, I wondered if you’d also want a Chicago-based sidebar (or box) about the earliest Cubs, long before P.K. Wrigley was in baby britches.

Here are some of the items it might contain:

1. The Cubs are the oldest team in the National League. They played from day one, in 1876—and won the first pennant by beating the Louisville Dark Blues in six games. Called the White Stockings then, they finished the year with a 52-14 record. (They didn’t use the name “Cubs” until 1907.)

2. Chicagoans also gave birth to the term “out of left field” in their early years. The left field in the pre-Wrigley playing grounds butted up to a many-storied insane asylum, and when the crowds made too much noise the lunatics screamed out the windows and banged on pans. Their comments truly were “out of left field.”

3. Al Spalding (of later sports equipment fame) managed that team, plus he helped write the first set of official baseball rules. He also pitched in 60 of the 66 games they played in 1876, winning 47. (Spalding was also the only pitcher on the team wherever he played, winning more games in his six professional baseball seasons than any other player in the league.) Al was the first major league player to use a fielding glove. His total pitching record was 252-65 with a 2.15 ERA and a .313 batting average! He also owned the team for a decade.

4. Players had no numbers or names on their uniforms then so crowds only vaguely knew who they were or what they did. Spaulding’s solution one year was to assign each position a different color, and the player there wore a hat that was colored to match the position’s hue. The fans called the team the “Tulips.” Hats (and baseball gloves) were sold, of course, by Spaulding.

5. Ross Barnes took most of the rest of the honors that year, batting .429 in 1876, hitting the Cub’s first home run, and winning nine of the other 10 major categories that inaugural season (hits, RBIs, runs, and so on…) But he got the ague (a fever) in the Windy City after 22 games in 1877 and never fully recovered. Fortunately, “Cap” Anson was there to pick up the slack, and, later, Tinkers, Evers, Chance, Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, and Grover Cleveland Alexander.

That may seem like a lot of numbers for a sidebar, but what numbers! And those reading about Wrigley Field will be Cub fans eager to relive those golden days. They are also hoping that the new playing grounds will bring the glory back.

If that interests you, on speculation of course, please let me know. It would help if you would indicate an approximate number of words you’d like in the sidebar.

Many thanks,

Gordon Burgett

————

P.S. This is an excerpt from my book Profitably Resell Your Copy Again and Again (and Again)…, with the subtitle Magazines, Newspapers, Reprints, Rewrites, Modified Reprints, Sidebars, Sales Abroad, and Other Copy Resales. Available from Create Space and Kindle after March 10. Or contact us for details.

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Feb
2
2016

Origin of the phrase “out in left field”

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Chicagoans gave birth to the term “out of left field” about 100 years ago. The left field in the pre-Wrigley playing grounds butted up to a many-storied insane asylum, and when the crowds made too much noise the lunatics screamed out the windows and banged on pans. Their comments truly were “out of left field.”

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Dec
22
2015

Stretch one skinny article into five with minimal effort

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How would you like to design one article to appear in five different magazines or newsletters that explains the benefits, through example, of your firm’s specialization and why they may want to know more about your services? The best thing: it’s pretty much the same article with a similar message, and the five articles will probably take far less than 40% of the time and effort!

Let’s say you consult in the first-contact field, to help improve relations and create more business follow-through between receptionists and front-desk employees in small to medium-sized businesses. You can outwit your competitors by using the same basic idea five times through a popular reprint and rewrite concept familiar to journalists.

Perhaps your consulting would work well for offices that deal in insurance, real estate, loan processing, titles, and interior designing. What you must do is create a master article that will work well in publications to each of those five fields. Let’s say the creation of a telephone answering approach and basic script that would make all who phone (1) feel welcome and reassured by the professional message content and tone, (2) would be promptly directed to the person best prepared to answer their question or give advice, (3) or would be sent to the department or desk that handles their needs, and (4) would experience the properly directed pass-off smoothly and courteously.

That master article (probably about 650-900 words long) would give an example of how the greeting program you would design would function, with now-and-then examples and benefits clearly visible. But it would be niche-tailored to meet the needs in the five fields just mentioned. To do that you might interview a first-contact person or two in firms in each field, so the article has the right tone and vocabulary, and meets the unique needs in the different niches.

For example, you might call the office manager in, say, a loan office nearby and tell that person that you are ___ and you are writing an article about greeting solutions in the loan field and could you interview her/him for 15 minutes in person or by phone to have a better understanding of how greeting is handled in the loan office field. It’s surprising how eager others are to be interviewed. You could do the same to the other four fields too. What you need for all or most of the niche articles is inside, hands-on, how-to information from an experienced practitioner.

Later, you might call the same person again, thank them once more, and ask if they could suggest the three niche magazines in their field they think might be interested in sharing the short article–that you will handle the placement but thought it prudent to see what is most read right now.

Since you already know how positive greeting programs can be designed, you can then take the problems mentioned in the interview and design a program that would provide significant benefit. (And do the same in the other fields too. The second article will be much faster; the fifth, about as fast as you can type.)

Then you use the usual submission procedures to the target magazines, in this case a query letter suggesting the article or a direct submission of the finished article with a cover letter. When accepted and submitted remember to include a “bio slug,” a 20-35-word short that tells about you, the author, or the firm, plus the address/phones/email info so the readers can contact you for business!

Why would you do this? To make local contacts through the interviewees, get your firm’s beneficial suggestions in front of readers nationwide in five different fields, and to have copies of in-print articles to use for your p.r. or direct promotions. What I like best is doing five while you do one. As long as you are thinking this way, why not think a bit deeper and get a much better return?

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. To see other blogs about reprints, rewrites, query letters, and selling freelance writing, just type those words in the search box, upper right, and the other blogs will appear after this article.

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Nov
30
2015

Some thoughts about interviewing…

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This is an excerpt (part of a chapter) from my coming book, Interviewing. I talk about tools and means used to interview:

Interviewing is mostly you asking questions to a person or, rarely, a group, and receiving an intelligible response in return. When you record what you asked and what they replied, that is the thinnest skeleton of a completed interview.

That’s a bit simplistic but most of the rest just adds bulk and hope to the process.

A huge percentage of my interviews have involved direct communication with my target person. More than half were done eye to eye (really mouth to ear), and most of those were done when I was learning how, usually on the road last century gathering travel material. I asked and they responded, and I translated and wrote what they said into a notepad, in a kind of shorthand that spontaneously evolved (nouns mostly, other key words underlined.) It was give and take, staccato fashion, one question/a reply, segues… My goal was about five minutes, which was a long time for them and for me. It rarely lasted 30 minutes; an hour interview never happened.

Well, that sense of brevity may be somewhat misleading because many “interviews” became conversations, and ended when it was comfortable or necessary to do so. If the other person wanted to keep talking I was usually game to do so (unless I absolutely had to be somewhere else right then–sometimes we resumed the exchange later over lunch or coffee.) Other times they just wanted someone to talk to, or were lonely, or were proud of what they had done or seen and wanted to share more of it. That was fine. Often it gave me more, better information and a deeper interview.

Occasionally I was drawn to an interviewee. I wanted to know them better, and (hard to believe) that seemed mutual. They were interesting, often passionate about some cause, and they almost always bubbled or bristled with humor. What they said was worth sharing; it was fun; they were worth knowing. A few of those contacts became lifelong friends, particularly those still living.

But mostly interviewing is fast and focused. It’s kind of a dancing duel: you extracting what you need (and hoping for more); them telling you what they want you (and your readers) to hear, hoping they didn’t say too much.

In my mind, first interviews should be courteous, painless, and fairly fast, leaving open the possibility of a later follow-up. But I don’t mention that before or during the first interview other than asking them how I might later contact them should I run into a fact or a phrase that needs clarification and asking for or verifying an address where I would send them a copy of the printed article. (If you offer, do send it.)

Most of my interviews not done eye-to-eye were done by telephone. Those weren’t as satisfactory because you couldn’t tell how much of what they were saying was true, a greased lie, or something in between. Nor did you ever know if the voice you were hearing belonged to the actual person you had called. (I don’t think I ever interviewed a stiff or a stand-in, but surprisingly often they grilled me to make sure I was the journalist they were supposed to be talking to and that I was writing an article for such-and-such a publication. Everyday people took me at face (or voice) value, happy to be the one being interviewed. The higher ups were more likely to have their assistant or caretaker vet or check me out first).

Another telephone problem: the tenuous connection between you and the person you are interviewing—one wire—almost invites the other person to simply hang up or disconnect when they have said what they think you should (or need to) hear. It’s a true test of your interviewing (and inventive) magnetism to be able to keep the other person focused and actively responding. Some of that is created before starting the actual interview by getting the respondent’s buy-in to the importance of the exchange so what they say can reach their target listeners’ or readers’ ears.

My restraint to interviewing by phone was personal—and, in my dotage, still is. I grew up weaving waggish humor and pun-riddled, antic wordplay into my everyday conversation. It drove my few friends crazy. But all of that tomfoolery had to be excised when phone interviewing strangers for print, particularly when they envisioned sparks or bolts of radiated global fame emanating from the article (or even book) they would be in. It was their big moment and they didn’t expect mirth or frivolity—any humor at all—then, particularly over the telephone where smiles are never seen and barely heard. So half of what I normally might have said, or how I might have said it, was verboten and probably dumbfounding. However funny, they never, ever would have laughed. They were expecting to be asked to share gems of wisdom, poignant observation, Christian guidance, and household tips. Out the telephonic window flew my witty high jinks, which left the interviewer, me (or you), nearly speechless, jocularly disarmed.

Alas, nothing is incurable when regular eating is at steak. I immediately reverted to my telephone high school date-getting scheme of imploring (or interviewing) by script. My first 100 or so interviews (it may have been 500) were very, very tightly structured, almost every word written or typed. It looked something like this, although where you see ideas below I had complete sentences, short sentences to give them time to respond:

* wee introduction
* reminder of why I was calling and where their words would be shown to the world
* a question
* a second question—these were the most important answers in case something else interrupted the call—it happens often—and there would be no chance to finish… [more on this later]
* [if something relevant in their reply to my questions was said or hinted at I would ask more, prodding queries about it, to provoke more facts or brilliance]
* a third question
* [if they verbally wandered off and what they said would also interest my imaginary readers I let them wander. I only reherded them back into my imaginary readers’ corral of interest when they wore out or I still had a final question to ask]
* fourth question (or more) if needed. See above.
* anything else, Mr./Ms. ____, that I should have asked but didn’t?”
* “is there a phone number I could use to reach you if I find something I need to verify later?
* “I’ll gladly send you a copy of the printed article as soon as it appears—remember, printing can sometimes take months”
* “is ____ the address where I should send the article, in your name?”
* “thank you again, Mr./Mrs. _____, for the information and your time”
* “it sounds like a very interesting article. I appreciate your kindness and your sharing”
* (hang up softly, breathe deeply, wipe brow, hydrate rewardingly, and type out the whole interview then or before nightly repose)

Interviewing by email, or even by social media, is fast, sometimes too public too soon, and a whole lot less expansive. Combined with Skype or other computer-to-computer linking, it’s fairly easy and much faster to talk with others now—if they agree to talk with you.

For example, …

———————————

This is an unedited extraction of part of an early chapter of a book called INTERVIEWING. Check future blogs for more copy about the topic.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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