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If the first five words don’t work, forget the rest.

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It’s all in the lead, stupid!

If you don’t read the first words, you simply won’t read the rest, unless, of course, you’re reading a textbook and you have no choice but to plow on.

But if you’re writing an e-mail or an ad, those first words have to hook ‘em. Which is why leads are called “hook leads” in journ class or ad writing workshops.

The same with articles. The first paragraph, a sentence or two, has to whet your appetite for more.

Usually the second paragraph is called the transitional paragraph, and it straightens out what follows. For example:

“The ocean tasted like the Tagos River.”

“The sailors fell to their knees and shouted prayers to God! It would be three days before they saw land, but they had reached the mighty thrust of the silty, sweet Amazon…”

What about books? Give the manuscript of your steamy novel to an editor and she will read the first page. If that doesn’t work, you must, to make that opening compelling, electric, captivating…

How do I know? I’ve been an editor almost forever. The text has to grab you, direct you, keep you, and wow you, pretty much in that order.

Is that important to remember every time you submit copy to sell? Just if you want to be in print regularly, reliably, and profitably.

If you don’t believe me, just read the newspaper.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I talk about this and travel writing in the Travel Writer’s Guide. And I focus some on editing in my free, monthly newsletter.

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Swearing in print?

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I just was asked this three times in about 10 days so I guess it’s an issue now, or at least a concern. But I must admit, most of you know the answer, and it hasn’t crossed my mind in a long time.

The answer is–why? That’s not no, because it works in certain cases, but unless there’s a specific purpose for swearing, it probably is a dumb idea simply because so many folks wince and nay-shake (at least internally) when you do it.

When does it work? Almost exclusively in fiction, and that to establish a character, a level, and a social setting. Think of the movies. Low class, gangsters, smart-ass (excuse me) teens, and so on. If that’s how the character speaks, then that’s the purpose.

But it’s alarming when it’s found in a kid’s adventure book, the church manual, or the newspaper. And most everywhere else too.

Another exception: in quotes. “Damn the torpedoes!” And words like hell, damn, bimbo, and crap are so commonly used that they no longer give the vapors to widows. Still, they are used with caution.

Here is the best guide. Figure out where you want your writing to appear. If in a magazine, for example, study quickly the last three articles about a similar topic on those pages. Do what they did.

Books, more freedom. The rule is whether the speaker swears, when, and to what level. That’s your guide.

Just don’t conclude that because junior high schoolers are often trench mouths, everybody else is too. They will outgrow it (if their granny doesn’t scrub their mouth clean first).

The editor passing judgment on whether to pay you for your script or article is considerably older and has a job at stake. In non-fiction, I can’t remember (as an editor) ever letting obscenities go through. Granted, I’m 100 years old, but I don’t see any real change in the past two decades.

So unless there’s a real reason, save the purple prose for the editors who reject even your cleanest prose!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I promise not to swear (much) in my free, monthly newsletter.

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A great but little-known selling target for your book or products…

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If you have an information book or product, make a list of every group, vocation, avocation, or even dreamer who would pay to know more about what your pages say.

Then figure out where they would go to be instructed and meet others with the same knowledge need or quest.

Did you include workshops, seminars, or classes on your list?

Think particularly about extended education programs, though they may hide under the category of learning annex, continuing education, or sometimes even adult education.

This field I know since I’ve given more than 1,500 paid presentations this way (mostly in California, but also Illinois, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Nevada). And like most of my colleagues, I sell my own products (many custom-made for that topic)–books, reports, audio CDs, and (later) consulting. But I’ve also sold thousands of books from others.

Probably more important to this blog, I sell many of my products to other seminar-givers who sell them back-of-the-room at their programs. They usually buy 10-20 at a time, 40% off, and they pay shipping (usually media mail if they order with enough anticipation).

One book, The Travel Writer’s Guide, is now in its third edition, thanks mostly to a hungry cadre of travel-related talkers! I just got an order, and that provoked me to share this with you.

Finding the presenters is hardest (though many one of my BOR buyers attended or bought my “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” audio CD program, then added my books that way). I’d contact every college or university in your state (a post card or phone call is enough) requesting a copy of their coming catalog. Then match the instructor and class to what you offer, and pitch your offer directly to him or her. (If you have a digital copy of your product, send it to that person free, if they are already established as a presenter and they are interested.)

You can also find some of these presenters’ names by using Google. Start with the subject, then add college or extended education and the state. Play around with related words…

The best part of this selling source? If the buyer is good, they will offer the class again and again–several of my own programs are now 25 years old, and I’ve been selling BOR items to several others for 15 or so years! That means lots of books ordered two or three times a year. And they are bought in advance!

The last question: will we accept returns of unsold books? Yes, they get a 35% discount for returnable books, and they must still be in the shrinkwrap and undamaged when we get them back. (Very few are returned.)

You can make a lot more money offering the seminars or workshops, plus your own BOR sales. But helping others with your products on their BOR table (and mailing list) is a sweet luxury worth seeking.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. Have you checked my free, monthly newsletter about writing, speaking, and publishing? Glad to have you aboard!

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12 more ways to turn your book into many more…

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Below is a summary list of the BONUS REPORT included in my just-released e-book How to Pick the Right Kind of Publisher: A Pre-Journey Map to Success.

Called “Twelve More Ways to Turn Your Book Into Many More,” just see how many of these slants will work for any of your books in print, or soon to be.

“Once you have written a book, you have a core from which many more books can be developed. Each can ultimately earn you as much as the original, plus draw new attention to the first book to increase its earnings and longevity. The spin-off books are generally new editions of the original book that develop more fully elements introduced in the first book or they are books about closely related topics of interest to the same buying market.

Each successive book is easier to research (you know the sources), easier to produce (you know the process), and easier to sell (you know the buyers).

Best of all, easier to sell. People want more good things from the same good writer. Which is why your first book must be excellent. And why it makes huge sense to go to that same well time and again.  

Here are 12 ways to turn your first book into many:

(1) Go back to the same book, then update and expand it…

(2) Write a time-dated book, and follow with the updates…

(3) Write a many-pronged book, like Five Things Every Successful C.P.A. Needs To Know. Write a book about each prong…

(4) Write the follow-up to the many-pronged book, also many-pronged, like Ten More Things Crucial to Successful Accounting…

(5) Focus on stages of importance to your buying market, beginning with any stage and filling out the cycle with subsequent books…

(6) Having become identified with a core topic by writing about it, now gather all the other writing about that topic…

(7) Produce a book of comic relief, usually an anthology…

(8) Use case studies for books…

(9) Write a source book about your core topic…

(10) Why not a how-to, step-by-step problem-solution action guidebook?

(11) Use the topic but change the buying market and the related facts…

(12) Ask what other needs you can solve in a book for the buyers of your books….

There are more details about this list, of course, in the e-book. But the list might help you get going…

I describe How to Pick the Rght Kind of Publisher  more fully at my free, monthly newsletter (see the 9/7 edition), or check Share this:
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7 times when using Lulu, CreateSpace, Blurb, Scribd, and Smashwords (with iPad and Kindle) makes huge sense…

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What follows, in quotes, is an excerpt (pp.15-6) from my just-released e-book How to Pick the Right Kind of Publisher: A Pre-Journey Map to Success. 

The income from these ancillary publishing sources is shaky and unproven, but these seven situations are when I’d go that route:

“(1) If you have a novel or kids’ book that nobody is paying the proper attention to, create the final book probably in Lulu or CreateSpace, buy 25 copies of your own book, and launch a serious book proposal campaign to the top 20 publishers at once to get your book bought and out. It’s a lot easier to sell a good-looking book, with a proposal attached, to an established editor than it is to sell a manuscript.

(2) If your book is family-oriented, nobody will publish it if you don’t. Like a family tree, family history, memoirs, a book about your kids, a wedding or family travel book, or a family reunion.

(3) If you need a core book to empire-build around, create the model book through one of the ancillary publishers, then develop all the support information dissemination means in-house, to sell, along with the core book. You can expand that message through audio CDs, workbooks, class outlines, newsletters, a website, apps, software, and the speaking tools. For example, if you need something to prove your expertise so you can get a $2,500 speech booked, start with a good-looking $5 book to give free to the potential booker(s)!

(4) Or if you’re writing a promo book—like a giveaway to banks, school boards, or barbershop quartets—create a prototype by ancillary publishing, buy 20, test them, P.O.D. print 100 more, then every time you sell that concept, you publish the modeled book by the same process, through ancillary publishing, P.O.D., and/or your own publishing firm…

(5) If you want to help your beloved aunt put her pickle recipe book in print, ancillary publishing is the way. Why? Because (a) it won’t happen any other way, (b) there may be 1000 other pickle people waiting for her words, (c) the world gets her lifetime of knowledge preserved in print, and (d) your great-grandkids will get to share your old aunty with their great-grandkids!

(6) An obvious example: a middle-aged lady showed me a 32-page example of her “Ragamuffin Learns to …. sew, draw cartoons, fish, jump rope” books. Each had a different activity or craft. They looked great and could be printed in black-and-white or color. She had created a template cover and basic format layouts for each book. She could then print them when they were ready, letting the ancillary publishers put the book together and sell them. She said to me, “I can only sell 50 a week because I spend so much time stapling!” Now she can focus on the design and content and has an almost-instant, easily accessible outlet through one or several of the ancillary publishers.

(7) Art books, photo books, anything heavy on color and design, are expensive to print and almost impossible for self-publishers to afford to produce in quantities they can sell. Ancillary publishers to the rescue, particularly Blurb. Right now this is the only road to put your film and photos in others’ hands in a quality printing at a high but affordable cost.”

——–

See more about this e-book at my newsletter on Sept. 7.

In the meantime, if you want a $10-off coupon when you submit the order, enter SEPT ONLY in the coupon box.

And if you need a book that deciphers submitting to the ancillary publishers and explains the whole process step-by-step, buy How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days  in bound or immediately downloadable digital format.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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