Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How to help your writing help you.

One thing you have got to realize and take so seriously is that every piece of writing that you let out into the world is going to work for you FOREVER. That means that it is going to represent you to people who have never heard of you, and many who have read nothing else from you other than what pops up in a search on the internet. You have to consider every single piece of your writing as a possible introduction to you. That means you have to always consider your grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as any visual design that might accompany your work. Think of it like this: every piece you send out into the world is a little foot soldier representing you and going to work for your brand. So it has to dress nicely, speak respectfully, and inspire!

What happens when you meet someone who trips over themselves and knocks over your coffee when reaching out to shake your hand? You get a very quick, probably negative impression. What happens when you meet someone in a business environment who is wearing an old shoddy blazer, smells like they have not bathed in weeks and hasn’t shaven for just as long? You get a probably negative impression. And how do you feel when someone spits on you while meeting them for the first time? You might have a negative impression.

In the same way, you can also be very impressed with an initial meeting. Someone who dresses well, looks like they take care of themselves and doesn’t behave in some ridiculous fashion actually gives you an opportunity to hear what they are saying, as opposed to hearing their negative behavior. And then there is room for the AHA moment where epiphany strikes. That’s what you want every interaction with a reader to feel like. You want to be someone who lights epiphanies in their mind. This builds value in your perceived brand. And it encourages others to spread the word about what they have experienced.

So be aware of your foot soldiers. Take care of them, train them well, teach them to be respectful and mind their manners. If indeed, you have something worthy of sharing, they will serve you well.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What is your Author Platform?

Think of your platform as your launching pad. The place you’re taking off from. Essentially, it’s where you are today in terms of your exposure, your following, your regular speaking gigs and the organizations you’re already involved with. Publishers and others who are going to be interested in getting into bed with you (hey now!) are going to want to know how impressive you are. The way you demonstrate your grandeur is by presenting your platform, in descending order of impressiveness. Items that would be included in your platform might be:

1. The appearance you did on MSNBC last month.
2. Your long-standing relationship with the Boys and Girls Club.
3. The 35,000 friends you have amassed on facebook.
4. The 3 people who follow you on Twitter.
5. The 3 reading groups you participate in regularly.
6. The 17 speeches you gave to regional writing groups.
7. The online articles you’ve written for
8. The published article you wrote that was accepted by Cookbooks Anonymous Magazine.
9. The 347 people on your regular newsletter list.
10. Your current, up-to-date and smashing looking website!

Ultimately, your potential business partners want to know who you know, and who they can rely on to support you both through publicity and book sales. So your platform is where you are today.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why not just start writing?

I'm a huge fan of spending time building characters before beginning the plot.

1. Label your main characters' greatest fears and desires.

2. Write a narrative around the root of each of those fears and desires. What was the moment that created the emotional scar, or the euphoria?

3. Repeat this process for ten fears and desires.

The goal of this exercise is to bring your characters to life. Think about how you act on a regular basis. We are faced with millions of choices every day and each choice comes up against an unconscious fear vs. desire. Even simple thoughts like what to have for dinner. Desire for flavor vs fear of gaining weight. Choices like whether or not to be honest with our spouse about our sexual desire for fear of being romantically rejected. If you can build the source of each of these fears and desires for multiple characters and then stick them in a room together with goals they want to achieve, they'll play off each other like ping pongs.

The idea here is that if you develop them well enough, they'll have their own agendas and you'll just be the conduit. If you're having to "think" too much, then your characters are not alive and chances are good that they will all sound a lot like YOU, not themselves.

Once I have my character bibles down, I do a skeletal plot outline; only one sentence per scene. (Because the character bibles are done, the characters inform the outline.) Then I move into an in depth outline, similar to what screenwriters call a treatment. One paragraph per scene. This gives me time to really dig into the plot and I make the majority of my big changes here which saves SO MUCH time when I move into writing chapters.

Then I begin with chapter one, knowing it will be the chapter that will be rewritten the most. I don't start with exposition mind you; I begin by dropping the characters into the middle of conflict. "John felt for the wedding ring in his pocket as Mandy cornered him in the alleyway that night. She had already killed three people in the last hour and John was the last one blocking her path to freedom." CONFLICT where both the protagonist and the antagonist have a reason to fight for their life, figuratively or literally.

I use chapter to create the style and the rhythm that I'm looking for in this particular piece. Then I move chapter by chapter, attempting to stick to the outline, but not being afraid to stray if the characters tell me they have agendas that they have to explore.

I hope this helps you! Oh yeah...and "sit your ass in the chair and do your damned job!" When I get stuck I look over at that sign I have posted on the wall. It was something a business coach once told me and I've never forgotten it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

EDGE has been named a finalist

We are pleased to announce that EDGE! A Leadership Story has been named a finalist for the National Best Books 2008 Awards in the category of Business/Motivational.

We want to extend our thanks to each and every one of you who have supported this effort and who continue to spread the word about this work. If you have not yet read the book, we invite you to pick up a copy today at

Thank-you again for your continued support.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How do you carry on when it’s WHO you know, not how you write…

It's a combination. The reality is that you do need to know people. That's why it takes ten to twenty years to build a successful writing career. Accept it and get busy on the marketing of your work so you can be seen. Writing is a business. If you fail to treat it as such, you'll wind up pissed off with nobody reading you. Your talent is only one of four elements you have to focus on:

1. Development: all things related to your writing ability (classes, exercises, writing gigs, your novel, conferences, writing magazines, reading competitive work).

2. Marketing: This is how you communicate with your potential audience. Who would benefit from reading your books? You have to find them, reach out to them and convince them to spend their time and money reading your work. You can do this through a website, through getting short stories published, or through a blog you write.

3. Networking: everyone you meet falls into one of two categories: 1) they can buy your work; 2) they can commission you to write something for them. It is imperative that you collect contact info from everyone you meet for step 4.

4. Publicity: whenever you have a writing victory (getting published, receiving an award, getting reviewed, etc), you have to have a mechanism for reaching out and telling people. If you don't shout it form the rooftops people will assume you're doing nothing and that does not benefit you. People love watching artists become successful - it makes them feel they are a piece of the dream. Publicize your successes.

Focus on each of these 4 areas equally and you’ll build a legit career.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How do I avoid being too sales-y with my writing?

This one’s easy. Don’t SELL in your writing. Focus on providing valuable information. The goal of your writing is actually not to sell. It’s to demonstrate your validity as an expert in your field. Few people have the ability to close a deal with writing alone. You need your writing to invite people into your sphere. From there you have to find a way to relationship build, either through personal contact, blogging, vlogging, working on small projects, advising, etc. Once the trust is there, selling happens naturally. So spend your time giving away the information you have been working so hard to obtain. Give it away for free over and over again and people will flock to your business in droves. And some of those people will become clients or customers. Some of them will work with you on small projects and some of them will work with you for years. Contrary to what so many professionals advise, I say stop trying to sell and start trying to help people. Make a difference in their life and they will pay to keep you around. It’s a fair trade. The man with money meets the woman with experience and they trade. So get out there and make yourself trustworthy by caring and affecting change.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Should my business be sending out press releases?

Yes, Yes and Yes. The real answer to this question though lies not in just sending out releases. What most press releases lack is a good emotional hook…a reason for a journalist to want to call for more information and to run a story. They receive hundreds of releases every day. The key is tapping into what is timely in the news cycle. If the economy is in turmoil and that is all that news stations and print media are reporting on, your environmental press release about going green is going to get passed right by. However, if you angle it to how people can save money by going green…AH-HA! PR is all about the angle, and it’s all about repetition. If the media has never heard of you before, they are going to assume you will disappear as quickly as you showed your face. So demonstrate longevity through repetition. Consistently sending out new releases that impress the media gives them an opportunity to get to know you…to get to like you…to eventually buy into your story.

So the simple answer to whether or not you should be sending out releases is “yes”. The more important answer though is related to what they say and how often are you sending them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How do I find an editor for my novel?

I'll always edit up to three pages at no cost. It is important for the writer to see the style of the editor. We all work differently. I do a line edit and pages of notes. The notes are for overall issues and the line edit gives them a definitive path for each issue I raise so a writer is not left in the dark about what to do. I'm also on the higher priced side, so it is especially important that writers know what they are getting for the money and view it as a valuable trade. Never just consider price, though. Look at strengths and weaknesses. I specialize in character development, dialogue, plot structure and rhythm and flow. I do not excel with language. We all excel in different areas. You will want to respect an editor's time and not just ask everyone to do a free edit. Find three you really like who are in your price range and ask each of them for a short sample. If you really like them and they won't do it for free, you might consider paying for a short sample--it's not unheard of. The main point is that you want the best quality at a price that is just out of your reach. Too far out of your reach and you'll be too stressed as a result. Too under your reach and you won't get the value you really need to push you to that next level.
 Best of luck!

Monday, November 10, 2008

How can I increase business with my writing?

In this day and age where everyone is making quick decisions based on what they find on the internet, how you communicate with your potential customer has tremendous relevancy to your bottom line. How many websites have you visited that failed to capture you immediately, and so you moved on? How many were full of errors that turned you off and possibly even offended you? How many were simply so verbose that you took one look and bolted off the site?

So here are three ways to increase business with your writing:

1. Crystallize your current message. The goal is to use as few words as possible to motivate someone to action. Being overly verbose is detrimental to your business, like the guy at the party who won’t stop talking well beyond everyone around him getting the point. You need to speak to your reader’s hearts, to their minds, and to their spirits, all in one or two sentences. If you’re not doing that, you’re losing potential business.

2. Be Bold. Your writing is an opportunity to communicate your core values and your beliefs as a business; an opportunity to turn off those who would otherwise waste your time, and an opportunity to light a fire under those who see life from a similar perspective. So be bold. Be authentic. Lay it on the table and you’ll find that you’ll attract more business that is aligned with you!

3. Increase your frequency of communication. If you do not have a blog, you are failing to capitalize on one of the greatest marketing revolutions of our time. The more frequently you give away exceptional and free information, the more you become a trusted expert in the minds of those who read you. When we have a legitimate problem, where do we look first for an answer? To whom we trust. When we have money we want to trade for experience or a product that will impact our life, where do we want to go first? To whom we trust. This passive sales approach can bring in tremendous business, and most importantly, business that has been vetted through the building of a relationship between the potential customer and your blog (which they see as YOU!). One blog written daily can create relationships with hundreds and thousands of potential buyers who are comfortable with you because they feel like they know you and what you stand for. That’s powerful!

The more intentional we are about honoring how people search for information, and the more we articulate what we offer, the better we position ourselves as the solution to a potential buyer’s problem. Become a trusted provider of solutions, and you’ll have prospects lined up out the door, and across the internet!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How do I choose a title for my book?

In my experience, titles come from a lot of crappy brainstorming. Write lists of possible titles. Even if 100% of that list is garbage, the act of writing down possibilities engages the brain. Then you have to let your mind do its work. Think about the title in the shower, in the car, while you’re drifting off to sleep. You want to know when I named “From the Barrio to the Board Room”?


I woke up from a dream and there it was. I wrote Robert an email immediately before I forgot it and here we are today. And that’s not the only book I named at 3am! Titles have many incarnations. It is the act of intentionally playing with combinations of words that eventually leads to the AH-HA you’re after.

So make lists. Discuss possibilities. Keep something to write with at your side. Try ideas out on friends.

Eventually the choice will become obvious.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How does PR work?

The key to generating PR is repetition. The media is very skeptical of what they read and so it takes time to generate buy-in. Buy-in is created by being consistent and submitting solid content to the same media players over and over again. Think of it like this:

1. 1st release reaction: never heard of them.

2. 2nd release: who are these guys?

3. 3rd release: I think I’ve heard of them before.

4. 4th release: So what do they do?

5. 5th release: Looks like a solid company.

6. 6th release: I should keep them in mind.

Then the boss comes down the hall and says we need “such and such” a story, and the reporter says, “I have a great company I’ve been following for that.” Then BAM you get the call and suddenly your story is being told.

An ideal campaign is one release every two weeks. Results traditionally begin as online and printed stories. Then after a few of those have been acquired, you graduate to radio coverage and then eventually to TV. TV media wants to know you are ready to handle their stressful environment and so they look at your overall media experience. Radio wants to know you have your story down and so they look to your print experience. Print is the easiest to get because the story is controllable and so we begin there and start building your media portfolio.

What is essential to recognize is that every success is something you can use on your company’s resume forever, so the investment is worthwhile if you have the funding to move forward with a regular campaign.

If your company or you as an individual are eager to begin a PR campaign, we’re available to set up a time to speak to you on the phone and go over the specifics of how we work. You can call us at 815.346.2398, or contact

Monday, November 3, 2008

Setting the scene...

Locations in your book should be as well defined as characters because, in fact, they are characters. Locations are living and breathing. Like people with hearts and minds and souls, locations also have hearts (the community of people that reside there), minds (the government and systems of the community) and souls (that indefinable spirit of a place). So do yourself a favor and treat your setting as though it were a main character. Give it spirit, give it history and eventually you’ll find that the location has its own set of needs and desires.