Author Solutions, authors, Publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson, writing

From blog to book: Westbow Press author Mark Eckel tells how he did it.

I just need time to thinkI speak to bloggers all the time who generate content on a regular basis and contemplate creating a book from their blog, but they never quite seem to get the goal.  That’s why I was pleased to speak with Mark Eckel, who has turned his blog content into a book titled, I Just Need Time to Think: Reflective Study as Christian Practice, which was published by Westbow Press.

Mark (meckel@lbc.edu) is Professor of Leadership, Education, and Discipleship for Capital Seminary & Graduate School.  Indianapolis,  Dr. Eckel has written and published curricula, peer-reviewed journal articles, periodical essays, book and movie reviews, as well as his weekly blog Warp and Woof.

I was curious to find out how he accomplished a goal many bloggers talk about but never accomplish.  I think you will find his answers to my questions  very helpful and motivating.

What inspired you to start writing your blog?

Compulsion. I was induced and coerced into putting pen to paper. As a Christian I know that being compelled to write comes from The Spirit of God who lives in me. In our culture, the natural means for writing is what has come to be known as “blogging.” I was inspired from the inside to write, inspired from the outside to blog.

What have you found most enjoyable about maintaining a blog?

Everything. I enjoy all of life and revel in the whole of the world. The title for someone like me in a university setting is “interdisciplinarian.” I believe everything crisscrosses everything else creating a unity we know is there but cannot see. A blog allows me to explore everything I read, see, hear, and do. Enthusiasm about knowledge and excitement about sharing what I have discovered with others brings a smile to my face.

What made you decide to turn your blog into a book?

Credibility. The immediacy of blogging is clear: information floods our world so we can access the data instantaneously. A book has the power of physical, visible influence. Rightly or wrongly, people gauge some authority based on what a person can show they have accomplished. As an academic I wanted to have three books available for people who would demonstrate my ability in reflective study, movie review, and teaching-learning.

Why was it important to have your content as a book and not just as a blog?

Credentialing. As a teacher for over 30 years I have had to document the outcomes of my craft. As an author, I now have a record for others to assess. By writing a book I am holding myself accountable to others who can now critique my work as an academic. But I am also answering questions that everyone ponders in one way or another. A book says to people, “You cared enough to organize your thoughts about a subject so that we could read them in one whole book.”

 What advice would you give someone who wants to start a blog?

Eckel blog

Author Mark Eckel took his blog http://www.warpandwoof.org and turned into a book from his post.

 Write. Just write. Don’t wait, write. Write when you want to, write when you don’t want to. Write now, write then. Set up a time that is best for you to write, but then, write. For me, I have the most creative energy in the morning. I normally wake up by 4 a.m. or before. I stay away from email and internet. I read at least 40 to 50 pages of periodicals or books. I take notes. I write while I’m reading and note-taking. But my counsel is always the same: write, write, write.

What advice would you give someone who wants to turn his or her blog into a book?

 Plan. A book is very different from a blog. If you read my website (www.warpandwoof.org) you will see I write about a lot of different subjects. But when I’m planning to create a book I have to ask myself my purpose for my subject. For instance, when I was writing my current book When the Lights Go Down: Movie Review as Christian Practice (Westbow, September, 2014 release) I wrote weekly for six months toward the book. My plan about writing a book about movies was first generated through my blog.

 What has been most surprising to you once you published your book?

I Just Need Time to Think: Reflective Study as Christian Practice (Westbow, 2014) gave me vigor to write again. I did not expect to want to put another book together immediately but I was energized to do When the Lights Go Down and am now planning the third in the series Education is Ownership: Teaching-Learning as Christian Practice (working title, forthcoming). Instead of being tired of writing, I want to write more!

 Anything else you would want to tell readers?

Read. If you don’t read you won’t write. You can read a tablet, laptop, or hold the spine of a book in your hand—but read. Read everything you can get your hands on about your passion. Read people who disagree with you. Read authors you don’t know. Read to learn more and understand by reading, how much more you don’t know. Reading should be a humbling experience. Now I want to tell people about what I read. If I want to write, I have to read.

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Author Solutions, authors, Publishing, self publishing, writing

From idea to published book: Advice for aspiring authors from Westbow Press author Rob Wingerter

Rob Wingerter did not set out to be an author. In fact, like many first-time authors these days, he took a circuitous route to getting published.  He has spent the better part of his life and career as a partner with a global accounting firm specializing in tax matters. Along the way, he was led to open a retreat center called Mahseh.

You can read about and watch a video where he explains his journey on his blog, www.robwingerter.com. However, what I also found interesting was his advice to aspiring authors. Rob wrote his book, Regaining Your Spiritual Poise as a means to inform people on the topic of retreat and to establish his credibility on this subject.  Along the way, he learned some things about what it takes to get from idea to holding a book in your hands. In this 90 second video, he talks about his process and  provides some  tips on how to stay on task and set yourself up to keep moving toward your goal. I think you will find his perspective helpful.

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Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, book marketing, Ebooks, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

What types of memoirs do traditional publishers look to publish?

memoirsOne of the many changes that has come about because of self publishing is an increase in the number of memoirs that are written and published every year. The motivation for writing varies. Some want to capture their own story to leave as a personal legacy. Some want to share their experiences because they think it will help others. Still others have it on their bucket list and want to make sure it gets crossed off. Regardless of the reason why they are written, memoir is one the most significant categories of books that are self published as compared with traditional publishing.

Yet, there are many memoir authors that still aspire to be picked up by traditional publishing house. An admirable goal, but a difficult one because many memoirs are not as commercially viable as say a YA fiction book. However, that does not mean traditional publishers will never acquire a memoir. The criterion for what they look for is very clear. I say that because I asked a number of agents and editors what they look for in a memoir before they would consider it. Here’s what they said.

….memoir is one the most significant categories of books that are self-published.

Celebrity Appeal: This one is kind of obvious, but it needs to be on the list. If a person is noteworthy in some way, it may garner some interest from a traditional publisher, but this is not something you can control. Being famous or well-known isn’t usually a planned activity.

Teaching Material: Some life stories can instruct or inspire others so another way to get the attention of a traditional publisher is make your memoir something we can all learn from.

A Compelling Tale: Some people have simply lived a life that reads like a good fiction novel or seems almost like a movie. It has the typical elements of a good story. A good example of this type of memoir is the Pursuit of Happiness

One other helpful piece of advice: One of the panels I sat on included a very seasoned agent who had also worked as an editor for a traditional publisher. She suggested some memoirs can be made more commercially appealing by simply pulling out a section of the story instead of telling everything. Some authors are hesitant to do that because it is their story and they want it told in whole, not part.

Do you have a memoir in process or have you published one already. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book signings, Indie book publishing, self publishing

Confused about how to do book marketing? Here is a simple way to build an effective marketing plan.

Book Marketing sign postIt wasn’t that long ago that the biggest challenge for a writer was getting published. Clearly that has changed because now there are four paths to publishing which I have written about extensively. So getting your book into the hands of readers is not the obstacle it once was. Now what I hear from authors is confusion about how to market their books. They seem overwhelmed or not sure where to start.

Knowing this POEM will help you.

So in this blog post I want to give you a simple framework and acronym for how to think about book marketing that will take some of the mystery out of the process. Any good integrated marketing campaign has four key activities. Publicity. Online. Events. Multi-Media. That forms the acronym POEM, which is an easy way to remember what you need to do.

Publicity is using the traditional media to make sure people know about your book. By traditional media, I mean newspapers, television and radio. To be effective in this activity, you need to be clear on the elevator pitch for your book and the audience you are trying to reach. Tactically, you will likely need a press release and a simple media kit you can use to pitch producers and journalists. The key with publicity as with the other categories is being clear on what you are going to do and what you need to hire someone to do for you.

On-line is perhaps the biggest opportunity for all authors. I believe a key element is having a blog. This is a way to create an ongoing connection with your audience. Use keywords and tags to make your content show up in searches. And be sure to have an email for media who want to reach you.

You should also be selective and strategic about social media platforms. What I have learned is Facebook is good for some books and worthless for others. Same thing with LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and whatever the next platform that will appear. Try some things and figure out what works best for your book. Use the analytics available to you to see what creates traffic and engagement. Also, be sure to gather email addresses. That way you are building a list to which you can market future opportunities.

Book signingEvents is the third area where you should focus. The first and most important event is your book launch party. You can do this in very creative ways, but every author should celebrate the publication of the book. Then look for other opportunities for book signings and speaking engagements in your area with groups that would be interested in your topic. Libraries are also a great place to connect with for events.

Multi-media is the fourth area of a solid integrated marketing plan. We are an image driven culture so I believe having a video or book trailer is critical. If you do one, make sure it is produced well. You want it to make a good first impression and you can use it to help you with your other areas. Post it on your blog. Send it as part of your pitch to media. You may also want to consider creating an app for your book depending on what type of book you have.

 

Putting POEM to work for you.

Marketing is work, but with POEM you have a framework for creating the right type of plan to make sure you are engaged in the right activities and not missing something. However, even with a plan, the biggest challenge for many authors is persistence and consistency. It is easy to get discouraged, but the most successful self-published authors I know just keep at it.

Questions to ask as you get started.

So look at what you are doing right now. Do you have plans or activity in each of the four key categories of an integrated campaign? If so, that is great, but no matter what you are doing now, you should still write down a six or twelve month plan to keep yourself accountable. Then once you do that, you should make an honest assessment of what you can do yourself and where you need help.

Hopefully you find POEM helpful and please use the comment section to let me know what else you are doing to organize your marketing activities.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Even in the media drenched times in which we live, books still impact lives in unique and signficant ways.

A number of years ago, I wrote a white paper titled, The Democratization of Publishing.  I suggested then that one of the key benefits of self publishing was not just getting to market quicker or earning more royalties, but using books to make a difference in the lives of others. Author Solutions (AS) has recently started a campaign that validates that claim.

Under the banner of Real Authors, Real Impact, AS is highlighting authors that have published a book for the purpose of impacting others. In this campaign, there are stories of authors who have promoted organ donation and saved countless lives, helped raise awareness of domestic sex slavery, even helped changed laws.  You can find the complete list of stories in the campaign on the Author Solutions site by clicking here. 

In the meantime, this video is a compilation of some of the stories you will see in the campaign. If you wonder if your book can make a difference, watch the video. I think you will find it to be motivating and inspirational.

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Author Solutions, authors, self publishing, writing

Overcoming 5 Common Roadblocks That Keep Writers From Finishing Their Books (Part 1)

RoadblockHaving an idea for a book is really easy.  Starting a book is easy, but writing to finish is difficult and very few people actually reach the goal. Why is that?  I believe it is because the path to a finished book has many obstacles.

Why do some authors get published and others do not?  Well, I have authored three books myself, but more importantly, I have had hundreds of conversations with authors. It is from those chats that I have seen five common roadblocks that prevent writers from getting the manuscript to finished book.  Here is that list and some ways you can overcome them.

  1. Forgetting why you wanted to write the book
  2. Losing the discipline of writing regularly
  3. Losing sight of the day you want to hold your book
  4. Doubt creeps in.
  5. Unclear what you will do when you are done writing.

Forgetting why you wanted to write the book. There is usually some moment of inspiration or impetus that causes an author to want to write.  It is very easy along the way of doing the hard work of completing the manuscript to forget that reason.  Motivation is tied to remembering why.  So it is a very, very simple thing to do, but take a piece of paper and write down why you wanted to write the book in the first place.  Put that paper where you can see it every time you sit down to write.

Motivation is tied to remembering why

Losing the discipline of writing regularly. One thing I have seen that is common to all authors who are successful in self-publishing is they determine the best time to write and they block that time on the calendar.  Every author who I have spoken to usually has a time that is better than others for them to write.  Most authors can write more in one good hour than in three hours when not in the right space or time.

I remember one time I was sitting with an author who is quite prolific.  She has published more than 30 book and I wanted to test this theory with her.  I was having lunch with she and her husband.  I asked her the question, “Is there a particular time that you find yourself more productive in writing?”  Before she could answer the question, her husband said, “5:30 in the morning.”  He knew being married to her that there was a time when she was more productive than not.  So that is an important thing to remember, and what I find is if you try to write only when you have time, you will not be as successful. Other things will rush in and fill up the most productive time you have for writing.  So make an appointment with yourself on your calendar and block that time.

I will address the remaining three roadblocks in my next post. In the meantime, use the comments section to let me know if you think there are any other roadblocks I did not address. (To Be Continued)

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Ebooks, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

Can a video help your book be discovered by more readers?

In a recent issue of Publishing Perspectives, Gabriel Pena i Ballesté, the CEO Bookmovies.tv, wrote an article, titled, The book trailers: The best plan to connect books and readers. His main premise is video is a great way to help with discoverability. Given we are a media and image driven culture, I tend to agree.

Pena is CEO of company focused on creating book trailers, so he clearly has a bias, but he offered some helpful things to keep in mind as you think about creating a book trailer. I have taken some of his advice and added some of my thoughts to help you as you develop video content to promote your book.

  1. Be clear on the goal of your book trailer before you begin.  Are you creating a teaser? Are you creating a campaign? Are you trying to establish your credibility as an author? If you are not clear on what you want to accomplish with your video, chances are the video will not be as powerful.
  2. Keep it short. We have media ADD as a culture so it is important you make your point as quickly as possible.
  3. Have some distribution channels in mind. If you create a video, but are not sure where you will post it or how you will drive traffic to see it, you may be wasting your time.  Start with your own blog as the first place to post and then anywhere your book is for sale online.
  4. Don’t think a video is a substitute for reviews and recommendations. A video is a great promotional tool, but you should still pursue reviews and endorsements from others. It will only make your promotional plan that much stronger.

In short, a book trailer should be part of your marketing plan, because it can help with discoverability, but you should keep these four points in mind as you create the video. In addition, I have provided some examples of videos promoting books that may inspire you. Enjoy

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