Pose for the paparazzi. Autograph your books.
Write like a dream, promote like a rock star.
Fame and fortune are yours!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hello stars! I'll be back in the new year with more information and inspiration to make your publishing dreams come true.

Until then, may your self-published books be finally written in 2011, and may they all be wildly successful best sellers!

Donna Marie

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tim Ferriss' amazing new book trailer (pt 2)

Tim Ferriss doesn't know it, but he's become a mentor to me. During a 4-hour road trip this week, I listened to The 4-Hour Workweek and became an instant convert. He describes a life of freedom and discovery that I've always wanted to live. The nest is finally empty, and the little birdies have flown the coop. Now's a perfect time for me to redesign my life and have a little fun for goodness sake!

When I reviewed the video book trailer for Ferriss' new book, The 4-Hour Body (read here), I was so smitten that I decided then and there to buy the book. Well I bought it as a Christmas present for myself. It's big (592 pages), so I doubt if I'll read it from beginning to end. I'll probably jump around a lot to chapters that pertain to my situation (read here).

Ferriss is a marketing machine, and his Amazon stats tell the story: Body is #4; Workweek is #51. His blog was already attracting more than a million visits per month (an author platform that would make any publisher drool), but the video book trailers sent him into the stratosphere.

Here's another trailer promoting Body:

Why am I promoting Ferriss' books? I've always loved the idea of setting "impossible" goals, but that's not why I've devoted now 2 articles to Tim Ferriss. His marketing is a thing of beauty. He understands what we authors must do to market and sell our books. He really gets the mindset we need to have to be successful. Now Ferriss is published by Crown, but the principles still apply to self-publishers -- more so given that we have to do it all ourselves.

Here are some words of wisdom from his HuffPost article:

Authors need to come to terms with a sobering reality: no one is going to care about your book as much as you do...

You are responsible for shepherding your book onto the bestseller list and into the hands of millions. From the idea to finished product, from the marketing plan to windowing, you need to be informed and act as a driving creative force...

Fight for what you believe, using data and compelling arguments. Beyond the satisfaction of a book you've produced with blood, sweat, and tears, there is a science to the bestseller.

Source: The Huffington Post

Donna Marie

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Food recipe ghostwriter reveals all

I had no idea that celebrity chefs use ghostwriters to write their recipes, but really, why am I surprised? Denise Vivaldo, seasoned food professional :), makes a full disclosure about writing the "Infamous Kwanzaa Cake" recipe for Sandra Lee (Semi-Home Made, Food Network) in this Huffington Post article.

Now I believe that ghostwriters should stay behind the scenes, but in this case I make an exception.

A Kwanzaa cake? Really?

Here's the controversial video that started it all.

Was Sandra's use of brown frosting strategic? Maybe she was trying to get the African American vote for her significant other, Governor Andrew Cuomo!

Source: The Huffington Post

Donna Marie

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jumpstart Monday // managing emotions, dealing with writer's depression

Probably the greatest obstacle to writers' success is lodged like a ticking time bomb in our souls. Triggered by setbacks, mistakes, failures, wrong turns, and disappointments, depression and frustration explode when things don't go our way.

You wonder, "I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Why isn't it paying off?" or "What the heck am I supposed to do with the rest of my life?"

Health.com's article, "10 Careers With High Rates of Depression," was a revelation -- not because writing is #6 on the list, but because it was actually acknowledged that writers suffer from depression. 

I'm not a psychologist, but I know that if you don't manage your emotions, if you succumb to depression, writer's block and writer's procrastination are sure to follow. Not a good thing when you're on a deadline. For many, Monday morning is a trigger for depression, and it often begins with feelings of dread Sunday night. 

I subscribe to the simple but brilliant notion that our emotions are indicators of whether or not we're in alignment with God within us. If we're unhappy or fearful (about money, for example), we're out of alignment with that high vibrational state that expresses as Love, Peace, Joy.

When we are feeling loving, peaceful, and joyful, we're in a more receptive frame of mind to see the opportunities that are scattered, like diamonds, all around us, all the time.

So how can you start feeling better right now?

It's unreasonable to expect that positive thinking alone is going to make you feel better. Here's what you can do right now...

1. Acknowledge the feeling. It's telling you something. Listen.

2. It may take a lot of effort, but look for one small thing in your life that makes you happy. Meditate on that. Now think of something else. This is just enough to take some of the edge off, but that's enough to get the happy productivity snowball rolling. 

It seems like a little thing to do, but I guarantee, you're going to feel better.

Remember, the Monday blues is a mindset. Just as easily we can make Monday the best day of the week!

Donna Marie

Friday, December 10, 2010

How a once broke single dad is self-publishing his way to success

J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, was once a single mother on welfare. Now she's a zillionaire. Her widely reported rags to riches story is the stuff of publishing legend.

Today I read another inspirational story, but what makes this one even sweeter is that the writer is self-publishing his way to success via Smashbooks, "an e-book publishing and distribution platform for ebook authors, publishers and readers." Brian S. Pratt, writer of fantasy novels and single father of 3, is, as Smashwords founder Mark Coker put it, "the future of publishing."

Can I tell you that reading this article gave me goosebumps? It made me give thanks to God. I'm telling you, writing stars, the power to publish is in our hands, and it's getting cheaper to do so every day. 

Don't let the bad news media make you succumb to all the financial gloom and doom. Yes, we're in a recession, and unemployment is unacceptably high. You may be so depressed you can't get out of bed. But like He said, "Take up your bed and walk." 

In other words, get up, wipe your eyes, sit at your computer, and get to writing. 

According to Coker, 
"Last quarter, [Pratt] earned over $18,000 from sales across the Smashwords retail distribution network. This quarter, with three weeks to go, he's on track to break $25,000. He's on track to earn over $100,000 in 2011 at Smashwords, and up to $200,000 total when he includes his projected Amazon sales."
Visit Smashwords hereRead Coker's interview with Pratt here. Pay special attention to his marketing approach. Do you know how hard it is to market fantasy fiction? Yet he's doing it. 

I haven't used Smashwords (yet), but as soon as I go through the publishing process, I'll give you my report. In the meantime, if you or someone you know has experience publishing with Smashbooks or any other ebook publisher, please share! 

Donna Marie

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Where to Find Labor for $5

Thanks to Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound, for the heads up about how to hire services for $5! There are some great online resources on the web, but Fiverr.com is now one of my favorites!

Need a snappy headline for your press release?

What about a logo for your business? Or a cartoon for a special report you're publishing?

Need help installing a WordPress blog? Or creating a Twitter account?

Head on over to Fiverr.com where thousands of people have posted little ads about what they're willing to do for $5.

Daniel Hall mentioned this site last week when he was my guest during the webinar on how to create an ebook for the Kindle (see next item below). He suggested it as a place to find a dirt-cheap artist who can create an ebook cover, or a proofreader who can make sure your ebook is error-free.

When I shared the Fiverr link on Friday, during my presentation on blogging for the Wisconsin Business Owners Association, several people in the audience raved about the site. One guy said he paid $5 to have someone install his WordPress blog.

Fiverr.com can be a thrifty alternative to sites like Elance.com, ODesk.com and Vworker.com, particularly if you have a small project and you're in a hurry. 

Reprinted from "The Publicity Hound's Tips of the Week," an ezine featuring tips, tricks and tools for generating free publicity. Subscribe at http://www.publicityhound.com/ and receive by email the handy cheat sheet "89 Reasons to Send a Press Release."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

For your viewing pleasure... SugarStrings

This is off our usual topics, but when kids do good things, you've got to let the world know. SugarStrings is a wonderful trio of young female string musicians -- ages 13, 13, and 18 -- who are doing great things with their music. They were featured last night on Brian Williams' news program (NBC). Enjoy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jumpstart Monday // whip words to SUBDUE writer's block

It happens to even the most experienced writers. You get stuck on a passage. You just don't know what your next article or book will be about. You fear the fountain of creative ideas has run dry.

Well, has a song ever run on a loop in your head?

Have no fear! As long as you have a mind, you'll have creativity. One way to stimulate new ideas is to whip trigger words back and forth through word games -- and like Devo says, whip them good.

We're in the Information/Digital Age. Words are all around us, but here are 3 sources of words to get you started:

1. Urban Dictionary. Regular folks send in their own definitions of slang words, which can be both hilarious and disturbing. For example, check here for the many and varied definitions of "snitch."

2. Google Keywords. This is my favorite keyword search tool. It's free, and if you use Google to search online, this is the tool to use. Using this tool can serve 2 purposes: it can jumpstart creativity, and it will show you how often words and terms are searched on Google. This is wonderful intelligence to have at your fingertips when doing any online writing, researching, or marketing.

3. Merriam-Webster Word of the Day. Sign up here to have the word of the day sent to you via email. Honestly I've been disappointed at the level of difficulty of the words. They are way too easy. However, they can be used to jumpstart creativity. Today's word is "ear candy: music that is pleasing to listen to but lacks depth." Sentence: It could be argued that the above 2 songs are mere ear candy.

Whip them good
Search these tools to see what words jump out at you. Then take the words and play around with them.

One of my favorite word games as a child was to see how many words I could get out of a long word or phrase.

I have friends who LOVE to acronym words. Example: W.O.R.D. = Writing Or Researching Deadlines. This can get irritating in books and presentations if overdone, but you might find that it's great at unlocking writer's block.

Word mapping is another fun creative word game. Write a word in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Draw lines like spokes from the word and write down whatever associations and creative ideas spring to mind. This game is effective at turning on the fountain. Ideas stimulate new ideas and then the next thing you know, you're writing! I find brainstorming is more relaxing than actually writing sometimes, so I use this game to help me ease into the writing project.

Don't give into the Monday blues. Let Monday be your most creative day of the week.

By the way, do you have tricks and tips for dealing with writer's block? Please share!

Donna Marie

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Sarah Palin dream: how to ghostwrite for celebrities

Sarah Palin doesn't speak to me, even though I have been hired to write her next book. Without communication, the project fails. She must know this, but she just stares warily at me and makes sure I don't hear her secret discussions with others.
Yes, this was a dream, but it made me recall a ghostwriting experience I had years ago. I was hired by a PTB publisher to ghostwrite the autobiography of a famous celebrity. In accordance with the ghostwriter's code, I won't mention names.

Now I've been able to forgive low down dirty men who hurt me, but not this celebrity. The thought of what I went through still pisses me off. Get over it? Maybe writing about my horror story of a ghostwriting job will prove a cautionary tale for writers who are interested in this line of work -- and help me send this ghost into the Light.

This celebrity has a life people gossip about, but what excited the PTB publisher was this person's awesome brand and marketing platform. In addition to an outline, my proposal for the book included a scheme of metaphors and symbols that would play off the celebrity's brand. (See, I was thinking about branding even before I knew what it was!) I got the job.

I flew to Los Angeles to meet and interview this star. Contractually we were obligated to meet 10 times. I'd call the assistant every morning to try and get on the celebrity's calendar, but every time there was an excuse. Ultimately we met 2 or 3 times in all. So instead of interviewing this person, I went shopping, hung out with my cousin, and drove to Mexico. At every stage I let my agent and publisher know what was going on. 

At the end of the 3 weeks all I had to show was a bad case of food poisoning and a lot of miles on my rental car.

I was mad. The publisher was mad. My agent was mad. With no access to the celebrity, there was no communication. With no communication, there was no information. With no information, there was no book -- at least not by me.

The book was eventually written by someone who had access, someone in the celebrity's inner circle. I went on to ghostwrite several books for stars you may never have heard about but who are respected in their fields.

Ghostwriting can be a lucrative way to earn a living, and good writers are always in demand. Self-publishing and the public's fascination with celebrities have opened up many opportunities for writers. If you're interested in this line of work, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Don't be star struck. Celebrities are people too. If you go into a project goo goo eyed, you lose respect. Come to the project as a peer, an equal. 

2. Expect ego explosions. 

3. Make your ego invisible.

4. Respect the client's creative input. You're the expert, but still, clients will have ideas, and rightfully so. It's their book. Your job is to shape their ideas if good. If the ideas are not workable, you'll have to be straight with them, but be respectful. Ultimately however, if they insist, you'll have to make it work.

5. Insist on open, honest, and ongoing communication. If information is not forthcoming, consider exiting the project. It's your reputation on the line.

6. Creatively incorporate the client's brand into the book.

7. Keep secrets, and honor the celebrity's privacy.

UPDATE: I'm happy to report that I've finally sent this ghost into the Light. In writing this post I realized I learned what I needed to learn from the experience. R.I.P.!

Donna Marie

Friday, December 3, 2010

A writer's quest for balance

Nonwriters may think the writer's life is dull, with all its reading and writing, but never judge a profession by how it looks.  We writers are always chasing ideas and dreams. We're always rushing to capture thoughts into books and articles. We live and breathe by our deadlines. 

In fact, the writing profession is a stressful one. Now stress is not all bad. It can make a positive contribution to our creative output, but to live on the edge all the time? Not so good.

Yesterday was a travel day for me. I promised my cousin, who recently adopted a baby boy, that I would come and help out. While here in lovely California I hope to meet a potential client as well, but the main purpose for my visit is to help a little boy adjust to his new life.

Flying to my final destination, I had a lot of time to obsess about my projects and commitment to this blog. In the midst of all this obsessing about things I couldn't control, something strange caught my attention. Babies and toddlers, they were everywhere! That's odd, I thought. Where the heck did all these babies come from? They were laughing, babbling, bawling, and playing up and down the aisles. Oddly I wasn't bothered by any of it. It was if a mysterious force was preparing me for my imminent visit with my new cousin -- or distracting me from my work obsessions.

Kids always have something better to do!
Babies are so demanding. It's hard to write at home and care for one properly. I had to train mine when they were young because if I didn't write, they wouldn't eat. We established a rhythm. My son would read or do homework in my bedroom office while I wrote. His younger sister would sometimes curl up like a kitten on my lap or under my desk. They forced balance into my life.

Now that the nest is empty and the little birdies have flown away, I've been working without distraction -- until now.

Tired of being tired?
The quest for balance also shows up when we're overstressed and tired. Sometimes you need to take a break from the hustle and grind. Or like my mother the English teacher says, "You need to get some rest."

My mother is a big fan of rest. Her ongoing narratives extolling the wonders of her own rest periods are the stuff of legend in our family. Comments such as "I'm going to bed" and "Boy, I was really sleeping" and "That was some hard sleeping I was doing" and "Was I snoring?" make us roll our eyes -- but she has a point.

Researchers recently found that a lack of rest can lead to obesity. Maybe that's why my weight is too damn high. Not enough rest. 

I get up early and go to bed late whenever I'm working on a project. How can you expect to feel good or be at your best creatively when you're burning the candle at both ends?

Imbalance occurs when we neglect some sort of a spiritual practice that steers attention within, that calms thoughts down, that reconnects us to God.

So I must thank my new baby cousin for forcing me to slow down and think about something else. Work is important, but so are other things that bring joy, love, and fun.

Take time today to attend to those other things you've been neglecting, and if you have a unique way of dealing with stress and imbalance in your writer's life, we need to know right now!

Donna Marie

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tim Ferriss' amazing new book trailer

If you've been following The Celebrity Editor, you know that I tend to go on and on about boring book promotions. See here and here

Well, what do you think about this book trailer promoting Tim Ferriss' new book, The 4-Hour Body? 

I love a good book trailer, but how can the book ever live up to this hype? 

If I took a flying leap like the last guy, I'd end up in at least 2 or 3 pieces. But I have to admit, watching it made me feel good, like I could do something amazing with this middle-aged body.

The trailer sold me. I'm going to buy!

Ferriss has a strong brand, which was launched with his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek. Folks who loved that book will definitely buy his second. Body hasn't even been released yet, but it's already #78 on Amazon.

The important question for self-publishers is, How can we produce exciting book trailers like Ferriss' on a budget? Here's one idea, but obviously this doesn't come close to Ferriss' masterpiece. On the other hand, like my mother the English teacher says, "Do what you can" (which is why we always had mismatched furniture in the living room).

Any ideas? Please share with the Celebrity community!

Donna Marie

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How self-publishers can become sought after media experts

Goal: to become the media's go-to person in your area of expertise. 

Problem: in some circles, self-published books are not viewed as credible. 

Challenge: how can self-published authors position themselves in the media as experts? 

Let's face it, publishing with established houses or university presses is still the widely accepted gold standard. This elitism means that self-published authors will have to work harder to establish themselves as experts in the media's eyes.

Positioning yourself as a media expert means that you must continuously build exposure plus credibility, and you must directly let the media know you're available to speak with authority on certain topics. It's an ongoing process and a challenge, but it's not impossible to grab the attention of interviewers, journalists, and producers.  

The mystique of the college degree
It certainly can help to have a college degree in your field. Even self-help dating books are written by authors with doctorates. But what if you're just good at meeting and flirting with guys, and you've got the stories to prove it? What if you don't have a degree? What if you're just passionate about your subject and really good at what you do?

To illustrate how self-publishers can begin to establish themselves as legitimate experts regardless of educational background, I present to you the true tale of 2 clients. Both work in education – one on the "soft" prevention and motivation side and the other on the "hard" academics side. These award winning consultants are both widely recognized for their work with young people from diverse, underserved schools and communities.

The 2 consultants couldn't be more different. One was an excellent student and went on to get his PhD. He has automatic credibility with the media and is a frequent guest on radio and tv talk shows.

The other is dyslexic and was the class clown throughout his grammar school and high school years. He does not have a higher degree – yet he is a college professor and a visiting lecturer on college campuses. His self-published books have been required reading in psychology, sociology, education, and child development courses. He's a high level, self-taught, independent scholar. He too is a frequent guest on mostly radio talk shows. 

Roger Isaacs, the author of Talking With Godhas a degree in language and literature, but that didn't stop him from independently studying ancient languages, going on archeological digs around the world, and lecturing at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. He too is a high level, self-taught, independent scholar, and his book, with its 500+ pages of thoroughly researched content, footnotes, and extensive bibliography, proves his credibility. 

Lay the groundwork for credibility
Writing a book is a good first step in establishing credibility, but a book alone is not enough. You must develop your author brand in ways that are recognized and accepted by the media. Here are some ideas.

Book quality. Make sure your self-published book is the best it can be. Is the content well written? Has it been edited and proofed? Are layout and design (internal pages, back and front covers) pleasing to the eye? Does the back cover copy make a reader want to buy the book? Your book must be good enough to stand alongside books published by the big guys. Quality is a must!

Get credentialed. Degrees are wonderful, but what if you don't have the time or inclination to go back to school? My consultant who lacked a higher degree is a certified violence and drug prevention specialist, and he's leveraged the heck out of that certification. There are ways around the lack of a degree. You'll just have to work a little harder.

Teach a class. Giving workshops and teaching at The Learning Annex and continuing education programs at colleges will help you establish credibility with the media. If people are paying money to sit at your feet, you're credible.

Lecture on college campuses. This is a great way to establish expertise (and sell books). Both of my consulting clients speak at colleges. They do general talks as well as guest lectures, which of course is more prestigious (and students have to purchase books). By the way, have you included university media in your media list?

Documentaries. If any of my writing stars know how to pitch to producers of documentaries, please let us know! Whenever I watch a documentary, I'm sold on the credibility of the expert being interviewed.  

Educate the media 
Self-published books often venture beyond mainstream thought, and that's the opportunity and challenge of promoting yourself to the media. If your book presents a truly unique idea you may have cornered the market on a topic few know about. On the other hand, few know about it so you must educate and enlighten as well as promote. Think more infomercial than ad or press release to enhance believability.

Your website. Make sure your author website is rich in information about your book and beyond. Create an archive of articles and a links list to other relevant sites. Post pictures and video so that people can see you in action doing your thing. Blog about ongoing developments in your field that were not covered in your book.

Your press kit. In addition to the typical press release and bio, make sure to include information that will help an interviewer, journalist, or producer easily understand what your topic is all about. Include an article and a list of questions that they can ask you during an interview.  

Email/fax blast to media. Send a brief statement about your book, a brief bio that focuses on why you're an expert in the field, and a direct statement to the press: "Here are the topics I am qualified to discuss." Include brief quotes from the book and most importantly, testimonials from reviewers and recognized experts in your field. As the old saying goes, you're known – and respected – by the company you keep.

The 24/7 media cycle is a blessing in disguise for self-published authors. It's a beast that must constantly be fed with news, information, and features. Lay the groundwork that establishes your credibility, and then pitch yourself with confidence.

Self-publishers, we'd like to know about your successes and challenges in establishing yourselves as media experts. Please drop a line and let us know how you're doing. Let's learn from one another!

Donna Marie

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jumpstart Monday // RETHINK writer's procrastination

How often have I berated myself over the years for lacking willpower? Too many times to count.

Well it looks like I was beating myself up for nothing. According to a Daily Beast article, researchers at Columbia University’s Neurological Institute say there may be no such thing as willpower. Instead, it's more effective to think "impulse control." I like "impulse management."

Our alleged willpower is constantly doing battle with our neurological system of reward, which wants to make us feel good. When we succumb to instant gratification we're just going with the neural flow of feeling good. If it felt good before, our neurons tell us, it will feel good again and again. How can willpower stand against that neural road well traveled? Most times it can't, which is why I gained all the damn weight back after losing 65 pounds! This inner conflict is what Paul was talking about when he said,
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a [neural] law-dominated existence? (Galatians 5:16-18, Message)
So when we procrastinate with our writing, we're simply allowing our neurons to be the master over our intentions. We're much more than instinctive animals, but if we don't manage our impulses, our neurons will go into a default mode, a.k.a. "habits."

When you're on a deadline and have mouths to feed, default mode is not going to work. Casey Schwartz writes that impulse control is the...
ability to mitigate any stimulus that sets off the brain’s reward circuitry. Unlike willpower, impulse control is not a judgment about the strength of one’s character. This is not just a politically correct revision. The concept of impulse control comes from a better understanding of the brain mechanisms that underlie self-restraint.
So today when you're pondering things you'd prefer to do over writing, realize that this is just a temporary impulse that's been wired into the circuitry of your brain. Just that raised awareness will help you make better decisions about your commitment to write today. 

Delay the impulse to do something else, and immediately gratify your desire to write!

How do you deal with writer's procrastination?

Donna Marie

To self-publish or not? That's the question!

Recently a writer asked, "Should I self-publish or should I seek a deal with an established publisher?"

That depends. You might want to go with a traditional publisher if your topic is too hot for you to handle alone. For example, if I were Valerie Plame Wilson and had just been outed by the White House as a CIA agent, I would go for lucrative book and movie deals. 

Do you have a strong marketing platform? Publishers would love you, but as John Shore wrote in The Huffington Post,

anyone who is so famous that they can sell 40,000 copies of their own book directly to their own audience needs a publisher like Willy Wonka needs a Whitman's sampler. If I could sell my own book to my own audience, why would I give any publisher full rights, forever, to that book, ninety percent of whatever I made selling that book -- and then give an agent fifteen percent of whatever was left over for me? Why? Why would I do that? Why would anyone?

There's a lot of wisdom in that line of reasoning. At the very least, if you have a strong platform and don't want to self-publish right now, then make sure you've got an agent who can negotiate the hell out of a contract. Learn from the capitalist rappers of hip hop: keep your rights, own your intellectual property, don't be a slave to the big guys, know your value. 

When I was just starting out, I didn't know what to ask for. For example, I didn't know that it was possible to receive a bonus if your book achieved New York Times best-seller status. I didn't know that royalties could be negotiated. I didn't know that foreign, movie, and digital rights could stay with me. 

Bottom line, do your homework.

Now if you're looking to build your business, ministry, nonprofit organization, or grassroots movement, self-publishing makes a lot of sense.

1. Self-publishing gives you the power to communicate your message in your own way.

2. Self-publishing can be profitable.

3. Self-publishers are passionate about their life mission. Through their books, they change lives for the better. Being rejected by a traditional publisher doesn't stop them. They turn to self-publishing to get out their message.

4. Self-publishing is like an incubator for speculative and revolutionary ideas. It allows writers to explore topics that have not been vetted by the marketplace and that traditional publishers are wary of touching. 

5. Self-publishers can take their time on a project. They're not beholden to a publisher's deadline. It took Roger Isaacs and Janice Miller, his editor/publisher, 10 years to complete Talking With God.

6. On the other hand, self-publishing allows writers to spit out projects quickly – unlike a traditional publisher's 9 to 12 month production timeframe. 

7. Further, self-publishers can turn out multiple books in quick succession. If you're a fast writer, you could literally turn out an e-book a month. Sometimes POD (print-on-demand) publishers experience bottlenecks in their production schedules. Even so, you can crank out multiple books via POD much faster than the big houses.

8. Just as bloggers monetize their blogs, self-publishers can monetize their books. You can insert ads and provide a presence for sponsors. You can use your book to market other products and services.

I just recently learned about a hybrid approach to publishing that combines self-publishing and traditional and is similar to what a book packager does. The author pays for everything – ghostwriting (if necessary), editing, proofing, cover art, layout/design. She then negotiates with a publisher to print, distribute, warehouse, and take orders. For authors with strong marketing platforms, this might be the way to go. They maintain creative control, and they retain a much higher share of the profits. 

I read somewhere that a famous mega pastor uses this approach. He produces his books in-house (transcribing sermons, rewriting, editing, etc.), and then he contracts with publishers for printing and distribution. Your dedicated editor will be hunting down such exciting case studies for future posts. 

One criticism against self-published books that I think is entirely justified is that editorial and design quality are sometimes lacking. Self-publishers, don't cut corners. You're competing against books that have been buffed and polished by full editorial and design staffs. Yours must be able to stand proudly along side them on book shelves, library stacks, and in online stores. 

We need both self-publishing and traditional publishing to keep ideas flowing in society. However you decide to approach your book project is entirely up to you. Isn't it nice to know that you now have options? If one door closes, thanks to digital publishing technologies, another opens up. 

Question to my writing stars: are you trying to decide whether to self-publish or not? Please drop a line. We'd love to hear how you're thinking through this important decision! 

Donna Marie 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Secret weapons of successful self-publishers

A hot topic on many online writing and publishing forums is whether or not to self-publish. The naysayers complain about lost money, poor quality, low sales, and the many other challenges that go with publishing your own book. 

For the past few years I've provided editing, ghostwriting, and production management services to self-publishers. We've pretty much accepted that there always will be challenges. That's just part of the process. 

However, from writing to print-on-demand to marketing, my clients and I have stocked our self-publishing arsenal with a few secret weapons to help facilitate a successful experience.

1. Invest in editorial quality control. When my clients invest in my services they know they'll receive the benefit of my 20 years of publishing and corporate experience. I work with pastors, education consultants, social service providers, educators, child advocates, and activists. Because I have strong content knowledge in these areas, I add value to their projects beyond editorial.

2. Become a shameless self-promoter. Through their ongoing public speaking engagements, my clients aggressively market and sell their books. A couple of my clients love to give away books, too, which further endears them to their audiences. Self-published books that fail usually lack a strong marketing plan and push. I've learned from my writing stars that you must be a relentless marketer. You can never rest or give up.

3. Don't skimp on services. My clients may not have the deepest pockets, but they would never skimp on services that compensate for the skills they lack. Self-publishing projects fail when authors overestimate their skill sets. There's no shame in asking for help. Because my clients know I respect their genius, vision, and mission, they don't mind me seeing their raw, unvarnished work. They enjoy brainstorming with me about ideas that may not be fully formed.

4. Publish through inexpensive online self-publishing platforms. My clients and friends have published through iUniverse.com, Lulu.com, and Selfpublishing.com. They have used traditional printers as well, but the online platforms provide A-to-Z services, including editing, proofing, layout, design, filing with the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress, securing ISBN numbers, setting up distribution through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. When you're just starting out, this is a good way to go.

5. Diversify your revenue streams. My clients don't depend on their self-publishing projects alone for income. They pastor churches and teach on college campuses. They are regulars on the lecture circuit. They produce CD's and DVD's. If they had day jobs, they wouldn't give them up. And even when the work is slow, they keep working. 

6. Give of your information, time, talents, and products. My clients are generous to a fault. They believe in "give and you will receive."

7. Self-publishing projects must offer value to people's lives. According to Publisher's Weekly, "764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers" while the output of traditional books slipped to 288,355. There's a reason for that. Self-publishers have identified needs that traditional publishers couldn't or wouldn't touch. My clients wouldn't continue to self-publish if they weren't meeting needs (and making money). 

Self-publishing projects fail when authors cut corners on content development, editing, design, and marketing. I'm an advocate of self-publishing and would strongly encourage anyone considering this approach to start raising money right away to ensure a quality product. I can't say how much to raise because I don't know your circumstances, but investigate the online services mentioned in this article. Get estimates from professionals in the field. Put together a budget. 

When venturing into a self-publishing project your mindset is all important. Keep the faith without going overboard. Set small, manageable goals regarding book sales. You may not sell millions, but what if you sold 2,000 or 3,000 books? Could you consider that a success? Definitely. Be inspired by the stories of big sellers, but don't lose your head, as Jody would say. Define success according to your own terms. You can do it!

Donna Marie

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Friday for self-publishers

Might I humbly suggest a couple of different ways to spend your Black Friday?

1. Rather than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars the day after Thanksgiving, why not use at least a significant portion of that money to invest in your self-publishing project? Use it to publish your book. Hire a good editor or ghostwriter (CelebEditor@aol.com), artist/graphic designer, or publicist. Register for a good writing class. Donate to a writer who's struggling financially this season.

2. Many stores will open at 4:00 a.m. in the morning. Rather than running out in the moonlight to spend money, why not write a few pages (a chapter would be good) for your book? At the very least, get up early, write first, then go shopping.

Donna Marie

Thank you, self-publishers

I'm a little choked up today. Thanksgiving is a good moment to reflect on the good things in life. 

The economic news has been so bad this year for middle and low-income families that you may be wondering, What's there to be thankful for? We're experiencing a recession, although some would call it a depression. Unemployment and foreclosure rates are unacceptably high. Many of us writers have no health care. A mere 2% of the population controls the resources and vast wealth of the world.

Like many of you, I've gone through my share of hard times. It may seem counter-intuitive, but still I'm thankful.

I'm thankful for my supportive family, friends, and self-publishing stars. 

I'm thankful for continuously evolving technologies that allow us to publish easily and cheaply.

I'm thankful for the self-publishing industry. 

A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of "nontraditional" titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books. Source: Publisher's Weekly

Despite haterism from various sectors, we're publishing our books our way. I love that can-do, I'll-do-it-myself spirit. 

What are you thankful for? This is not a cliche question. When you become grateful for everything that happens to you – the good and the challenging – your perspective begins to change, and you become empowered. Opportunities to prosper that have been hiding in plain sight begin to reveal themselves to you. 

Gratitude is so powerful that if we practiced saying "thank you" on a daily basis, we would be much better off.

So be thankful for everything and everybody. Happy Thanksgiving!

Donna Marie

How to fast track your author marketing platform in a reality tv world

Infamy and controversy sell today. If you're desperate to sell millions of books, here are 5 ways that will guarantee you financial success, but will you be able to sleep at night?

1. Release a sex tape. Kim Kardashian's sex tape launched an empire, and now the sisters' book, Kardashian Konfidential, is #40 on Amazon. Note: releasing a sex tape should not be confused with "sexy marketing," as I explain here.

2. Star in a "reality" tv show. Controversial roles in reality tv are rewarded by big publishers. Lauren Conrad (The Hills and Laguna Beach) has written 2 best selling novels. Love them or not, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino of the infamous Jersey Shore are going to be authors. I guess they don't mind folks laughing at them, not with them. 

3. Become a polarizing politician. Politicians are by nature lightening rods for love and hate in society. According to The Daily Beast, President Barack Obama is the top selling political leader of all time, but Sarah Palin is a contender for the title. Her current book, America By Heart, is #9 on Amazon.

4. Write about a polarizing politician, and it doesn't matter whether you're for or against. The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power by Geoffrey Dunn is ranked #30,798 by Amazon. The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin by Stephen Mansfield is #6,913.

5. Become a polarizing pundit. What do Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Howard Stern have in common? They have mastered the science of splitting the country right down the middle – and they have New York Times and Amazon best sellers to prove it.

The moral of the story
So how can self-publishers with bare bones budgets and integrity ever hope to compete in such a market? I submit that we don't even try. We need to get some perspective on this issue.

What does success mean to you? 

Could selling 2,000, 3,000, or 5,000 books be considered a successful book run? Yes, especially if selling books is just one revenue stream of many in your financial strategy.

Does success mean getting a multi-million dollar book contract even though you must sell your soul in the process? Even Barack Obama admitted that he lost his privacy and autonomy when he became president. I thought that was a heck of an admission. 

Wouldn't you prefer the freedom to write about your passions and market them in a way that allows you to maintain your integrity? I want to be able to face my family, friends, and self when it's all said and done. I long to hear God say, "Well done." 

Authors who sell millions of copies have a general market focus. On the other hand, self-publishers tend to focus on niche markets. Self-publishers who market aggressively to their niche can expect to do well. Sales into the tens and hundreds of thousands shouldn't be unusual for us.

Let's not even participate in this rat race. The beauty of self-publishing is that we create our own path on our own terms. 

Besides, what if you released a sex tape and nobody cared? All that for nothing. 

Note: Amazon rankings as of November 23, 2010, 11:15 p.m. (CST).

Donna Marie