Posts Tagged ‘plan’

You and a colleague, Harry are up for a promotion. You know you are the better person for the job, but Harry got the position. He’s pompous, arrogant and doesn’t have the leadership skills that inspire you to generate, well, anything. You scratch your head in disbelief that he was chosen over you.

Part of you, perhaps wants to sabotage Harry’s efforts and do whatever you can to expose him for the inadequate, incompetent individual that you see him to be; however, that goes against your integrity, and you may end up looking bad and feeling worse in the end.

For some reason, even though the whole office knows of Harry’s incompetence, no one seems to take action. He’s that one rotten apple that spoils the whole barrel.

There are a lot of Harry’s and Harriets in the business world. As an administrative assistant, manager or whatever your position, you know you are smarter than your boss. You deserve his salary and every perk that goes along with his position, because you are working your butt off and he’s the one that is looking good! AAARRRGGHH!

If you go above Harry’s head to his boss, Glenda, you might be not only aggravate Harry but also be making it clear to Glenda that she may have made a choice that is creating negative consequences far beyond any expectations. She’s already regretting her choice and knows there’s nothing she can do.

This scenario is not uncommon. Probably 30% of my business clients are struggling with at least one particular individual that is a thorn in their side. They question their own sanity and the sanity of those who put the Harrys of the world in those positions. What do you do?

It’s a dilemma.

Do you stay or do you go? Do you ask to get transferred? Do you stay and suck it up, because you need the job? Do you try to go around Harry, or do you do what you do best and ignore what Harry wants from you?

My job as a transformational coach is not to fix, heal or convert clients, so they’ll have the answers to problems that they face. My job is to be a thinking partner, empowering clients to unravel all of the complexities that are bringing him or her to this dilemma and this choice-point.

Our businesses systems are no different than our family systems, in that they are generated and driven by survival mechanisms that most likely operate from a fear-based paradigm. They have been cultivated through generations of personal relationships based on cultural, religious, gender and racial factors. Too often wisdom and common sense do not enter into the equation when it comes to how a business or family is operating. We take for granted and assume intelligence and maturity would be foundational to choosing directors, managers and leaders, but trust me, and you may know from your own experience, most people running businesses, departments and corporations function, to some degree, from the emotional intelligence of an adolescent. It makes sense that you are going to think you are smarter than your boss; in some ways you probably are; in other ways you probably aren’t.

Notice the Pattern

The trick is to notice this pattern of operating. When you’re feeling smarter than – what’s the quality of the experience? Are you feeling righteous and arrogant, contemptuous and condescending? Do you feel frustrated and discouraged? What actions are you likely to take from righteous, condescending, frustrated and discouraged? What do you do to compensate for feeling this way? How do you avoid, distract, ignore or deny your own part in this dysfunctional process? By the way, we are all participating in having the Harry’s of the world be where they are.

The questions funnel down to just one:

What is it you are here to learn that has Harry be in your life, in this time, in this way?

Answer this question and you’ll understand what it is you need to shift in order to facilitate the learning. I guarantee that while doing what’s required in order to make the shift, you’ll notice that Harry will either change or go away! It’s fascinating to observe what changes within our environment once we get our part in maintaining it as it has been.

Entangled and embroiled in the cauldron of complexity of our work environment, its challenging to see all of this without a thinking partner or coach who can hold the bigger picture and who also holds you accountable for your participation in the unfolding of your life within this bigger picture. No coach or thinking partner? That’s okay. Just be willing to be truthful in answering the questions above. This alone will create a positive shift for you; and the Harry’s of the world will go POOF!

By the way, some of the Harry’s of the world are my clients too. Given an opportunity to look at what has them choose to choose to be how they be, they, too, willingly shift in support of a larger, more fulfilling outcome. Yey for us all!

Resist the temptation to start your Author’s Journey to a brand-building book by immediately starting to write. The Author’s Journey refers to my series of 34 ActiveGarage posts describing the steps involved in writing a nonfiction book to build a personal brand.

Instead of immediately starting to write, take the time to ask the right questions. It’s important for you to get your bearings by developing a “big picture” view of your writing project.

An important part of the “big picture” is focusing on the desired end result. By identifying the goals of your journey, you’ll be better able to make the right decisions at every stage, so you can write and market toward them as efficiently as possible, helping you focus your writing and avoid digressions, false starts, and wasted time.

There’s magic in asking questions

Perhaps Brian Tracy, said it best in his international bestselling book, Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life: How to Unlock Your Full Potential for Success and Achievement:

The very act of questioning opens your mind and expands your options. It increases your creativity and stimulates your imagination. Questioning enables you to think more effectively and reach better decisions.

Brian Tracy re-emphasized the importance of authors asking questions before writing during a recent Published & Profitable interview, (Number 100 in my recent series). He discussed how asking questions helps authors focus on their readers, their needs, and their hot buttons while sharing the process he has used to write 50 books that have been translated and are sold in over 37 countries.

Alexander Ward, American author and pastor, stated it differently:

Before you speak, listen.

Before you write, think.

What kinds of questions & answers?

There are 4 categories of questions you should ask before starting to write your brand-building book. These correlate to Published & Profitable’s 4 steps to Writing Success: Plan, Write, Promote, and Profit.

Your answers to these questions don’t have to be elaborate or formal. You don’t even have to work on your computer; it’s entirely to jot down your answers by hand.

The ideas behind your answers are what matters! So just quickly write down words, ideas, and phrases that you can go back later and expand. There’s no need to write in full sentences, and you don’t have to be concerned with grammar. The answers are for your eyes only- – it’s OK to change your mind when you go back later and review your answers.

Planning questions

There are three types of planning questions:

  • Your goals and objectives. Start by identifying your long-term goals and objectives beyond the rewards of selling your book. Concentrate on how you are going to leverage your book into lasting and profitable relationships with your readers. Avoid writing and publishing decisions that might limit your ability to achieve your goals.
  • Reader goals. Who are your intended readers, and what do they hope to gain from reading your book? The more you know, the easier it will be to target the right readers, choose the right title, and provide the right right content.
  • Competing books. Finally, you have to analyze competing books, so you can position your book as a better alternative to anything that’s currently available.

Just as you wouldn’t start a business without a business plan, you shouldn’t start to write a brand-building book without knowing your goals, your market, and your competition.

Writing questions

Next, you have to answer a series of questions about your ability to write as consistently and efficiently as possible, so your book is completed on time. This involves answering questions like:

When you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to start writing!

Promoting questions

Books- -even the most helpful and best-written books- -don’t sell themselves. Authors have to begin promoting the book while writing the book.

Ideally, book promotion never really ends, because your book’s brand becomes your brand!

Creating a book promotion plan involves evaluating current online visibility (or author platform), looking at ways to build your expert network, exploring free promotional tools, and creating an integrated book marketing plan.

Profit questions

Leveraging your book to meaningful and lasting profits involves answering questions about looking at how other authors profit from their books, evaluating ways to create and manage information products, and looking at ways to attract lucrative speaking opportunities.

Questions, answers, and action

The above are just some of the ways that questions lead to answers, and answers lead to informed action. Take the time to ask- -and answer- – the right questions and save time writing the book your market is waiting to read!

If you’d like to get on the inside track to learning more about asking the right questions before writing a book to build your brand, drop me an e-mail or sign-up to receive my weekday blog posts in your in-box.

Project Reality Check #19: Focus on Success

by Gary Monti on April 26, 2011

As different as they appear to be Success and Failure can have a lot in common! They both can bring about a fair degree of misery unless a proper focus is maintained. That focus comprises a subtle but important distinction. Let’s explore.

Plan Without Consequence

The trick with success is to plan without consequence. It sounds paradoxical so some explanation may help. The idea is to avoid getting attached to the success. Or said another way:

“Attach to success to the same extent you would attach to failure.”

Now what does that mean? Simple. It means if someone chooses to define himself solely in terms of what happens to him then he should prepare for a life of misery. If he has lots of money, fame, or what ever else he craves then he thinks he is good. If he loses what he craves he thinks he is bad. It is similar to how some people view disease, i.e., if they get it, they must be bad and God is punishing them. “Plan Without Consequence” means strive to achieve by remembering:

“I am more than what life does to me.”

Looking at it from another direction can help. “I was successful” and “My plan was successful” are two very different statements. With the former statement there is the risk of identifying with my project plan and losing my personal boundary. With the latter statement detachment is present which brings something very powerful to the table. It is the ability to maintain options. It is this capability that makes for a high-quality project manager. This subtle difference can be seen when contrasting two words easily confused.

Awareness vs. Vigilance

What I am trying to say is expressed in a more entertaining manner in the book, Who Moved My Cheese. The book fundamentally gets down to the distinction between two words, awareness and vigilance. With awareness one simply looks at life as it is and makes decisions. “No more cheese here. Okay, I’ll move on and search somewhere else.”

“No more cheese here!!! Who moved my cheese?!” is more in line with vigilance. It’s the attachment mentioned above. It’s the poison of expectations. Expectations that confuse getting something good with being intrinsically good and deserving of more.

With vigilance misery results since there is an attempt to force life to conform to expectations. With awareness freedom is present; the freedom to choose other options and move on to different forms of success. Last time I checked, that freedom and the ability to explore options is at the heart of project management, i.e., a temporary endeavor providing a unique product or service.

There are three basic approaches to getting others to help you write your book. As always, your choice should be determined by your goals and your resources. The three options are:

  1. Paying for Help. This option involves locating co-authors, ghost writers, and other forms of reimbursed writing assistance. Reimbursement can be based on a fixed-fee, work-for-hire basis, with the money coming either from the author’s pocket or publisher’s advance. Reimbursement can also be based on future royalties and book sales. Authors must carefully identify exactly what they’re looking for from others, and structure responsibilities and rights to avoid disappointment down the road.
  2. The Network Approach. Another option is to approach other authors and subject area experts in your field for chapters, stories, or suggestions. This often works well when combined with approaching clients and prospects with surveys and offers to contribute case studies or stories to your book. The better known you are in your field, the easier it will be to get free contributions for your book in exchange for acknowledgments and inclusion in the Resources section of your book.
  3. Social Media Approach. A newer approach is to combine the power of social media, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, with the outreach power of online surveys, from sources like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang to locate others who can help you write your book. This approach leverages the power of the latest Internet tools to help you save time writing a better book.

Social Media Approach at a glance

The social media approach offers many advantages and continues to evolve and improve.

The social media approach frees you from the limitations of the first two approaches. It eliminates the costs, possible disappointments, and possible future “entanglement” costs of working with co-authors. No agreement, no matter how well constructed, can anticipate all future scenarios, and—at one time or another–all books and relationships involve differences of opinion.

The social media approach can open the door to new relationships with others who are interested in your topic, or have had experience in it. This can broaden your perspective and pave the way for new friendships, ideas, and profit opportunities.

The social media approach to getting others to help you write your book involves 2 steps:

  1. Locate strangers with relevant information. This involves using a combination of search engine marketing, social media, and online surveys to locate others interested in sharing their views.
  2. Requesting follow-up interviews and stories. Your initial survey should contain an option allowing survey participants to share their e-mail address and permission for you to contact them in the future. This is your gateway to follow-up e-mails and, when appropriate, possible telephone conversation and interviews.

By participating in your survey, individuals are indicating their interest in your topic. This makes them likely to be willing to share their experiences and stories  with you in your book.

Driving traffic to your online survey

After creating your survey with SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, or the dozens of other free online survey providers, there are several ways you can drive traffic to it.

You can begin with promoting your survey on your blog and in your website. You can promote your survey in your permission-based e-mail newsletters. You can Tweet about it, and encourage your followers to Retweet your requests for survey participation.

You can also add survey modules to your Squidoo lenses, and create a LinkedIn Answers campaign or post your question on Facebook. Step-by-step advice for working with LinkedIn Answers can be found at Dummies.com.

Finally, you can use pay-per-click ads to attract the attention of those interested in your field and drive them to your survey. Even a relatively small budget can be enough to drive qualified traffic to your survey each day.

Help a Reporter Out

Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out, or HelpaReporter, is perhaps the most powerful, popular, and free outreach option for authors. Help a Reporter Out is a free subscription service that sends members 3 e-mails a day containing a digest of brief questions posted by authors and journalists.

Authors can use this service to drive traffic to their online surveys. They can simply ask for individuals interested in sharing their experiences to visit your survey page and answer a question, rate their concerns, or share their favorite shortcut or tip.

Over 29,000 journalists subscribe to HARO, which enhances the program’s power to drive qualified traffic to your online survey. In addition to attracting the attention of people interested in your topic, your query may prompt a journalist to contact you for a possible interview.

Being quoted as an expert in your field, of course, will introduce you to additional potential readers as well as potential contributors.

Tips for following-up surveys

Here are some tips for interviewing individuals who have participated in your survey:

  • Always record and transcribe your interviews. Recording your calls, with the interviewee’s permission, frees you from the necessity of taking notes during the conversation. You’ll be better able to pay attention to the interviewee’s responses and ask for clarification or more details.
  • Obtain permission for quotes and stories. Clarify your intent to include portions of the interview in your upcoming book. Be sure to keep careful records of interviewee names and e-mail addresses. Your publisher’s Permissions Department will want to follow-up and confirm permission before your book appears.

Conclusion

Never before has it been so easy to get others to help you write your book. Social media makes it easy to locate others interested in your topic; free online surveys make it easy to begin relationships that can lead to in-depth interviews that can add richness and depth to your book.

Before you can write your book, you need to create a content plan for your book. Mind mapping makes it easy to identify and organize your ideas.

Mind mapping software, see directory here, allows you to work visually. Ideas are displayed as clouds, or topics, organized around the main topic. The main topic can be the title of a book, a newsletter editorial calendar, or a quarterly marketing plan.

When creating the content plan for #Book Title Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Creating Compelling Titles for Articles, Books, and Events, I followed the same 3-step process I always use when starting a new book:

  • Step 1: Sections. I identify the main sections of the book.
  • Step 2: Chapters. Next, I list the chapters and main ideas with each section.
  • Step 3: Export. When finished, I export the mind map to Microsoft Word.

This approach is extremely efficient. It eliminates duplicate typing. The mind map I use to plan my book and share with potential literary agents or publishers is also used to create a formal book proposal and prepare the manuscript for publication.

Step 1: Sections

Figure 1

Figure 1, created with Mindjet’s MindManager, shows what my project looked like less than two hours after I started work. If memory serves, it took me about 30 minutes to identify the major sections of the book, and another hour, or so, to fine-tune the section titles and their order.

At this point, my intention to write a book about book titles has already begun to take shape. There hasn’t really been much “stress,” and I’ve rather enjoyed the process of dragging and dropping sections into the correct order. And, I actually left the office early, after sharing copies of the map with a few key individuals.

Step 2: Chapters

Figure 2

My next step was to begin to populate the map with the next level of information, chapters.

In the case of the THINKaha book series edited by Rajesh Setty’s, the “chapters” consist of Tweets, or 140-character, ideas and examples. Accordingly, I began to write the book in MindManager, as shown in Figure 2.

A couple of things to notice:

  • Automatic numbering. MindManager, like many other mind mapping software programs, can automatically number each subtopic. This made it easy for me to track my progress and include the right number of points.
  • Keeping track of characters. Note the numbers in the call-outs. After I developed each idea and provided an example, I copied and pasted the text into Microsoft Word. I could then use Word’s Tools, WordCount feature to see how many characters I used (or had to edit to fit the 140-character limit. This quickly became a pleasurable game.
  • Notes feature. I used MindManager’s Notes feature if I had any additional ideas, such as alternative examples, for each entry.

You may have noticed that the subtitle in the mind map has been changed to “140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Titles for Articles, Books, and Events.” Change during the course of writing and editing a book is a normal, and healthy, sign of progress. Change is a positive byproduct of the collaborations and conversations between authors and publishers.

Step 3: Export to Word

When I was through, I exported my mind map to Microsoft Word, and was able to view the book from my readers’ perspective.

My initial manuscript editing was relatively easy, since, from the beginning, I was able to visually preview the order (or context) of each 140-character topic. As a result, there were no unpleasant surprises along the way.

Likewise, since my mind mapped plan was on target, there were minimum editorial queries or problem areas to adjust. The experience reminded me of what Jack Hart, veteran writing coach, had written in his A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies that Work and had emphasized when I interviewed him: Writing problems are usually the result of planning problems.

Only, in this case, starting out with a strong plan, writing (i.e., choosing the right words to communicate my ideas) was easy.

Conclusion

Good content plans create good books. Use the right tools to convert your intention to write a book into a framework you can use to sell, test-market, and write your book. The sooner you create your book’s content plan, and the more thought and care you put into it, the easier it will be to sell your book to the right publisher and finish your manuscript on time. What’s your favorite tool for creating content plans? Share your ideas, comments, and questions, below, as comments.

I’ve heard few authors say that they “found the time” to write their book! Time is not something you “find,” like a needle in a haystack (or, the New World).

Instead, time to write is something you create, and you create time using tools like planning, commitment, and efficiency.

Here’s a proven, 4-step process for making the time to write that works for me, and many of my clients.

1. Start with a plan

Whether you’re writing a book or a blog post, progress comes quicker when you know what you want to write before you sit down to write.

Your “plans” don’t have to be elaborate, and they don’t have to be formal. As you can see from the content plan I created at the start of this series, a simple mind map is enough to provide a framework for your writing success.

Likewise, if you’re starting a book, your plan might be as simple as a list of the 10 chapters you’re going to include in your book, plus the 7-10 main ideas (or topics) you’re going to discuss in each chapter.

For example, I just added a copy of a mind map I created a few years ago for a major project to my Active Garage Resource Center. It was one of my first maps, but it was enough to sell the project and help me write the project on time.

2. Commit to daily progress

Once you have created a content plan, or framework, the next step is to forget everything you ever heard about deadline-based “writing marathons.” Likewise, forget about “getting away” to write a book and myths like “I write better under pressure.”

I’ve interviewed hundreds of successfully branded authors, and the majority of them don’t believe coffee-inspired writing marathons. Instead, they commit to consistent daily progress, often in working sessions as short as 30 minutes.

Books are best written in short, daily working sessions, not stressful marathons!

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 30-minute working sessions if you know what you’re going to write about. The act of creating a content plan, activates your brain so it is constantly working in the background, sifting and organizing ideas, searching for the right words, while you’re doing other tasks during the day, and when you’re driving or sleeping.

Fewer expectations equal less stress

One of the reasons that short working sessions are so productive is that there is less stress- -primarily performance anxiety- -involved in short 30-minute working sessions than in vacations or weekends. One of the reasons for this is that if you only expect to write a page or two during a working session, you’re not as likely to be disappointed.

But, if you have vowed to write a book over the summer at a vacation cabin, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because the expectation of a completed book leads to the worrisome thought, What do I do if I don’t finish my book? Won’t I be a failure? Won’t people laugh?

Likewise, expecting to write a book during weekends and holidays, creates guilt-based stress because you’re not spending time with your family.

3. Harvest your time

Begin by taking an inventory of your time, locating specific time periods each day when you can commit to 30 minute working sessions. Look for opportunities like:

  • Getting up 30-minutes earlier each day, preferably before the family gets up.
  • Staying up 30-minute later each night.
  • Arriving at the office 30-minutes earlier and closing the door.
  • Taking your lunch with you, and eating a sandwich at your computer.
  • Taking your laptop to a coffee shop or bookstore café during breaks or mealtime.

Then, make both public commitment of specific times each weekday. Don’t say, I’m going to write a little every morning! Instead, specify, I’m going to get to my office by 8:30 AM and check my messages or e-mail until 9:00!

Your daily writing sessions don’t have to be at the same time each day; your working sessions on Monday might be between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, but your Tuesday working sessions might be 8:00 PM to 8:30 while the family is watching television.

Once you’ve made a commitment to daily progress, and shared it with others, you’ll find it much easier to keep your project on track.

4. Track your progress

Since we all find the time to do what we want to do, it’s important that you keep yourself motivated.

That’s why the final step is to find a way to demonstrate your daily progress. One of the ways you can do this is to add a check-mark, or a strike-through, to indicate finished chapters and topics on your content map.

Another way to show progress is to print what you’ve just written during each writing session on 3-hole punched paper, and store them in a 3-ring binder.

Each time you open the binder and insert new pages, you’ll enjoy a feeling of accomplishment, as you see your finished pages mounting up.

Conclusion

All the “how to write” books and workshops in the world won’t get your book written if you don’t make the time to make the time to actually write your book. The 4-step process of planning your content, commiting to short, daily working sessions, harvesting your time, and tracking your progress is a formula that works. But, it’s up to you to put the process to work!

Roger-Step1-PlanAuthors must look beyond the obvious – -the trends and the hype – -when choosing the type of book publishing that’s best for them and their family. It’s easy to get seduced by the many recent, exciting, changes in book publishing technology.

Before rushing into a decision, I encourage you to make your choice from a detailed analysis of how each publishing option will impact you and your family both before and after your book is published.

Publishing options at a glance

The 3 primary publishing options include e-books, trade publishing, and self-publishing.

E-books

E-books span the gamut from word-processed documents distributed as Adobe Acrobat PDF files to professionally designed books optimized for on-screen reading, like Rajesh Setty’s Defiant. A new generation of e-book readers has received a great deal of attention, like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

When analyzing the pros and cons of e-books, authors need to be careful to ask the right questions. The questions should not revolve around the current popularity of e-books and e-book readers- -i.e., whether or not e-books will replace printed books, etc.

Instead, authors must ask whether or not an e-book, by itself, will be enough to build the compelling, income-generating, personal brand they desire.

The big question is not whether or not e-books are popular, but whether or not they can position you as a subject area expert in your field

Trade publishing

Trade publishing, i.e., printed books published by large, specialized firms and distributed online and through “bricks and mortar” retail channels like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and regional independent bookstores offer authors a “no cost” way to get their book published.

Trade publishers front the money for all of the costs involved in editing, designing, formatting, printing, and distributing the book. In fact, traditionally, authors would receive often-significant advances on the future earnings of their books.

In exchange for freedom from up-front investment, however, authors must pass the gauntlets of rejection; publishers typically receive hundreds of books proposals for each book they publish. In addition, authors typically sacrifice a lot of control. It’s no longer “author and book,” but “author and committee”- -and the committee is a huge one.

Major decisions, like titles, book covers, size, pricing, and market positioning, are taken out of the author’s hands, and many surprises occur. (Many authors don’t even see their book’s front cover until it’s too late!)

Other compromises involve the amount of money authors receive from sales of their books, copyright issues that can limit back-end profit opportunities, and rights to future electronic products (like DVD’s). Most non-fiction books fail to earn royalties beyond the initial advance, although the occasional “home run” can create life-changing cash-flow.

Authors must ask themselves if the publisher’s credibility, expertise, and bookstore distribution are worth the lack of control and reduced earnings characteristic of trade publishing.

Self-publishing

Self-publishing continues to enjoy growing popularity. And, like “hybrid automobiles,” the term covers a broad range of options. Self-publishing ranges from an author taking responsibility for everything- – including editing, designing, printing, and distributing their book- -to options where outside firms will take as much responsibility for book production and distribution as desired.

Self-publishing offers control and speed: author’s call the shots and can get book into the hands of their clients and prospects faster than trade-publishing.

In addition, depending on how much money the author initially invests in their project, authors can far more profit per-copy than they would ever earn from trade publishing. This is especially true with direct online sales and from selling multiple copies of their books to businesses and associations.

Before choosing self-publishing, however, authors must determine whether or not they have the resources necessary to self-publish their book, and also make sure they want to spend their time performing the tasks necessary to distribute their book.

Authors have succeeded, and are succeeding, with each option. In addition, hybrid options are becoming available. What’s important, however, is What will work best for you?

How to choose the right publishing option

Ultimately, the choice for most authors boils down to just 2 issues: cash-flow and task preferences.  Cash-flow and how the author wants to spend their time after their book appears are the crucial issues.

Cash-flow

For many authors, the issue is cash-flow. Self-publishing initially involves negative cash flow, the money flows away from the author. The author is investing (or borrowing) money against future profits. Authors must put out money for editing, design, production, and proof-reading- -in addition to paying up front for printing and shipping.

If the money is there, i.e., if an author can more comfortably invest in their book without risking their financial security, self-publishing makes sense.

But, if the investment will seriously impact their family’s standard or living, or- -, even worse- -put it at risk, self-publishing doesn’t make sense.

The Preliminary Cash Flow Projection worksheet displays the implications of self-publishing versus trade publishing.

Task preferences

Successful self-publishing requires a different set of tasks than writing a book. It’s up to you whether or not the tasks are those you’d like to either commit to on a daily basis or delegate to others. These tasks involve:

  • Processing and fulfilling orders, packaging and addressing individual books, handling the occasional, inevitable, returns.
  • Shipping cartons of books to distributors and bookstores, handling returns of unsold books.
  • Monitoring inventory, deciding when to re-order books.
  • Legal and accounting; monitoring accounts receivable and tracking down overdue payments, dealing with copyright issues.
  • Negotiating terms with bookstores and distributors, including discounts and return privileges.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with these tasks, but authors must balance their writing and client-service time with the minutiae involved in bookstore distribution and fulfilling individual orders.


The Author Task Preference Worksheet helps you identify your “fit” with the tasks involved in self-publishing.

Conclusion

As the above questions show, choosing the right publishing alternative involves more than simply “going with the flow” or choosing the most popular alternative. The right choice of publishing alternative involves carefully balancing their goals and resources with the realities of each publishing option.

To help my clients, I’ve created several worksheets, like my Self-Publishing Expense Planner, shown above, to help authors realistically run the numbers and make the right decisions. (E-mail me if you’d like to see a sample.)

No publisher wants to publish a book that covers the same ground existing books cover. Likewise, no intelligent self-publisher wants to waste the family’s resources on a “me too!” book.

Thus, not only does your book have to serve your intended reader’s needs instead of your interests or your ego, your book also has to bring something new to the table.

The starting point is to evaluate the current competition. This is a task that you can easily accomplish online in two steps:

  • Step One is to locate competing books in your field. You want to know what’s already available, so you can avoid rewriting an existing book.
  • Step Two is to organize the results of your online research into a visual format that will help you position your book relative to the competition.

The procedure outlined below will help you keep track of existing books in your field and save you time identifying the ideal position for your book.

Step l: Locating competing titles

Start by creating a 4-column worksheet similar to the Competing Titles Worksheet shown at left. You can easily do this using the table feature built into your word-processing software. You can also create a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel, or a mind map using Mindjet’s MindManager. (A writing tool we’ll be discussing in an upcoming Author Journey.)

As an easy alternative, to get you quickly get started, you can also work by hand using sheets of lined yellow paper, as described below:

  1. Draw 3 equally-spaced vertical lines on the sheet of paper. This divides the page into 4 columns of equal width.
  2. Add “Author/title” to the top of the first column. When entering author’s names, of course, be sure to begin with the author’s last name, followed by their first name. This will pay big dividends later.
  3. Title the second column “Big Idea.” Or, you can call it “premise” or “type of book.” The goal is to briefly describe the author’s approach to the topic.
  4. The title of the third column should be “Pros & Cons.” This is where you briefly comment on the book’s strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Add “Keywords” to the top of the fourth column. This purpose of this column is to pay attention to the Search Engine Optimization keywords associated with the title. The best book titles are those that contain the keywords readers are searching for online. The sooner you identify the keywords used with successful existing titles, the easier it will be for you to incorporate the right keywords in your book marketing and promotion.

Note that the above worksheet is not intended to include every detail about the books you locate online. Instead, it’s main purpose is to provide a handy way of seeing–at a glance–what’s already been written in your field as a prelude to positioning your book.

Step 2: Visually positioning your book

In order to position my forthcoming book apart from existing books on the topic, I created a simple Book Positioning Worksheet that you can use to position your book apart from existing books. This book will help you identify the most popular categories of existing books, so you can stake out a new territory for your book.

In my case, my goal was to help business professionals write a book that would position them as thought leaders and obvious experts in their field.

Surveying the available books in the writing field, I quickly noticed how most books fell into one of eight categories. For example, there were numerous books in the following categories:

  1. Introductory books about writing and publishing
  2. Locating an agent or preparing book proposals and query letters
  3. How to self-publish a book and make oodles of money
  4. Inside story, or “publishers are mean” books
  5. Creativity and inspiration books
  6. Editing and self-editing books
  7. Marketing and promotion techniques for authors
  8. How to make money writing books

With the competition displayed in the outer 8 boxes of the Book Position Planner, I could see that the missing book–the book that no one had yet written–was a book about book titles!

And, I was off and running! The breakthrough was being able to view existing titles as groups of titles, rather than individual titles.

In the next Author Journey, I’ll address the steps I took to choosing the right publishing alternative and the right publisher.

Offer

If you like the idea of a Book Positioning Planner appeals to you, drop me an e-mail at Roger@Publishedandprofitable.com. I’ll send the first 10 who respond a PDF copy of the Book Positioning Planner shown above. (Please include Book Positioning Planner in the subject line. Thank you.)

Roger-Step1-PlanI’d like to invite you along on an author’s journey towards writing a nonfiction book. During the next 26 weeks, I’m going to share my progress towards my 39th book. I want to share with you some of the strategies and tips I’ve learned about book publishing and personal branding. I also want to share some of the changes that have taken place in publishing, as well as share the steps in the decision-making process that can save you time and help you avoid expensive mistakes.

Why do business professionals like you write books?

Certainly, it’s not the “big bucks” advances from conventional trade publishers. Celebrity 6 and 7-figure advances notwithstanding, direct income from book sales is likely not to become a significant income source for you and your family.

And, unless you self-publish, which requires you to spend money before you can earn money–you’re unlikely to profit from endless streams of recurring income from book royalties each month.

So, why do business professionals write books, if it’s not the money?

There are two ways to answer this question: the anecdotal approach and the statistical, research study approach:

  1. Post-1-MLevy-42Rules-TWO-5Anecdotal approach. The easiest and most readable way to learn why busy professionals write books is to pick up a copy of Mitchell Levy’s 42 Rules for Driving Success with Books. The 5 sections of this book provide concise, entertaining, and revealing real-world portraits of authors who have escaped the economic hell of anonymity by writing a book that positioned them as experts in their field. If you’re looking for believable role models of publishing success, this is the place to start at a very reasonable price.
  2. Post-1-RainToday_Rprt-TWO-5Research-study approach. RainToday, the research and publishing arm of the Wellesley Hills Group, has published a detailed, 2-volume, 300-page Business Book Publishing Series Report. Based on detailed interviews and surveys with published authors, these reports make a dollars and cents argument for writing and publishing a book to build your brand and attract qualified prospects.

The most telling statistic: 96% of authors reported that publishing a business book affected their practice either “Positively” or “Extremely Positively!”

So, why am I, again, beginning an author’s journey?

My last book, Design to Sell, came out in 2006, and my previous book, The Streetwise Guide to Relationship Marketing on the Internet, came out in 2000. My previous books sold over 1.6 million copies throughout the world. (My shelves are loaded with copies of my books I’ll never be able to read, i.e., Chinese, Polish, Russian, and Hebrew editions.)

My best-selling books came earlier, when it was easier to earn significant incomes from publisher’s advances and royalties on book sales. My first NY Times best-seller was Looking Good in Print: A Guide to Basic Design for Desktop Publishing, and the late 1990’s were subsidized by significant royalties from Microsoft Office for Windows 97 For Dummies, and others in the series.

Now, it’s time to write again, and there are several factors driving my decision. The relative importance of the following varies from day to day, but all of the following play a role:

  • Writing is fun. Isn’t that a crazy thing to say? Yet, it’s true. At the end of the day, there’s satisfaction to be found in whatever you’ve been able to accomplish. There’s a lot to be said for starting with nothing, and ending up with a page or two of convincing arguments that didn’t exist at the start of your writing session.
  • Repositioning my expertise. For many years, I was known as the “design guru of our generation who has taught desktop publishing excellence to hundreds of thousands,” as Ralph Wilson said. I continue to love graphic design, but at the present time, I’m more interested in teaching writing skills at Published&Profitable and writing about writing in my daily writing tips blog. The time is right for me to write a book about publishing that will attract more qualified traffic to my website and more invitations to speak.
  • Passion. I’m not only very passionate about the topic, I want to learn more about it and be able to teach it more effectively. Writing is the best way to enhance your understanding and ability to communicate it to others.
  • It’s a different world. There are some wonderful changes taking place in publishing these days. New tools are available that open up new frontier of opportunity for authors who are willing to adapt to the times. Never before have the barriers to entry been as open to entrepreneurial authors as they are now. I’m tired of writing about these changes, I want to take advantage of them myself!

I’m tired of writing about these changes, I want to take advantage of them myself!

I’m looking forward to putting today’s new writing and marketing tools to work writing and promoting a different type of book, one that only now makes sense for business professionals.

My new book also provides an opportunity for me to synthesize marketing and writing in ways that were impossible for most business professionals in 2000, and were only known to a few non-computing professionals in 2006.

I hope you’ll come along for the remaining 25 installments of this author’s journey; and, if you’re so inclined, I hope you’ll become convinced that it’s time for you, too, to begin an author’s journey.

In the second installment of this series, I’m going to address the first question you should ask yourself when writing a book: Who Do You Want to Read Your Book? The answer may surprise you.

Note: Drop me a line at Roger@publishedandprofitable.com and I’ll send you a PDF of the mind map I’ve created for my author’s journey plus a mind map of the contents of my next book!

A little more about Projects

by Himanshu Jhamb on December 7, 2009

ProjectA while ago, I had written about “What a Project is Not”? This post is an extension of that post in which I will discuss why projects are needed and what projects, in fact, are. You will probably get as many interpretations of what a project is, as the number of people you talk with and most of them, are probably right in their own way. But, we are not talking about right or wrong here; we are concerned about what makes for a more powerful interpretation and that’s that. This obviously leads us to the question:  What makes something powerful? The answer is really simple – Anything that is in alignment with why it was invented in the first place makes up for a powerful way of existence. In Projects speak, this would be the purpose of the Project.

So, Why are Projects needed?

Projects are needed when old practices and ways of doing things no longer generate effective results or worse, generate breakdowns that we have to cope with. One of the most common sources that generate the need for projects is the rapidly changing marketplace. Today’s marketplace (as opposed to the one that existed 30-40 years ago) calls for the invention of new projects at breakneck speed. All you have to do is nothing for a month (probably, not even that) and you’ll see how your competition edges you out to obscurity.

What do you need to Invent a Project

The most fundamental thing that is needed even before a Project can be invented is – You must be “Up to” something. It can be as simple as going from point A to point B OR as complex as going to the moon. What you are “Up to” defines why you are inventing the project.  Entrepreneurs are inventing projects all the time. Projects teams are enrolled in this “Project mission” and “execute” on a “plan” towards achieving this goal.

How are projects brought into existence?

Projects are brought into existence by making specific declarations of what it is that will be produced at the end. There are, of course, other parameters on which specific declarations are made around – scope, time line and resources, to name a few but, at a fundamental level these are all declarations of producing a specific result by a certain time frame.

Projects are Costly, yet Unavoidable and Necessary

This is perhaps, the only guarantee, a project carries. Yes, it’s unfortunate, but true. Projects are inherently costly (we obviously see this as an investment – that’s why we incur the cost, but I’ll continue using the word “Costly” for now)  and what makes them so is that it takes time, energy, money and lost opportunities to learn the new practices & tools that are needed to run the project, efficiently. Then there are the costs associated with resources and then there are the many unknown costs – that only show up during the execution of the projects.

It would be a disservice to the topic of projects if I ended on the rather somber “Projects are Costly” note… Projects are also unavoidable and necessary … in that, they will continue to exist and invented as long as the marketplace continues changing and businesses find themselves coping with the changing landscape. Projects have an immense capacity to produce exceptional results to take care of the concerns they are invented for – as long as they are planned for, managed and executed well.

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At Active Garage, we keep tinkering on projects. We have two projects (one completed and one still going on) and more to come. Please check out our current projects here:

1. defiant, a social media powered eBook

2. BLOGTASTIC series

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