Posts Tagged ‘writing business books’

Thought Readership #20: The GOODREADS Challenge

by Liz Alexander on January 21, 2013

GaneshaWhen you get to a certain age you think you’ve seen everything, right? But no, I logged onto LinkedIn recently to find a “Can you recommend me?” request from an “award winning fiction author/top client” I’d never heard of (although I was obviously daft enough to accept a previous request to connect) whose 76-page novel was compiled by a self-publishing services entity called Infinity Publishing. Currently ranking 797,095 on Amazon, her various reviews point to the “terrible” writing, “disjointed” plot and a comment, from someone giving four stars, that “I wish it had been edited a little better.” So where did the “award-winning” part come in? (And, no surprise, I declined her invitation!)

In a world in which anyone can (and does) claim “best selling” or “award winning” status for their book I thought about how, when talking or writing about thought leadership, I remind people that this is a term that’s meant to be bestowed on you by others, not something you get to adopt just because it sounds cool. So in that vein I went searching for last year’s Best Books lists. Who gets on them, anyhow?

After giving up on the undoubtedly worthy but dull-sounding (and long!) lists of nonfiction books I’d never heard of, produced by the likes of Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, and the New Yorker, and stopping briefly by the business-specific books reviewed by strategy +business plus the December 2012 best-sellers offered up by 800-CEO-READ, I decided to wander over to Goodreads to see what had shown up in their Choice Awards nonfiction category for 2012. Why? Because what we want for our books (or, at least, I do) is approbation from a mainstream audience—people who typically read rather than get paid to review. And who do so NOT because of the “I’ll-offer-you-entry-in-a-drawing-for-a-free-iPad-if-you’ll-write-me-a-five-star-review” tactics of some self-published authors that increasingly taints the comments seen on Amazon.com; in genuine appreciation of good quality writing.

The following observations will (hopefully) spark some spirited discussion about what still constitutes successful nonfiction (at least as far as unbiased readers are concerned) in an era when it sometimes feels that we are being drowned in mediocre dross.

Among Goodreads’ Top Ten (books garnering 1,000 votes or more)

–          Despite (I’m assuming) no discrimination against self-published books, ALL of these books were published by major houses—Random House; Little, Brown; Free Press etc. Not a single CreateSpace original among them!

–          All were written by journalists or self-proclaimed professional writers (with a sprinkling of academics).

–          None was the author’s first book and several had appeared on the New York Times’ bestseller list.

Of Goodreads’ Top Three:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

Common praise for these three very different books covered many of the themes I’ve discussed in this column over the past year:

–          Quality writing.

–          Well researched, providing not just the author’s experience and opinion but third party “science” or other content.

–          Entertaining, strong on storytelling.

–          Addressing topics that haven’t been done to death already.

–          Interesting conversation starters.

So what’s the point I’m making? Am I suggesting that, if you’re not already an award-winning, professional writer who has nothing else to do but research and write then you should give up the goal of ever crafting a book that could inspire readers to consider it (as one did for Boo’s book) “an impressive achievement”?

Not at all! But that’s where the bar is set, so it behooves those who are supporting the self-publishing revolution to rise to the challenge, not drag standards lower.

How?

  1. Stop thinking of your book as a spare-time project. Get into the mindset of a professional writer. Make regular “appointments” with your book when you do nothing but write it!
  2. Write every day—quality prose, not informal email exchanges, tweets, or stream-of-consciousness blog posts. Writing well comes from writing well a lot.
  3. Leave aside your opinion and personal experience and do some objective research. Who is supporting or rejecting the premise of your book? How can you weave this into your manuscript?
  4. Become a better storyteller. There are no end of books, articles, and blog posts (my favorite site being Copyblogger) on this topic. Take a screenwriting or novel-writing course to learn the rudiments of crafting a powerful, emotionally engaging story.
  5. Do your due diligence before you begin writing your book. There’s a reason why publishing houses (big and small) ask for a competitive analysis when you submit a book proposal: you need to be aware of what’s already been written about your topic (even tangentially connected topics) in order not to simply repeat what’s already out there.
  6. For goodness sake, hire a professional editor to help you craft a quality manuscript before self-publishing. At the very least, one who will help you avoid readers’ comments like: “terrible writing” and “I wish it had been edited a little better.”

Your thoughts?

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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In many ways, teleseminars are the ideal tool to launch your book to great success. Teleseminars make it easy and affordable for you to generate advance orders for your book, leading to a successful book launch.

Why teleseminars?

Here are some of the reasons teleseminars work so well for nonfiction authors:

  • Free. Let’s start with the obvious; most teleseminar services are free. Combine this with the “free market” opportunities of e-mail and social marketing (blogs, Twitter, etc.) and you have a dynamite marketing tool that far surpasses the free tools available to authors in previous decades.
  • Easy. Teleseminars are easy to prepare and deliver. All you need to do is prepare a simple outline, or mind map, or outline, of the topics you want to discuss.
  • Personal. Teleseminars build enthusiasm and early “buy in” for the launch of your book. Teleseminars not only build familiarity and trust, but listening to you discuss your book as you write creates a community that wants to see your book succeed.
  • Pre-publication testimonials. Discussing and sharing drafts of your upcoming book with teleseminar attendees will inevitably lead to live and e-mailed pre-publication quotes which you can use on your website and for promoting your book.

But, perhaps the most important benefit of a teleseminar series about your book is the opportunities they offer for pre-selling copies of your book before it appears.

Advance sales

There are two benefits of advance sales. If you’re self-publishing, advance sales can generate cashflow before your book appears. To benefit from advance sales, you’ll want to create a meaningful incentive- -beyond just a pre-publication discount- -such as audio copies or transcripts of your calls, or PDF copies of bonus content, such as special reports or worksheets.

Advance sales are equally important if your book is being published by a trade publisher for bookstore distribution. Bookstores pay careful attention to advance orders; titles with strong advance sales on Amazon.com and other online retailers. Bookstores will view advance orders as evidence of strong market interest in your book, increasing the likelihood they will increase their initial orders.

In addition, evidence of strong advance sales might also free up some additional marketing support from trade publishers.

Promoting your teleseminars

Promoting your teleseminar series is easier today than ever before.  Today’s authors have access to a wide selection of free, online, marketing tools that will make it easy for you to promote your teleseminars.

You’re probably already using most of the tools, such as:

  1. E-mail marketing
  2. Blogging and guest blogging
  3. Social media, like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
  4. Online press releases

Your ability to manage your time is an important predictor of teleseminar success. Success comes from promoting your teleseminars the same way you use tools like a Google Calendar to schedule your writing time. Successful authors view their writing time as time commitments, or appointments, they make with themselves. A couple of 30-minute sessions each week should be enough to use e-mail and the Internet to promote your teleseminars and promote the launch of your book.

Teleseminar Planning

Preparing for your teleseminars

Most authors find teleseminars easy to prepare, since it is often easier to talk about a topic than it is to write about it.

There’s no reason to “script” your teleseminar, as this will inevitably cause you to speak in a “reading” voice. Instead, prepare an outline, or a mind map (download sample), that displays the topics you want to cover, and in what order.

Avoid sentences when planning teleseminar content

Resist the urge to include full “subject, verb, noun” sentences in your outlines or mind maps!

Instead, simply list the keywords, or phrases, you want to cover. Include enough information to jog your memory, and keep you on track, but keep your notes as short as possible. This will result in a much more lively teleseminar for both you and your attendees.

After all, your teleseminar attendees are adults; they’re not children who want you to read to them, they want to hear your talk about your upcoming book, and be able to comment and ask you questions!

Presentation tips

Here are a few teleseminar tips that have helped me over the years:

  • ŸMuting. Always mute your callers to avoid distractions like vacuum cleaners, dogs barking, background conversations, or- -worst of all- -answering machines.
  • Beginning. Always begin by describing the relevance of the information you’re about to share, and how it aligns with your book and your market’s information needs.
  • Middle. Don’t try to tell everything about your book in a single teleseminar. Instead, focus each teleseminar on a single chapter, or topic, covered in your book. Limit teleseminar content to 3 main ideas, followed by a short bullet list of tips. Avoid spending too much time on any one point.
  • Question & Answers. Never end your teleseminar with a request for comments and questions. If callers don’t respond, your disappointment and discomfort will be obvious, and it will sap the energy of everyone on your call. Instead, open the lines with an invitation for questions and comments well before the end of your call.
  • Resist the urge to panic when callers don’t immediately respond. No one wants to be the first caller to comment or ask a question. Give them time to respond. Once the first caller asks a question or comments, the others will follow.
  • Conclusion/call to action. End your call with a summary of the important points, and a call to action. Your call to action can be an invitation to pre-order your book, or you can direct callers to a landing page where they can download a bonus PDF and learn more about you- -or take advantage of your latest offer.

Teleseminar frequency

As in so many other aspects of marketing, success rarely comes from an individual teleseminar; instead, success typically is the result of a series of teleseminars that build on each other and reinforce each other.

It’s up to you to decide how far ahead of your book’s launch you want to begin your teleseminars. There’s nothing wrong with committing to a pre-publication teleseminar series to launch your book the day you sign your publishing contract or the day you begin writing your book. However, once you commit to a teleseminar series to promote your book and attract pre-publication sales, set up a schedule of events at consistent intervals. The commitment of a scheduled teleseminar series will ensure the success of your book launch promotion.

Visit Roger C. Parker’s Active Garage resource center, where you can download mindmaps and resources available only to Author Journey readers. (No registration required)

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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