Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Life's Milestones are the Markers for Success: An Interview with Melissa Soldani-Lemon

When did you start your blog, Stories for Invisible Friends?

I officially started in Summer 2005 when I was moving from South Florida to take a faculty position as a history professor in Tallahassee.  Before that I had a website where I published the articles I wrote for parenting magazines.

Why did you start your blog?

The first time I heard the word "blog" and became aware of their existence was in Summer 2005 when I read about a New York Beauty editor/blogger losing her job for writing about work while at work.

Minutes after I read that article I followed a few links and had my own blog up.  I had no specific intentions, no desired audience. It felt very much like buying a new leather journal - exciting, inspiring, fresh and new.

What is the significance of turning 40 and posting your 1000th blog entry on the same day for you?

About two months ago when I logged on to Blogger,  I saw that I was at post 950, and decided to pace myself to hit 1,000 on my 40th birthday.

Honestly, I'm amazed at how effortlessly the stories have come, and how they show how my perspective and voice have evolved over the past three years.  One thousand sounds like a huge number, but really, it works out to less than a story a day, reflecting only a tiny corner of my life.

At first I thought I would write about turning 40, but I have a bigger story to write --  one that doesn't involve me at all. It's called "Hearts: Broken and Hopeful."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My book on iPhone

Back in October Forbes reported that iPhone had stolen the lead over Kindle. And just last week, Random House and Penguin announced mobile phone initiatives, with an emphasis particularly on the Apple iPhone and the App Store. Neither publishing house offers new titles on iPhone, however. Random House is offering older titles for download and Penguin is offering only promotional material for new titles.

Visual Impressions Publishing is proud to take a leading position in the world of publishers and bring its titles to iPhone. 4Ps to Publishing Success: Get Your Manuscript Off Your Desk & Into Print, is our first title available for download on your iPhone.

Wondering what a book will look like on your iPhone? Check it out: vertical or horizontal (widescreen) orientation. (Press the carat symbol to start the presentation, then sit back and watch.) The book can be purchased on iTunes or via the web.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cover the basics with your Internet book marketing

Learning the tips and tricks of today's technology is a big part of what a successful author needs to do. If you're just getting started with Internet promotion, here are some very basic tips. 

  1. Create an email signature. How many emails do you send out a day? Every one should have your contact info below your signature...that's just a professional courtesy. Add the name of your book or product, your blog or web address or just an interesting quote. Think of your emails as an electronic business card.

  2. Use an email delivery program such as Constant Contact or Aweber to manage your email lists for your newsletter. Whether you use html design or text-only format, your newsletter will appear much more professional coming from this type of delivery system. The other benefits include: unsubscribe and bounced emails deleted automatically, sign-up box for your site provided and reports on who opened the emails and which links were clicked.

  3. If you're haven't started your own blog, read blogs by other people in your industry and comment on them. You can link back to your site, and at the very least, get your name out there. This can be very helpful if you comment on blogs with high readership. Lots of eyes get used to your name. Of course, it's most beneficial when you can link to your own site or blog, but don't wait to begin--just do it!

  4. Join some social networking sites. Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, GoodReads and Book Marketing Network are just a few. Don't panic if you are new and don't know what you're doing. Just set up a profile to begin, browse and join some groups and watch what others do. Before you know it, you'll be addicted to making "friends" and posting your information. (See my Facebook and LinkedInprofiles, or follow me on Twitter.)

If any or all of this sounds foreign, scary or just plain overwhelming, you may want to consider getting some assistance. Having a mentor to guide you step by step through the process can be reassuring when navigating new and unfamiliar territory. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can and need to be doing to build your audience. (And you know you need to do this before and while you're writing the book, right?)

As the new year approaches and you write "get my book published" to yet another year's resolution list, do something for yourself that can truly help you reach your goal. Don't let another go by without taking real action.

VIP Authors Inner Circle is a group mentoring program for serious writers who have the vision but need the insider know-how to make their dreams reality. Inner Circle members receive a stream of valuable publishing information and have an opportunity to get personal feedback during live coaching and teleseminar calls with publishing experts. Join in December and save $30. Program description and full list of benefits here>>>


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The end of publishing marks the beginning for authors

More articles and blog posts about the future of the publishing industry have been written in the past two weeks than I can ever remember reading (and I spend 2-3 hours per day reading industry news). The massive layoffs at the major houses, cutbacks or freezes on manuscript acquisitions and gloomy sales reports have many predicting the fall of the industry and the end of books.

Considering that I have been in this industry over 30 years and love books, these gloomy forecasts might have made me sad, but I'm not. Not at all. I am JUICED at the prospect of some real change in an industry that has operated in an outdated model for years. (Of course, I am compassionate for those who lost jobs, but there are other jobs, and much work to do for those who are committed to their own success and the future of book publishing.)

Looking to other creative industries, we have the models for change. I believe the salvation of the industry lies with the creators of the written word, not the publishers. Publishing has been slow to recognize the value of independent authors, unlike the music and film industries where indie artists are revered. I've attended writers conferences for decades and the message was always that it's hard to get published, but follow our rules, even though we probably won't accept your work anyway.

Faced with that bleak advice, many authors looked to other outlets for their message and found them in the form of self-publishing via print on demand, ebooks, blogs, spoken word, podcasts and books on cell phones. Yes, in the beginning quality was shaky and not of comparable quality to what the big houses put out, but all that has changed.  "Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come," said Victor Hugo. The technology has made it possible and now authors finally have the opportunity to connect directly with their readers, a strategy that has been hugely successful in the music industry.

When I look ahead my vision is clear and hopeful about the direction of the industry and the future of publishing. We are entering the Age of the Author. Whoohoo!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Is your blog creating a buzz or just Z's?

You probably started your blog as a way to communicate with your audience, perhaps hoping that an Internet presence would help increase your readership and ultimately sell your book or service.

How's it working out for you so far? Do you sometimes feel you are pouring your heart out on the page (or onto the computer) and you've no idea if anyone even knows you exist? Do you ask yourself if you're wasting your time when you could be writing your book instead? If you're not getting any feedback in the form of reader comments or trackbacks from other blog writers, it may be time to ask yourself, "Is my blog creating a buzz or putting people to sleep?"

Like books, blogs are meant to educate and entertain. To be successful with your blog (or your book), ask yourself these three questions before beginning:

  1. Who will read what I write? Identifying your audience before you begin will get you focused on communicating your message and help eliminate writer's block. Having a clear picture of your reader will also help you figure out how and where to reach them in the real and virtual worlds. 

  2. What new information or solution am I bringing to the marketplace? This may be the single-most important factor in determining whether you will keep and grow your blog readership. Certainly a pleasant design and good writing helps, but if you're not educating, offering new information or providing a solution to a problem, then there's little reason for readers to follow your blog.

  3. How can I balance creating value for my readers with marketing my book, product or service? Readers understand that you have a book or service that may help them; that's why they read your blog or newsletter. They appreciate hearing about your new offerings, especially if there's a special reward, such a discount, bonus or gift. The key is balance your promotion with real value to the customer. If ever in doubt, go with this maxim: The more you give, the more you will receive.

Blogging can be an effective and fun way to spread your news and your views. The most popular blogs are the ones where the author keeps a clear and authentic voice. So be who you are: funny,chatty,  radical, serious, intense--just don't be boring and your readership (and sales) will grow.