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Nonfiction Writing Technique: Show Me The Details

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Nonfiction Writing Technique: Show Me The Details

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I happen to reside in what is known as the “Show Me” state. When I first heard that slogan, I didn’t get it. Show me what? After a little research, I later found out the slogan was derived from Willard Duncan Vandiver, a Missouri Congressman, during a speech he gave in 1899. He said, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me” (Source).

In other words, Missourians are not gullible. Don’t just tell us. If you want us to believe, you need to show us the truth through facts and evidence.

It’s funny. My state’s slogan reminds me of one of the most basic directives in writing: Show, don’t tell! I’m certain you’ve heard that phrase before, so today I want to dive in and explore how to do that by using descriptive details in your writing.

Here’s a quote that I really love, because it sums up the difference between boring writing and really good writing:

sensory languageA couple of years ago, we wrote an article about the importance of sensory language. Sensory language is just what it sounds like – it’s the language of our five senses. When you use sensory language, you describe what you saw, felt, heard, tasted, and smelled.  You don’t write, “I was sad when my girlfriend left me.” You write, “When she told me she was leaving, she smiled as she whispered the words, ‘I’m leaving you.’ My throat clamped tight. I blinked hard, so I wouldn’t cry, but one hot tear fell and salted my upper lip.”

In this passage, you find four of the five senses: She told me–hearing; throat clamped tight and hot tear–feeling; she smiled–sight; she whispered–hearing; salted my upper lip–taste. The only sense not included is the sense of smell.

Sensory language punches up your writing and engages the reader. It breaks up the monotony and helps the reader to visualize the scene so they can experience it.

Sensory language IS the details.

When you add detail to your writing, you ARE like a painter.

Words are your paint, and you can use all the colors!

Writing in detail takes time, but not as much as you might think. There are a lot of resources for learning how to do this, but my favorite is the book Bird by Bird  by Anne Lamott. This is a classic in the world of writers and well worth having on your bookshelf. I want to share a couple of snippets from the book that have helped me in my own writing.

Anne Lamott encourages writers to look at their world in small sections, the size of a one-inch picture frame. “All I have to do is write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame, she says. That sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

And when you’re frenzied about how much you need to write, step back and look through that one-inch picture frame.

“All we’re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry.”

That’s it. Construct the details of your book by looking through these small windows. And when you look through small windows, you see a lot more minutiae, like the curved crack etched in the sidewalk, or the one green pea that rolled under the table, or the rim of grease under his fingernails.

Details make the difference, so show them to your readers!

Ready to get started? Sign up for an online writing class and get your book out!

 

 


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Authors Are Making Less Money? I’m Not Buying It

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This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com

A recent Authors Guild survey suggests that author income is down dramatically. There are plenty of signs that this is not true and plenty of ways to leverage your book to make additional income.

Every few years, authors have to endure news of impending doom — at least as it pertains to the publishing industry and their chances to profit in it. Case in point: The Authors Guild 2018 Salary Survey reported author income has fallen 42 percent since 2009. Reports like these contribute to a growing and troublesome identity crisis among writers — newer writers, especially.

I believe these reports are inherently flawed. For one thing, the data presented doesn’t show a complete picture — especially for self-published authors. The 2018 Authors Guild survey, for example, only represents a tiny slice of authors who are publishing today. It does not account for all self-published authors and is actively biased toward older, traditionally published folks.

If you accept the commonly-quoted number that over one million new books are published each year in the US, this survey — with the small sample size it offers — represents something close to one half of one percent of authors who are actually writing.

To get more into the specifics, the Guild’s conclusion in the 2018 survey was that the median writing-related income for all authors — including part-time, full-time, traditionally published, self-published, and hybrid-published authors — was just $6,080, which is down 42 percent since 2009.

Does this represent a “crisis of epic proportions,” as the survey proclaims? I’d argue it doesn’t.

First, it doesn’t speak to the success of working writers, the folks who earn money through writing in addition to other income streams. Among those folks, the numbers are actually very encouraging:

  • Median income for working published authors was $20,857, an increase of 13% since 2013.
  • Over 2,000 authors reported average publisher royalties from traditional publishing houses of almost $32,000.
  • Self-published authors registered stronger earnings, with over 1,600 of them listing average book sales of $31,000.
  • Overall, the top 30 percent of “full-time authors”  — authors who write regularly — had median incomes of over $50,000

No doubt, it is very, very difficult to make a comfortable living exclusively by publishing books. But does that mean all aspiring writers should quit? Of course not. The craft alone is inherently worthwhile. But, the reality this survey ignores is that the most successful writers today don’t rely exclusively on book sales for income. Rather, they use their books as springboards for other revenue opportunities. Their books create those opportunities, including additional writing gigs, speaking engagements, and brand/business building.

Additional writing gigs

A book is not the be-all and end-all for a writer. Whether or not publishing income is as lucrative as it was in the past, authors still find substantial revenue in magazine, newspaper, and web publishing.

In addition to new content that might ignite the next book idea, some authors create articles based on their book’s content or even excerpt parts of their books and sell them as magazine or blog articles. These published works provide the opportunity to mention the book title in the “about the author” blurbs, providing additional promotional benefit and potential book sales. This is something you can do even while your book is awaiting release, touting in your bio “new” or “upcoming” titles.

Of course, more generally, writing success begets more opportunity. Editors will be more likely to want to publish you, and you’ll have the chance to work on new projects you find interesting — and that can make you more money.

Speaking engagements

I attended the National Speakers Association Conference in 2018, and every single attendee had written — or planned to write — his or her own book. In many cases, their book was the ticket that provided them access to speak at the conference. And many speaking engagements, I might add, pay handsomely. Hundreds of BookBaby authors have leveraged their books into very lucrative speaking careers across a huge range of topics.

Simply put, writing and publishing a book helps authors to legitimize their careers and positions them as subject-matter experts.

Building your business and brand

Finally, I know several authors who have written valuable books that could generate serious royalties, but they choose to offer them for free on their websites. Why? Because people who download those free books became aware of the author’s consulting business, training programs, and other services.

Your book, in this sense, can serve as an introduction to the business and brand of you — a business and brand which, when it’s all said and done, could very well bring in 10 times the amount of money book sales alone would have.

Look, authors are motivated by a wide variety of things: prestige, status, professional validation, checking an item off the bucket list… It deserves noting that most writers are going to continue writing regardless of the monetary rewards.

Still, those rewards and motivations are important. That’s why I believe it’s almost irresponsible that traditional industry groups release surveys like the one which inspired this article. In some sense, they’re lobbing weapons against perceived publishing industry bad guys, like Amazon.

Bottom line: if you’re an author, don’t be dismayed by findings like the Authors Guild survey. Consider, instead, findings like those released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which noted the median income for “writers and authors” in the US in 2017 was $61,820 annually. It even estimates the field will expand 8% in the next decade. So keep writing!


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Father’s–We Can’t Do It Without You

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Last month the world paid tribute to all our mothers. On Sunday, June 16th, we celebrate the dads on Father’s Day. In mainstream media, it seems that you only hear about the deadbeat dads who don’t step up to the plate. You know the type: consistently unemployed, emotionally unavailable, and completely uninvolved with the little ones they helped to create.

I’m a mother of two daughters and was fortunate that they had a very involved father, and it makes me angry when I hear about men who’ve simply chosen to optfather figure-out. With the statistics of “single-mothers” now at an all-time high, it’s no wonder we think that some men have abandoned the home.

But, what about the men who do step up to their responsibility as a father figure? We don’t hear enough about them, and sometimes it seems that the father’s role is often minimized when compared to the mother’s. This isn’t true. If you don’t think dads have a critical role in the development of their children, think again.

Studies have shown that children who grow up without a strong father figure have:

  • A diminished self-concept and compromised physical and emotional security. Children consistently report feeling abandoned when their fathers are not involved in their lives, they struggle with their emotions and have episodic bouts of self-loathing.
  • Behavioral problems. Fatherless children have more difficulties with social adjustment, and are more likely to report problems with friendships, and manifest behavior problems.
  • Truancy and poor academic performance. Seventy-one percent percent of high school dropouts are fatherless.
  • Delinquency and youth crime, including violent crime. Eighty-five percent of youth in prison have an absent father, and fatherless children are more likely to offend and go to jail as adults.
  • Promiscuity and teen pregnancy. Fatherless children are more likely to experience problems with sexual health, including a greater likelihood of having intercourse before the age of 16, becoming teenage parents, and contracting sexually transmitted infection.

Source

These statistics keep going. When you look at the problems around our country, you can’t help but wonder how many of them would be solved if more children grew up with a father figure. Remember, not EVERY child that grows up without a father will experience these side effects, but many, unfortunately, do. Dads, if you didn’t think you were important to your child’s life, I hope this changes your mind.

Fathers, Learn How To Connect With Your Kids With The Help of Rich Daniels

When Rich came to us with his book idea, we knew it was something we wanted to be a part of. Through stories of his own shortcomings and experiences as a father to his three beautiful and uniquely different children, Rich brings hope and inspiration, as well as a multitude of ideas for fathers to try so that their kids feel they are known, valued, and loved. The key is to connect in areas that are important to the child and to engage with them there.

The purpose of his book is to teach and encourage fathers who yearn for a deeper relationship with their children some specific attitudes, actions, and behaviors that will build rock-solid relationships and anchor their children because they feel known, valued, and loved. His book, A Tourist In My Own Life: For Father’s Who Yearn For a Deeper Relationship With Their Children is available now for purchase and would make a wonderful gift for every father this Father’s Day. Click here to get your copy today!

The Good Guys

Fatherless children are a big problem in our country, so I want to pay tribute to some of the people who have chosen to be part of the solution, such as organizations like The National Center for Fathering, which was created in 1990 in response to the social and economic impact of fatherlessness in America. Their dedicated team of professionals wholeheartedly believe every child needs a dad they can count on.

The research is clear: children thrive when they have an involved father or father figure-someone who loves them, knows them, guides them, and helps them achieve their destiny. The National Center for Fathering works to improve the lives of children and reverse the trends of fatherlessness by inspiring and equipping fathers, grandfathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. Source

For more information about this organization or how to become involved, please visit them at www.fathers.com


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I Started My Book But Got All Tangled Up

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As a nonfiction book coach, we often work with people that have never written a book before. We also get calls from people who’ve already started writing a book but got tangled up along the way. Maybe that’s where you are right now. You were really excited about your project, and you jumped in with both feet and started to write. But it wasn’t long before your writing was all tangled up. You had lots and lots of ideas floating around in your head, but now you can’t make sense of them, and you know they won’t make sense to anyone else.

The first thing you need to do before you do anything else is: cut the cord. Cut yourself free from the jumbled writing and start anew—this time with a concrete plan. You’ll probably be able to salvage some of what you’ve written, but you can’t move forward unless you start afresh.

I’m not really a storyteller myself. I tend to get all tangled up when I try and tell stories.

—Daniel Day-Lewis

Start With A Plan

I remember a conversation I had with my friend George. George, a successful businessman, had been writing a book to help others jumpstart their careers.

“I started writing my book,” he said, “but now I just don’t know what I’m doing. It’s a mess.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself, George. If you’ve never written a book, how would you even know how to get started?”

“That’s it. I didn’t know where to start, so I just started. Now I can’t make heads or tails of any of it.”

“I know exactly what you need to do. But I’m going to ask you to set everything that you’ve written aside and to start from the beginning. We need to build the foundation of your book.”

“What does that mean—build the foundation?”

“We start with some Foundational Questions and distill all your thoughts into a single Purpose Statement. Once we have that Purpose Statement and we’ve defined your audience, we create BookMAPs that are a visual representation of everything that will be in your book. When you have these BookMAPs, you can write in an organized manner with cohesive themes.”

“But what about what I’ve already written? It seems like a waste of the time I’ve already spent to put it aside and start over.”

“It’s not a loss at all. We’ll figure out where it fits on your BookMAP, and we’ll plug it in at the appropriate spots.”

If you’ve already started writing your book, you may not want to go back to the beginning. I understand that. There’s nothing I despise more than doing something over. When you have a step-by-step process to follow, you have clear direction about how to write a book. It’s like having a recipe to follow when you’re cooking—essentially a set of instructions—to follow when writing a book.

That’s the kind of process I offered George. He enrolled in an Executive Group Coaching class and followed the instructions step after step after step until he’d completed his manuscript.

“I can’t believe how different this is from what I started with,” he said. “There’s no way I could have done this by myself. It was such a mess before, and now it all flows together and makes sense.”

“It’s really a great book,” I assured him, “and you did it all yourself. All you needed was a foundation to build from. After that, you followed the steps.”

It was all about cleaning up what George already had, putting it in the right order, and adding what was necessary to fill the gaps.

 

What about you? If you’ve gotten all tangled up in your writing, don’t fret and don’t put it aside. You can straighten it out and continue in an organized manner. Contact us today and we can show you how!

 


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Process Of Writing a Book—What Are The Steps?

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As a coach, public speaker or business leader, you have the opportunity to influence millions. You have the expertise and solutions that can help others. You know how to tell a story, and you have testimonials. You’re talented and what you have to say matters. But do other people know how credible you are? Do they know you’re an expert in your field? If not, you can increase your credibility and attract a following by writing your book with The Book Professor.

But, you might be thinking: how do I write a book? I don’t know the first step. Don’t worry, you don’t have to have one word written. I’ll walk with you on this journey and show you the steps to take.

 

Building with multiple staircases

Work With The Book Professor And Write a Top Quality Book

Writing a top quality book requires you to follow all the writing, design, and publishing conventions—which is a lot to learn.

The good news is, you don’t have to learn all these conventions. You can work with professionals like me who are deep in the publishing industry. Here, in a nutshell, is the process we’ll follow:

  • Editing and Testing

Once you’ve written your draft manuscript, it’s time to turn it over for editing by one or more professionals and testing by a focus group of readers.

  • Developmental Editing

Every top-notch author—and that’s what you aspire to be—has a first-class developmental editor. That professional takes a look at your manuscript and instructs you on critical elements, such as its structure and flow. A developmental editor is crucial for every author, particularly if you are not a professional writer.

  • Testing Your Message

The best way to learn if your manuscript achieves its goal is to gather a group of six to ten people who are part of your target market—a kind of focus group that works independently.

  • Final Editing

For this round of editing, you need a line-level editor. Your editor will scrub your work and make corrections in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure.

  • Book Title and Design

Did you know there’s an entire psychology that applies to the design of book covers? Your book cover and your title work together to invite potential readers to purchase your book. Together, they communicate the essence of your book, while starting to answer a question in the potential reader’s mind: “What’s this book about?”

  • Proofreading

If you want a flawless manuscript, you must hire a professional proofreader after your designer has laid out your book. The fresh eyes of a professional proofreader are needed to catch errors that will undermine your credibility. You skip this critical step at your—and your book’s—peril!

  • Book Production

When it’s time to produce your book, you have some options. You can use an on-demand printer, such as Amazon or BookBaby, who only print the books after they are sold. Some authors, however, want to maximize their profits by investing in some inventory. If that’s the case, you can work with a local or regional printer, order a large quantity of books, and warehouse them until they’re sold. Either way, we will guide you on the best option for your book.

You can spend a lot of time and money to write your book and still end up with a substandard product—like all too many self-published authors. If you want your book to establish you as an expert in your field, increase your credibility, and attract a following you must work with professionals. There’s no wiggle room here. Contact The Book Professor today and we can help you take the next step!


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Nonfiction Writing Technique: Pacing

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This summer while you’re working on your book, it’s important to keep techniques like pacing top-of-mind. Never heard of the term? It’s OK! Keep reading to learn how mastering this format will make your readers eager for more and keep your book at the top of their mind!

The term PACING in literature refers to the rate at which your story progresses. Your job as a nonfiction writer is to move the story along without losing your audience. It’s important not to go too fast, and you certainly don’t want to go so slow that you bore them to death. When you understand how to control the pace of your story, you’ve grasped one of the most important skills in writing.  Keep the following in mind when you write, and you’ll be a master at story pacing in no time.

story pacing1. Length controls speed.

Short scenes and chapters, terse sentences, and snappy dialogue all contribute to a feeling of intensity and speed. This is probably the easiest way to control your pacing. As your story nears the tense scenes, make it a point to condense everything. Limit the length of your scenes to 500-800 words, cut your scenes short at important moments, and switch back and forth between points of view.

Fragments, sparse sentences, and short paragraphs quicken the pace. Crisp, punchy verbs, especially those with onomatopoeia (crash, lunge, sweep, scatter, ram, scavenge) also add to a quick pace. Invest in suggestive verbs to enliven descriptions, build action scenes, and milk the suspense.

Harsh consonant sounds such as those in words like claws, crash, kill, quake, and nag can push the reader ahead. Words with unpleasant associations can also ratchet up the speed: hiss, grunt, slither, smarmy, venomous, slaver, and wince. Energetic, active language is especially appropriate for building action scenes and suspense and for setting up drama and conflict.

A fast pace means you trim every sentence of unnecessary words. Eliminate prepositional phrases where you don’t need them: For example, “the walls of the cathedral” can be written as “the cathedral walls.” Finally, search your story for passive linking verbs and trade them in for active ones.

2. Vary Story Pacing

As important as the high-tension race-‘em-chase-‘em scenes are, it’s even more important to vary your pacing with slow, introspective scenes. Without the slow scenes, your characters and your readers won’t have a chance to catch their breaths. Even the most exciting scenes lose their intensity if they aren’t balanced with moments of deliberate quiet.

3. Pay Attention to Details to Build Momentum

In film, directors often show scenes in slow motion to indicate that something dramatic is happening or about to happen. One of the best ways writers can mimic this technique is to slow their own writing down by piling on the details. Let’s say one of your characters is shot. This is an important moment in the story, and you want the readers to feel its impact. You can do this when you take your time and describe every detail: the look on the gunman’s face as he fires, the recoil of the pistol, the flash of the barrel, the horror that chokes the victim, and finally the collision of the bullet.

4. Control Your Tell vs. Show Ratio

Although “showing” your audience the blow-by-blow details is key to engage the reader and make them feel the tension, sometimes the best way to hurtle them through a scene is to condense certain actions into “telling.” Perhaps you want to use that scene where your character is shot, but you don’t want to linger on it. You want to do a quick flyby, shock your readers, and plunge them into the action after the gunshot. Instead of taking the time to show the details, you can thrust the gunshot upon the reader simply by telling him/her that it happened.

5. Manipulate Sentence Structure

The mark of a professional writer is his ability to control the ebb and flow of his sentence structure. The most subtle way to influence your story pacing is through your sentence structure. The length of words, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs all contribute to the pacing.

Long=slow

Short=fast

When it’s time to write the intense scenes, cut back on the beautiful, long-winded passages and give it to your reader straight. Short sentences and snappy nouns and verbs convey urgency, whereas long, measured sentences offer moments of introspection and build-up.

To write like a professional, you must master the art of story pacing. This is critical to the success of your book. Once you perfect this writing technique, you will leave your readers eager for more. It takes practice, but the payoff is worth it in the end.

What about you? Do you need help writing a book? Have a manuscript but don’t know where to go from there? We can help. Contact us today to find out how

 


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Define Your Purpose

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It’s almost summer. School’s out, and that vacation is just around the corner. Take some time off, but no matter how hot it gets outside, you must take time to water the garden! Let me explain. As a nonfiction book coach, I have the privilege of working with people from all walks of life. But something funny tends to happen in the summer. They’ve worked hard all year on their book, but for some, the summer months can make them want to go kerplunk and put their book aside until the Fall. Don’t let that be you. Whether you’re a coach, speaker, or entrepreneur, you still must water the garden, even when it’s hot outside! And that means the work should continue!

This is especially true for public speakers! If you’re a public speaker, you must continue to work the garden to set up speaking engagements, whether they’re scheduled now or later in the year. But first, your purpose must be defined.

Brand Yourself to Show People What You Are All About

If you want to prove yourself as a desirable speaker and land more speaking engagements, you need to establish a clear purpose. When you try to appeal to every audience, you don’t stand out as an expert in anything. If you brand yourself as an authority in a specific field, you are more likely to get booked to speak at relevant events.

So how can you decide on your personal brand and purpose?

brand yourself

It’s important to take a closer look at who you are, what you do, and what messages you hope to convey through your public speaking. If you are a personal finance expert, maybe your purpose is to help the average person better understand their finances and manage them. If you are a domestic abuse survivor, maybe your purpose is to tell your story of survival and help others recognize dangerous situations and see that they are strong enough to get out.

Be unique

Your personal brand and purpose might be similar to others within the same field, so what makes you so special? When you brand yourself, make sure that your purpose sets you apart from the rest. Make your message one that people will be dying to hear. If you want to get booked, you need to be like a great movie trailer — catch people’s interest and leave them wanting more.

Show The World You Are Available

You could be an excellent public speaker with a wealth of knowledge, but how will anyone ever find you if they don’t know you are available? If you want to brand yourself as an expert and public speaker, you will need to put information about your skills online so that the people who are interested in booking you can find you.

A bio is essential, as people will want to know your background, including relevant personal, professional, and academic achievements. There should be a clear statement, separate from your bio, stating the topics that you address for your public speaking engagements. That clarity alone will give a valuable preview of your unique message.

Visuals are always useful to catch people’s eyes, so whenever possible, include videos and photos of yourself in action. You want to demonstrate that you are confident and captivating in front of an audience.

Find Your Purpose And Be the Best You

As I always say, you are the only one who can tell your story. Explore yourself and your story to decide what your purpose is as a speaker, and then commit to the brand you have put forward. Clarity and confidence are sure to lead to more speaking engagements on your calendar.

Of course, one of the best ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field is to write a book, and it would be my privilege to show you how. But no matter what, continue your work this summer and enjoy the fruits of your labor later with a busy Fall speaking calendar!

 


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Author Feature: Beth Standlee-People Buy From People

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As a salesperson, do you find it challenging to engage in meaningful conversations with clients? In a world driven by social media, email, and the day-to-day demands, it can be hard to make the most of your time when you do have the opportunity to present your product or service face-to-face. It can feel like the culture only wants to connect through social media and stifle real conversation. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re a salesperson looking for ways to make meaningful conversations that lead to sales and increased profitability, you must remember one thing, no matter how computer savvy your client may be: People will always buy from people.

Meet Beth Standlee, Keynote, Author, CEO/Founder of Trainertainment L.L.C.

At age 19, Beth was pregnant, unwed and dropping out of college. Today, she is the founder and CEO of a successful sales training and sales coaching company. There’s a reason her story ends this way, and it’s the confidence she gained from embarking on a sales career journey that taught her more than she ever dreamed possible.

Someone once said that when Beth talks about sales, it goes from black and white to color. That’s Beth. Her passion to help others never ends. Whether it’s five people or five thousand, she has ’em in her hand. You can’t say no to that passion. And she believes deeply that you can have it, too.

People Buy From People: How To Personally Connect In An Impersonal World

Equal parts smart and sass, Beth Standlee is an energetic and entertaining expert in the art of sales and how the profession elevates women personally, financially, and spiritually. From earning a new car every year in Tupperware sales, to selling high-tech solutions, and eventually leading her own sales and training company, Beth has never stopped selling—because sales have been the gateway to her full and satisfying life.

A 1-to-1 client of mine, I can attest that this is not another “how to” sales book. In the age of internet sales and automated communications, Beth takes us back to the basics and reminds us that People Buy From People! What’s her secret? It’s connecting first to create the kind of meaningful conversations that result in closed sales.  The purpose of this book is to introduce a simple, proven, and personal sales process. Beth’s overarching goal is to help others learn how to sell more and have fun doing it, so they gain more financial and personal freedom to improve their lives.

The book is available now. Click here to get your copy today! You won’t want to miss this one! It has been my privilege and pleasure to work with Beth.

If you or someone you know has always wanted to write a book, reach out to us, and we can help make it happen!


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A Poorly Written Book Can Kill Your Credibility

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As soon as I left the podium at a networking event last fall, a beautifully dressed woman walked up to me with a book in her hand. She explained that she was a public speaker and had written the book to boost her credibility. Then she offered her book to me as a gift.

“Wow! Congratulations,” I said. “Writing a book is a lot of work. Not many people do that. Does it help you get more speaking engagements?”

Her beaming smile disappeared, and she replied, “Not really. I’d hoped it would, but it hasn’t caught on yet.”

“What do you mean?”

“I send it out with my speaking proposals, and I thought it would give me an advantage and result in new business. But so far, I haven’t seen any results.”

Later, I looked through her book. The problem was obvious. The cover was pitiful; it looked like something a child had designed. When I opened it up, things got worse. She’d used an overly large, fourteen-point font for the text, perhaps to make the book longer. The copyright page was not formatted properly, and the margins in the chapters weren’t fully justified.

And then I started reading. The woman might have been a great speaker, but she couldn’t write or punctuate a clear, concise sentence. That’s okay for a draft manuscript, but this was her published book. She obviously hadn’t hired a professional editor to polish her ideas into a marketable product. So it was no surprise that the book hadn’t built her credibility. It had, in fact, killed it.

 

“It takes a lot of effort to win back credibility after having lost it so heavily.”

—Giorgio Napolitano

 

Your Book Should Enhance Your Brand, Not Distract From It

Her story is not uncommon. A lot of people give me their books, and I see these same types of serious flaws all the time. Self-publishing has opened a door, and anyone can now write and publish a book—which is a very good thing. But self-publishing doesn’t mean do-it-yourself publishing. Publishing is an industry—a very old one—and the people who are successful hire professionals who know the conventions and can help them produce high-quality products.  

We’re talking about your reputation. Everything you put in your book is either going to enhance your reputation or detract from it.

You’ve probably spent quite a bit of time and energy in your business, you deliver excellent products or services, and you want that reputation of excellence to be evident in your book. Your book should be an extension of you, an enhancement of your brand. Accept nothing less.

If you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field, increase your credibility, and attract a following, you don’t want to write a book. You want to write a top-quality book. That requires you to follow all the writing, design, and publishing conventions—which is a lot to learn.

The good news is, you don’t have to learn all these conventions. You can work with professionals like me who are deep in the publishing industry. I can walk you through all the steps, from your initial idea to your finished product, and the result will be a professional product that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best on the market.

If you or someone you know is ready to take the next step in writing a high-impact nonfiction book, please contact us today!


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Writing Your Book-The Power of We

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I don’t know if you’re a goal-setter, but I’ve become one—somewhat reluctantly. I don’t like to set goals because I don’t really want to be accountable to them. I don’t want to set a goal and fail, so I prefer just not to do it. And yet, if I don’t set goals, I don’t accomplish anything significant.  It’s the same when you write your book. It all starts with a goal.

When I first started the practice of goal-setting, I’d write down my ultimate goals and hope they’d come to fruition. But that wasn’t a realistic approach. I had to break each goal into smaller steps and execute those steps to move forward. There are tons of books on how to set goals and break them into smaller tasks, and that’s all well and good. But these resources weren’t helpful to me until I added the layer of accountability. I have to have someone to answer to.

If you want to write your book, you not only need a step-by-step plan, you also need structure and accountability. It takes a year to write a book, and it isn’t reasonable to expect that you’ll keep going and going week after week, for fifty-two weeks, without a little kick in the pants every now and then.

We’re All In This Together

Human beings are social animals, and many of us stray off the path if we get isolated from a group. We were designed to be known and to know others. The Lone Ranger, the self-made man or self-made woman, the I-did-it-my-way persona are myths. We need each other and function best in community. It’s how our brains are wired.

That’s why my Executive Group Coaching classes are so effective. Limited to ten people, a group functions as your Book Mastermind. Every person in the group starts with only one thing—an idea—and at the end of the journey, you all end up with books. It’s not only a rich experience that you share with others. It’s the power of the group that keeps you going.  

It’s the same approach that made Weight Watchers the most successful approach to long-term weight loss. Their formula is based on weekly meetings and strict accountability to the group and to the scale.

When you write your book with our Executive Group Coaching class, we follow a step-by-step process that provides accountability. It’s a weekly commitment. Each week, you have a new lesson that includes homework to complete. And each week, in a one-hour group conference call, each member reports on the progress he or she made and any roadblocks or challenges encountered. Of course, a lot of scrambling happens on days before our group coaching calls, but that’s to be expected. It’s the jolt that keeps you moving forward, step by step by step and week by week by week.

Why is accountability so effective? For me, it’s an ego thing. I simply don’t want to fail, and I certainly don’t want to fail in front of anyone else. My pride can make me push myself when my will tells me to give up.

There’s something about establishing a regular habit, a regular rhythm, that when coupled with accountability, leads us to achieve our goals. Just like I need the rhythm with my trainer, the rhythm of Executive Group Coaching is the key to finishing your book.

CrowdYou Will Never Be Less Busy

Once this habit of accountability is established, you have to protect it as if your life depends on it. Skip a couple of group coaching calls, and you’re like an ember that’s rolled out of the fire. You may think you’ll keep up with the lessons on your own but then find that there’s never a good time to watch the lessons or do the homework. Soon you’re so far behind that you rationalize that you don’t need to write your book after all—or that you’ll pick it back up again next month, next year, when you aren’t so busy.

Do you really think you’ll ever get less busy?

The members of my Executive Group Coaching classes who don’t finish are the ones who skip our weekly calls. So if you want to write your book at the end of the year, guard the time for our group coaching calls as if your book depends on it—because it does!

The group coaching calls aren’t simply for accountability; they’re fun, too. You get to know other professionals—many from outside your industry—and learn how they’re impacting the world. Some groups are international, so you may get a global perspective on your work. These weekly coaching sessions have spawned quite a number of longstanding friendships among participants.

A Mastermind functions best when all members are invested and engaged, which is why Executive Group Coaching cohorts are limited to ten. After all, you need plenty of time to talk about your writing and get feedback on your work.

The other participants give you that much-needed feedback and are the first test ground for your material. As the group bonds and you function as a Mastermind group, your confidence in your message and as an author grows. By the time your book is published, you’ll have grown your “sea legs,” so to speak, and you’ll be ready for your launch into the public sphere.

Who wouldn’t want a group to cheer you on week after week until you all have your books completed? What about you? Are you ready to write your book with a group and experience the unity, accountability, and long-lasting friendships along with having a book in your hand at the end of a year? You are important and what you have to say matters.  If so, please contact us today and we can help you take the next step!

 


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You Can’t Skip Hiring a Cover Designer

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This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com

Readers are basing their book-purchasing decisions on a single image with a few pixels. That’s one reason you need the services of a professional cover designer.

Now, more than ever, readers are literally judging your book by its cover. With more than 75 percent of book sales happening online, your cover’s design is a tipping point in a one-click decision.

It used to be that readers would come through a brick-and-mortar shop, pick a book up, and leaf through it for a few pages before making a buying decision. Now, readers are basing their purchasing decisions on a single image with a few pixels.

That means you have to have a strong design, and finding the right cover designer for your book is a crucial first step in getting there.

Before you pick one at random and shell out a few hundred dollars, consider the following.

How can I find the right cover designer?

Cover designers frequently list their services on freelancer marketplaces like UpWork or Guru. Or you can make it real easy on yourself and go with the professionals in the BookBaby Design Studio.

Once you’ve found a candidate or two, look through their online portfolios. Do you like the work they’ve done? Do they have a solid number of titles under their belt? Are the other covers in their arsenal in the same or similar genre to your book?

Pay attention to that last question

A book designer with experience in mystery novels is going to know how to make your book look like it fits within that genre. That’s crucial, since mystery readers are going to look at your cover for a split second and decide immediately whether or not it looks like a book for them. That doesn’t mean the same designer will be adept at designing a memoir or nonfiction cover that suits your title.

Do the process in reverse

Check titles in your genre to see if they’ve listed the cover artist and reach out to the ones whose designs you like. If there’s no listing, try messaging the author directly. Self-published authors typically want to help — especially if it means they get to talk about their books.

Does the designer have the right skills?

Just because someone can make a lovely poster for a piano recital, it doesn’t mean they’re going to make an impactful book cover. Book cover design is a niche with rules, format requirements, and genre-specific needs. A book designer will know this.

Will you own the rights to the design?

In all creative industries, discussing ownership and rights upfront is critical. There are authors who have published their books — with covers they paid for — only to have the designer demand they take it down.

It helps to have your own contracts prepared in advance so you have a starting point for negotiations. Include the expected timeline, rate, and terms for the cover design. This means stating the date the cover will be completed, how much you’ll pay for it, how many revisions you’re entitled to, what happens if the contract is terminated, and who owns the rights to the finished work.

Working with a designer should be a collaboration

It’s your job to give your designer the broad strokes of what you want in your cover design — it’s their job to deliver. But this doesn’t mean a designer can read your mind. Provide covers that inspire you. Send them a Pinterest board, a video montage, a bunch of paint chips with poetry on them — whatever it is that you feel best communicates the look you want for your book cover.

And then, talk it through. Be clear and thorough. Answer questions. Ask for changes on first or second drafts and know that it’s okay to walk away if the relationship begins to head south. If a designer isn’t giving you what you’re looking for, or if after two revisions the cover still isn’t right, it’s okay for you to cancel your contract. You can find another designer but you can’t buy a second chance at impressing your readers.

At the end of the day, you could publish War and Peace with a million-dollar marketing budget, but if the cover is wrong, you’re still going to lose. Get a great cover and increase the chances you’ll get your book into the hands of readers who will love it.


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Nonfiction Writing Techniques: Conflate

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Do you know that word—conflate? Conflate means to combine or blend things, to fuse them into a single entity. It’s a helpful nonfiction technique where you merge several events or conversations or relationships and present it as one single event or conversation or relationship. It allows you to efficiently cover a span of time without boring your reader to death with the blow-by-blow details when all they really need are the pertinent points.

Do you know that word – Conflate? Conflate means to combine or blend things, to fuse them into a single entity.  It’s a helpful nonfiction technique where you merge several events or conversations or relationships and present it as one single event or conversation or relationship. It allows you efficiently to cover a span of time without boring your reader to death with the blow-by-blow details when all they really need are the pertinent points.

Spare Your Readers the Unnecessary Details

Let’s say, for example, that you had umpteen conversations with your spouse about adopting a child over the course of two years. In the first conversation, you might have talked about the possibility of adoption. And you talked about that for a number of months. Then you moved on and had numerous discussions about foreign vs. domestic adoption, older child vs. infant adoption, same race vs. other race adoption. These conversations took another several months. Finally, after two years, you made the decision to pursue a foreign adoption of an older child.

Do you need to drag your readers through all those conversations and decision points?  Maybe and maybe not. It depends upon the purpose of your book. Let’s conflate writing tipssay your book is about helping a foreign-born child assimilate into a family and culture that doesn’t look anything like them, and how to be your child’s advocate to overcome the unique obstacles they will face.

Does the reader really care about the two years you spent discussing adoption, or do they want to get to the purpose? My guess is they want the meat of your message, not your method of arrival.

So how do you handle those two years of discussion? Conflate it! Use dialog to convey all the pertinent information, and boil it down to a couple of conversations. Here’s how you might approach it:

“I think it’s time we face the truth. We probably aren’t going to give birth our own child, but maybe we’re not supposed to,” he said.

“It’s hard to give that up,” she said.

“I know, honey,” he said, “but we’re not getting any younger. What if we changed course while we still can? We’re not too old to adopt. I know the process takes time, who knows how long? If we want to have a child, I think we ought to consider this. To move in a new direction.”

“I don’t know. Maybe you’re right. It’s practically impossible to find a baby here, so I don’t know if that would be any better,” she said.

“What if we don’t look for a baby?” he said. “There are lots of children who need a loving home. Maybe we should think about rescuing a child, instead of searching for an infant.”

“One of the women in my support group showed me a picture of the orphans in Haiti,” she said. “They gathered them together after those earthquakes, but there aren’t enough adults to take care of them. One little girl – she looked about seven years old – had the brightest eyes, but her smile, it wasn’t right. Like she knew she had to smile for the picture, but only her mouth moved. She looked really, really sad.”

You can CONFLATE two years of the backstory of how this couple decided on a foreign adoption into a single conversation, and move the action forward.

Tell Your Story Like One of the Great Storytellers

Here’s another example of conflating. Let’s say you are a teacher, and you have had numerous students with a mild form of autism. Your book is about the socialization of the classroom, and over time, you’ve learned how to help these special needs students open up and relate to their classmates. Why not illustrate that through the eyes of ONE child, not four dozen children? Why not show the experience through a single set of eyes, give that child a representative name, and use a single character to demonstrate your teaching methods?

Does this seem dishonest to you? Insincere maybe? Well, if it does, then consider this. All the great teachers were story-tellers. Jesus, Aesop, Buddha, Indian Tribal Chiefs. They taught their people valuable lessons by telling stories. Were the characters in the stories real or did they conflate a number of people or people types into one representative character?

You tell me. Who was the Good Samaritan? Who was the Prodigal Son? Does it matter? Did you learn anything about human nature through Aesop’s fables, even though the characters were animals? Are the lessons any less valuable because you can’t attach them to a specific person?

When you conflate, you tighten your writing and move your story forward. It takes practice, but your story is worth it!

Ready to put this technique into your book? Contact us today and we can help you take the next step!


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