Friday, February 19, 2010

On Getting Articles Published

It's one thing to write insightful and well-crafted prose, quite another to navigate the business of writing - actually getting published and making money from your craft. Most of the ideas for this post come from The March/April issue of Writer's Digest, which attacked theme: Your Economic Survival Guide. Lots of great stuff here. I'll center in on ideas for getting articles published.

1. Build Relationships. Maybe you meet writers at socials or writers' conferences. Offer to take them to lunch to ask for advice. If you've written for someone before, keep in touch! Keep a good client list. If you came through with a good article last time, they're more likely to take your idea next time. Submit to them regularly.

2. Understand the Market. Perry Perkins makes a full-time living writing articles. At first, he wrote articles and used Writers Market to try to find appropriate places to place them. Then, he took a different approach. He spent several days reading through Writers Market, cover to cover, studying it. This knowledge can become a brainstorming list to dream up articles a certain publication might love. Then he could write queries based on what magazines were looking for, rather than trying to taylor his articles to fit their purposes.

There's an interesting parallel to Warren Buffett's advice to a young person wanting to learn how to invest like him. Basically, he told him to start like he did, studying every publically traded stock in the United States. The person objected - there are thousands of stocks! To which Buffett replied, "Start with the A's". I think Buffett's point was: if you want to pick the best companies, it helps to understand how they compare with other companies. The more companies you know and understand, the better decisions you can make.

Writing is a skill. But we sell our writing in a market - an industry. The more thoroughly we understand that market, the easier it will become to find the perfect match for our articles, and to propose articles that would be the perfect match for specific publications.

3. If your writing is good, then it's a numbers game - put out lots of submissions. Trying to move up from making a partial living to making a full living, Perkins upped his submissions from an average of 2.5 per day to 15 per day (assuming a five day work week). It worked!

4. Query big, well-paying publications first.

5. Don't put hours into an article until you know someone wants it. Query first.

6. Know the publication, giving editors what they want, when they want it, how they want it. You know this by studying their guidelines for submission and reading their publications.

Leftover Questions

I've written article for magazines, but have never done extensive article submission. Do most magazines accept multiple submissions? I suppose that since Perkins recommends hitting the big publications first, they he's giving them a week or a month to respond before submitting the proposal to lesser publications. How long do you give the major publication? And if there are 10 lesser publications, do you send out those 10 at the same time? What if more than one wants it? Do you write two similar, but different articles?

If you have answers or suggestions, please let me know.

31 Recent Blogging Insights

From a blogging seminar and Writer's Digest article:

1. Be extremely specific/niche. Find what's not already published on Amazon.

2. Blog about what you love.

3. If you need to make money off it, find a topic where "Something You Love" meets "Something People Will Pay For." You may love to write about your cat and the cutesy things he does. But will people pay for it? (I think this is one of the most overlooked insights in people trying to make money with their blog. It's not just, "blog every day with quality content." You've got to ask if you're putting out information that people are willing to pay for in some fashion.)

4. Break up copy with bold headlines, subheads, etc.

5. Have several beginnings of posts on your blog home page, where they can click for more.

6. Headline Tips:
  • Be Concise
  • Use full names of people and places
  • Include key words and phrases
  • Include story details.
7. Choose your own domain name, cheap from

8. Link back to earlier posts = 2 page views.

9. Ask for input - engage your audience!

10. To build a following, post every day for 30 days, then 2 - 3 x per week.

11. Comment on other blogs and track back.

12. Wordpress Direct ( is search engine optimization on steroids.

13. Set up supporting blogs that link back to your main blog.

14. Reciprocal linking is suspect to Google - looks like an arrangement.

15. Try to manage several of your social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) at once.

16. Pre-populate your tweets and blogs to save hours.

17. People and search engines love "Top Ten," "How to..." and Videos.

18. Embed the video on your blog rather than just link to youtube.

19. Put your blog address on the video.

20. Try live streaming free at, to connect with people in real time.

21. Monetize with e-books. The blog is the jumping off point.

22. Monetize with "Donate" button. "If anything I've written helped you, donate now." Just set up a merchant account with PayPal and embed the code.

23. One person with an airline insider weekly e-mail asks readers to donate once a year. It's enough to make a living. The average donation is $50 per month. He works at it full time.

24. Monetize with premium resources. So you have lots of free resources available, which lets them know you do quality stuff. Then you sell e-books or a members only section.

25. Monetize by being an Amazon Associate. When you recommend a book, you have a link to Amazon. If someone buys, you get a cut.

26. Monetize by selling ads. But you have to have a lot of traffic to make it work. You might do better approaching a compatible company than just going with Google Ads.

27. Approach other blogs with posts they could use. That gives you links coming back. Some successful bloggers get most of their traffic from other blogs.

28. Write guest posts for another blog or publication. One blogger writes a monthly column for her state's main newspaper. It gives her respect and brings people in.

29. Use 1.5 spacing. More inviting.

30. Go to Google Trends ( to find hot topics and hot searches. Other sources of trends = Technorati, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit.

31. Submit appropriate posts to article marketing directories such as or

32. Do clear calls to action: "Sign up for my newsletter," "Buy my book."

"Blogging is just like networking - the one with the most friends wins!"
"We need 1,000 eyeballs looking at our writing!"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Summary of First Year Marketing Book

Often, what I find lacking in book marketing literature (I've read 15 such books so far) is the answer to the question:

"Okay, so you've told me 10,000 ways to market my book. But how can I decide which of those ways are likely to have the best payoff? I know every book's different, but what methods tend to work best and what often doesn't sell books at all?"

To help answer that question, a big part of this blog over the past year has been to track my efforts to sell my book, Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It. I've admitted grand schemes that produced no sales at all and lots of tiny efforts that apparently, taken together as a whole, are now producing significant sales on a regular basis.

So here's my 11 month summary, which I used for a consult with Brian Jud (guru at marketing books "Beyond the Bookstore) and Guy Achtzehn (formerly with Simon & Schuster; current president, The Marketing and Sales Group and The Promotional BookStore. Represents such brands as Black & Decker/DeWalt, Bulova, Coleman, Fuji and Ralph Lauren. Here's information on doing your own $49 consult with them. )

Enjoy Your Money!
Marketing Summary

Bottom Line: Much of the ground work has been laid (glowing reviews, attractive and inviting Amazon presence, useful media page) and the book has proven itself to be a valuable resource (readers like it). I think we’ve arrived at a time that we can leverage these tools to seriously get the word out about this book. The big question: of all the available marketing methods, which will be the most effective to pursue, given limited time?


My literary agent contacted many traditional publishers, all of whom turned it down. She has relationships with many of these, so she asked them why. None of them had a problem with the quality of the book (one asked for a copy, should we get it published!). They felt that I lacked the platform – “financial books won’t sell unless you have a national radio show”. I respectfully disagreed, started my own publishing company and published print on demand through Booksurge (now CreateSpace) in March of 2009.

I sent galleys to all the major reviewers four months before publication, but got no reviews.
I pursued other reviewers and financial columnists, got a publicist who helped me with press releases, etc. Sales have continued to increase as a result (see next section for specifics).
Wholesalers: Available through Baker & Taylor (from March, 2009) and Ingram (by March, 2010), without a return policy. Thus, I don’t expect bookstores to be a main source of sales at this time. I could pay extra to have a return policy with Baker & Taylor, and probably with Ingram, but some advise not to.

Distributors: In December, the Follett Corporation ( ), a major player in distribution to young adult libraries (juvenile collections in public libraries, high school libraries), started receiving some orders and they contacted me. We signed a non-exclusive contract for them to distribute. They actually market their books, so I’m hopeful that this will be a solid outlet. I paid Premium Book Company (Through Brian Jud) to search for bulk sale opportunities. Nothing so far, but I know this is a long-term project.

Marketing So Far
What’s Working and What’s Not

#1: Amazon Sales: At first, since there were no big-time reviews, books only sold when I did some initiative: like letting Facebook friends know about it, or a review came out. But by the Fall, sales have begun taking a life of their own, even when I have no specific initiative going on. Apparently, word of mouth is taking over. Prior to December, it was selling a bit less than one per day. In December, it sold about 2 per day; in January, 3 per day. Perhaps we’ve hit a tipping point! Or maybe December and January are just good for financial books. Who knows?

#2: Bulk purchases for gifts: A CPA bought 100 copies (and promises to purchase more) to give away to graduating seniors. A pastor bought 30 copies to give to graduating seniors. A lady bought 30 copies to give as gifts. I have a personal relationship with all three of these, so people who don’t know me already may not be as eager to jump on it. Following up on this, I personally visited several CPA firms in my city and gave them a free copy to look over, in case they wanted to purchase in bulk at $10 each for Christmas gifts for their clients. None followed through, although some secretaries bought copies.

#3: Bulk purchases for speaking: I’ve spoken at two retreats where they bought the books for each of the students at $10 each – about 30 copies per retreat. I relate to students well and enjoy communicating with them. I’ve also spoken to adults in both churches and civic organizations, and can begin seeking out more opportunities if I decide to go this direction.

#4: Sales from Reviews: I found 30 major newspapers that have financial columns, e-mailed the columnists, sent free books to those who requested it. I got only one review, but it was from a syndicated financial columnist from the Oakland Tribune, and I got multiple sales immediately after he published. I don’t know how many direct sales have come from reviews, but I think that, even with no-platform reviewers, the word gets out. So far, I’ve sent out about 320 copies to people for review, to enter contests (I received a “best books” award), let teachers review it, see if a CPA would like to order in bulk, etc. I seldom send it to anyone without contacting them first and getting a request.

Bookstores sales: Two local bookstores haven’t sold any. A bookstore in my home town sells a few copies regularly. A local university bookstore has sold copies and pushes it during graduation. I don’t have a lot of confidence in this book’s ability to sell well in bookstores, if it’s not pushed by the owners. If a media wave hits, then maybe it will send people to the bookstores to buy it.

Stores that aren’t bookstores: Several non-bookstores (a coffee shop, a fitness center, a video rental store, a home office/copy place) have tried to sell it, with only a couple sold. But a Trade & Play Video Game store owner sold some copies saying that the secret is that parents look at it while they’re waiting in line and he recommends it. He seems pretty excited about it. (My theory was to put it in a place where parents bring their kids to buy stuff, and while the parents are wandering around with nothing to do, they’ll pick up the book and look it over.) I think the key here is to find store owners who’ll actually read the book and catch a passion for helping people by recommending it.

HARO (Help A Reporter Out): I’ve contributed to several articles, one of which resulted in a lot of traffic to one of my sites. As Murphy’s Law would have it, this was a few months before my book was published.

I was on two major Atlanta TV stations and sold none. (I bought the rights and put them on youtube, however. Also, I got a link from their site, which could be very important.)

I did one radio interview and sold none.


1. The book itself. People like it, but it doesn’t sell itself (I’m neither Donald Trump nor Dave Ramsey.)

2. My presence on Amazon (all 19 reviews are five-star!) and my Media Pages. All include great reviews:

Main Media Page:
Media Page Targeting Educators:
Amazon Page:

3. Work ethic: I don’t have lots of time, but I can do something each day. I can set long term goals and execute.

4. Flexibility: If I find that something works better than what I planned, I change course.

5. Patience. I excel at plodding. I’m fully willing to do things for months that might produce multiple sales years from now. I see marketing this book as a life-long effort, so I’m willing to set decade-long goals.

6. I’m a voracious learner. If I don’t understand it the first time, I’ll get it on the 30th time. If you tell me that I need to read certain books to understand certain aspects of marketing, I can do that.

7. Speaking: Although I’m not a world-class speaker, young people and adults enjoy my presentations and give me great reviews. People ask me back. But I can’t get out a lot, due to family responsibilities (seven boys and caring for 104-year-old granny.)

8. Articles: This book lends itself to limitless articles. Lots of material, tons of research, lots of interesting angles.

9. Royalties: I get 35% of the retail price on each Amazon sale. At this point, this is my main avenue for sales. Since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, there are no costs to me for this transaction (no mailing to Amazon, no yearly fees, etc.) To sell it myself, the book costs me about $4.60 to purchase it in bulk, including shipping to me. So I can still offer it at a 55% discount to wholesalers/distributors (if they pay postage, which Follett does), and make a profit.

10. My Websites and Newsletters: My not-for-profit, Legacy Educational Resources, encompasses two websites that I have full control over: and . Together, these sites get about 900 unique visitors per day. My quarterly e-zine goes out to about 8,000 people who’ve signed up on these sites. Unfortunately, although many of these are educators, a relatively small amount would be actually teaching person finance, so links from these sites and mentions in the e-zines have produced insignificant sales.

11. Rights: I own the rights to the book, so that if I can publish booklets, excerpts, e-books, or whatever I please. If a company or book club wanted to order in bulk, I could price out an offset run and even personalize it for the company.

12. Social Media Savvy: I have three blogs, a twitter account (@enjoyyourmoney), am on Facebook, LinkedIn, and participate in several marketing forums. I don’t put a lot of time into these, but at least have a presence. In general, for me, I’m finding more value in “going where the people are already gathered,” rather than trying to gather people around me.

13. Website: Open to input here.


Limited Marketing Budget. I’m small time. But since the book’s making money, I can devote that money to marketing.

Limited Time: I run a not-for-profit, am raising 7 boys, and care for my 104-year-old granny. I can do something every day to market my book, but I can’t devote full time.

Small Platform: I have no strong platform (radio show, syndicated column, etc.) except for the platform I’m building (leveraging bigger blurbs from smaller blurbs, etc.).

Geographically, I’m physically constrained. I can’t get physically far from home very often at this point in life. I can’t be a full-time travelling speaker, nor do I desire that life. I can speak once a month or so.

Current priorities

(Do you agree? Which of these would you prioritize? What do you specifically recommend for me to do?)

This is where I really need your input. There are so many ways to market this book, and I could devote a solid year to several of them. Which do you think would be the most effective to pursue (if any of them.) At present, this looks like a good way to prioritize. What do you think? And with the avenues you’d pursue, how specifically would you pursue them?

#1 – Shoot for multiple sales to schools, including home schoolers. How, specifically, would you do this?

• Try to get some initial classes to use it, so that these teachers could recommend it. Haven’t succeeded so far. (I give myself a “D” for poor follow-up.)
• Follett has a division that works with textbooks. Perhaps I can cultivate this relationship.
• Continue to develop my free, online resources to accompany the book at .
• Find the most popular home school blogs and sites and newsletters and offer them a free book for review.
• Find where traditional educators go for advice on texts and try to get in there.

#2 – Offer the book to well traveled blogs/newsletters/sites/magazines on topics like personal finance, success, raising teens, etc. Not only does the word get out to their audiences, but many of these people are influential in other realms besides their newsletter (like recommending texts to their local schools). Ulrich’s and Gale’s Directories give me hundreds of these. I can also use Technorati, Google Blogs, etc.

#3 – Radio. So I’ve got this southern accent working against me, but I think I come across natural and enjoyable in the media. Since radio people are always wanting a new angle on personal finance (particularly during the recession), should I get in the Radio-TV Interview Report (RTIR)? I think that’s where Kiyosaki (Rich Dad/ Poor Dad) made his big break.

#4 – Speaking at Universities? There are all kinds of clubs and organizations there.

#5 – Offer it to not-for-profits and prison ministries and poverty stricken schools at my cost? Hey, I wrote the book to help people. And I get the feeling that the more I can get it out there, the more word of mouth will take over and the more people will actually pay for it.

#6 – Contact those who’ve written “So You Want To…” and “Listmania” Amazon lists on personal finance or personal success, offering them a free book if they’ll add it to their list, if they deem it worthy.

#7 – Military, including military families, military returning home, etc. Find the newsletters, blogs and sites they frequent. Many of these have had their finances done for them, their room and board provided. How can I help them make their transition back home? Do you have ideas here?

Again, I see hundreds of things I could do to market this book. But how do I narrow down the best use of my limited time and limited budget?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Using Articles to Market Books

Surely I could get more mileage out of my articles. I typically put them in the members' sections of my two sites, post them on my blogs, and use them in my newsletters. But after I've spent so much time researching and crafting an article, shouldn't I take a few more minutes to get the article out there somewhere, providing incoming links from the far corners of the Web and helping my Google rankings with key words? That's precisely what a lot of marketing experts suggest.

According to web marketing guru Ralph F. Wilson, "Those who find success with article marketing don't just write one article, they write and submit one a week -- or two or three. Done well, article marketing works very well." (From How to Support Your Site through Article Marketing.)

Here are some suggestions I've run across on submitting articles to free article sites, where people read articles and follow links back to my sites, or where blog owners and journalists find articles to put in their blogs and e-zines.

1. Submit only to about five top article directories and some niche sites. Don't use software to submit to hundreds of directories. Google will see that as spam and penalize your search engine position. Few people go to the lesser directories anyway. Look for the current top directories, as ranked by Alexa and Google. Here are five of the top article directories. I checked their Alexa ranks today (lower numbers are better): - Alexa Rank: 132 - Alexa Rank: 424 - Alexa Rank: 518 - Alexa Rank: 1609 - Alexa Rank: 2965 - Alexa Rank: 5800

2. Write short articles: typically between 400 and 750 words. (See what each article directory recommends.)

3. Hyperlink to your site and/or book (see how many links the site allows) in your signature (not the body of the article.) Hyperlink from key phrases you're targeting, not just the url. Search engines rank hyperlinked phrases higher.

4. Format it allowing plenty of white space, using devices like headings, subheadings, bullet points and bold for key words/phrases.

5. Choose your key words carefully. I like to find them here: . Use them in your title and your first sentence. But don't use them too much. Google's algorithm also accounts for synonyms. And your chances of getting ranked highly for a mega-searched term like "Money" are slim. (Everybody's trying to capture them.) So consider choosing some words that still get a lot of searches, but aren't out of your league.

6. Write quality, timely articles.

7. Write a title that intrigues, accurately sums up the article, and contains your key words. (Good luck!)

8. Additionally, send the article to e-zine editors' Websites in the field of your topic.

Lingering Questions:

1. Would it be better to target certain major publications? Even if I got only one article in the MSN Network or a major magazine, wouldn't that link likely draw more traffic than 1000 links from article databases?

I suppose that once I submit an article to one of these free sites, many magazines will no longer want it, since they may want rights to publish it for the first time. So, if I think an article might be appropriate for a magazine with a large circulation, would I do better to submit it there first and wait until later for the free sites? Or, are the odds so slim in getting into the major magazine (and the corresponding site) that I'd do just as well submitting to free sites?

Looks like I need to read several authoritative articles on submitting articles to magazines to better estimate the odds on this tactic.

2. Is it okay to submit to all these places (including top blogs and sites) at once, or do some want first rights?

3. Let's think long-term.
Let's say I concentrate on more traditional magazine/ezine publishing for my better articles. So I get some published in magazines with medium circulation and then some with larger circulations. Isn't it possible that, in a few years, my resume could include "Has written for People Magazine and AARP?" Wouldn't that be better for my long-term career, than just saying, "I put up 1000 articles on free article sites and got them put in a bunch of blogs?"

Friday, February 12, 2010

Writing Lessons from James Patterson

You may love James Patterson's books. You may hate them. But you can't deny his success - if you measure success by sales.
  • He's published more New York Times best sellers than anyone: fifty one. Thirty five of them hit No. 1.
  • Last year, he sold 14 million books in 38 languages.
  • He publishes books at an astounding rate: 9 original books in 2009. He plans to publish at least 9 in 2010.
  • "Since 2006, Mr. Patterson has written one out of every 17 hardcover novels...bought in the United States."
Jonathan Mahler's recent New York Times article on Patterson (James Patterson Inc., 1-24-10) gave me some insights worth chewing on. Here are my takeaways:

1. Writing can be a team sport. Writing is popularly viewed as the lone venture of recluses who hole up in their basements, surfacing every 9 months or so to submit their finished products to their publishing houses and do their national book signing tour. Then it's back to the basement. But in reality, perhaps there are as many ways to write as there are writers.

Patterson's writing has evolved into a method that doesn't require him to write the entire book. He envisions the broad strokes of the story and writes a detailed outline that can run up to 50 pages, triple spaced. (He writes it in long hand on a legal pad and gives it to an assistant to type.) He then gives the outline to one of his five coauthors (each specializes in a particular series or genre), who writes chapters and hands them back to Patterson for revisions or rewrites.

The benefit of team writing is that members of the team can concentrate on what they do best, or what they like to do best. The task of writing a 250 page book requires a vision, a knack for telling a story, the ability to create interesting, likeable characters, structuring, titling, creating cool analogies, and piddling over grammatical minutia. Just because someone's bag of talents and interests doesn't include one or more of these skills shouldn't automatically preclude her from being a writer.

It's considered normal for a screenplay to involve a visionary, several writers, and input from a legion of people, including actors and pre-release audiences. Couldn't many authors benefit from such a team approach?

2. Take your marketing seriously. Most authors seem averse to personally marketing their books. To them, it almost seems morally repugnant - like bribing people to read something they should choose of their own volition. But read up on the business of writing and you'll discover that publishers these days insist that authors involve themselves in the selling of books. I'd suggest that Patterson's success is at least partly due to his personal involvement in marketing his books.

As a former ad executive, he's intimately involved with the design, publishing and advertising of his books. In his early years of writing, Patterson repeatedly challenged conventional industry practices in book marketing. It's quite possible that if he hadn't taken rather extraordinary measures in advertising those early books, he'd just be another writer today.

3. Keep improving. Of one of his early books, Patterson says, "That's an absolutely horrifying book.... I actually tell people not to read it."

4. It's tough to get a first novel published. Over a dozen publishers rejected Patterson's first manuscript. Once published, it won a prestigious Edgar Award. Everyone in the industry tells me it's much more difficult to get published now. So don't let rejection indicate to you that your writing sucks. All authors, except best-selling authors, get rejection after rejection.

5. Don't expect everyone to like your books. Stephen King has called Patterson "a terrible writer." A Washington Post reviewer called one of his works "subliterate." To which Patterson responds, "Thousands of people don't like what I do. Fortunately, millions do."

6. Story trumps sentences. In his early work, he obsessed over his sentences. Now he's more interested in stories than sentences. Mahler describes Patterson's writing as "light on atmospherics and heavy on action, conveyed by simple, colloquial sentences." Patterson says, "I don't believe in showing off. Showing off can get in the way of a good story." He writes short chapters and avoids "description, back story and scene setting whenever possible." He prefers to "hurl readers into the action and establish his characters with a minimum of telegraphic details."

7. On writing what people want. "I have a saying. If you want to write for yourself, get a diary. If you want to write for a few friends, get a blog. But if you want to write for a lot of people, think about them a little bit. What do they like? What are their needs? A lot of people in this country go through their days numb. They need to be entertained. They need to feel something."

8. On loving your work. Patterson's grandad once said to him, "Jim, I don't care what you do when you grow up. I don't care if you drive a truck like I do or if you become the president. Just remember that when you go over the mountain to work in the morning, you've got to be singing." Patterson said, "Well, I am."

9. Understand the publishing industry's bias toward best-selling authors. Times have changed. The industry has changed. Before 1980, if you sold a couple of hundred thousand copies in hardcover, you had a "hit" book. Today, to be a blockbuster, it's gotta sell at least one million copies. How did this happen, and how does this affect authors?

When conglomerates consolidated the industry in the 1980's, they sought larger profits by pushing for bigger best-sellers. "Under pressure from both their parent companies and booksellers, publishers became less and less willing to gamble on undiscovered talent and more inclined to hoard their resources for their most bankable authors. ... The few books that publishers invested heavily in sold; most of the rest didn't. And the blockbuster became even bigger."

My takeaways: 1) If you're already a best-selling author, the traditional publishing industry is a great way to go. They'll publish you, spend the money to market you, and pay to have your books displayed in the most prominent places in bookstores. 2) If you're not already a best-selling author, expect it to be very difficult to get published (or republished) with traditional publishers. If you do get published by them, they probably will do little to market your book. If you've gotta market the book yourself anyway, and have the time and motivation to consider the new tools of publishing, consider the self-publishing option.