Archive for the ‘Writing as a Small Business’ Category

Open Book: How to Create An Elevator Pitch for Your Novel

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

   announcements,communications,megaphones,men,people,web animations,web elements

    My long time friend asked me what my novel was about.  I stammered and blurted out some incoherent description. (Don’t laugh! At least I remembered to mention the protagonist.)
    This brain freeze, unlike Governer Rick Perry, was not a matter of forgetting, but a matter of not having a succinct pitch scripted.
    What if that had been a literary agent or an editor I was pitching my book to?  How long would you would stick around until I got my act together?  
     In the business world, that one compelling sentence is called an elevator pitch. You have exactly 30 seconds to introduce yourself and entice them to get to know you.  This is what you need to do with your novel…write an elevator pitch that will sell your novel to whomever will listen.  
     An elevator pitch is one or two power pact sentences that not only identifies who you are, but also tells the person to whom you are talking to what you do, implying how you can help them make life easier or solve a problem.  The elevator pitch for a novel introduces your protagonist and his conflict. It tells the person how he will benefit by not only spending money to buy your book, but also what will he derive from spending his coveted leisure time reading your story. Your one sentence summary needs to convince him that he will get the satisfaction of learning something or being entertained.  Maybe you will transport him to another place far from the pressures of his life, even it is only for a few hours.  Or maybe he can live vicariously through your protagonist? 
     Randy Ingermanson, also known as the Snowflake Guy, recommends that fiction writers start with a one sentence plot summary.  He points out that who is going to know and love your story more than you do.
     A solid one sentence summary will anchor your story to a plotline and be the guide to decide what scenes advance your story. It will be the single best marketing tool to sell your story.  It will help you sell your idea to a literary agent, to a publishing house, to your editor, to the book sellers, and most importantly, to your readers.
    Ingermanson suggests that the sentence should be 20 words or less.  That means every word has to work to remain. No extraneous adjectives, no subplot inclusions.  Simply your novel’s compelling storyline.
    Here’s some basic rules to create yours:

1.  Ingermanson’s 20 word limit.
2.  Sentence includes protagonist, conflict, and a sense of context (either cultural, venue, political etc)
3.  Power verb such as coerces, endangers, or challenges. (You get the idea.)

    Ask yourself: If your book title and one sentence summary appeared on a booklist, would you be tempted to spend $15 to buy the book if you weren’t the author?  Does it have a strong enough hook? Who will the book appeal to?

Let’s take a simple basic boy meets girl plotline and see how we can craft a good summary sentence.  Remember, the real writing is in the rewriting, so this exercise may take you more than 10 seconds.  It may take you hours, even days to decide if the sentence is the best one when you announce the birth of your baby (novel).

Draft summary sentence:  An athlete puts his girlfriend in a difficult position when he uses her to advance his career. (17 words)

Second draft: A struggling soccer player betrays a middle-aged female when he uses her contacts to advance his career. (17 words)

Third draft:  A struggling soccer player betrays a lonely female advertising executive when his romantic involvement with her threatens her company. (19 words)

   Now, what if I include an ethnic reference? She is Asian and he is Ukrainian. How will that color the summary?

    Last and most important.  You finished the best one sentence summary ever.  Now you have to memorize it.  You have to be able to rattle it off as if it were an involuntary reflex.  Live the sentence.  Breathe it.  And then, you will claim it with confidence. 

     Like that 30 second elevator pitch, you want to grab the person’s attention.  You want them to be so intrigued that they ask you for more information…like “Where can I get your book?”






How to Avoid Email Hubris and Costly Fines

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

      Email hubris is spamming your friends and
everyone else in your contact database without
their consent. Like trying to resist a danish with coffee in the morning, it is hard to contain your enthusiasm.  You want to share the next great product or service with everyone.
      To keep you in check from spewing forth endless emails, the Federal Trade Commission issued The Can Spam Act.
      What people do not realize is that for every unsolicited email you send out, whether it be in bulk or individually, you are at risk for a fine of $16,000 per unsolicited email.  
       Let’s face it.  We all do it. We meet someone at a Business Card Exchange and enter their email address in our database. Exchanging business cards is not an implicit consent to requesting to be added to your email announcements.
       The Can Spam Act ( an act known probably to compliance people, but overlooked by the masses) includes the distribution of all business email, whether sent bulk or individual, that promotes or advertises a commercial product or service.  It also includes promoting a website/blog, which advertises a product or service.  Even sending emails to former clients must have consent.
      The provisions of the Act are not difficult and follow common courtesy.  In a nutshell, here are the basics of the Federal Trade Commission’s Guide to Email Etiquette.
1.  Be Transparent.  You should be truthful when you fill in your “To”, “From”,  “Reply to” and subject lines.  Deceptive domain names etc. will obviously will get you in trouble.  In the Subject Line, avoid using sensational or exaggerated text to get the reader to open the email.  Eventually they will find that they were misled.  For example: Your subject line reads: “You Won a Trip to Hawaii,” but the email text says you won a chance for a Hawaii trip if you click on any of the what seems like hundreds of advertising options.
2.  If your email is an ad, be clear and say so.  Ummm. Well, according to the Act, there isn’t much leeway here. It has to be conspicuous and upfront. Use your creativity to get this done.
3.  Location.  If you are legitimate, you have a location. It can be a post office  box.  No biggy.  Adding this will give your email greater credibility.
4.  The Opting Out Issue.  You must give the email receiver a way of opting out of receiving your email. It must be clear and easily recognizable.  Check other sites and emails for wording.  And should you have requests for opting out, you must comply within 10 business days.  Just remember you may have the person’s name on a couple of lists, so it is prudent to weed through lists periodically.  You are also responsible for those opt out requests that get caught in your spam filter. 
5.  You are responsible for the emails sent out on your behalf.

For the specifics of the law, check out this website:

Lots of people are not compliant. Lots of people get away with spamming. However, a more pragmatic way to view this is: In the long run, unsolicited email offends your target audience.  Aside from the hefty fine, which could break a small business in this economy, it is in your best interest to adhere to FTC rules. 
      Repetitious emails hawking the same product or service from you is annoying.  And if you appear more self serving, you know where your email will go…to  JUNK, UNREAD.  
       These rules aren’t hard because this particular piece of legislature has the distinction of making sense.




























Open Book: Quick Ways to Get Your Blog Read

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The writer…the teacher…the marketing guru in you emerges in a spanking  new blog.

I was told that if you write, the followers will come.  True to some degree; however, your success will be measurably better if you write coherently and have something interesting to share (your opinion or some newsworthy mention).   Well written blogs may not always be successful blogs.  It certainly helps, but writing skill needs more to get follower retention.

To increase your followers, here are easy ways to get the word out:

1.  Your blog address is now as important as your name and phone number  in your marketing materials.  Blog address should appear on everything from business cards, signature email address, and stationary — everything printed.

2.  Write as if you were talking to your best friend.  Your voice should be conversational, but to appeal to the widest spectrum of people, refrain from using street language.

3.  Write about something that interests you.  Blogging is not a sprint, but more like a cross country run.  Pace yourself.  Don’t start off with writing a blog daily, because you will burn out.  (If this is a journal or a record of your daily musings or your day job, this might not be such a chore.)  Writing about something your passionate about comes through in the writing.

4.  Be consistent about your blog entries.  Once a week?  Twice a week?   Just think about your followers.  Would you want to read a daily blog everyday, when so many other things compete with your time?  It is best to be consistent, say maybe on a Tuesday and or Thursday.  ( Mondays are horrible, because everyone starts Monday morning with a slew of emails from the weekend.)  Too much is annoying… too little and your followers may totally forget you. 

Bottom line: Post regularly.  Two a week is minimal to help establish an affinity to you.

Blogging Tip: If you love writing blogs, store your extra blog entries, because you may not have time or go on vacation or you will have a brain freeze one day.

5.  Boring blogs don’t attract readers. Interesting ones grow by word of mouth. 

6.  Your blog entries should be more than a litany of  other people’s links.  They want to know about you and what you know that can help them make their life easier…or humorous enough that for a split moment they forget their lives totally.

7.  Comment on other similar blogs, maybe referring to a blog you wrote on the topic.  From you blog, include links to them and ask them to link back to you.

8.  Register with blog directories, so that people searching for your topic will find you.  (ie.  Link to your facebook page, your twitter account.

9.  Bookmark your posts on,,, and

Okay, after reading this blog, I realize that it has taken me 15 minutes to collect my thoughts and notes, another 30 minutes to write it, and maybe another 30 minutes to promote the blog using my suggestions.  Just saying, if you want to get the most out of blogging, you will be investing about 2 hours give or take each time.

Open Book: How to Put a Writer's Press Kit Together

August 28, 2011 Leave a comment


What do you want your image to  be?

One way to craft your image as a writer is creating a press kit.  Simply, a press kit is a collection of one-page documents that highlights your newest publication, a little bit about yourself, and other related accomplishments. 

The book market is fierce. You are your own brand. You are the corporation, so you must think like a CEO. The way you introduce yourself to the market is critical to your success.

While the publishing is changing rapidly, you can still control the information about you to some degree.  One of the best ways to do this is with a press kit. 

Creating a press kit on your website blog will save you lots of time and money.  However, I suggest you might consider having a few hard copies just in case.  Sometimes you are invited to a meeting or conference and the opportunity to promote yourself might be more convenient if you can hand them a folder.  Even though you write down your website or refer them to the website address listed on your business card, your opportunity may just never get around to looking it up.

Whether online or hard copy, here’s what might go into a press kit.

1.  A one page bio covering who you are, your education, your experience (such as teaching and public speaking engagements) and a list of your work.  If your publication list is lengthy, create the list on a separate page. Be sure to include a headshot on page one of the bio.

2. Depending your press kit goal,  you could include  one page of reviews.  If they are long, edit it and use quotes with attribution and occupation.

3.  Include a postcard or graphic with the promotion of your latest work or clips.

4.  A well written resume.  It should not be just a laundry list of the positions you have held.  In the summary, help steer the reader visualize you as the kind of writer you are by connecting your experiences and your writing skills in the Profile Summary.

5.  Don’t forget the well designed business card.  Be sure to include all contact information.  A tag line, if you think of one.  And your URL address.

Presentation is key, so carefully edit and proof every sheet.  The folder should be of decent stock, so it looks professional and not like a book report for high school. 

If someone is reviewing your book and does not know anything about you, having a press kit available will make it easier for the reviewer to get the information right. It will save them time and it will save you time.

Your press kit available online will help the media find information about you more easily.  I recommend the information sheets be in a PDF format, so that the viewer sees the documents exactly as you created them.  Different browsers can skew formats and type fonts. 

 A downloadable photo of you allows the reporter to include it at the last minute. 

The easier you make your information and photo available, the easier it is for others to help you spread the word that you are out there with your new book. 

When you have completed your press kit, wait a few days and then look at it in its entirety. What dominant image of you as a writer comes to mind?  A fresh look at it will let you know where you should tweak it. 

Give the press, the reviewer and anyone else that is willing to promote you a reason to support you.  Let them get to know your real unique strengths and talents.  Let them know your personal story.  The personal touch  is always more interesting.

Help them help you.





Mini Cards – A Great Promotional Idea

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Are you looking for a business card that will make you stand out?  Why don’t you take a look at the mini card?

Although smaller than the typical business card, offers every opportunity to help you create cards that stand out.  The site is simple to navigate and execute a design. allows you to use your own images to create a simple, but very effective marketing tool.  You are allowed to write text or put an image in the front and write up to six lines on the back.   Templates can help the more graphically challenged.

Best of all you can mix and match to the quantity you desire without an extra charge.

Make Text CardsUpload Your Images

Since we are all writers, what is the best way to promote the birth of a new book?   I can visualize  you putting a cliff hanger of a question on the front and on the back the name  of the book, your name, and your contact information.

Best of all, you can write or use up to 100 different images or text if you order 100 cards.

Pricing is very reasonable.  If you buy400 cards at a price of nearly $80, it comes to about $.20 a card.  100 cards cost as little as $19.99.

I have not had the chance to order some for myself.  However, if you should order them before I get a chance, let me know how you like them.

The vendor has suggested a number of ways to use these cards.  Peruse the site and good luck.

Metatags: How to pick the best keywords

June 13, 2009 Leave a comment

For those who don’t know what metatags are, here’s my simple definition.  Metatags are words that help search engines find your site, text, or video.  When you post your site, text or video, there is often a box where you can add metatag words separated by a comma.  So, how do you know what words to list?

fortune-cookieFor years most of us just put whatever buzz words were contained in the copy or words that described the bigger picture.  It was a hit or miss proposition, but since there is no limit on the metatags you can add, you just use your imagination and list every word that you think relates.  I just discovered a better way to get targeted results and erase the guessing.

On Google Adwords, there is a keyword tool.  You type in the word you think best describes your site, passage, etc., copy the validation code in the box (this is to get around bots using the site), and click Get Key Words.  Up will pop a list of key words and the number of hits.  If you select the more popular key words, there is a high likelihood that your site will generate more traffic. 

Here it is:

Categories: Marketing

Blogging with a Twist

May 25, 2009 Leave a comment

If you thought about it, you could have guessed that the next breakthrough in sharing online is blogging through video.  You don’t have to wait any longer.  You can reach people more personally by video recording what you want to say and uploading it on

You will find that there is someone that wants to talk about almost every topic.  Unlike the written word, seeing the person and watching the mannerisms connects on a deeper level that the written word cannot.

I searched the site for people who spoke on writing.  And voila, there were many people out there sharing their writing insights. 

For busy people, I think reading is faster, but for those who want a deeper connection to personal stories and sage knowledge given, this might be what you have been waiting for.

You can listen to what’s posted or you can start your own talk show.  (How many of us have dreamed of this opportunity, but  never thought we would be lucky enough to reach millions of people.)  Best of all, all this is free.  So, get out your entrepreneur hat.  How can we use this social media outlet to further our writing exposure?  Can we use this on more than one level?

Actually, WordPress has a video upload capability.  I just now noticed it. Anyway, check out and let me know what you think. 
Oh I forgot to mention.  This site is free and you don’t have to download software to view or upload.

Working With Social Media

January 24, 2009 Leave a comment

The Internet has given rise to a new marketing twist. Born as a direct result of online chatting is the concept of Inbound Marketing. To define Inbound Marketing, maybe we should start with the definition of Outbound Marketing, which is a concept we are most familiar.

Outbound marketing is when you —the vendor, the purveyor of goods or services — reaches out to the public for business.

In contrast, Inbound Marketing refers to you, the vendor, attracting people of like interests or needs by just existing. Inbound marketing is based on you putting yourself out there and people deciding that they are interested in your ideas, your humor, or your knowledge.

Here’s an example: An Outbound Marketing activity might be placing an ad in the newspaper or launching a direct mail campaign. We are waving our product or services in people’s faces to see if they are interested.

In Inbound Marketing, the perspective is the opposite. It is more like going to a cocktail party. You aren’t selling anything in particular. You are sharing information and ideas. People gravitate to you because of who you are. You are building a relationship online, which might someday lead to a business transaction.

The fluid nature of the Internet made this possible. It brings you in contact with people in all corners of the globe. There are social media sites in every industry and every avocation.

What is amazing is that these sites are not just for the very young or the tech savvy. boasts that the average person in their membership is between 32-45, earning about $79,000 per year and owns a business. These sites are generally free. All you have to do is sign up for a membership.

The most popular social media sites are and Other business oriented sites are,, and has gained tremendous popularity in a short time. It is best characterized as a mini-blog because contributions cannot exceed 140 characters. As you blog you attract people with similar interests. Common interests creates an immediate connection, even if it is only tenuous.

There are several social media sites for writers, which I will post next time.

Every Writer Should Have a Website

October 17, 2008 Leave a comment


If writing is the way you pay for food and keep a roof over your head, then you should have a website.  Think of your website as a virtual business card.  This “card,” however, differs in that so much more of your personality, your bio, your writing is out there for public scrutiny.   Smart writers understand that publishing their writing is only half a story.  Through a website is a pivotal beginning for marketing — the half of the publishing game.


Here are several good reasons how  a website can increase your exposure:

1.  You are reaching
1,463,632,361 potential viewers.  That’s about one-fifth of the world’s population.
2.   You can superficially bond with your audience by sharing with your viewers something of your life and interests.
3.  You can communicate with your virtual fans through your blog or forum. 
4.   You can request your viewers to subscribe to your site, which is a built in audience for selling your books.

5.   You will enjoy the creative process.
6.    You can add all sorts of sections to your website.  You can keep it strictly about writing?  Or if you have a passion for a topic,  you may use this website as your personal virtual library.  Add all sorts of interesting tidbits about music, literature, articles to show the full scope of your interests and writing skills.

September 14, 2008 Leave a comment

Have you been wanting to create a website that doesn’t look like an amateur put it together?  Are you hesitant about designing a website because you think that learning the software is a bit overwhelming?

Well, last week I stumbled onto one of the easiest and sharpest looking web design sites. is  user friendly.  It has great illustrations, which by the way, you can use these illustrations  as a template and insert your own copy.  It offers the flexibility of flash and hosts it to its server.  You can embed it into your facebook or myspace page or any other vehicle for that matter…or you can create your own freestanding webpage.

I give this site a double thumbs up!!! Let me know what you think. Oh and I think you’ll like this.  The site is free.