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Book Coach Lisa Tener
Awarded the Silver Stevie Award for Mentor/Coach of the Year 2014
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Bring Your Book to Life
by:  Lisa Tener, Ms.
Bring Your Book to Life®
September 5, 2018

Special Sales: Think Creatively and Sell Your Book in Bulk!

“I think this book is a great idea—a fun idea. I can already imagine which publishers would respond to it.”

My morning began on a conference call with my client and a literary agent who has sold several of my clients’ books to publishers, a colleague from Harvard Medical School’s publishing course.

The agent shared her vision for the book and we loved her ideas. They expanded the potential audience and built upon the fun-factor. And I especially liked that she nudged my client in an area of great potential—special sales.

One of the agent’s requests was to get commitments now from organizations to purchase books in bulk (also called special sales). I had suggested this to my client at an earlier stage but she didn’t feel comfortable asking her contacts at the time. She also felt sure the nonprofit organizations she had close connections with, and whose conferences she spoke at, were in no position to order books in bulk as part of their budget.

As my client and I debriefed after the call, I realized we needed to think creatively. “How about so-and-so?” I suggested. Maybe he’d buy books for the organization.

A former relative-by-marriage, actor and activist had fallen in love with the idea of my client’s book and offered his support. As both the actor-activist and my client are supporters and volunteers for one of the organizations, I suggested she ask him if he would buy 500 copies of the book at a discount (usually 50%) and donate them to the nonprofit. The nonprofit could then either sell the books full price, gift them to donors, or find another creative fundraiser for the books (perhaps a fundraiser focused around the book theme (which they were already planning) with the book as a gift to anyone who purchased tickets to the event.

“I think he’d like this…”

What are Special Sales?
Special sales in the book publishing world means selling books outside of the traditional retail channels (bookstores and Amazon). Essentially, readers can find the book in places where they buy related items, rather than having to go to a book store looking, specifically for a book. A pregnancy book in a maternity store or a book on running in a sports store offer examples of special sales.

Special sales go way beyind retail stores, however. Corporations can gift your book to employees, clients, potential clients or specifically employees in a training program or seminar. Non-profit organizations may sell your book for a profit or give it to donors to thank and honor their contributions. Associations, hospitals, universities, schools, gift shops, museum stores, catalogs and libraries are all potential opportunities for special sales.

Think creatively. Would package your book with a bouquet on Mother’s Day (or offer it for moms allergic to flowers)?

Zoos or museum gift shops that sell Behavioral Veterinarian Dr. Vint Virga’s The Soul of All Living Creatures, offer an excellent example of the targeted special sale, since many of his stories in the book are about zoo animals. What a perfect way to reach his target audience–the people who come to see those animals!

Mara Zimmerman convinced the airport bookstore in San Francisco that her independently published, multi-award-winning book, How to Meditate and Why, was a perfect fit for stressed travelers and now Compass Books ( in connection with Books Inc. ) carries her book in the San Francisco airport, terminals 2 and 3.

While speaking at a conference, Adam Witty, co-author with Rusty Shelton of Authority Marketing, told the audience that anyone who pre-ordered 500 books or more would get a free Authority Marketing workshop from himself or Rusty for their company. Three people took advantage of the offer–that’s a minimum of 1,500 books. Rusty offers that, “The key was offering it for a limited time at a conference—it brought a sense of urgency right after a speech where the crowd was fired up.”

Says Rusty, “I suggest people have a bulk sales menu where each level of order has different “freebies” associated with the size of the order.” For example, you might offer a free webinar for those who order 25 or more books, a free consultation for 100 or more books and a free workshop, in person, for 500 or 1000 books or more.

Why Publishers Love Special Sales
Imagine you are a publisher. It’s a tough business. Bookstores return books that don’t sell and you actually lose money on those books. It can take significant resources to acquire a customer, but you only make some percentage of the $20 or so cost of the book. Plus, bookstore sales are on the downswing.

Enter special sales. Here’s why publishers love special sales:

* A Bigger Market: Special sales suddenly expands your market dramatically.
* More Revenue: More books sold means more money for the publisher.
* Acquisition Cost is Less: Special sales offer a focused way to bring in new customers and those customers are more likely to be repeat customers for second editions or other books the publisher brings out.
* Decreased Production Costs: The more books the publisher knows they can sell, the more books they can print, saving money on cost per book by economies of scale.
* Lower Returns: Remember that pesky problem of bookstore returns you read about earlier? Most non retail venues don’t return books. It’s not likely in their purchase agreements, nor is it something they would likely want to do.
* Print to Order: Publishers can print based on the number of books ordered and don’t have to guess about sales in a bulk situation.

And here’s why you should love special sales:

You can generally sell way more books in a few hours spent generating a special sale than you will in a multi-city visit to bookstores, a week of PR or days plugging away on social media (unless you have a crazy-big social media following).

If you feel indimidated by the idea, or want ideas on how you can get commitments for special sales up front, read more about Special Sales here.

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July 6, 2018

Advice from Literary Agents and Publishers

It’s become a tradition that I publish a post about the advice from literary agents and acquisitions editors, shared at Harvard Medical School’s CME Publishing Course each year.

I could apologize for how long it languished in my drafts folder, but instead I’ll turn it into a teaching moment. By giving the post some time to stew, I realized I could add some examples to make it even more useful. You may find that with your writing as well. If it’s not jelling, let it go and return to it later.

And, without further ado, here’s the post inspired by advice from literary agents, with my own take on their advice, including examples that I hope bring their pithy pearls of wisdom to life.

Course director and founder, Julie Silver, MD, invited each literary agent or acquisitions editor to end the discussion with a pearl of wisdom. Here’s the necklace of pearls:

This Year’s Advice from Literary Agents and Acquisitions Editors

Debbie Carvalko, Acquisitions Editor with Praeger (ABC-CLIO): “Check competing books. What about the books strike you and inspire you?”

My Take: It’s important to know how your book fits into the market and is both similar to and different from other books in its category. Where can you make your mark and add to what’s already out there? How can you meet needs that other books don’t yet meet? Read the book reviews on Amazon and see what readers like about the books and what they think is missing. Consider addressing their complaints in your book!

Leslie Shapiro, MSW, an expert in treating OCD (and a past course participant!), noted that patients tended to relapse if a specific symptom was not addressed. Yet other books seemed scant on advice about this symptom. Thus, she demonstrated a strong need for Understanding OCD, which was published by Praeger.

Jeanne Fredericks, Jeanne Fredericks Literary Agency: “This is a very accomplished group. Change your viewpoint while you’re here. Think of yourself as a student. Open up and ask questions; make connections.”

My Take: I’ve seen many course participants do a great job of asking questions, being open and networking. One favorite example is Jonathan Lief, MD, who signed a book contract last year with BenBella Books (Jeanne Fredericks is his literary agent). Years ago, Jon attended a blogging and social media advanced workshop with Rusty Shelton and myself and asked more questions than anyone I’d met at the course. Inspired, he decided to blog, worked with Rusty and continued asking questions. In 2016 his blog, Searching for the Mind, was awarded “Best World Wide Online Universities in “Neuronal Plasticity”: The Science of Learning – Resources on How Our Brains Work Best.” Other blogs included MIT’s and Stanford’s! Jon had never thought of his blog as an online university!

More about Jon’s blogging experience can be found in our interview about building an award winning blog.

Jean Black, acquisitions editor at Yale University Press: “Really work on the craft of writing. Consider a writing workshop. And, once a year, read a classic like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.”

My take: Although I teach writing workshops, I also become a student and take other people’s workshops at least one a year. Writers conferences, with multiple workshops, help you hone your skills, get creative, network and reinspire you. My favorites? Harvard Medical School’s course: Writing, Publishing, and Social Media for Healthcare Professionals and the San Francisco Writers Conference. The International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG) offers many terrific weekend workshops as well as a summer conference. For a literary conference, consider the Ocean State Writers Conference at the University of Rhode Island.

The past two years I stretched myself and attended the Contemporary Theater Company’s Ocean State Improv Festival. Improv helps you let go of expectations, judgments and “monkey mind” and truly get present. And that’s a crucial skill for any writer to develop.

As to Strunk and White, I agree wholeheartedly. I especially enjoyed an anniversary edition sent to me by Teri Scheinzeit, award winning author of Success Without Stress: Simple steps to Finding Calm for Women Business Owners.

Linda Konner, Literary Agent at Linda Konner Literary Agency: “Write a magazine article or get an essay published on the topic of your book. You can get paid for it and you just may get the attention of an agent or publisher.”

Rethinking Narcissism book cover

My take: I love this advice and I’ve seen it happen. I would add, consider blogging for a national platform, like Psychology Today. Although you won’t likely get paid for blogging, it can increase your visibility dramatically. After Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course, many years ago, Dr. Craig Malkin approached me for help with his book proposal. We took a step back and I shared some strategies for developing his author platform. He began a column for Psychology Today called Romance Redux, now one of PT’s most popular columns. After a post of his on narcissim went viral, HarperWave (a division of HarperCollins) approached him about writing a book on the subject. The result was the popular book Rethinking Narcissism.

John Mass, Literary Agent with Sterling Lord Literistic: Know the category you want to be writing in and read all the bestsellers.

My Take: Great advice. In the comps section of your proposal, you’ll want to compare your book to bestsellers. And, in terms of reading, it makes sense to learn from the most successful books. Find out what works. See what others have to say. Don’t write in a vaccuum if you’re writing a prescriptive book.

Don Fehr, Literary Agent with Trident Media Group: “Just as we say, ‘Listen to your doctor,’ listen to your agent.”

My Take: This one speaks for itself. Agents know the field. They understand what specific publishers are looking for. They can help you make your book and propsosal even more compelling.

Joe Rusko, Acquisitions Editor with Johns Hopkins University Press: “Be sure to involve your audience in your content creation process in some way—have a local book club or library group review a few chapters; ask for feedback on a chat group. Involving your ‘end users’ into manuscript development helps ensure your work will resonate with your prospective audience.’

My Take: I love Joe’s advice. Not only will it help you write a better book, but you’ll have fans who are already invested in its success!

Regina Brooks, Literary Agent and Founder of Serendipity Literary Agency: You need three things to interest agents and publishers: incredible writing, a hook and a strong platform.

My Take: Don’t worry if you don’t have these yet. It takes time to build your platform and write a great book (or book proposal). Give yourself the time to do it right.

I hope you find this advice from literary agents and publishers helpful! Continue to seek out experiences that will help you hone your skills and keep writing!

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March 29, 2017

Editing Tips: 7 Smart Ways to Tighten Your Writing

Thanks to the participants in my Bring Your Book to Life® Program and writers who sent in samples for the writing workshop I’ll be facilitating at Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course this week, we have lots of inspiration for today’s blog post.

Many times, writers aren’t quite sure where to start when editing a manuscript. “Tighten your writing” is one of my favorite starting points.

Pretty much every manuscript or writing sample I edited this week needed some form of tightening.

So many words. So little time to read them. Such is the lament of the modern reader. We want to be sensitive to our readers’ needs and time.

In addition, tight writing is more enjoyable, clearer, cleaner. Extra words make it boring.

Not only will this post teach you ways to tighten your writing, there’s a contest at the end where everyone wins a prize!

Have You Been Advised to Tighten Your Writing?

Blessed is the tight writer.

First drafts often prove messy, full of extraneous words and convoluted ways of saying things.

And that’s as it should be. First time around, you want to get it out on paper. Fine tuning and polishing should not come into play.

If you focus on editing and critique while writing a first draft, you can actually interfere with the flow. When it’s time to polish, however, tight writing can be one of your most crucial skills.

How do you develop this ability?

Same way you get to Carnegie Hall.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Of course, you’ll need a few tried and true tips.

7 Smart Ways to Tighten Your Writing

Read Aloud for the first 2

Read aloud. Is there anything that sounds convoluted? Can you simplify it?
Read aloud again. When anything sounds wordy or long, highlight it. Then go back and see if there is a briefer way to say the same thing.
Next, Cut the Obvious

3. Here are some words and phrases that are usually extraneous and can easily be cut 90% of the time they show up in a first draft: started to, began to, so, very, really, that, Well (at the beginning of a sentence). Can you think of others?

4. In dialogue, dump the “he said; she said” when it’s obvious who’s talking. Boring. Repetitious. Unnecessary. Just give us the dialogue, unless it’s unclear or readers need a reminder because it’s been a while. Better yet, give us an action by the speaker and you don’t have to write, “he said.” Plus, an action will break up the dialogue and paint more of a visual picture.

5. Practice on LinkedIn connection requests. Seriously? Yes. You have 300 characters to let a prospective connection know why you want to connect. If you know eachother that’s easy, but if you don’t, and have a specific reason to want to connect, you may need to wordsmith to get it down to 300 characters. Here’s my final note to acquisitions editors for business textbooks at US publishing houses:

6. Graduate to Twitter: Got it down to 300 characters? Now try 140. Be patient. It usually takes more time to distill your message than it did to write a first draft.

7. Ask, “Does the reader need to know this? Does it add value by making the writing come to life, filling in important details, or adding clarity? Or was is it unnecessary? Does it fit and flow?” In a first draft, we may put in details or actions that don’t really add much value. When editing, use a more critical eye. Read the page with and without a particular detail, sentence or paragraph in question. Which works best?

BONUS! Win a Prize (and Everyone Wins)

Have any tightening tips? Share yours below.

BONUS: Notice any places I can tighten up this post? Comment with your suggestion on my website writing blog. The top 3 suggestions win a book. Others will win a beautiful bookmark painted by my lovely neice. Yes, everyone wins a prize today!

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January 19, 2017

7 Quick Writing Tips to Bring Your Words to Life

After I sent some feedback and writing tips to a client, I spent time editing her revised manuscript. I was thrilled to see the author’s writing improve so dramatically from one draft to the next.

Eureka! Whatever I told her, I realized I should share with you today. Every writer loves to know what she (or he) can do better to improve her writing and make it sing. These writing tips can make a world of difference in your own revisions.

Today’s writing tips all focus on making the words leap out from the page and form a picture for your readers. Whether you are writing a how-to book, memoir or even a novel, you will truly draw your readers in if you paint a scene and share stories.

Sure, your book may have its abstract moments, but here we will focus on 7 writing tips that make your stories come to life—whether you are writing brief anecdotes that support your self-help tools or part of a larger narrative, such as a memoir.

1. Paint the scene at the beginning. Have you ever had the experience of reading a story and imagining the character in one place, only to find three paragraphs later that the room was dark, not light; the character was surrounded by people, not alone as you had thought; and that it took place in the car, not the office? Not only does such construction confuse your readers, it frustrates them and takes them out of the magical world you are creating (yes, even in a brief self-help anecdote!). Instead, picture the scene in your mind and make the essential details clear up front.

2. Be specific about placement:

Don’t make your readers have to guess whether your sister stood above you, sat next to you or put her head in your lap as you spoke. You can clarify placement by the verbs you use (“she sat” “she stood”). You can also clarify it by picturing the scene in your mind very clearly and then writing. Don’t overdo this (“She used her right hand to reach for the object on her right.”). Keep it simple and sparse, yet clear.

3. Use specific verbs to make imbue actions with emotion and motivational cues:

“She went to the store.” – WEAK! “She walked to the store.” – BETTER. “She sprinted to the store.” – GOOD. “She dragged herself to the store.” EVEN CLEARER.

4. Let your readers draw the conclusions.

Don’t you go telling me that he was nervous and she was nuts. Instead, have him do something that shows he’s nervous—a tic, a stutter, wiping the sweat from his hands. Have the dialogue show how nutty she can be. As a reader, I get to draw the conclusion of what the action means and now I’m engaged, rather than hearing some ho-hum account with the life sucked out of it.

5. Avoid overuse of adverbs.

Swiftly, slowly, angrily—these are shorthand ways of conveying information without much life. Instead, tell me she sprinted or ran; that he shuffled; that she threw a vase.

6. Take the time to find the perfect word.

In a first draft, feel free to be lazy and allow the words to flow quickly without weighing them. However, in your next draft, look for the places where you used a word more than once, or used a word that doesn’t feel as precise as you might like. Use a thesaurus and see if you can get at “le mot juste.”
Read aloud. Reading aloud always helps you hear what works and what needs work.
Your Bonus Writing Tip

7. Enjoy yourself. When you have fun writing and editing, your readers get to share in that fun. Write or edit outside (if it’s warm enough). Or write and revise somewhere cozy and inspiring. All the things you do to bring yourself into a light and happy space will bring light into the writing and reading experience—without your having to try. Your writing just naturally picks up your state of being.editing

Looking for tips on how to write a nonfiction (how-to, self-help, memoir) book that transforms your readers lives?

Join me and Samantha Bennett for the free seminar: How to Write a Book that Transforms Your Readers’ Lives on January 25 at 8:30 PM ET, 5:30 PM PT. Sign up here for free.

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January 21, 2015

How to Get Published: BLOG! How to Blog Successfully...Read On

First time nonfiction authors often ask me how to get published. My favorite answer? Blog. Several of my clients were contacted directly by editors at top publishing houses who had read the author's blog. One even said, "We want a book about this topic." A few months later, the blogger had signed a six figure book deal for his first book. Another first time author had several offers from publishers, one of which had contacted her directly because of her blog.
It may sound magical, but I know how much work these authors put into both writing their books and developing their platform, or following. And the most extensive part of their platforms? Blogging. These successful first time authors learned how to blog successfully. One of these authors saw visitors to her website grow from 60 unique visitors a day to over 1,000 –EACH DAY!
Did she do anything fancy? No. She blogged successfully about the topics in her subject that her target audience want to know more about—topics they are searching on. And she provided valuable, high-quality posts, many of which now show up as #1, 2, or 3 in a Google Search.
Another client received an offer from a top publish for a $150,000 book deal for his very first book. It wasn’t magic, either. He learned how to blog successfully, blogged consistently and pitched a blog to Psychology Today. He wrote informative, trendy and entertaining posts that often ended up on the front page and also got picked up by the Huffington Post where they were prominently displayed.
A publisher reached out to him suggesting a book on a topic he’d blogged about—not his original book.
Blogging successfully doesn’t just help your book. It helps your business. Many of my clients report that they’ve gotten new business from a blog post—as have I.
So what are the secrets to successful blogging? Here’s how to blog successfully:
1. Write about what your target market wants to know.
2. When writing a title, use keywords that they would search on. I will sometimes forfeit a catchy title for one that has the right keywords, because that’s how people find the post in Google—not because it’s catchy.
3. Use those keywords in the URL (the link to the page).
4. Use those keywords in the post as well—not in an awkward, overdone way, but they should be in the post at least 3-5 times, depending on the length of the post.
5. Link to other quality posts on the subject or the keyword on well-reputed sites like Wikipedia, Psychology Today, WebMD, Forbes, Fast Company, The New York Times, etc.
6. Write what the reader wants to know—answer their questions (if you don’t know what those are, find out), provide valuable information, possibly add stories or examples and make it interesting.
7. Make it entertaining: play with words, add some humor or add a compelling story or anecdote.
8. Make it interactive: ask readers about their experience and invite them to share, or offer to answer their questions about the subject. While interactivity on blogs has gone down in general, a number of people still comment.
9. Make it easy to comment. I can’t tell you the number of times I've given up on a comment I wanted to make on someone’s blog because I could not easily comment (maybe it required remembering a password or was just a clunky process).
10. Be social: share relevant posts on social media and tag the authors. Then when you share your posts, they are more likely to share your links. Sharing other relevant posts is also helpful to your audience so it’s a win-win-win.

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A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R

Awarded the Silver Stevie Award for Mentor/Coach of the Year 2014, Book Coach Lisa Tener specializes in helping experts, enlightened entrepreneurs and others write and publish a compelling how-to book, self-help book or memoir—taking them step-by-step through her unique process. She teaches on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course, national writers conferences and award winning Bring Your Book to Life® Program. She blogs on writing and publishing on the Huffington Post. Her clients have signed 5- and 6-figure publishing deals with Random House, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, Hachette, Yale and many other publishers, as well as self-published.

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