Maria Perez

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    Negotiating a Book Deal

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 9:18 AM [General]
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    I had the pleasure of attending the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference held in New York over the weekend. The conference, for writers at every level of their career, featured more than 70 sessions covering a variety of topics, such as how to score a big book deal, how to break into women’s magazines, how to beat blog burnout, and more. To view my previous recaps from the conference, see Breaking into Finance Markets, Writing for Women’s Magazines,  Beating Blog Burnout, Writing White Papers  and Building a Platform: How to Promote Your Blog and Yourself.]

     

    Think you have a great idea for a book but don’t have the faintest idea on how to go about getting a book deal? In this session, an ASJA member and her agent talked about how they got a six-figure advance and offered tips on securing a book contract.

    Speakers:

    • Moderator Sherry Beck Paprocki is co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Branding Yourself” and 10 other books. Subjects of her biographies have included Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, Martha Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Bob Marley, Anita Roddick and more. Her credits include Preservation, Principal, Chicago Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal, Columbus Monthly, Los Angeles Times Syndicate and others.

     

    • Deborah Grosvenor has worked in book publishing for more than 25 years as an editor and agent. She has edited or represented several hundred nonfiction books. Her best-known acquisition also her first, “The Hunt for Red October.” Her clients include New York Times bestsellers an Pulitzer Prize winners, including Henry Allen, Tom Oliphant, Eleanor Clift, Mort Kondracke, Curtis Wilkie, Scott Wallace, Meg Noonan, Elizabeth Pryor and Stephen Coonts, among others.

     

    • Meg Lukens Noonan spent several years on magazine editorial staffs and began freelancing full-time in 1987. Credits include Outside, The New York Times, National Geographic Adventure, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Vogue, Men’s Journal, Islands and many others. She is the co-author of “Albatross: The True Story of a Woman’s Survival at Sea,” which was translated into more than a dozen languages and was the basis for the 1997 ABC-TV movie, “Two Came Back.” Her latest book, “The Coat Route: A Tale of Craft, Obsession, Luxury, and the World’s Most Expensive Coat,” has her traveling the globe to trace the making of a $50,000 overcoat.

    Following are highlights of the discussion.

     

    THE TIMELINE

    Grosvenor and Noonan first talked in September of 2009, when Noonan came up with the idea for “The Coat Route” after working on a magazine article on the world’s most expensive items. She had been approached by Grosvenor previously to collaborate on projects that never came to fruition, and knew that Grosvenor was someone she could approach with her idea.

    The manuscript went through 4-5 major revisions, along with many minor edits along the way. The final draft was done in mid-June 2010, after a lot of back and forth. Noonan lives in New Hampshire and Grosvenor in Washington, D.C., so all communications were done via email and phone. They didn’t even meet for the first time until the day of the conference!

    An auction for the book was supposed to be held at the end of June 2010, but an editor in London who liked the idea swooped in the night before the auction with a preemptive offer.

    “It was beyond great,” said Noonan. “I was at the sneaker store with my kids [when I heard about the offer], and I told them they could get anything they wanted.”

    The manuscript for “The Coat Route” is due December 2011, and Noonan is currently writing it while traveling the world. “I find I like to let things sit for a while,” said Noonan, who brings notes and tapes back from her travels, rather than writing on the plane.

    "So many times we hear from agents what they need and what they want to go after, and hearing stories like this teaches us about patience," said Paprocki.

     

    AN AGENT’S ADVICE

    “Good ideas are hard to come by,” said Grosvenor. “If someone has a good idea, I’ll certainly take the time to pursue them.”

    She offered the following tips for authors and would-be authors:

    Be professional. Divorce your ego from the process as much as possible. Writers need to be able to take criticism for what it is, which is to help the writers do something better. “Keep your eye on the ball. We’re trying to make it the best – and most saleable – it can be.”

    Learn about the book market to know whether your idea would work as a book, as opposed to a magazine article. “Sometimes reporters have a hard time thinking outside of articles. In the nonfiction world, that is always the challenge. I run into that a lot, where an idea is really more appropriate for a magazine article and can’t really be stretched into a book.”

    Be creative and understand the narrative form. “The most common thing people don’t understand or see is the story arc. It can’t be a documentary; it is some form of journey. It’s getting people to see how to turn it into a story, not a reference book.”

    Trust your agent. Be willing and able to take editorial direction, and be willing to do whatever work is necessary to make the proposal saleable. “The proposal is [the agent’s] marketing tool.”

     

    AN AUTHOR’S ADVICE

    Noonan shared these tips on working with an agent:

    Trust your agent. Trust that he/she has an excellent grasp on what will and won’t work. “Right from the beginning, I always trusted Deborah to know what she was talking about.”

    Be open to constructive criticism. “Once, Deborah suggested something that wasn’t really what I thought I wanted to do -- or could do ('I'm not smart enough,' etc.), but then she would talk me down from the ledge.”

    Work hard to make revisions.

    Be patient. The process can take years.

    Be blindly optimistic. “The key is to find a subject you are so interested in that you would do it anyway. It’s an amazing experience to go that deep into something you find interesting.”

     

    [To view my previous recaps from the conference, see Breaking into Finance Markets, Writing for Women’s Magazines,  Beating Blog Burnout, Writing White Papers  and Building a Platform: How to Promote Your Blog and Yourself.]

    Writing White Papers

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011, 10:34 AM [General]
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    I had the pleasure of attending the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference held in New York over the weekend. The conference, for writers at every level of their career, featured more than 70 sessions covering a variety of topics, such as how to score a big book deal, how to break into women’s magazines, how to beat blog burnout, and more. I was able to attend several of the sessions, and will recap them here.

     

    White papers are a form of corporate writing that falls somewhere between journalistic articles and marketing materials. In this panel, the speakers discussed the ins and outs of white papers, including what they are, what writers should be asking before taking the assignment, and tips for writing them.

    Speakers:

    • Susan B. Weiner, CFA, writes and edits articles, white papers, investment commentary, Web pages, and other communications for leading investment and wealth management firms. Her credits include AdvisorPerspectives.com, Bottom Line/Personal, CFA Magazine, Financial Planning, Journal of Financial Planning and Louis Rukeyser’s Mutual Funds.
    • Randy B. Hecht is a bilingual (English/Spanish) reporter and editorial consultant whose clients include print and online media, corporations, NGOs and foundations in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia. “Unconquered,” her book about contemporary indigenous people in Latin America, will be published in 2012. Her portfolio also includes magazine articles, multilingual Web portals, blog posts, annual reports, public policy studies and white papers.
    • Pamela Oldham is a 25-year veteran and award-winning marketing communications writer and reader advocate who has written dozens of white papers for Fortune 500 companies, leading nonprofits and government agencies. She specializes in translating technical and highly complex concepts into terms easily understood by non-technical audiences. Her marketing communications clients have included Verizon, Spring/Nextel, Merkle, AT&T, CognitiveDATA, US Navy, the EPA and many others. Her business, marketing and consumer credits include The Washington Post, Family Circle, Deliver Magazine, Direct Marketing News, MSN.com and others.

    Following are highlights from the presentation.

     

    WHITE PAPERS DEFINED

    According to Oldham, white papers are the most frequently downloaded media type, the most utilized to evaluate new technology, and the most effective in delivering return on investment.

    White papers are an attractive market for writers because they pay well, said Weiner. And because they are used by a variety of organizations -- companies, nonprofits, government agencies, think tanks -- there are a wide range of prospects.

    There are three characteristics of a white paper:

    • Provides unbiased information and analysis
    • Presents a problem and a solution
    • Proposes and argues in favor of a solution to the problem, based on sound research.

     The standard format is:

    • Opening summary
    • Introduction
    • Explanation of the problem
    • Suggested solution
    • Closing summary
    • Signature (author’s bio, company profile)
    • Contact information

    White papers are typically 7-10 pages long (including graphics, so about 5 pages of text). Highly technical papers can be as long as 20 pages.

    There are often several individuals involved in the white-paper process, including a project manager, subject-matter experts, the writer, an editor and proofreader, and an illustrator or designer.

    Keep in mind that you will not get a byline on a white paper, as you are ghostwriting for the organization. 

     

    WRITING WHITE PAPERS

    Before beginning the writing process, make sure to define the assignment. What is the objective? What is the topic? Who is the target reader? What is the problem that will be addressed? What is the proposed solution? Is there any primary research on the topic?

    Oldham suggests compiling a statement of work (SOW) to help with the logistics of the project and avoid any misunderstandings on the scope of the project. Define what is expected:

    • How many pages, words
    • How many revisions, rounds of editing
    • How many interviews to be conducted
    • How many sidebars, call-outs, and where will they appear
    • Who will create graphics
    • Deadline (typical time frame is 30-45 days, minimum)

    Once you’re ready to write the paper, you’ll want to follow these nine steps:

    • Assess needs
    • Have a kickoff meeting
    • Acquire information
    • Write
    • Integrate content and layout
    • Organize content
    • Illustrate
    • Review, revise and approve
    • Publish

     

    WRITING TIPS

    Oldham shared the following tips for writing white papers:

    • Write clearly and concisely. Avoid jargon, buzzwords and other “insider” language.
    • Write in the third person and mirror the client’s voice and personality. Make sure the white paper makes a compelling case for the reader. “Be a reader advocate!”
    • Address readers with the least knowledge about the subject. Use visuals (call-outs, sidebars) to keep readers interested.
    • Use good journalistic practices, including taking the steps necessary to fact-check your sources.
    • Stick with the facts and real-life examples. Avoid including opinions or editorializing, and resist attempts to include unsubstantiated claims. When possible, cite third-party information, which can bolster your credibility and demonstrates depth of knowledge.
    • If factual descriptions of a client’s products/services are included as part of the solution, present them in the last third of the white paper, to enhance credibility and keep the reader with you.
    • Resist the urge to write in a promotional voice. You want to convey information, not sales pitch.
    • Practice the craft of writing white papers, and stay up-to-date on techniques. Read other white papers.

     

    MARKETING YOURSELF

    If you are not already an experienced white-paper writer, you will need to sell yourself as a writer in this specialized area.

    Not all organizations will require previous experience writing white papers. Some will accept reports you’ve written or other writing assignments that required investigating a topic or helping readers understand a difficult topic.

    Figure out what your best niche is and target those topics and industries in which you have high-level expertise, said Hecht. “Don’t position yourself as a writer who can cover any topic; generalists are a poor fit for white papers.”

    Target those sectors that are most aligned with your area(s) of expertise. Market out to existing clients in those sectors, including agencies and custom publishers. Look beyond corporate clients to government agencies, NGOs, research institutes, hospitals, professional associations, etc.

    Don’t be afraid to use your connections, advised Hecht. If you already have corporate clients, think of some areas for a white paper and see if they would benefit from it. When talking to editors, ask them if they have a corporate group you can contact to see if they have a need for white papers. If you write in a certain industry, contact a professional association in that industry.

    You can also work through a marketing firm or PR agency that corporations contract for white papers.

    It’s also important to network with people in the industry for which you want to write white papers. “Don’t just network with other writers,” said Hecht. “Get known as someone who knows the industry.”

    You can find more tips on writing white papers at Weiner's blog, Investment Writing.

    [To view my previous recaps from the conference, see Breaking into Finance Markets, Writing for Women’s Magazines,  Beating Blog Burnout and Building a Platform: How to Promote Your Blog and Yourself.]

    Top 10 Reasons to Use ProfNet as a PR Professional or Expert

    Monday, May 9, 2011, 10:33 AM [General]
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    The top 10 reasons for PR professionals and experts to use ProfNet:

    Reputation: ProfNet is the original expert network, connecting journalists with PR professionals and expert sources since 1992.

    Reliability: ProfNet’s experienced editors carefully review all journalist queries before sending them to you, meaning you can trust the queries you receive are from legitimate outlets.

    Exposure: ProfNet can help you increase visibility for your experts and organization by linking you directly with journalists.

    Proactive Engagement: Via ProfNet’s Expert Alerts feature, you can spotlight experts who are available for interviews on timely news topics. Alerts are then sent to reporters via email, distributed via PR Newswire’s national newswire, and shared on the ProfNet Connect social network.

    Media Intelligence: By seeing what journalists are working on, you can identify trends and relevant topics in the media to maximize your PR efforts.

    Targeting: You can filter queries by hundreds of categories and subcategories to get only the query topics you want.

    Timeliness: ProfNet allows you to choose how often you want to receive queries (every half hour, hour, two hours, six hours, 12 hours or once a day), so you can respond to reporters quickly – and increase the chances of getting your expert featured.

    Connections: Profile yourself and your experts on the free ProfNet Connect social network to connect with media and other industry professionals.

    Coverage: ProfNet is the only expert network offering both reactive and proactive targeting of media by combining journalist requests with Expert Alerts and roundups.

    Links: Gain additional exposure in your news releases via ProfNet Links, via which you can link your expert profiles in press releases sent over PR Newswire.

    Top 10 Queries of the Week

    Friday, May 6, 2011, 11:35 AM [General]
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    Osama bin Laden’s death dominated both the news and the ProfNet query feed this week, but there was still room for more light-hearted fare. Here’s a list of my favorite queries this week:

    • Ten Things Your Cobbler Wants to Tell You. “One, stop calling me a cobbler.”
    • How to Drink Alcohol and Be Healthy About it. “Jersey Shore” cast need not reply.
    • A national women’s magazine is holding an Ugly Prom Dress Photo Contest. I would submit mine, but they didn’t have cameras back then.
    • Internet Kissing Machine asked about research to develop a simulator that will allow people to “kiss” each other via the Internet. It will feature a sidebar on virtual antibiotics.
    • Twenty-five Ways Your Laziness is Costing You … which, of course, I’ll never read because I’m too lazy.
    • A national men’s magazine was looking for A Man Who’s Less Than Well-Endowed. That makes one of us.
    • Adults Who Eschew Underpants. This only works if you’re a man who’s less than well-endowed (see above).
    • Is Your House Making You Fat? Only when I open the door … to the fridge.
    • Superhero Beauty Products. Much to my dismay, this was not about how to achieve Wonder Woman’s long lashes.
    • What Makes Such a Great Comic-Book Character? Bravery … and really long lashes.

    * Publication names have been omitted to protect the innocent.

    What were some of your favorite queries this week? Are they on this list?

    Building a Platform: How to Promote Your Blog and Yourself

    Friday, May 6, 2011, 10:01 AM [General]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    I had the pleasure of attending the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference held in New York over the weekend. The conference, for writers at every level of their career, featured more than 70 sessions covering a variety of topics, such as how to score a big book deal, how to break into women’s magazines, how to write white papers, and more. I was able to attend several of the sessions, and will recap them here over the next few days.


    When Jen Singer launched the MommaSaid.net community for mothers in 2003, she was promoting a new medium with old media, so she had to think creatively to build her platform and become the go-to person for media outlets looking for a quotable source.

    “I had platform envy,” she joked, referring to the impressive list of credits she would see in other writers’ bios. She knew that in order to get publishers to take a chance on the books she wanted to write, she would need to build her own platform.

    First, she signed up for ProfNet and started answering leads, becoming the go-to person for last-minute quotes. “I give good quote,” she said, “and you should be able to, too.”

    She also went against traditional wisdom and pitched Woman’s Day with an essay. While it wasn’t picked up, the editor told Singer she wrote “with flair,” which encouraged her to keep trying.

    When her first book came out in 2004, TV outlets started calling. CBS’ “The Early Show” was looking for “desperate housewives,” and Singer’s friend suggested they contact her.

    Soon after, Pull-Ups asked her to be their “potty-training partner.” They provided her with media training and sent her on a TV tour all over Canada, which was a great learning experience.

    In the beginning, she did television, print and radio interviews for Pull-Ups. Now she finds herself answering potty-training questions on Facebook and Twitter, and even hosting Twitter parties.

    “You have to learn how to do it,” she said. “This is where it’s headed.”

    In 2007, an editor from HCI Books wanted Singer to create a book based on MommaSaid.net. Later that year, she discovered she had stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and had to finish parts of the book in a hospital oncology floor.

    “I knew the promotions [of the book] would be up to me,” said Singer, who continued working on promoting and building her platform.

    She was an early Twitter adopter, and had been following @todaysmom on Twitter for several months. She saw they were looking for a mother who had been bullied online. “The next day, I’m dusting off the coffee table for the ‘Today’ show,” she said.

    Singer offered tips for bloggers looking to promote themselves and their blogs:

    • Learn social media. “As much as you might hate it, it’s something you need to do.”
    • Learn to speak in sound bites.
    • Focus on the writing. “Save journalism. It’s a great time to be a writer.”
    • “Co-ompetition”: “Be in cahoots with your competition. Recommend their books. Comment on their sites. Retweet their tweets.” Then, when you launch a book, blog, etc., you have a group of people who will help you promote it.

    “One-way things don’t work for bloggers,” she added. “Ask questions, share stories, share feedback.

    [To view my previous recaps from the conference, see Breaking into Finance Markets, Writing for Women’s Magazines and Beating Blog Burnout.]


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