Thursday, June 30, 2011

A (Cautious) Nod to the Writer in Each of Us

I’m certain you’ve heard the saying, “there is a book in everyone”.  Although this may be true, I am finding it increasingly more important in this DIY society to ask some very important questions before you venture off into the “Hemmingway Period” of your life.
If you have a burning desire to share a delightful or maniacal character that you have developed with the world …or, you want to share your life story with others so that others can be helped to achieve the success that you have attained … or you want to help others to avoid and not repeat your mistakes, then it has never been easier to write and publish a book than it is today. I just got off a site that offered self publishing, rights filing, maintenance, etc. , etc., etc. for $199.00. What a deal! Or is it?
Inexpensive publishing options aside, I strongly encourage you  to consider the following three questions, at a minimum,  before you quit your job, go into the “Hemmingway Phase” of your life and write a book and publish it for under $200 and expect to make a living off of it.
Please ask yourself these three questions before you even consider the idea of writing a book as a profit generating tool:
1.       Does anyone really care what I have to say? Now this may sound harsh, but put more politely, have you done your market research and determined that there are not 100 other books written on the same topic? If there are, unless you are a celebrity or a well-known author with hundreds of thousands of fans -- no one cares.

Now, I don’t mean to be cruel, but it is true. There are people who care but the people who do care are probably your friends and family. If so, write your heart out and give them your book as a Holiday or Birthday Gift. That would be a well-spent $200.

Seriously, this truly can be a satisfying experience for you and for your friends and family who are interested in what you have to say, and more importantly, care about you. My dearest Aunt just sent me a book that she wrote with the aid of an historian about her life. She only printed about 15 copies and gave one to each member of her immediate family. As she and I were chatting one lovely afternoon (any afternoon that I can chat with her is immediately turned lovely), she told me that she had written this book to share the family’s heritage so that it would not be lost. I remarked how proud I was of her for doing that because many people think about it but few actually do it – but she did it. And, I can tell you from personal experience, it was beautifully written and did portray a time gone by and I loved every word – because I love her.

Had my Aunt’s book been written by someone I didn’t know, I would not have even read through the first chapter. But knowing her and the other people in the book gave me delight and insight into their lives that I had not totally known. I devoured every written word. I cherish the book and I love it so. Why? I love it because I know the author and I know the subjects in the book. If not for those important facts, I would never have cracked open the cover.

2.       Am I self publishing because I am afraid of rejection from publishers? If this is true, you need to really do some self examination and consider what is ahead of you. Whether self published or not, you will need to market, promote and sell your book. This process inherently holds rejection as well. Sometimes, a lot of it. So, if you are self publishing your book because of your fear of rejection from publishers, you will never make it through the marketing, promotion and sales process – NEVER!
I have a few clients who have written books and most are published by a publisher – but most will tell you that they could wall paper a room with their rejection notices - and then on that one bright day when they finally received a publisher’s approval, they framed their acceptance notice!
For those that have self published, they generally struggle terribly through the marketing phase. They have a difficult time going through the methodical process of identifying their audience(s). They can tell you all about the characters in their book, but they cannot articulate one market segment that would be most likely to buy their book.
This isn’t good news. The challenges of selling a book are hard and they are harder for those that are self published and/or on POD (Print on Demand) status because the bulk of the cost of promotion, labor of promotion and ideas and access to promotable events falls to the author.
3.       Have you established a budget to market your book and can you live (possibly on peanut butter sandwiches) until it reaches significant sales goals? Many authors that I speak to go “radio silent” when I ask them what their marketing budget is to promote their book. This breaks my heart as I know that this means that they have little to no chance of selling enough books to make a change in their lives.

One person I spoke to had what I considered to be a book “with legs” to it. In other words, this book could become a movie one day. It had the possible attributes to become a franchise, much like Harry Potter did. The characters were strong and unique and had a great target market segment of tweens and teens. It contained an archeological element like Indiana Jones. It had fuzzy characters and I had visions of licensing toys, rides at amusement parks, lunchboxes, sequels, etc. around this fantastically creative and fun story.  And when I asked the author what his budget was to market the book, he stated that he spent all of his money self publishing the book and didn’t want to send it out to potential publishers/promotional machines. It was his baby and he was sure it would just sell itself once he got it listed on one of the major .com book seller sites. The last time I checked, he still had all of the original first run copies of the book. Sad.

So please heed my humble but honest and caring advice. If you do write that one book that you have in you, please don’t assume that it will sell itself. Do everything you can to get it published by a mainstream publisher. That entity has the know-how to assist you with the critical aspects of the visual packaging of your book’s cover, spine and back. In addition, the established publisher has the contacts, relationships and experience to “plug you into” a promotional campaign that includes a well-planned launch, media coverage, book signings, reviews and the paperback announcement. If you are unable to get a mainstream publisher to publish your book, hire a professional marketer/promoter with a track record of success. Don’t fall prey to the “self help” seminars, webinars and “how to” guides that are out there. Most of them are bogus, over priced and based upon theory not practice or actual results. In this case, after you’ve put your words to paper, put your money where your mouth is and hire a professional who will get you and your book to stand out above the crowd. Don’t be another self published author who pours their soul into a book and then waits for it to sell itself. It is highly unlikely that you will succeed with a “build it and they will come” strategy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guest Blog: I Fought the Blog and the Blog Won! By Gordon Durich

 As a "traditional" writer for many years, the idea of blogging seemed at first foreign. However, in 2011, the world is full of blogs - some that hit the mark, others that seem, well, rather like a gripe fest. I mean not to minimize this form of popular culture and its prominent validity as a commercial form of mass communication. It is just that I was used to writing copy for publication in print form and then having my ink edited (and sometimes censored) to fit the tone of the medium for which I wrote. In the world of blogging, there seems not to be such a thing as editing!

My writing initially bore a naive and often gushy over-congratulatory and probably over-academic viewpoint. Then, I "sold out" and started writing more "business" pieces than I had ever thought possible. This was not by choice, but for survival - the almighty dollar. I began to write a lot of blatant advertorial copy for local small businesses. I churned them out and the business owners loved every glowing word.

This whole new trend of online blogging is a curious beast and for a time, I resisted it.
In spite of this, I have come to learn that blogging can in fact lead to a new career for some who can manage to put words together in a fetching way. Why not make a living by using the written word in a new forum and format? Look at the journey of Julie, the based-upon-a-true-story character in the fanciful Meryl Streep movie "Julie and Julia" who turned her obsession with Julia Childs into a professional goldmine. I think that's when I really "got" it.

So now I find myself joining the ranks and writing online – blogging!  

In Public Relations and advertising, a simple slogan can tell a story. And yet blogs are all about words, words, words. I would love to see blogs by the likes of Mark Twain, George Orwell, Og Mandino and some of the Greek philosophers. Could they keep up with the routine of cranking out the daily volume of words that the bloggers from San Francisco to Sydney are doing?

We may all be living in a world of monomania, but there is always a void to fill. It's either "them" or "us" and someone has to keep the wheel spinning. What will replace the blog? I can’t wait to see ... but in the meanwhile, I’ll continue to write - online that is.

Gordon Durich studied Media and Creative Writing in Melbourne, Australia, worked as a features writer and in Public Relations. His mentor is Phillip Adams, Australian media guru and broadcaster.  He writes for AOL and the odd print publication, odd being the operative word.
Gordon Durich  Also, on Facebook  and LinkedIn.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Interview on Consulting and Turning Around Businesses with Ron Kilgore

UPDATE: The mp3 file is working now. Take a listen!

In a recent interview on KNX, Ron Kilgore introduced me in the following way:

"I came across an interesting business blog recently, written by Mary Mussard, a business consultant talking about her approach to working with companies. She joins us now on the business hour..."

Then, with that great voice of his, he asked the following question(s):

"Mary - of course, you would like to be called in to help thriving companies thrive more but I imagine lots of calls come when things are headed downhill..." is my answer and more of his great questions:

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Mechanic and The Cleaner

I saw the movie The Mechanic last weekend and the violence aside, I related it to what I do as a consultant. Really!
For those of you who have not seen the movie nor understand the term mechanic, it is a person who is well skilled at their craft. They are a professional in a wide variety of areas and are hired by different individuals to “solve problems”. Now in this Hollywood Script, the problems are people who the mechanic is hired to eradicate and make it look like an accident. Leaving the eradication aside,  the idea of being broadly and deeply experienced in a variety of areas and knowledgeable about many things is what I could relate to. I often am hired to be in a specific role with specific skills but due to circumstances, organizational structure, and more, I often find myself relying upon expertise in all of my toolkit: operations, marketing and management. I don’t ‘eradicate’ anyone, however, I do bring a vast set of skills that can be used and tapped into if the situation calls for it -which it often does.  I view this as a real value-add to my clients. They don’t get a specialist in one area, they get a specialist in the three major areas of business and they are so integrated that knowing each and knowing the whole is to my client’s advantage.   
Another term used in Hollywood mob style movies is the Cleaner. This is a person who is called in after a crime has taken place to remove all evidence of the occurrence.  Occasionally, you will see this character in political or greed motive mystery movies as well. Ironically, I can relate to that position too! Again, not in the felony sense, but in the sense of coming in after the ‘damage’ has been done and fixing things so that a business will operate as if the mistakes never happened and it is set to survive and even flourish.
In business, we use words like, rebrand, re-engineer, reorganize, etc. but when it comes down to it, we are talking about mechanics and cleaners. The thought of using those titles is amusing to me as it makes me look at titles like CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and wonder if somewhere someone thinks of it as Chief Mechanic Officer. And then, there is the Cleaner, I suppose that would be your typical CCO!
If you haven’t seen the film yet and like that type of movie, watch it. But watch it through a business person’s eyes and look for the traits of a good Mechanic – well skilled, strategic yet flexible, plans ahead for all possible outcomes and succeeds at the end.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beautiful art from reclaimed glass transformed to "Slump Sculpture"

Please help to support this "green" artist. Her work is stunning and is all made from reclaimed glass!

Artist will be present at opening so join her as she unveils her new solo showing of her collection, Compulsion - Please share!