Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Difference between blogs, wikis, and Google Docs

If you've ever wondered how a blog differs from a wiki, or what the heck are Google Docs anyway, here's a quick-scan view of the differences:

Thanks, Google!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Random Writing Tips for Organizing and Keepin’-a-goin’

  • Never stop writing for the day at the end of a section or even a sentence. Always end midway through a sentence, so you know basically what you were thinking about when you left. Chances are you'll change it anyway, but it will give you a solid starting place.

  • Use footnotes or Word's note feature to make yourself little notes about where a particular piece of information came from or something you'll need to check later in the writing. Do it here and now, so you don't forget later.

  • Always save a separate copy of your footnoted file before you send it to the editor, which probably won't have footnotes. Give it a unique and clearly identifiable filename for easy reference later.

  • Do some writing everyday. It doesn't have to be actual writing, it can be just research or line editing already written work, but do something on the project everyday. The longer you're away from a piece, the harder it is to get back into it.

  • Back up your work at least every week, if not everyday, to a separate drive. And I don't mean a thumb drive either, I mean a real, honest-to-goodness external backup drive. They're cheap enough, get one and use it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What a Sales Conference Means to Your Book

So I'm sitting here at our annual sales conference, this year at the Ace Club outside Philadelphia, and I'm listening to one of my wonderful colleagues presenting a soon-to-be published nursing book to our sales reps.

It occurred to me that most authors and potential authors probably don't have a clue about the importance of this conference to the sale of their book, so I thought I'd explain.
Excitement starts here

Sales conferences involve editors describing, showing, promoting, and cheerleading just-published or soon-to-be published books to all the sales reps. The reps will then go out and sell the book, talking to faculty about the benefits of the books in hopes they'll adopt t for their classes.

This presentation is our last best chance to educate the reps about the book and, more important, get them excited about selling it. That excitement fuels the reps when they head out to campuses in the fall, and it's critical to the success of books out of the gate.

Short of parades and confetti, we'll do whatever we can to push books to the forefront of each rep's mind. When they really understand a book and have solid strategies for selling it, they feel more confident that when they talk with an instructor they'll be able to answer any question and resolve any concerns.
Camaraderie builds confidence

Underneath all those presentations lies a hugely important goal, to enhance the relationship among the reps, editors, and electronic development folks, and nobody does that better than F.A. Davis.

I've worked for a number of publishing companies and have attended and presented at a couple dozen sales conferences, and I can say without equivocation that this company does it right.

[caption id="attachment_500" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Some of our editors and sales reps at a recent sales conference"][/caption]

These meetings build, enhance, and cement relationships between the people who make books and the people who sell the books. The closer that relationship, the more effective both groups become at their jobs.

I've never worked with a sales force that knows their products better than our people. They pay attention to everything you say, focus on the main points you're trying to make, and then coalesce that information into clear strategies for managing their sales calls.

That ability gives them power to sell more books, and that's good news for every author.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Before You Author, Ask the Right Questions

Every healthcare textbook publisher asks a single question of major importance before publishing a book: Is this the right author writing the right book at the right time for the right market?

Every potential author should ask the same kinds of questions:

  • Am I the right person to write this book?

  • Does my book really make sense?

  • How is my timing?

  • Does the book meet a clear market need?

Let's take them one at a time.
Are you the right person?

You're the right person if you feel passionately about the topic; you have solid, quantifiable experience in the topic and consider yourself an expert; your credentials indicate that you have a reasonable background to write expertly about the topic; and, for a textbook, you have substantive experience teaching the topic to learners.

Take this example. Betty is a CMA (AAMA) with a BS degree in, say, biology. She is also an RN and has been MA Program Director at a community college for 6 years. She wants to write a book about clinical skills for MAs. Does she have what it takes (superficially, at least) to author that kind of book? I'd say yes, absolutely, she seems to have a good skill set for that.

What if Betty wanted to write a book instead about teaching skills for new allied health faculty? Does she have what it takes? I'd say no. She might be a great teacher but her educational credentials don't support her being an expert on the topic. For a book like that, she should probably have an Master's in Education and have a substantially broader experience than solely in medical assisting.
Does the book make sense?

By "does the book make sense," I mean is the topic is broad enough and pertinent enough to sell a significant number of copies? Some topics are just too small for a book but would make a great journal article. They're so niche-oriented that it wouldn't make sense for most publishers to invest in a book that won't sell enough copies to turn a profit.

If your book would fit a course you know is offered by all or most programs, then you've got yourself a solid idea. If it would fit some programs but not others, or if the book covers a section of content within one or more courses, you'll have a more difficult time "selling" it to a publisher, but go for it anyway.
How is my timing?

For courses that already exist, such as med term, A&P, pathology, and the like, timing isn't critical. There are already books out there and the course already exists.

But for topics that seem "cutting edge," topics that are on the cusp of becoming standard but aren't there yet, you're in a tough spot. Some publishers certainly will risk taking on your book, but because education in general—and healthcare education in particular—move so slowly, most publishers will have second thoughts about publishing it. Which leads well into the last question…
Does the book meet a clear market need?

If the topic is too new and untested, then deciding whether your book on it would meet a clear market need becomes much more difficult. The safest book for a publisher, the one with least risk, is one built to compete with at least one other similar product. In that case, it's a let's-do-ours-better kind of approach, which is a nice approach to have. Build a better mousetrap, eh?