June 22, 2016
If you’ve ever submitted a query letter or book proposal to a publisher, chances are you understand what it means to get a rejection letter. If you get one of those, don’t despair or think you’ve failed. Instead, remind yourself rejection means you’re working. You can’t get rejected if you don’t submit your query or proposal, so give yourself credit for pursuing your writing career and send your query or proposal to the next publisher on your list.
Here are some tips to help you remember that failure doesn’t mean your writing journey is done. It just means you’ve taken a detour.
- Take chances. Doing nothing assures you won’t succeed at reaching your goal of being published.
- Accept that you (like everyone) will make mistakes. Learn from those mistakes instead of trying to hide them.
- Learn to endure temporary defeat. And I do mean temporary. Every time we fail, we earn another opportunity to succeed because we gain information, learn what doesn’t work, and get to try again. Every defeat helps us work toward a future victory.
- Prepare to fail. By that I mean you’re better off to create both best-case and worst-case scenarios, then determine whether or not you can live with the worst case. If you can, push forward. If you can’t, work on a new plan that you can live with.
- Be open to new possibilities. You may have a particular end result in mind, but another opportunity you hadn’t considered could pop up. Allow yourself to consider the new option.
- Learn from your failures. If you get a rejection notice, try to figure out why. For example, how well did you research the types of articles or books the publisher publishes? Did you verify you’re sending your query to the correct person? Well, you get the idea.
- Avoid blaming others for your failures. Taking responsibility for your mistakes isn’t always easy, but if you honestly exam why you didn’t succeed, you might find you dropped the ball or didn’t do everything you could have to get what you hoped for.
- Fix what went wrong. Going through these tips is helpful, but nothing will change unless you do something to change what went wrong. Start by giving yourself credit to trying, create your plan to correct what went wrong, then move forward by doing something.
Failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Always be aware that you are not a failure, only the effort you put forth failed. You will eventually succeed as long as you keep moving forward. You will most likely fail if you give up. I say most likely because you may make the decision to stop. That’s not failure. That’s a decision. Happy writing!
June 19, 2014
Writers constantly make decisions as they write. They decide what to include, when they’ve done enough research, who their characters are, what their characters do and when, etc. Perhaps the hardest decision is deciding when an article, story, or novel is finished.
When the writing is done, writers make decisions about whether to self-publish, royalty publish, or subsidy publish. If they decide to self-publish, they also decide what type of book to publish–hard cover, soft cover, audio, e-book. Then there are decisions about editing, cover design, interior layout, pricing, etc.
Once published (and it doesn’t matter whether an author is royalty published or published some other way), marketing the book is totally up to the author. That means more decisions about publicity, book signings, publish parties, media coverage, web presence, etc.
Here are some questions to help you make better decisions.
- Is this something you want, or is it something you need? Life is full of wants, but you’re better off to take care of deciding the things you need first. It might help you distinguish between wants and needs if you try to imagine life a year from now and the impact your decision will have on your writing, publishing, marketing, budget, income, etc. in a year.
- Have you investigated all your options? It’s easy to justify a bad decision with “I had no choice.” As a friend told me at lunch this week, “You always have a choice, but every choice has a consequence. You have to decide if you can live with the consequence.” For example, if you decide to pay to publish, there are consequences involving budget and decisions on editing and design, etc. But if you decide to find a royalty publisher, there are consequences involving ownership of your intellectual property (you no longer own it) and basic decisions about your book.
- Are you being honest with yourself? If you’re telling yourself what you want to hear, you may not be completely honest with you. I’ve often told the story about a member of a writing group my husband and I belonged to. It was hard to follow this writer’s writing because it was disjointed, angry, and venting. Finally, after this writer was done with a reading and the room was silent because it was hard to comment on what we had just heard, my husband asked the writer, “What are you trying to say?” As if really thinking before answering, the writer looked at my husband and said, “Good question.” The writer never came back, but he and I happened upon each other during a business call a few years later. Since we were on the phone, I didn’t recognize his voice, but when he heard my name, he introduced himself and told me to thank my husband for asking the question years earlier. It made him really think about his writing, and he was happier because he moved on to other things in his life.
- How “right” does your decision feel? It’s hard to define what feels right, but you know it when you feel it. If you’re struggling with a decision, tune into your body. Does the option you’re considering make you feel energized or drained? The answer is a good beginning for determining how right a decision feels.
- What would you do if you weren’t afraid? If you’re afraid of something, that fear will hold you back whether it’s a realistic fear or not. Just because an option instills fear into you doesn’t mean it’s a wrong option. Do your best to avoid letting fear make your decisions.
Consider the idea that most decisions can be changed with another decision. If you’re a writer, you’ve got lots of decisions to make. Today’s as good a day as any to start making them. Happy writing!
July 8, 2013
Whether you’re writing a letter, memo, email, or report, you’ll want to be aware of these ten common business writing mistakes so you can avoid them and show off your clear writing talent.
- Using too many words. Create shorter messages by being concise. How do you do that? Avoid unnecessary words and don’t repeat yourself.
- Using jargon. Every business has its own jargon–words and phrases unique to that business. If any recipients of your business writing are outside your business realm, jargon can confuse and even frustrate them.
- Using trite expressions. Strive to write with freshness and originality so your readers will pay attention. Trite expressions give the impression you’re either behind the times or don’t show any creativity in your work.
- Overusing big words. Big words confuse more than they impress. When possible, stick to short, simple words to convey your message.
- Forgetting to explain abbreviations. The general rule is to explain the acronym or abbreviation the first time you use it so you don’t frustrate your reader when he or she can’t figure out what the abbreviation stands for.
- Being condescending to your reader. Condescending language talks down to your reader as if the reader is incapable of reaching a decision or conclusion. Avoid the appearance of superiority to your reader.
- Being negative. The best way to sell an idea is to be optimistic about it. Addressing benefits and advantages (even in a bad news communication) will help the reader receive the message better than gloom-and-doom writing.
- Being too self-centered. When I teach business writing at the college, I teach using the “you” view–emphasizing the reader’s point of view. Get your reader more involved by writing more to them than about self.
- Forgetting the editing. Before you hit “send” in an email or put a letter or report in the mail, be sure you’ve looked it over carefully for details such as date, correct addressee, punctuation, capitalization, one idea per paragraph, spelling, typos, etc. You risk sending the message that you are careless and irresponsible if you don’t.
- Overdoing your messages. It’s so easy to send an email, but is it necessary? Do you need a written record or will a phone call handle it? Before you invest the time in writing a business document, make sure it needs to be written at all.
Now that you have ten business writing mistakes to avoid, I hope you’ll consider them in both your day jobs and your writing careers.