Tuesday, February 7, 2017

CEO Writer Inc - You're HIRED!


You have decided to be a Writer.

Perhaps you didn’t realize that, with that decision, you also became an entrepreneur. And as Sole Proprietor of your own business, you are responsible for:

• Sales
• Product selection
• Marketing
• Production
• Accounting/Bookkeeping/Collections
• Customer service
• Legal and regulatory/health and safety
• And writing the book.

 Unless you have had bottom line experience in a for-profit business, you might find yourself struggling with some of these areas, or, in fact, not even realizing they are a critical part of the job of Writer. Without these key skills under your belt, though, you will find it much more difficult to thrive as a professional writer.

Here are the top 5 business skills you will need to get your career off the ground.

1. Know your customer. 

If you are considering a traditional publishing career, your customer is the publisher, not the child, parent, teacher or librarian (self-publishing is a different story). That means you should focus your attentions on publishers when trying to sell your book, not on wider marketing efforts. You don’t need a giant twitter platform. You need a focused email list.

2. Qualify the Customer. 

This very sales-y term has a very simple meaning: are your potential customers buying what you are selling? It’s your job to find out. What kind of books do they publish/represent? How many per year? What’s the style, grade range, genre? Who is their primary customer – booksellers, schools, or libraries?

 If you neglect to qualify the customer, you waste time, energy and money by trying to sell your product to a person or firm who is not in the market for that item.

Here are five proven ways to qualify the customer:
 Study books on store shelves to find out who publishes ones like yours
 Review next season’s catalogues
 Follow what they buy on Publishers Marketplace
 Learn about them through discussions with other writers and at conferences.
 Ask them!

 3. Understand the meaning of the word “Sales.” 

 Sales is not about pushing people into doing things. It’s about building relationships. It’s the art of understanding a person’s needs and clearly communicating that you have a product or service that meets those needs. As sole proprietor of a Writing Business, your task is to establish good relationships with all the people who can buy work from you, whether or not they buy the work. Sales is a long-term endeavor. Think in terms of multiple projects, not just this one, especially if you plan to have an extended career.

 4. Understand the Sales Process. 

There are six main steps required to make a sale. All successful sales people follow these steps. They are:

  •  Identify the key people who make the buying decisions: Editors, Agents, etc., and qualify them. 
  • Make contact. 
  • Re-Qualify them – are they still the right person (their job may have changed)? 
  • Learn their needs. 
  • Then, and only then, communicate what your project is (give them your pitch). Make sure to tell them how it fits their needs. 
  • Close the deal. 

5. Making the contact (step 2 of the sales process). 

Making contact is tough. Successful sales people know, too, that tough does not equal impossible. As a result, the best sales people have a level of determination that is shocking to ordinary people.

I personally set seven as my minimum number of attempts at making contact. An email that didn’t get an answer? That’s not a “no.” It’s merely attempt one out of seven. On occasion I have followed up repeatedly for two years or more before getting to yes.

 5a. But don’t be annoying. 

Treat the person on the other end as a human being who deserves consideration and respect. Then guide your actions accordingly. By following these five steps rigorously over the last twenty years, I have enjoyed a flourishing career writing - and selling - everything from picture books to nonfiction to YA fiction. So can you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

OLA Signing/Appearance Schedule

The Ontario Library Association Superconference is always a highlight on my calendar.

This year, I'll be busy busy busy!

Thursday, Feb 2:

Scholastic booth -   11 amsigning copies of Deck the Halls  

Orca booth - 2:30 pm - signing copies of You Can Read, Dirk Daring, Secret Agent, and Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Friday, Feb 3:

Forest of Reading Breakfast - 8 am

Canscaip Forest of Reading Launch - 10:30-11-30

DK Books - 12 pm - Poster signing for Our Great Prime Ministers

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Looking ahead to Superconference - Woot!

The Ontario Library Association Superconference is always a highlight on my calendar.

This year, I'll be signing copies of Deck the Halls at the Scholastic booth on Thursday, Feb. 2.

I'll also be signing copies of You Can Read at the Orca booth that same day.

And if you just want to say hi, I'll be at the Forest of Reading Breakfast bright and early on Friday, Feb 3, talking about Worms for Breakfast and Everything: Space, which are both shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award. Expect me to be a bit overexcited, but sleepy-eyed!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Coming soon to a bookshelf near you!!

My latest picture book, You Can Read, will be published by Orca later this month. You can preorder it now at your fave indy bookstore (I'm partial to The Bookkeeper, Mable's Fables, Blue Heron Books and Ella Minnow, among others). It celebrates both literacy and life, and is a very funny. ;)

I'll be signing copies at the Ontario Library Association Superconference at the Orca Booth on Thursday, Feb 2. Come by, say hi, and get a book!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Hooray for Monsters - and California.

I recently learned that Monster Science has been given a Eureka Silver Honor from the California Reading Association.

Thanks, California!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Porcupine on Parade

Lovely to learn that the gang from A Porcupine in a Pine Tree had a featured spot in the Toronto Santa Claus Parade this year!

Here's the photo of the adorable Indigo/Chapters float:

Thanks to the folks at Indigo, and to CTV for taking the vid! (And to Debbie Ohi, author and illustrator extraordinaire of Where are My Books? who snagged the screenshot!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

CANSCAIP'S amazing PYI conference is this weekend!

I'll be speaking about nonfiction how-tos!

I'm giving the inside scoop on nonfiction at  the Packaging Your Imagination Conference this weekend.  You'll also get to meet outstanding industry professionals like Jacqueline GuestAshley SpiresWallace EdwardsSuzanne Sutherland, and Christie Harkin. You really want to be there. Saturday, November 19, 2016.

Here are the deets:


  • Choose from a dozen sessions, including three Master Classes and our popular panel of publishers and agents
  • Terrific NEW location in the heart of downtown Toronto--close to subway, hotels, restaurants, theatres, museums, shopping...and more! 
  • Two keynotes: Ashley Spires and David Booth
  • One-to-One evaluation of your manuscript, illustration portfolio or author website/social media (additional fee)
  • Full day of PYI sessions and keynotes for $195 (scroll down for our fantastic line-up of sessions and speakers)
  • Sandwich lunch
  • Coffee, juice and snacks served all day between sessions 
  • Add a One-to-One evaluation of your manuscript OR your author website/social media for $75 (you must also register for PYI for this option)

I'm pleased to be presenting:

Non-Fiction Truths: How to Plan, Pitch and Promote Your Nonfiction Project

Writing successful nonfiction requires plenty of research - and that's even before you begin the project! In this hard-nosed, nuts-and-bolts session, you'll get a step-by-step guide to how to take your idea from "Should I?"  to Sold. Learn how to Evaluate and Structure Your Idea, Do an Effective Market Comparison, Create a Clear, Complete  Proposal and Craft a Winning Cover Letter. Plus an up-to-the-minute look at the contemporary nonfiction market and how to target and evaluate potential customers, both in Canada and the US.

The Conference will take place at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute in Toronto.  See you there!

The Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute
is located in downtown Toronto

Because: Science!

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