Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How I made a business contract in one hour

I recently joined the executive team for Ian Bright Photography. [This company specializes in wedding photography (classic to extreme weddings), portraiture, pets, etc.] In doing so, the owner asked me to create new forms to use in his practice: model releases, wedding contracts, and more.

While I feel I could come up with a very professional, practically lawyer-written form, I went the safe route and researched different releases and contracts. While the legal jargon is important to keep you safe, there are TONS of lessons that other people in your field have learned ... most likely the hard way ... and now include them in their contracts.

Research enables you to learn from the mistakes of others that ventured before you. Learn from them, add them to your contract if you feel it fits your needs. There is no such thing as plagiarism in contracts. If you find contracts you like, it's OK to take the elements you need to protect yourself.

There are even contracts/releases that people in your field may have had a lawyer look at. Sometimes lawyers (that work in your field) give advice on the exact wording of certain elements you must have.

In essence, what I created is a melting pot of lessons learned from past photographers, lawyers who've had to defend photographers, and the mix of Ian Bright Photography's needs.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Your place in a literary agents inbox

Literary agents receive hundreds, if not thousands, of queries per month. Right there -- you're one of ... countless.

There's way more to agenting than finding new clients. Agents have to pitch the manuscript to editors, just like you have to pitch to agents. Among other things, agents are your advocate from start to finish. From conception to paying you your royalties (publishers will send your royalty portion to the agent, who then sends you your cut). It's quite overwhelming how much work literary agents do and sad at how little credit they get.

This is also why agents can only take on a certain number of clients -- because each one comes with tons of work.

I've personally managed the inbox of San Francisco's oldest literary agencies. Here is how agents look through their inbox -- priorities:

1. Emails from people they know
2. Emails/queries from people they don't know, but are expecting something that they, the agent, requested
3. Emails/queries from people they don't know because one of their clients, or someone who knows the agent, recommended that unknown person to query said agent
4. Queries from the general public: At this point, agents only read the material sent and make snap judgments on whether they think it is salable or not.
5. Junk mail

The fact is that literary agents are extremely busy and will look through the mail from people/organizations they know and are expecting first.

There is a way to get into these more elite categories. This involves networking.

While I feel lots of success can be built through writer's conferences, I also know that not everyone has money to go to these events.

Ironically, there is one avenue that's highly popular and, I admit, works well for the publishing industry: Twitter. I'm not a fan, myself. It's OK, but I prefer other methods of communication.

Every agent has a Twitter account. Every agent posts things their looking for, likes, dislikes, issues their following, etc. There's tons of conversations between agents and writers. There's a wealth of information on there ... it's quite surprising.

So, Twitter is actually my recommendation for getting your name out to an agent. I'm not saying go make a nuisance of yourself, but I am saying to make them aware of you. Join their group discussions, ask questions about the industry, etc.

Above all: no matter where you land, always write professionally. If you are querying, always put your best foot forward and read the agent's guidelines. Follow them to the letter -- no matter if you're being recommended to them or not. Not following the guidelines will get you instantly deleted. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Maximizing mental clarity

There is a clean, healthy replacement for everything. This is a homemade peanut butter cup.       
The daily drudgery of the modern hussle and bussle, the high fat content diets and soda drinks ... all of these lead to a foggy mentality, minimal energy and mild enthusiasm for life.

If you want to wean off your dependency for legally addictive stimulants, such as coffee, and have mental clarity and vitality, then it's time to assess your diet. Everything depends on your diet: from mentality to physical health or sickness.

Eating raw foods -- no, not cookie dough -- raw fruits and vegetables will turn your world around a full 180'. Make smoothies, juice them if you hate them -- the options are limitless. Eating a raw diet or, minimally, clean diets will clear up the mental fog, boost production and, in essence, boost your success within 21 days.

There is a clean, healthy version of everything. Guaranteed.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Best Kept Secret for Customer Retention

There's one document that every product has, but not every customer reads. This source can actually be a way to help retain your customers. And when I say "retain", I don't mean that you try selling more. In this instance, the company has an opportunity to connect with every single customer on a personal level. What is this magical page?

The instructions.

Laugh or mock all you want, but I don't know of any customer who isn't delightfully surprised when company's relate to customer's as humans ... not just customers.

For example:

A hair coloring kit, which was bought at Whole Foods, has instructions for its product's use. The 8th direction states that you wait 30 minutes and that this would be the time to make some tea or check Facebook. This is one example of many, but the gist is to write your directions in a conversational style.

Customer's will actually read the rest of your directions just to see if there are any other funny comments.

So, what makes this so appealing?

If you're inundated with constant legal jargon or bland, "this is how you do it..." type of wording from all products ... wouldn't it be a nice breath of fresh air to have a company that sees you as a human?

When companies talk to customers like they're humans with other interests, hobbies or busy schedules, it breaks down the "BIG COMPANY/little tiny customer" mentality. Customers find a connection with the company, which forms lasting positive thoughts. From there, you may or may not have a repeated customer, but you DO have positive PR coming back every time the customer talks about your business.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Elements of a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

Non-fiction book proposals are really about selling your non-fiction idea to agents/editors. This is often written before you write the actual book. It's a type of contractual agreement. You need to convince the editor that you're the best one to write the piece.

Before writing the proposal, remember these questions:

* So what? What's the unique selling point? Why does this book need to be in existence?
* Who cares? What's your readership? Why should they care?
* Who are you? Why are you the best person to write this?

Elements to a non-fiction proposal:

1. Cover page/table of contents

If your proposal is very long, I would include a table of contents. The cover page should include your name, address, phone number. These should be centered in the middle of the page.

2. Overview

A two-page summary of your proposal.

3. Target market

Who will buy the book?
Why will it sell? Where's the need?

Do not add generic statements about your target market, such as "US Health reports that there are 20 million people with diabetes." If you say that, based on the competitive analysis, your blog/website has boomed with visitors when you began addressing raw diets and diabetic weight loss, then you'd have something worth saying. 

4. Competitive analysis

A comprehensive (usually takes the longest to create, in my opinion) list of all the competitive titles. What books, like the one you want to write, have been created? How well are they selling? Does the competition show that there's a need for more material like yours?

5. Author bio and platform

Explain why you're the person to write this book.

6. Marketing and promotion plan

The biggest part of this is showing the connections you currently have. It's fine to mention all you're willing to do, but agents/editors want to see concrete steps towards the book's success -- and that can only be done through your current connections and readership.

Only discuss what you can and will do to market your book. Writing what you hope to do will be ignored.

7. Chapter outline

Briefly describe each chapter.

8. Sample chapters

Don't submit the first chapter merely because it's the first chapter. Submit the strongest chapter you have.