Newsletter #2 / December, 2008
SPEAKING: Is Humor Necessary?
I’m asked this question at my speaking seminar more than any other.
I just read an e-book by Fred Gleeck, a speaking veteran who has given a ton of seminars, where he hits it on the nose. Fred took a survey over a three-year period about what listeners most wanted in a speaker. In order, it was sincerity, content, and humor. But do you absolutely need the humor? There’s an old saying at the National Speaker’s Association (NSA) that you need to include humor only if you want to get paid!
The main points: (1) Not jokes—they die, you die. (2) Mostly your humor comes through the stories you tell, usually as examples of points made. (3) You can also weave funny wordplay into your text over time. (4) Puns are tough because too many listeners don’t catch the word that is punned. (5) In a smaller setting, before a four-hour seminar, I like to kid with the audience in the beginning, when they introduce themselves or when we discuss what they want to hear. Two or three will say something I can have fun with, in a kind way, and that breaks the ice.
The only danger is that in being funny you inadvertently offend your listeners. The best way to avoid that is by making yourself the butt of your light comedy. Use self-deprecation, but in modest portions or the less enlightened will believe it! (I can’t recall ever offending anybody, or being aware of it, but if it happens I’ll just stop and say, “Hmm. That wasn’t very funny, was it? I’m sorry,” then keep going with the presentation. I’ll also apologize personally to the offended person during the break.)
You needn’t be a clown. Let the humor be as natural as possible, spiked a bit by something relevant and funny that you insert at occasional intervals. The best humor I hear is like smooth butter on rougher bread, effortlessly provoking grateful segue smiles now and then. It’s sweet to hear “You were very funny” though ne’er a guffaw was heard nor a pratfall seen.
PUBLISHING: Some quick second-book income
If you have a recent ink-on-paper book in print (or about to be), why not deposit some extra coins in your bank while you help the seeing challenged? Convert the digital text of that book into a professional-looking LARGE PRINT edition. (As I mentioned in the November Lifelong Wealth by Being Indispensable Newsletter, these are perfect for P.O.D. printing.)
Some details: (1) since almost all of the buyers will be libraries [for their senior readers], make sure the topic fits those senior interests [repairing surfboards or cruising all-night hot spots in Novato probably won’t work], (2) remember to convert everything in the book to 14-point type or larger, which may require new charts and graphs that fit the larger text, (3) the new edition needs a new ISBN number, (4) you can usually charge about $5 more per book, and (5) to avoid confusion, don’t otherwise alter the contents of the smaller, regular-sized (probably 11-point) book.
An example. About five years back I published How to Plan a Great Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years? The first printing was for bookstores and back-of-the-room sales at my seminars. That version included lots of fill-in charts—which libraries hate because the first readers fill them in! So we published a special library edition (reducing the page count from 256 to 224) that had outlines of charts and graphs but sent them to our website for actual page downloads.
We knew that many of our potential readers were well into their second lives, so we simply restyled the digital book from 6” x 9” to 8.5” x 11” and added a LARGE PRINT box to the cover—the book ended up at 216 pages. The price was increased from $17.95 to $22.95. And when we advertised the book’s existence in all three forms through the Independent Book Publishers Association mailer sent to 2,700 of the largest libraries in the U.S., we sold (as of now) 170 LP copies. That was the entire sales campaign!
We printed many thousands of the smaller versions but only 185 (50 twice, 35 once) of the large print edition, mostly through http://www.lightningsource.com/. Those cost about $7 each to print and another $1 to ship to us. That’s a return of about $3900 gross, minus $1300 printing and perhaps another $200 in other costs, for about $2115 in profit. This book took one day to convert into an acceptable .pdf format to digitally send to the printer, plus a few minutes to add to our library flyer! $2115 isn’t a windfall (though it might have easily been three times as much had we marketed with any diligence), but we kept the money nonetheless. And we had another published book added to the docket.
Let me share a true story of
ingenuity that took place some 20 years ago in, I think,
In a book publishing seminar I was giving a lad asked me why I had recommended that children’s books not be self-published. I’d said that the primary reason was that kids’ books needed color in the illustrations, the process was very expensive, and it was almost impossible to recoup enough, or any, profit from publishing from just one or two books.
Several months later—it could have been a year—I received a nice note from, I presume, the same fellow who told me he had solved the problem. He had created his books in black and white so the users could color them in with their own crayons! Even better, he had developed a template for producing similar books and had franchised it all, telling others with like projects how they could do the same…
I’ve checked all the current franchise references I can find and that company has either folded or it has remained below the digital radar. Still, I wanted you to see a couple of things that may apply to you from that clever solution:
(1) If you’ve got a great idea (like a grade school black/white book with your drawings of local history scenes), just figure out a way to make it work. The book needed color and it was uneconomical to print beyond black and white? Produce a coloring book!
(2) And if you can make it work once, why not the same solution (with different drawings) many times? How much easier was it for the publisher to sell a series of books than just one?
(3) If your idea is easily repeatable by others (they provide their own text and artwork about their own local or county history), why not sell them the process, guidance, and some easily modifiable sales tools? (Franchising itself is labyrinthine and expensive, and may not be advisable. A contract with stipulations as part of the sale may be enough.)
(4) There may be another way, too. As long as you have mastered the preparation and production components, why not provide those (plus printing) to others with like products, and either let the clients do their own promotion or you sell that plus the selling know-how and needed tools? A combo publisher-broker program.
Make yourself cleverly indispensable, and make that indispensability widely known, reliable, and affordable.
NICHE PUBLISHING: The magic money words
If you are serious about creating lifelong wealth by being indispensable, find a doable solution to a problem or frustration that plagues a niche market. Then create a book that those in that niche will rush to buy. That’s where Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time comes in. It walks you through the entire process, from topic-finding to ultimately bookselling by the box. You test everything first, quickly and inexpensively, before investing much time or money. Positive results equal sizable profits and virtually no risk.
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: In a recession?
Let me mention our current economic climate and how it affects us, since it’s the first time in our lives we’ve been in a deep recession—and, one hopes, the last.
It’s unsettling not knowing the fate of our companies, the information dissemination field, or what will happen to the commercial sellers of our products. (Our printed book business, for example, is barely earning 50% of what it was a year ago.) Add to that the quickly changing means by which we sell what we know, and grooming dogs or washing cars looks more and more attractive!
On the other hand—and this is my main point—it may be a forced command to look hard at precisely what we are doing, why and how we are doing it, and how we can do it even better and faster and more economically. In other words, it may be high time to flip the machine over, give it a big shake, pull off the parts, and see how we can assemble a better model!
I know that it has forced me to look much harder at expanding the digital side of our business, to drop two product lines that have grown dated, to question another item that has grown stale (I frankly just don’t care about the topic any more), and to begin this newsletter (both to share more with you and to force me to increase my reading and peer exchange in the field).
Some of those changes are unsettling, and most of them wouldn’t have happened if the old income fonts hadn’t yelled at me that it was past time for adjustment. The result in the past three weeks has been a detailed and stern look at every assumption and every product, and from that has come a new alignment of what I want to do in information dissemination sharing and how I can better do it.
Does this make sense to you? Is the current slowdown cause enough for you too to take similar steps to clarify your purpose, redirect and perhaps streamline your production, and get ready to increase your profit by alarming factors when the economy booms?
WRITING: Why will an editor almost certainly reject an article?
(1) When the lead—first sentence or paragraph—doesn’t make sense.
(2) Or the editor has no reason or impetus to read paragraph two.
(3) When by the end of that second paragraph (certainly by the end of the third) the subject and purpose aren’t clear, nor is there a hint of the article’s organization.
(4) One misspelling might be a typo but two or more, the editor must ask, “If this person won’t even go to the dictionary for the words, how reliable can the research be?”
(5) The query promised humor and the editor hasn’t even smiled by paragraph four.
(6) By the end of the piece the editor hasn’t read anything really new, different, exciting, inspiring, or memorable—that the word journey was a waste of time.
If this all seems obvious, great. Convert the points into a quick checklist for your query letter first, then use it again, point by point, before you submit the go-ahead prose. Remember, the editor wants you to succeed every time.