Writing & Making Money, Interested? Words of Wisdom from Helen Chang

I recently went to a talk given by Helen Chang – “Create Your Book Vision – 3 Keys to More Credibility, Revenue and Raving Fans”. The topics sounded very interesting to me – writing and making money.  I’m getting the writing part down, but making money – well, let’s just say I have a lot to learn.  She is an author, best-selling ghostwriter and CEO of Author Bridge Media.  Her company has served 300 clients including Michael Gerber of the E-Myth book series, Dani Johnson of ABC’s Secret Millionaires and Than Merrill of A&E’s Flip the House.  She is an award-winning journalist, with stories published in BusinessWeek, MSNBC.com and The International Herald Tribune.  As a writer, I think she has a real-life fantasy resume – you too?  Helen helps her clients connect with their audiences, by sharing their stories in memorable, marketable and money-making ways.

Life as a writer isn’t always pretty, even when you’re as accomplished as Helen. She inspired us with her tale of her first attempt at writing a book as a ghostwriter.  The book was written to establish her client’s credibility – one of the key benefits of writing a book.  She proudly submitted it to her client – only to be told by her client’s marketing expert, that her book was good, but not marketable. It halted the entire marketing campaign. OUCH! What would you have done?

After letting the news settle, Helen rolled her sleeves up and began again.  Combining the author’s transformative life story, with his business system that he built along the way, was the key to success. 7 years later, the book has been reprinted 5 times.  The author told Helen that the book had formed the foundation for his business that is now worth $100 million dollars. The book has made a positive impact on thousands of readers.

Helen is so passionate about writing books, because she sees them as a vehicle to help people.  You could just see that writer’s gleam in her eye when she spoke about writing and the impact that it can have.

It’s what I hope the reaction will be when I write about all the surprising things that I’ve learned about Israel and the Palestinian conflict.  By providing information, I’m hoping to increase awareness and just maybe, by someone reading what I write, they will gain a little more understanding and compassion. As the old adage says, you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Until our trip to Israel on vacation when we found ourselves at war, I didn’t know most of what I’m writing about on my blog or in my book.   It was a life-changing experience.  The missiles coming at us, blasted me out of my complacency to want to work on Peace.  I hope that by speaking about what I’ve learned, we can move a little closer toward Peace together, one heart at a time.

Helen shared that there are 5 Steps to Writing a Book:

1)      Plan My Book – create your inspiring message and decide the main topics.

2)      Tell My Story – this is the lousy first draft. “Vomit it out on the page.” You write this part for you. 

3)      Write My Draft – this writing is audience-centered.  Plan on 3 drafts.  1st Draft 75%-80% of the content, 2nd Draft 100% of the content and, 3rd Draft you work on the voice and theme.

4)      Make My Sentences Smooth – the Kingdom of Copyediting:  editing, sentence flow, grammar, spelling.

5)      Dot My I’s – Proof reading by your professional editors. Find the most anal editor you can. DON’T SKIP! Do this before and after layout.

Helen added 3 additional steps for self-publishers:

5) Add Marketing Hooks – brainstorm the title, and add marketing pages at the end of the book.

6) Make It Look “Wow” Design – make your message POP!

7) Get It Published – through Kindle, Amazon, etc.

In her talk, Helen dove deeper into the details of the first of the key steps, Plan My Book.  Planning will give you the context for the book – not the content.

How to Share Your Bestseller Message

Helen told us that we have to identify our transformational message – our unique, inspirational point(s) that we are trying to communicate. When writing non-fiction, you don’t want to come off as naïve or lecturing. Thankfully, when you are writing a memoir, you are the expert.  No one else can tell your story, from your perspective.  I can actually admit that I was very naïve – living in our safe, California bubble. But that’s alright too, because what I have learned, is part of the message that I’m trying to communicate.  I know a lot more now. I understand what she’s saying though about not lecturing.  No one wants to listen to someone who sounds like they are standing on a soap box.  Getting people to refer your book is the goal.  You achieve this by framing the message so that it: SOLVES YOUR TARGET READER’S PROBLEM.

My target reader is just like the old me.  Happy, living their lives – probably Jewish, but not necessarily, just curious about Israel.  They’re confused about trying to understand what we hear on the news.  As a Jew, we are raised to care about Israel, and we want to pass down that love of Israel to our kids too – but before our trip, what did I really know?  I hadn’t taken the time to learn what happens over 7,500 miles away.  Between our trip and the research that I’ve done since I’ve been back, I’m much more knowledgeable and hoping to help others understand more as well.

Helen used the example of Kitchenability 101, by Nisa Burns, whose book solved the problem of “making food that is easy, healthy, affordable and delicious” for the college student. Maybe you are over junk or dorm food or miss your Mom’s tuna casserole… The message is that this book can help you.

How to Showcase Your Credibility

Helen explained to us that credibility comes from sharing your expertise.  This is particularly relevant to nonfiction authors as opposed to memoir or fiction writers.

Writing a memoir, as I’ve already said means by definition that I am the expert on my life as I see it. I have done lots of homework to shore up my knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but my reader is not coming to me for political analysis.  There are hundreds of more learned people on this complex mess. But no one else knows how I felt hearing the missiles exploding and watching for signs of distress on my thirteen-year-old son. Why was I the only one of our family and friends who wanted to go home?

For nonfiction writers, you show your credibility and uniqueness through your methods and concepts.  As her company works with clients, they put the key message in the middle and then they create mind maps – what are the topics that support this message?  Those topics then get clustered and become the outline of the book.  You can order these topics in terms of geography, time, or concepts and/or qualities. If you have a business you will want to tie these topics to your business system.  In a fiction book, the structure is based on the story arc.

Helen recommends that you get testimonials, and if you have won awards, use award stickers for your books. These create credibility.

Creating Raving Fans

Helen taught us that you need to create an emotional bond with your reader and the way to do this is through your personal stories.  You need to be open and show your humanity so your audience can relate to you.  You are unique – no one else has your experiences.  If you don’t personally have a significant story – use clients or competitors stories.

Ah, yes, here – I’ve got it covered.  I do have a unique perspective and a significant story to tell.  As I blog, I hope that I am gaining people interested in hearing about our adventure.  As a writer, half the time I feel like I’m running around in public naked – at least as far as my heart is concerned : ) If I’ve said something of interest to you, please follow my blog, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.  I’d love it if you commented on my blogs as well.  Yes, this is an unpaid, political announcement : )

Finally, Helen reviewed with us the 5 Ways to Attract Revenue:

Now my ears, really perked up…

1)      Sell Your Book At Speaking Engagements – shares credibility.

2)      Give Your Book to Clients and Prospects – shares credibility.

3)      Selling Pre-orders – you can set up 3 weeks – 3 months ahead of release on Amazon and Kindle.

4)      Launch online with your affiliates – share your email lists with friends and colleagues.

5)      Sell with a training program that you sell with your book.

Well, this is the conundrum.  You can’t work on the 5 Ways to Attract Revenue, if you don’t have your book completed. I have been very busy doing so much, but taking time to write my book often suffers.

I just finished my rewrites for my winning entry for the 2nd Annual Memoir Showcase at the Horton Grand Theatre in San Diego on June 28.  My work with 15 others, will be acted out in a monologue by an actress.  The theme is one moment in time that changed you – so I chose the first time we had to go to a bomb shelter and how it changed me to want to work on Peace.  Tickets are only $10, and its sure to be an amazing night : )

I also spend so much time writing blogs, preparing and holding my Writers4Writers group meetings, working on Peace, being the scribe for the Publishers and Writers of Orange County and oh yes, being a mom and wife, that finding time to finish my book, has become a real issue.  For you writers out there – are you feeling my pain too?  Anyway, I have to go for now, and squeeze in some time for writing my book.  Special thanks to Helen Chang for sharing her knowledge with us!

As always, I hope you Join Me On My Journey…