Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE recently joined us for a webinar in which she showed how writing can help advance a career in fundraising, provide a creative outlet, and make money!
In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here:
Steven: All right. Well, good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Writing to Advance Your Nonprofit Career.” And my name is Steven Shattuck and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get started officially. I want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation. I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon in case you didn’t already get those. So, if you have to leave early or perhaps you want to rewatch the content or share it with a colleague, you’ll be able to do that. Just look for an email from me with all those goodies later on today.
And as you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So, don’t be shy at all. We’d love to see your questions and comments. You can even share those questions on Twitter. You can use the hashtag #Bloomerang or send us a tweet directly at @BloomerangTech if you are a Twitter-type person.
And if you are listening by phone today, if you have any trouble listening by your computer speakers, rather, be sure to dial in by phone. It’s usually a little bit better quality. If you don’t mind doing that, if you don’t mind dialing in by phone, please do that. There’s a dedicated phone number there right in the email from ReadyTalk. So, if you have any internet problems, it’s usually a little bit better by phone.
If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I want to say a special welcome to you. We do do these webinars just about every Thursday. But in addition to that, we do offer really great donor management software. If you are in the market for that or maybe thinking about switching sometime soon, check us out. You can look at a quick video demo of the software and learn all about us there.
But for now, I want to say a special welcome to one of my favorite people, our longest running repeat webinar guest. Linda has done a Bloomerang webinar with us every year since 2013. She’s the reigning queen and I am so glad to have her back. How’s it going, Linda?
Steven: You’re joining us from cold but sunny Las Vegas, is that right?
Steven: Well, Linda, I want to brag on you for just a couple of minutes before I hand things over to you. If you guys don’t know Linda, you’ve got to know her. She has managed capital campaigns. She’s helped hundreds of nonprofits achieve their fundraising and development goals. She has trained over 27,000 fundraisers throughout the world, including Canada, Mexico and Bermuda over her 20+ years as a fundraising consultant.
She is the author of way too many books. I could not even fit all of your books in this slide, Linda, but I’ll try to get through some of my favorites. She’s the author of “Recruiting and Training Fundraising Volunteers, the Development Plan, Fundraising as a Career,” “Capital Campaigns: Everything You Need to Know,” which is actually on my bookshelf behind me. It’s one of my favorites. “Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? Raising Money from Your Business Community.”
Linda, I don’t even know how you’ve had time to write all these books and still do webinars and all your work. This is crazy. But you are obviously a prolific writer. I’m excited for this webinar because we’re going to do something a little bit different today. Usually we do best practices in fundraising, but we’re going to kind of shift gears and give you all some ammo to maybe help your personal endeavors in your own careers and hopefully let you share all your own fundraising knowledge through books and webinars and blog posts.
So, Linda is definitely an expert in that, as you can see. So, Linda, I’m going to hand it over to you to tell us all about writing to advance your career. Take it away, my friend.
Linda: Thank you, Steven. It’s really great to be back. I didn’t realize [[inaudible 00:03:55] webinars for this group, but apparently it’s been longer than I remembered it was. Just to let some of you know, there was a little bit of a glitch in the early announcement. So, this is “Writing to Advance Your Nonprofit Career.” If you’re looking for a different webinar, this might not be the one, but I hope you’ll stay tuned anyway because writing is important to all of us in our fundraising careers and to grow as a nonprofit person, no matter what you’re writing about.
But I’m going to start by telling you a little bit about my story. This is one of my favorite pictures. Sometimes people say, “Oh, well, this person is a natural born writer. They have a gift from God,” or something. But writers can be born or made. I really believe that very sincerely. This picture of me, I think I was about a year and a half old on this picture, and I’m holding one of my favorite–if you want to call it a toy–it’s a huge pencil I got as a gift from my parents when I was very young, obviously. I didn’t play much with dolls, but I loved playing with pencils and I loved writing.
I have one recollection of maybe a year or so after this picture where my parents were painting their living room walls. So, they gave me free rein to write all over the walls and then of course I also had to come in and help them do the painting. So, I think my father was the original Huckleberry Finn, I’m not sure. But he got me to help paint by letting me first draw and write on the walls. So, I’ve always loved writing. I didn’t write novels or books or anything at that age, obviously, but from eight to about ten I started writing short stories.
So, to me, I guess I’m one of the writers who was born. I always felt this affinity to write. But there are many people who don’t feel like they were born with the gift to write. I remember one of the first fundraising consultants I ever worked with and he was a really knowledgeable person and I thought he was a fantastic writer. Once he shared with me that his biggest challenge as a consultant was to learn to write because he had to write the case for support. He had to write campaign plans. He had to write a lot of different things for his clients. He said that was a real struggle for him learning to write.
So, you can learn writing, but some people have a natural talent and a natural gift for it. I went from this year and a half year old child holding a pencil very proudly to being the author today of a number of different books. I actually wondered if I could squeeze all my books onto a slide, but I managed to do it. These are all the books that I have either authored, coauthored, coedited or been a contributing author to. So, you can see that I’m obviously a very prolific writer, but you don’t have to be this prolific. So, let’s talk about how writing is important to all of us in this field and why.
I think writing can help you become a stronger fundraiser. So much of what we do, you might not think of writing as a big part of your job because maybe you think your job is getting out and talking to donors and of course it is. But so much of what we do does involve writing. It’s writing that case for support so we have something to go out and talk to donors about. It’s writing reports for our board and our CEO and our development committee. It might be writing grant proposals. That’s a huge part of many organizations’ jobs.
But even if most of your area focuses on something else like working with the business community or doing special events, there’s still going to be writing involved. You have to write things for the website. There are so many different things you have to write. So, learning to write is really going to help you become a strong fundraiser. As this consultant told me, it made him a better consultant. He actually took some classes in learning to write and there are many excellent classes out there that can help you learn to write better. So, you can become a stronger fundraiser if you’re a better writer.
Another thing that I think it helps you with is impressing your boss or in the case of consultants, some of you are probably consultants out there as well. You may need to impress your clients. I know one of the things that I had to do when I went into business myself obviously was craft proposals for my clients.
So, learning how to put the scope of work concisely into a proposal that wasn’t 100 pages long and nobody would read it, to me that’s always been one of the biggest challenges of writing is to write concisely. I think it was Mark Twain who was given an assignment to write maybe a three-page story and he accomplished this, but he said he could have done it much faster if he was writing a hundred-page story rather than a three-page story.
So, sometimes just learning to write concisely and get rid of the extra verbiage is a real challenge. But you can impress your boss if you’re a development officer now and you’re looking to maybe get promoted within your organization. The better skilled you become at writing, the more you can write active reports and you can write persuasive literature. I have found that it was really helpful for me as a consultant to learn to impress my clients with my writing skills as well.
Most people though, honestly, when I talk to other authors–and I know a lot of authors and talk to a lot of them–I think they do it a lot for the personal satisfaction. As I said, I’ve always been fascinated by writing. I grew up thinking I have a lot to share with people. One of the reasons I started writing books was because Steve mentioned I’ve spoken to 27,000 people. I think actually that figure has gone up now to closer to 40,000 people. But it’s great to contact 40,000 people, but I don’t get to see everybody that I want to talk to and convey my knowledge to in person.
So by writing books, to me I find it really satisfying that I’ll often times get a letter from somebody and when Steve mentioned the common that he had one of the books on the shelf behind him and it’s one of his favorite books, that to me is really rewarding that the knowledge that I have and I have been able to impart to other people, when I get an email from someone that says, “I read one of your books and I have it underlined and it’s dog-eared and I’ve really used it to help put together my development plan,” or whatever, that to me is extremely rewarding.
So, the personal satisfaction of writing is really amazing for some people and I think for most people, if you have any kind of an ego that’s motivated by helping others, that to me is the biggest satisfaction of writing because I know I’m helping other people. So, it’s helping my career but it’s more helping other people as well.
Now, of course some of us get into the business of writing to make money and that’s always a motivating factor. It is for me. I just got royalty checks a couple of weeks ago and it’s really great to open up those royalty checks and be able to deposit that and think all my money has paid off in the long run.
But unless you’re JK Rowling or Dan Brown or some other famous author, you probably aren’t going to be making $1 million writing for the nonprofit sector. So, I think it’s good to make that clear up front, that it’s not primarily money that motivates most writers, although it really is great to get those royalty checks.
But don’t get the idea in your head that by becoming an author and writing one book for the nonprofit sector you’re going to make a whole lot of money because the nonprofit sector, while it’s about 10% of our economy in the United States, you still have a limited audience and also nonprofit books don’t sell as many as a fiction book will sell. So, I did take a stab at writing fiction, but I’m still not a millionaire.
So, I just wanted to make that clear to everyone that it’s not always the money that motivates us to get in to writing. But it does help. It really is nice to be able to show that money at the end of the year or in the six months. Most publishers pay a six-month royalty fee. So, that helps too.
So, what kind of writing can you do and should you be doing and should you think about getting better at? Well, as I said, there’s writing for your work in the nonprofit sector. A lot of you probably spend a ton of time writing grant proposals because they can be very time consuming and I have found I don’t do a whole lot of grants, but what I have found is that most grant proposals I’m helping clients with are now done strictly online and I think that’s the hardest part of it is we have 75 words to say this and we have 150 words to say that and we have 300 characters to say this.
So, writing proposals can be very challenging because it’s getting things into very concise language. Writing your case for support is a whole other category. This is, to me, one of the most important pieces of writing that any development office has. When I took jobs in offices–I’ve done this several times, where I took a job in an office that had never done development before, so I said the first two things I have to do is craft a development plan. While that takes a lot of research and some writing, it’s more thinking and logical and measuring and donor measurements and metrics, that type of thing.
But the development plan and the case for support were the first two things I always tackled when I went in to any development office because you can’t really make a persuasive case to anybody unless you have that written case for support. That, to me, is the most important thing you can write in a development office. From that, you’re going to be able to write grant proposals and donor letters and thank you letters and solicitation letters and ads for your website and promotional pieces you might be using in various different things. So, there is going to be a lot of writing involved for almost everybody that’s in development.
The other thing that many people are getting into is writing blogs. I happen to have two different websites, one for my business of writing and one is a personal interest of mine and that is essential oils, so I write blogs for that as well. So, I have two websites and I post blogs usually on a weekly basis and I also write blogs for other people. In fact, I’ve written a few for Bloomerang and a few for some other sources like CharityChannel and things like that.
So, blog writing is a great way to get involved in writing and kind of test your ability to write. What I have found is many authors of books start by, “Well, I’ve written three dozen blogs on this topic. So, all I have to do is put these blogs together in some logical order, refine them and I might have a book.”
So, starting with blogs is great if you think writing a book is way to intimidating and you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, I couldn’t begin to write a book.” If you have written blogs for the last year or so, you may have enough material to write a book. Think about blog writing. It is different from writing a book, but it gives you a lot of great source material. I have often started some of my books by going to articles and blogs that I’ve written and then converting them and incorporating them into the book. That’s another area you can say.
The other thing you can do is write articles for trade journals, newspapers and magazines. If you’re a member of AFP, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, you’ve probably seen some of my articles in there. But I’ve written for numerous different trade articles, everything from there’s a group in Palm Springs that publishes a magazine for charitable–I think it’s called Desert Charities and I’ve written for AFP and I’ve written for some other, Nonprofit Times, and some other things like that.
So, there are lots of opportunities to look at journals and newspapers and magazines and maybe even newsletters. Sometimes organizations that may not focus strictly on the nonprofit sector may be a business wants to write an article for their company newsletter on why their employees should get involved in volunteer activity. That would be a perfect thing for you to write about if you work with volunteers a lot.
Look at things outside your traditional area of expertise. If you are part of a national organization, I know we have some people on this call, I’m sure, that represent organizations like Junior Achievement or Boys and Girls Clubs or Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Red Cross or anything that has a national affiliation. Maybe your national office is looking for newsletter articles or trade journal articles. So, there are a lot of ways you can get started in writing without thinking you have to bit off more than you can chew and think right away in the first attempt at writing a book.
Again, all these articles and trade journals help you as a professional because it gives you some exposure. Especially if you’re in the consulting world, you want to get a lot of exposure in the nonprofit community. So, the more you can write, the more exposure you’re going to get and the better you’re going to get at writing. So, it’s kind of learn on the job and if you work with an editor, you’ll be able to really learn to hone your writing. Most of newspaper and magazines and journals, they all have editors.
So, they will help you and you’ll start to see after you’ve written a couple articles, you’ll probably see common mistakes you make, like maybe you forget to do an Oxford comma, which some people want to use. You might tend to mix up certain words like words that are synonyms, you might be using the wrong spelling or something like that. So, you want to make sure that if you write that you pay attention to the editors that are publishing these things, letting you know what’s good about your writing and what’s not so good about it because it can help you improve and hone your writing skills without even signing up for our class, although I certainly recommend that if you can do that, you might think about that as well.
And then of course there are books. Many times, people are totally intimidated by the thought of writing an entire book. They say, “Oh my gosh, how could you possibly have written all the books that you have written? When you do you find time to do it? How can you go about getting started?”
So, one of the things that you might consider is being a contributing author. Now, my first book was a full-length book that I wrote myself. I wrote several before I was invited to be a contributing author. But this was a great opportunity. If you don’t feel like you want to have the time or maybe you don’t feel like you’re really ready for a full-length book yet, search around and talk to other authors and people who have written books because there are many authors who are doing compilation books where they’re talking to other experts in the field.
For example, I have two books, one I coedited and one I contributed to. One was “You and Your Nonprofit.” I coedited that with another consultant. We had about 50 different authors that participated in all aspects of things that pertained to nonprofits. Then I was a contributing author to you and your nonprofit board and that was a board governance expert who wanted to get other people who had worked a lot with boards and get their opinions. So, she collected a group of chapters written by different authors and there were, I think, 25 authors in that one.
Then another book that I contributed to while I was the coeditor of was a book for consulting. It was the nonprofit consulting playbook. Again, we had 25 nonprofit consultants who we chose based on the fact that they had at least 10 years’ experience and got their articles on all different aspects of consulting from starting your business to what to call your business to how to market your business and legal aspects of a contract and things like that.
So, contributing author is a great way to get started if you’re not ready to tackle a full-length book. Co-authoring can be fun. It can also be a challenge. I have to be honest. The first time I coauthored a book I swore I would never ever do it again because I thought coauthoring meant I’d have 50% of the work. Instead of that, it seemed like twice the work of writing a book myself because every time one of us would write a chapter, the other one would critique it and then you’d have to go back and make changes based on the other person’s input.
But coauthoring after that, I found I was very fortunate and I had probably about four or five coauthors since then where I learned a lot and they learned a lot, I think. Coauthoring is great because you have somebody else who is giving you feedback and input and somebody to kind of share the agony of the writing process with. So, think about some of those things if you are thinking about tackling a book because it doesn’t have to be a real, real challenge.
Now, how do you get started? Well, I mentioned taking a class. I think this can be really rewarding for you. Now, I have to admit that the class I took in college was creative writing and I still really love creative writing and I’m working on another fiction book right now. But if you’re going to be writing a lot of technical type stuff, you might want to take a technical writing class or you might want to take several classes, maybe technical writing and creative writing and see which fits your area best.
Taking a class can be really, really helpful because you’ll get some hands on experience and you’ll get some critiquing from the instructor, the professor of the course that you’re doing. There are probably some online classes you can take in writing as well. Those are some things you might want to think about to get started.
Another thing that people always are concerned about is, “How do I possibly find time to write?” Nobody ever has enough time in this world and sometimes a lot of my friends think I drink a lot of caffeine because I talk fast and I’m always excited about things and I seem to accomplish a lot more than some of my colleagues do. But finding time to write is really a challenge. I’ve talked with authors who have taken different approaches to this.
I know one author I talked to said she decided that if she spent one every evening, maybe spent an hour or so writing, that if she did this for a year, at the end of the year, if she wrote one page a day, and that’s not a lot, but if she wrote one page a day, she’d have a 365-page book and that’s a pretty hefty-size book for most of us. So, some people can be very disciplined and they find that really works and they say, “Okay, I’m going to set aside an hour a day or I’m going to set aside every Saturday morning and I’m going to spend three or four hours every Saturday morning writing.”
Well, frankly, I guess I’m not that disciplined because for me, I find writing is much more of a creative process and I have to . . . when I really have the inspiration, the book I’m writing now, the fiction book has spiritual overtones and sometimes I’ll come home from a church on Sunday and feel really inspired by something I heard my pastor talk about in his homily and I’ll say, “I’ve got to get that into the book.” So, I’ll sit down and write maybe for three or four hours at a time.
And then I might not touch the book again for a couple weeks. And then I might spend a whole day working on it. So, you have to know your own personality and what works with you because I think it’s really helpful to work within your own system and don’t try to force yourself into saying, “I’m going to spend every Saturday,” and then some Saturday, your significant other says, “It’s a beautiful day. Let’s go for a picnic.” And you say, “Oh, I can’t. I have to write.” You don’t want writing to be a chore. You want writing to be rewarding and to be fun. So, finding the time to write, think about your own personality.
The other thing you have to think about is I’m a morning person. So, I tend to want to write in the morning most times. But there are times when I get a second burst of energy in the evening or a thought occurs to me and I think, “I better get this down before I forget about it.” So, occasionally I’ll write in the evening, but I’m much more of a morning person. So, if I can get up first thing in the morning and start writing at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. and write for a couple of hours, that’s more style. But your style is going to be different. So, think about what worked for you and try to put writing into a schedule. But you do have to find some time to do it, obviously.
I also am a firm believer in . . . I use Outlook. Maybe you use some form of scheduling. But I actually will schedule my writing in Outlook and say, “Okay, I’m going to spend from 8:00 until 10:00 this day working on this book and I’ll put it into my Outlook calendar. So, if I don’t get it done and I have to reschedule it, at least I know it’s there and it’s at the top of my mind, and I’m going to be forced to reschedule it for another day. But if you don’t put it in anything at all, then it just . . . you just never get to it. It’s something that most of us find, “I don’t have time to do it now.”
I also think it’s really good to think about starting small and think about some of the things I talked about like writing blogs. That’s a really great way. If you have your own website and you can write blogs, that’s a great way to get started because they’re usually pretty easy to write. For me, at least, they are. One of the things I would suggest–in fact, somebody in the questions–I’m not really looking at all the questions, but every once in a while I glance over and I happen to see one. It’s, “How do you stay motivated to write regular content for your blogs?”
I’m big on planning. So, what I do is I’ll look at what I’m writing about and I might plan out . . . a lot of times what I write about on my blogs, it relates to my books. So, I say, “Okay, I’m going to write a series of six articles about getting ready for a capital campaign and I’ll schedule those out for six weeks in a row. And then I might think, “I really want to write now about fundraising as a career. So, I’m going to spend maybe,” I usually do my blogs in a series, not always, but most of the time I do a series of, “Okay, I’m going to write six articles about fundraising as a career.” And then maybe I want to focus on another book and I say, “I’m going to write ten articles about raising money from your business community or about building a stronger board.”
So, I schedule all these out and I know immediately what I want to write about. Again, put it in your Outlook calendar and I say, “Today’s the day.” I do my blogging typically on the weekends because that’s usually the time when I have time to blog and then I post it not only my website, but I also post all my blogs on LinkedIn and then through LinkedIn, you can, with a click of the mouse, you can transfer it to Facebook or Twitter. I do both of those.
So, if you start small with a project like that and say, “Okay, I’m going to spend every Saturday morning, I’m just going to spend an hour to write a blog and post it, that’s a really simple thing that I think we can all find one hour out of our day, out of our week to do a blog. So, I would suggest starting with things like that. And then maybe you move up.
Maybe somebody picks up your blog. I get a lot of comments on my blogs when I post them to my website or to LinkedIn. In fact, I just got one that really kind of tickled me, but it made me feel good. It said, “I just shared your blog with a colleague of mine who was doing research on this particular topic. Because I shared your blog, he took me out to dinner.” So, I felt really great that I got somebody a free dinner by sharing my blog. Those are the kinds of things that are small but meaningful.
So, if you start posting blogs, people might pick it up and say, “Hey, I’d like you to write an article for this magazine,” or, “I’d like you to write an article for this newsletter. Would you consider being a contributing author for a book I’m putting together?” So, starting small, you can kind of build your way up going from there.
I also think it’s really important to talk to other authors. You might think, “Why would an author want to help me? I’m competition.” I have found talking to other authors to be extremely rewarding. In fact, I’ve gotten some of the most well respected authors in the nonprofit world to agree to write forewords to some of my books.
I think the more you read and the more you talk to other authors, you can get a lot of hints from them. There are actually some online groups. I don’t have the links to them right now, but if anybody’s interested, I can probably research it and forward that information if you email me, but there are online groups for authors and for publishers and groups like that. So, you might want to talk to some other authors.
I also joined the authors . . . I forgot what it’s called. This is terrible now. But there’s an association of authors that provides actually a website for you and they’ll list all your books. They provide a lot of legal advice as far as not necessarily legal advice, but they have articles written by attorneys and it will give you advice from signing contracts and things like that.
So, talking to other authors can be really, really great for you and it also gives you the opportunity to develop relationships and possibly collaborate with these authors. In fact, when I edited one of the books, there was one author who contributed to that. I was so impressed with her writing. I knew her just vaguely, but I didn’t really know her and I said, “Let’s get together. We were both going to the AFP conference” and we met there and I said, “You need to really write a book. You’re such a good writer.” So, we ended up collaborating and coauthoring a book. Those kinds of relationships can come about the more you get involved with the world of authors.
So, look at some of the nonprofit books out there. You know, these people are not totally inaccessible. When I get people contact me saying, “I’m thinking about writing a book,” I’m always willing and able to help out other authors, especially ones who were thinking about it for the first time and I know I’m opening up a can of worms here because I can get 500 emails from people that want some help, but that’s fine. I will answer those emails. It might take a day or two to get back to you, but I do answer all my emails. I’m always happy to share my experiences with other emerging authors.
Now, there are some obstacles that you might have to face when it comes to writing. I had a couple of really weird obstacles that probably none of you are going to share this experience. But first of all, as much as I love to write. Of course, that picture, I was a few years younger. I now have totally gray hair, as you can see, and I’m in my 70s, but from the time I was a child, I always did horrible in penmanship in school.
So, my handwriting has always been awful. I love to speak and present. But my worst fear in speaking is standing and writing on a flipchart because I always think, “Oh my gosh. Nobody’s going to understand my writing.” My husband always used to laugh at me because I went to college as an adult and I graduated magna cum laude with three different majors. My husband said to me, “You know, I think the reason you graduated with such high honors is because you sound like you know what you were talking about and the professors could never read your writing, so they just assumed you were correct.” And I just said, “Oh gosh, maybe he’s right.”
But I’ve always had bad handwriting. I started when we still had manual typewriters. Most of you are probably way too young to remember manual typewriters and then we moved into emerging electric typewriters. Thank god, the computer came along. So, the computer enabled me to write all the books I did, but then I had two really strange health issues, which affected my writing to some degree.
One was I developed a severe case of vertigo and I couldn’t actually focus on a computer screen because I could only spend a very limited amount of time in front of my computer when I would start to get dizzy. Then I found out through my therapist there was something called a flicker-free computer monitor. So, I now own one of those and I’m able to spend time in front of my computer. So, you can always overcome these obstacles. And then two years ago, I had a stroke and unfortunately it affected my right side. So, my right hand, I’m right-handed, I had a lot of trouble typing.
And then I discovered another marvel of modern technology, Dragon Speak. So, I actually wrote two of my books mainly using Dragon Speak because I had a hard time typing, but my therapist wanted to encourage me not to get too hung up on Dragon Speak and keep that right hand moving. Now I’m able to type again. I still make a lot of mistakes. That’s what spellcheck is for and that’s what editors are for.
So, you can overcome a lot of different obstacles. Maybe your obstacle is that you have kids at home and they don’t let you have the time to sit at your computer and write creatively. So, maybe to overcome that obstacle, you’ll have to change from being a mid-morning or afternoon person to being a morning person and get up and write before the kids get out of bed or write late at night after they go to bed, which some people do that have children at home.
So, there are always obstacles in everybody’s path. They can certainly be overcome. If your obstacle is that you really have trouble with grammar or you have trouble with punctuation, the picture on the right is my current wonderful flicker-free computer monitor. But the book you see there is the Chicago Manual of Style, which happens to be what my publisher uses.
So, it’s important to understand what style the publishers will want and to adhere to that. So, if you have trouble with grammar and punctuation, there are some great tools that you can do. There are even online tools like . . . there’s one I think it’s called Grammar Girl or something like that that will tell you how to use things that are grammatically correct.
So, you can overcome all these obstacles if I can overcome them and I’m the most technical disadvantage person in the world–as Steve will probably tell you, we were in a bit of a panic three minutes before this webinar because I couldn’t get my program to sign on. So, I’m not the most technical person, but I’ve been able to resolve my problems and you can too.
Advancing in writing–once you start getting serious about this, maybe even writing blogs and some articles and you’re thinking, “I really need a book,” you might consider getting a writing coach. I have a friend who was writing a book and her writing skills were fine. She’s an excellent writer. But what she was having trouble doing was focusing, first of all, her time, and secondly, focusing on the order of where to put which chapter and that type of thing.
So, she engaged the services of a writing coach and recently just published her book. It worked great for her. I have never worked with a writing coach, I must admit. But if you’re struggling with things like that and you think, “I really need some help in this,” I will often recommend it to people after look at their writing that they do need to engage a writing coach. That’s something you might consider doing.
So, when you’re ready to take the next step and you want to move from doing nothing to being a blog writer or from being a blog writer to writing a book, don’t be afraid that you’re going to fall of that ladder, maybe your book isn’t going to be a bestseller, but you’ve accomplished something and you’ve left a legacy. To me I think about writing as a legacy in so many different ways.
As far as my nonprofit books, I think oh my gosh, if somebody in another country has picked up my book and emails me and tells me they were able to accomplish something because of my book, they had a successful campaign or were able to convince their boss they needed to invest more in development or whatever it was, to me that’s a legacy I’m leaving for the nonprofit world. But also the royalties I get are a legacy for my children because they never end. After I die, they still will have some royalty income coming in. So, don’t be afraid of taking that next step.
And when you are ready to write a book, there’s one big area that a lot of people face and they’re not quite sure how to handle it and that is, “Should I self-publish or should I use a traditional publisher?” Self-publishing today is so much easier. I have to tell you, I have self-published two books.
The first one was my first novel, “The Matriarch.” I swore I would never self-publish again because it was a lot of work, even though somebody else was doing it, but when you self-publish a book, there’s a lot of work that you either have to do yourself or pay somebody else and get an ISBN number, get a Library of Congress number, do the editing. You have to either engage an editor or pay the self-publishing company because they’re still published through a company to do editing for you. And marketing is nonexistent unless you do it yourself.
So, think about the advantages and disadvantages. Of course, the big advantage of self-publishing is you make a lot more money per book because instead of getting royalties, you’re getting after the printing costs and if you’ve paid for editing and things like that, you’re getting the whole proceeds of the book.
The second one that was recently–and I use the term loosely–self-published was “Board Bound Leadership,” which I coauthored. My coauthor did all of the publishing angle of it. We decided on an arrangement, instead of a 50-50 arrangement, I said, “I don’t want to do all that stuff,” and she had already self-published books, so she did all the Library of Congress and ISBN numbers and did cover design and everything else.
So, that was worth it for me to do that. So, sometimes self-publishing can be good, but be prepared that you’re going to have to do a lot of the work yourself or you’re going to have to pay somebody to do things like editing. “The Matriarch,” the first time I published it, after it was already printed, I saw some typos and I had to resubmit it again.
So, you have to be really cautious of this. One word of advice is you cannot edit your own work no matter how good you are. I have edited dozens of books because I also serve as an editor for CharityChannel Press and for The Genius Press and even though I’m an editor, there is a lot of work involved and you can’t edit your own work, it’s just impossible.
Now, going with a traditional publisher I think has a lot of advantages. I’ve used three different publishers, so I’ve had three books on hand that represent each of those three publishers. One of the things that sometimes people think, “The publisher is going to do all this marketing for me.” Well, don’t get your hopes up too much on that because publishers will do some marketing, but they still rely on you to do a lot of marketing.
Most publishers, one of the questions they ask you when you submit a book proposal is, “What do you intend to do to market this book?” So, yes, there’s an advantage. My first publisher got me some radio announcements. My second publisher provided wonderful editing skills, but not much in the way of marketing. My third one provided both editing and marketing, but still depends on me and it does depend on you to market your own book.
So, I want to talk a little bit about what you’re going to need to do to market your book once you do have it. The first thing I would suggest is building a website. Now, a lot of people have a website just for their own book. Now, because I have like 20-some books out, my website focuses on me as an author and I just redid it. My website designer found this wonderful picture, I just love it, of a pen and flowers and he thought it kind of showed what my skills were as an author.
So, you can see my blog posts on my homepage of the website. But you do want to build some kind of a website. If you already have one, you might just put a page on it about your author. When I was much more active in consulting, my website focused on my consulting work and then I had a page about my books. But now I’m focusing mainly on the books. You can see I have my blogs and I have my books and I have education that I’ll post to different webinars and things like that that I’m doing, but I really want people to focus on my books.
Another thing you can do is using social media–this is an example of my Facebook page that I also had redesigned–my main Facebook page is used mostly for personal stuff, but I have a page on here for my business and that shows all the different books. And then I have a page for each and every one of my books. So, when I post blogs, I post them to the Facebook page that pertains to that particular book. So, if I’m writing about the development plan, I’ll post it on my Facebook page that has a development plan.
So, there’s a lot of different social media. Facebook is just one. There’s obviously Twitter and Pinterest, and oh gosh, I could–LinkedIn, I have found LinkedIn is really helpful for authors and they also have some groups designed for authors. So, LinkedIn and Facebook are the two I use the most, but social media is a great way to market your books.
And then public speaking–I mentioned getting out and speaking out your books. This really helps a lot. Sometimes if you’re in the nonprofit world, you might be able to speak to your local AFP chapter or you might be able to speak–I’ve spoken, like I said, all over the world. Most of the time when I speak, I have a table I can sell books or they have a bookstore at the conference I’m speaking at. If you’re not a good speaker, you might want to think about as you’re writing your book, what can I do to become a better speaker because that’s a great way to get out and promote your books.
And then of course there’s always the king of book selling, Amazon. You should probably think about setting up an author page on Amazon. I think it’s called Author Central. You can actually track the sales of your books on Amazon and you can offer special promotions if you’re self-published. If you’re using a traditional publisher, the publisher would be able to present special offers through Amazon.
But Amazon is by far the king of booksellers. I’m finding my publishers or when I get my royalty statements, they’re broken down by how many books are sold on the publisher’s website. How many books are sold in bricks and mortar stores and how many are sold on Amazon? By far, Amazon is the biggest for every book on my list, I think. So, that’s another thing that you should think about when it comes to promoting your book.
And then you can do book signings and other events. The one picture on here is a group of us that were all authors and we participated in a book fair that was held in Las Vegas every year. But we found that most of the people there were looking more in the realm of fiction books, so we didn’t participate this year because we all are authors of nonfiction books.
The second picture is a book signing that I did in Bermuda. I was invited to come and speak there. So, she said, “We want to buy a copy a copy of your book for everybody who attends the conference, which was great, a nice boost in sales and if you can do things like that, that’s really great.” The third picture is actually a friend of mine who edited one of my books and he was at a GPA, Grant Professionals Association conference and saw my book on the shelf, numerous books of mine, but he’s holding up the book that he edited for us.
So, there are a lot of different opportunities to get out there in marketing. I could probably go on for an hour about that. But since we’re almost out of time, I want to make sure we have time for questions and answers. But I did want to give you all my links to contact me by email, my website, my Facebook page that is the author page, my Twitter account, my Pinterest account and my LinkedIn account.
So, feel free to contact me with any questions that you might have. If you don’t get them answered today, we have, I think, about eight minutes to answer questions. So, I’m going to turn it back to Steve to see if he has some questions for us.
Steven: Yeah. We’ve got a few in here. Thanks, Linda. If you have been thinking of a question and haven’t sent it in, we’ve got probably about five minutes, so now is the time. I’m going to start with probably the best question that I have ever seen on any of my webinars and I’ve been doing this for six years.
Steven: Chelsea wants to know and I want to know too, Linda, “Are you a fan of the Oxford comma?”
Linda: A fan of what?
Steven: The Oxford comma.
Linda: I am a fan of the Oxford comma. In fact, I almost put a slide on here, I posted this on Facebook, that said, “Commas save lives.” And the quote was, “Let’s eat Grandma,” and then the second one, “Let’s eat, Grandma.”
Linda: I just love that example. Actually, legally most lawyers will use it because legally the meaning can be different if you say something and something, (comma) and something else or if you put red, comma, white, comma and blue, you’re talking about three different colors. So, that is a great question.
Steven: No. It is. I wasn’t being sarcastic, by the way, Chelsea. I think that’s really important. I’m also a fan of the Oxford comma. So, thanks for getting the record straight. I thought that you might say that. Here’s one from Jane. “Where would you find a writing coach?” If you were to recommend one, what’s the best way of sourcing that? Is it someone you should know or people who do that specifically that you can reach out to? What do you think about a writing coach?
Linda: There are people who do it specifically. If a person wants to email me individually, I can probably find you some websites. Like I said, I haven’t used a writing coach, but I know many people do. You can probably go online and search for it but then you run the risk of, “Is this person really good or aren’t they?” I would probably talk by word of mouth. If you want to contact me directly, I can send you the name of a couple writing coaches I know people have used that people have been very happy with them.
Steven: Cool. Along the same lines, Kara was wondering, “How would you find an editor if you wanted to self-publish?”
Linda: That’s probably the same thing. I do editing. I’ve never done it . . . I usually do it for a publisher, but I could do it for somebody individually. Again, I would go by somebody that does it and is referred by somebody who has used them.
Steven: Aren’t the colleges that’ll have maybe their English major or creative writing students offer that as a service?
Linda: They probably do. Like I said, I haven’t used editors other than ones that were recommended by my publisher. Not all editors are good. I know for a fact that I had one book and an editor took it and I said, “Frankly, this editor doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” so this publisher had to fire the editor.
Steven: Isn’t it true that the term editor is a loaded term? There’s an editor that will help you find grammatical errors and then there’s an editor. Could you maybe split those up? I think the editor you’re talking about is more the content, the idea, the flow, those kinds of things.
Linda: Right. Sometimes they’re called a comprehensive editor because they’re going to look at things like, “This doesn’t make sense here. You should really talk about that there or you should move this here or you should expand on this.” And then you have what’s typically called a copy editor that looks for the Oxford commas and makes sure you have the right spelling and punctuation and that kind of thing. That’s a great point. There is definitely a distinction in the type of editors that are available. I know my publisher uses both a comprehensive editor and a copy editor on every book because they’re really two different functions.
Steven: Right. Makes sense.
Linda: One person is looking at big picture and one person is looking at the details.
Steven: We’ve probably got time for one last question. I’ll pull up Brandon’s here. Linda, I know you answered another question for him on the fly. He’s wondering, “If you’re not feeling motivated, do you think the writing suffers if you write no matter how you feel?” In other words, if you feel unmotivated but you still write just because you’re trying to hold yourself accountable, do you think the writing or maybe the creativity suffers because of that or should you always wait for inspiration to strike?
Linda: For me, I think it does. Like I said, some people are motivated and they’ll write every day. I wonder in my mind, people who do that if they don’t have to go back and rewrite a lot. I can’t write when I’m not inspired to write. I think for me it does work that way. But for other people, it might not be. I think a lot of it depends on if you’re writing about things you know real well too. If you’re writing fiction and you can be creative, you definitely have to be inspired for that. My fiction works always take me way longer than my nonfiction books because a nonfiction is coming from knowledge that I have in my head and I’m just getting it down on paper and that I can do without necessarily being real, real inspired. When I’m writing fiction, I have to be in a real creative mood to do that.
Steven: Good point. That makes a lot of sense. Well, Linda . . .
Linda: This was great, by the way.
Steven: Yeah, really good. This has been a really fun one. I know it’s been a little different than what we’ve done, but I’m glad we did it because I think there’s a real big opportunity for fundraisers to share their knowledge. It’s never been easier to create a blog as kind of a minimum way to get started and it can really be a good way to potentially increase your income by directly selling your content or maybe making yourself more appealing to other types of employers. This was great, Linda. Thanks for spending an hour out of your day for doing this.
Linda: Thank you.
Steven: Hopefully we didn’t cut into your book writing time.
Linda: I’m not writing today. It’s not on my agenda. It has to be soon though because I am working on another nonfiction book that I have to get cracking on. My coauthor is in Israel right now and I promised her I’d work on it while she was gone. So . . .
Steven: Well, we’ll let you get back to it.
Linda: I better get cracking on it soon.
Steven: Do reach out to Linda, follow her on Twitter, send her an email, obviously, a wealth of knowledge, one of our favorites, for sure. And thank you all for hanging out with us for an hour or so. I know we got started a couple minutes late. I apologize for that, but by the way, if any of you really want to get in to blogging, Bloomerang accepts guest blog posts. I’m going to share a link with all of you in the chat. We always love to have fundraisers just share their knowledge on our blog. You don’t have to be a Bloomerang customer to do that.
If you check out our daily blog post, you’ll see lots of consultants, fundraisers, lots of non-Bloomerang people just sharing knowledge there. We will compensate you. We will donate $100 to your organization for every post that you send over. So, if that is of interest to you, if you are maybe looking for a place to get started publishing, it could be our blog. So, check out that link I just shared with you, shoot me an email or tweet if you want to learn more and we’d love to see you again on next week’s webinar.
We’re going to go back to the Thursday schedule and we’re going to talk about gift planning specifically for Gen-X and Gen-Y donors, those pesky millennials, not much people talking about Gen-X donors, even though they are getting up in age there a little bit and probably have some high earning potential. So, Lisa and Dave, Lisa Chimola and Dave Tinker are going to join us to talk about that. Super smart duo there, both CFREs, both super involved in the AFP community. So, don’t miss that one. It’s going to be really fun. It’s going to be a new presentation for us as well.
So, we’d love to see you there. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are lots of other webinars you can check out throughout the spring and summer. Hopefully we will see you again on some other Bloomerang webinar. So, have a good weekend, I guess, say, rest of the week, it’s only Wednesday. Hopefully we’ll see you next week. Bye now.