Friday, May 8, 2009

"Fan"tastic Friday

I'm very honored to have the opportunity to interview Yvonne Perry on my blog. This is one talented lady, and if you haven't subscribed to her newsletter, Writers in the Sky, you are missing a wealth of information and an opportunity for free promotion. Yvonne is also a Tennessean, and I hope to meet her in person one day soon.

Without further ado, let me ask her some questions so we can find out more about her:

Yvonne, you’ve created such a wonderful Web site in “Writers in the Sky.” What prompted you to spend so much time creating it?

Since people are more and more Internet savvy these days, they look online when they need a writer or editor. The first thing I did when I started my business was to get my domain name and set up a Web site so people could find me. The site I had from 2003 to 2008 only had a few pages, and there were several services combined on one page. While it looked nice, I didn’t feel that it functioned as well as it could. I now have a separate page for each service we offer: editing, writing, and book promotion services. Plus, there are individual pages for our newsletter, podcast, blog, and my full bio. This allows me to use specific keyword phrases in the text and tags that search engines can easily match to a seeker’s query.

If I go to a Web site and can’t find what I’m looking for, I immediately move on to another site. I figure other folks do the same; so, I need to give my visitors a reason to stay on my site long enough to discover everything we have to offer. It needs to be user friendly, look nice, and function well. My new Web site allows me to offer resources, demonstrate writing samples, showcase team members, and feature the books of clients my team has worked with. It also serves as a basic storefront for my personal books. While all my books are on one page, each book links to its separate blog for detailed information. In a nutshell, my Web site is my shop or store on the Internet. It invites, greets, and serves the needs of those who come there. But like any store, it will not thrive unless people know about it. Therefore, I drive traffic to the Web site by using other online marketing efforts.

I see that you promote many ‘paid’ services to authors, but you continue to solicit free postings for you monthly newsletter from any author who cares to contribute. Besides being a very generous offer of free promotion, how does this benefit you?

If someone posts an announcement in my newsletter, they will probably sign up to receive the publication in order to know when their piece is distributed. If they are happy with the results, they will tell their friends and they may also subscribe—thus, a viral distribution of the newsletter occurs. Because new folks subscribe daily, WITS is in front of more people each time it is issued. This keeps me in consistent contact with my readers. The content-rich information has helped me build a loyal audience so that when I launch a new product, they are the first to know.

I note that you’ve ghostwritten a number of books. I’ve always been interested in how you become a ghostwriter. Could you divulge a little information about this part of your career?

When I started my company in 1999, it was an administrative service that I operated on the side while working a day job. As I began to get more assignments for writing, I switched gears and founded Writers in the Sky in 2003. I soon became known as a ghostwriter because (unknown to me at the time) the keywords I was using in my Web site’s meta tags and descriptions was attracting mostly clients who wanted someone to write books for them. Now that I understand how to write Web copy to attract the attention of search engines, I have magnetized more editing projects and clients seeking author publicity and query letters, and I appeal to corporations who want to outsource business writing such as Web text, resumes, biographical sketches, cover and sales letters, white papers, industry-focused articles, and media releases.

If you could share only one valuable tip with other authors, what would it be?

Your book is your business, not your baby. If you want your book to sell, you have to detach from it enough to receive constructive criticism that will help you improve it and make it sellable. But, by the same token, you must be passionate enough about your book to promote it with consistent enthusiasm. Marketing a book actually requires more effort than writing it.

How much faith do you have in blog tours and do you recommend them?

I found a blog tour to be very effective in launching Right to Recover, Winning the Political and Religious Wars Over Stem Cell Research in America. However, I used social networking to launch my e-book Book Marketing in the Digital Age, Online Promotion Made Easy and had just as much success. I can imagine that the two tools used together would produce even more sales.

You’ve written some very interesting books, many of them self-help genres. What inspired you to write, More Than Meets the Eye?

It was right after my uncle passed that I felt led to write about the experience of helplessly witnessing his year-long demise. As I put pen to paper (or my fingers to the keyboard, since I rarely compose by hand), the idea to include stories from other people became part of the picture. I interviewed about twenty people and wrote their stories along with mine to help illustrate valid points. Adding some research to cover topics such as euthanasia, suicide, hospice care, options for body disposal, and ways to help a dying person transition gently, I felt I had a well-rounded book to share with the world. I was quite shy about sharing my book with people who didn’t know me personally, but I quickly learned that if a book is not promoted properly, it doesn’t sell. So, with my limited marketing experience at the time, I didn’t need to worry about anyone discovering my book!

I also notice you offer assistance in writing query letters. That seems to be a hot topic on many of the loops these days. Care to share a tip or two with us? Some of us have gotten to that stage and have no idea how to meld together the mixed bag of information on the Internet.

Writing a query letter and a book proposal is as important as writing the book. Even if you don’t plan to use a conventional publisher, creating these two documents will help you define the scope of your book, know your target market, outline your marketing plan, and give you text/material to use in the book promotion effort. There is an art to writing these pieces and if you don’t have the necessary components or have typos and mistakes, you automatically give agents/publishers a reason to eliminate your query from the pile of hundreds of book queries they get each week.

You made a very brave move in leaving a Fortune 500 career to begin your own business. If you had it to do over again, would you make that same decision?

Absolutely! My move was well-planned and executed. My husband and I prepared to live without my income by reducing our debt, refinancing to lower our mortgage payment, saving as much money as we could, and purchasing needed office equipment. I was also researching and educating myself on how to improve my writing, operate a business, report my income to the IRS, and other legal and necessary matters. It took more than a year to get into position to make the move and it was still a struggle. I must have quit or fired myself twenty times that first year! After about two years, the business started turning a profit; and now, I never regret my decision.

I found it so interesting that you have been involved in Toastmasters. I attended for a number of years and thoroughly enjoyed it. How has your membership served you in the writing world?

Toastmasters teaches one how to communicate verbally. However, each speech requires the presenter to provide an opening, body, and closing just like you would in a term paper or essay. You also have to properly cite any sources you quote in your speech. After preparing a speech, you have a great piece that can be repurposed as article, essay, or media release. Almost every speech I gave, was somehow tied to my writing business. So, I was not only networking and familiarizing my fellow club members with what I do as a writer and business owner, I was also using the speeches as writing samples and online marketing pieces for my business. By the time I earned my DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) Award, I had written and presented more than fifty speeches.

Here’s your chance to add anything you wish to this interview. I truly thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to visit with me, and I know introducing you to authors who haven’t met you is a service to them. I follow your posts regularly and have learned a great deal. I’m still hoping we can share that cup of coffee in person someday soon. *smile*

I might not have taken the step toward self-employment as a freelance writer had it not been for the people in my life who encouraged me to write my first book. I had been sending my friends some crazy and hilarious emails with stories about the things that were happening in my life then. My teenage son was raising reptiles in our basement, my daughter was being homeschooled, and I was going through mid-life challenges that eventually led to a divorce. We had lived in four houses in three states within a five-year period and my nerves were on edge. I used humor to keep from going insane! My friends kept urging me to publish the email episodes as a book. So, I did.

I appreciate your generous offer to allow me to share my thoughts with your readers. In fact, I have a gift for anyone who leaves a comment here on your blog. I’m giving away my first e-book, Email Episodes A Hilariously Honest Look at Life.

Thank you, Yvonne, for taking time to visit my blog and share tidbits about yourself. I'm really happy to be a regular reader and occasional contributor to your newsletter. Again, I urge my readers...if you aren't a subscriber, you're missing out. Subbing is as easy as clicking the link above.


Colin Galbraith said...

A fascinating interview and on nipping over to check out Writers in the Sky, a most informative website too.

Great stuff!

Rhonda Parrish said...

Great interview ladies. I read it over quickly but I'll definitely be back again soon to read and absorb it at a slower pace. I'm all about learning to market my stuff better, this can only help :)

Tabitha Shay said...

Hi Yvonne,
Great interview...I found your comments about proposals and query letters right on the mark. I recently attended a writer's convention and the things said there are the exact same things you wrote. Gotta make sure there are no errors in that all important query or in the trash it goes...Tabs

Debra Kayn said...

A very informative interview. Yvonne has found success and sounds like she worked hard to get there. Very encouraging to those of us starting out.

Now, I'm going to check her website out. :-)

Katie Hines said...

Great interview. I enjoyed learning about someone who has done some ghost writing! Good luck!

Diane M. Wylie said...

Wonderful interview. In this "challenging economic climate" we need all the help we can get to promote our craft.

I'm definitely going to look at the Writers in the Sky website too.

Jannine said...

Hi Yvonne:
I enjoyed your interview. I especially like this line:
Your book is your business, not your baby.

That was the hardest thing to overcome. At least for me it was.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Great interiew. I aways love to learn how writers developed and how they came to the place they are in their lives. Best wishes for a continued busy business (and yes, I am published..though after that statement, you'd wonder, huh?)

Sasha Bailey said...

I enjoyed reading this!

Pat McDermott said...

A very inspirational and informative interview, ladies. I'm doing a blog tour this summer and am glad you find them helpful, Yvonne. Good luck with your writing and your business endeavors!

Yvonne Perry said...

Thank you all for your lovely comments and encouragement. I truly appreciate the opportunity to share with you.

Dave Mora said...

The only think I would tell a write is "Write for your self. Don't chase the audience. The let the audiences chase you".

Nikki Leigh said...

Hi Yvonne Hi Ginger

The two things (sorry can't narrow it down to one :) I tell authors is to hone your craft in order to write the best possible book and realize that writing the book is only the first step.

Love the comment about your book being a business. I used to get hate mail about saying that, but it needs to be said :)

Nikki Leigh

Yvonne Perry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yvonne Perry said...

Thank you for your comments. Be sure to download my free e-book at

Shirin Dubbin said...

I really enjoyed the interview. I could relate to many of the points and to Yvonne's inspirations.

The notes on querying are so true and I've also found that the process of encapsulating a story reveals details that help to flesh out the work even more.

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