Monday, November 17, 2008

Six Things I Learned from SouthWest Airlines's Magazine Editor

This post is a related slightly to the one that came before on junk mail. But it has a few reminders that one didn't. It will be republished in next week's Sharing with Writers newsletter.

It seems Jay Heinrichs, editorial director of SouthWest Airlines' inflight magazine, Spirit, is especially interested in writing--more than one might expect from his position with the magazine. The recent issue was replete with articles on writing so presumably he believes that will interest his flying public. Even his editorial is aimed at writing--books in particular. He says, that it is a long-held belief in the publishing world that if a book is about Lincoln, doctors or dogs, it will fly off book shelves. He came up with a tongue in cheek title of his own, Lincoln's Dog-Training Secrets that sports a big "Doctor Approved" shout insignia on the cover. Kind of a cute cover, too, which as we all know, helps books fly off of bookstore shelves.

So what did I learn from this issue of Spirit?

#1 If you have a good article on any of Heinrichs's three preferred subjects, send him a proposal. He is--obviously--already presold on the idea! With his interest in writing, he may also be interested in articles on writing that would appeal to his audience.

#2 Heinrichs recently self-published his own book, Sniff it First and 15 Other Things I learned From my Cat (also a pretty darn good title, even lacking doctors, Lincoln and dogs!). This tells me that Heinrichs has the experience and savvy not to judge a book by the press it is printed on. He says self-publishing "gives a voice to brilliant people who otherwise couldn't publish, while allowing a guy like me, unfortunately, to do a cat book." So, he might not easily dismiss your feature story idea or your title as a gift suggestion.

#3 The value of humor. You know I believe in it or I wouldn't use Anne Louise's "Humor Hints" in most issues of this newsletter. It is apparent from the title (though I haven't read Heinrichs's book yet!) that he used humor. He, obviously is using self-effacing humor to promote it as well.

#4 That cat books may sell darn nearly as well as dog or doctor or Lincoln books.

#5 That having a platform from which to dive will surely help sell your book. (Heinrichs's is his visibility as an editor of Spirit!) And that when you have an excellent platform, that may be the time not to give all the book's profits to a big publisher anyway. (Your platform could be your former writing, your Rolodex full of clients or whatever.)

#6 That reading when you fly can be beneficial to your writing career. That goes for this newsletter, Sharing with Writers, too. Don't skim, read! (-:

To research departments and content of Spirit go to

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal." Some of her other blogs are and, a blog that helps writers and publishers turn a ho-hum book fair booth into a sizzler.

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