Sunday, December 16, 2018

Unfinished Business

My work in publishing is like an unfinished puzzle.

I’ve worked at three publishers as an acquisitions editor. For the last six years, I've been acquiring books at Morgan James Publishing.  There is one key lesson that I’ve learned: You are never caught up—yes never. Unfinished business is a part of the work.

There is always more email to answer and more phone calls to make and more to be done. While I am never caught up, I continue to work on the priorities. For example, an author yesterday sent me an email objecting to some things about the Morgan James publishing program and essentially told me that she was going to pass on our contract offer. I wrote a detailed response, answering each of her concerns (that she mentioned) and offering a revised and improved contract. She appreciated the effort and is looking at it  again. Will it work to convince her to sign with Morgan James? That decision has not  been rendered but I hope so. At least I’m doing my part to persist and not give up.

Each author has to decide what they are going to do. Some authors make quick decisions while others look at many different publishers and options before they return to Morgan James and decide fo sign. The path to publication varies for each author. From my years in publishing, I understand our publishing model at Morgan James is different and part of my responsibility is to highlight those differences so the author understands the value. After they understand, they can choose to go elsewhere but I’ve served them with the information. We work hard at answering authors questions and helping them in any way that we can. From my experience no publisher does enough for their  authors but we certainly do more than many publishers.

The best publishing isn’t done alone. Yes more than a million books were self-published last year. The best publishing is a team effort—getting the best title and cover design and shape of the book then selling that book to the bookstores as a team. We show the covers to our sales people and get their feedback. The team is always able to make better decisions than an individual from  my experience.

As an editor, I have books in many different stages of the process. Some authors have signed with the publishing  house and their books are in production. Other authors have not signed but are considering signing. Other authors have just submitted their materials and I’m pitching or championing their manuscript to my colleagues to see if I can get them a book contract. While I am respected and build the best possible case with my colleagues, I don’t always succeed. Some of my pitches are rejected and do not receive contracts. The process is all part of that consensus-building process that I was telling you about.

Other times I get push back from my colleagues asking about the author’s connections and marketing plans. I attempt to gather as much of those connections and marketing plans in my pitch to my colleagues but sometimes my words are not enough and need more from the author. This week I went back to an author and asked for more details. They are working on those details and as soon as I have them I will share them with my colleagues. The back and forth is all part of the process.

As I tell every author, the publisher is investing a large amount of money in the creation, production and marketing of the book. If the author is not engaged in this process and selling books to their connections, then no one succeeds. The publisher and the author lose money in the process.

Book selling has several key components in my view:

1. The book has to have great contents and read well.

2. The book cover design and interior have to look high quality and inviting.

3. The book has to be properly distributed so readers can purchase the book. For example, Morgan James not only gets the book on Amazon but also on 1800 other online distributors. They not only sell the book online but also in brick and mortar bookstores.

4. Yet a forgotten key element is the author drives the readers to the bookstore to purchase the book. If the author doesn’t drive readers to the bookstore, then the books are returned to the publisher—and no one sells books.

As an editor, there is always more to be done—more to promote and more to pitch. Yet also as an author, I can always be doing more too. The work is never finished and it’s one of the elements that people like me who work in publishing have to keep in mind. We get up every day and do our best to complete the work and move things  forward in this process. 

Because we are imperfect humans, the process is imperfect. Occasionally we hear from our readers about the impact of our books and our work and how they have changed people’s lives. Far too often we never hear about the impact of our books and our writing. That’s where the faith element is publishing enters the picture. We do the best we can each day and leave the rest in God’s hands.

Do you have unfinished business as a writer? How are you handling it? Tell us in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 09, 2018

Every Writer Can Get Publishing Connections

Within the publishing community, who you know is almost as important as what you know. Yes, it is important to pitch an excellent book proposal or manuscript to the right publisher. As an editor and an author, I also understand people buy (books or manuscripts) from people they know, like and trust. How can you know more publishing people? From my years in publishing, one of the challenges is keeping track of the moving people. 

Years ago, one of my six-figure book deals was cancelled because my New York editor had changed companies. My book was orphaned or without an editor directly responsible for my project. It taught me the importance of having a champion within the publishing house for each book.

How does a new author with no connections, begin to get connected to publishing people? Everyone can use a social network which has over 562 million users: LinkedIn. This network is primarily business related and publishing is a business. 

To get connected, you need to take several actions:

1. Rework your LinkedIn profile to show your activity in publishing. Do you write for magazines? Have you published books? Or possibly you have some other explicit publishing role such as leading a local writer’s group. If you have these types of qualifications, then add them to your LinkedIn profile.

2. Begin to send connection requests to different people in publishing. These people could be book editors, literary agents, magazine editors, authors and many other roles. In some cases you will want to send them a little personalized message with your invitation. In other cases, you simply send out the generic invitation that you want to connect with the person.

For many years, I received LinkedIn invitations and ignored them. I had very few connections on LinkedIn and was not connected. Then I began to look at the background of the person and for most people, I accepted their invitation to connect. My number of connections increased and my public profile says the common “over 500 connections.” The real number of my LinkedIn connections, as of this writing, is over 7,900. These connections are varied with many different roles (mostly within publishing) Here’s the critical reason you want to be connected: when I need to reach someone that I’ve not emailed or called in a long-time, I check their LinkedIn contact information.

While there is a lot of movement within the publishing community, when they change positions or companies or physical location, everyone takes their LinkedIn account with them. This account belongs to the individual and is a way to consistently keep up and reach them.

LinkedIn has a lot of other functions as well but being connected and maintaining those connections is one of the basics and best reasons to consistently use this network. Are we connected on LinkedIn? If not, send me an invitation and let's get connected.

How are you using LinkedIn? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 02, 2018

Move Beyond The Book

I love books and have written many books over the years. I'm working at my third publishing house as an acquisitions editor working with hundreds of authors on their books. Yes the book is important and every author has to be passionate about their books and telling others about it. Yet in this article, I want to ask a different question: How can you move beyond the book?

In November, I spent several days with over 40 Morgan James authors in Nashville. Most of these authors were launching their book and we celebrated the launch with interviews on the red carpet and special time together. After this celebration, Morgan James organized a second day of marketing training for our authors. I don't know another publisher making this type of effort to train and encourage authors with their books. The marketing training was open to any of our authors—not just the ones launching their books. Morgan James did three of these events last year, three this year and three more are scheduled for next year. 
There is great synergy at these events where authors swap books (to review each other's books) and much more.

Whether you have published your book with a well-known publisher or self-published, you have accomplished something amazing in getting your book into the market. Now the real work begins of telling people about your book. Your on-going marketing efforts are important to tell others about your book. The key piece many authors miss in this process is: your book has made you an authority on your topic. Every author has to use their book to open new doors of opportunity.

Because you have published a book, others will want to hear you speak As you speak on the topic, people learn about you and hopefully purchase your book. I encourage you to approach event organizers and open up opportunities to speak on your topic. It's always best to begin in your local area with Rotary or Kiwanis or other such groups looking for speakers. Sometimes these are free opportunities where you sell books in the back of the room. Other times they will pay a fee. The key is to use your creativity to pitch yourself and book these opportunities. They are definitely out there.

Can you use your book as a springboard to create other information products that you sell online? If you want to know more details, I recommend you listen to this free interview I did with Bob Bly and look at the free Ebook with it.

Can you use your book and create an online course or membership site where you deliver content instruction and insights for your audience? I have a risk-free Simple Membership System product to give you much more detail and insight. Notice my 30 day no questions asked love it or return it guarantee.

Can you use your book to launch a personal coaching program? Your book has made you an authority and now use that influence to begin another aspect of your writing life—coaching. You will have a limited number of people but it can also create a regular stream of income for your business.

The overall key for any author is to create multiple streams of income. This article only gives a few of the possibilities. As an acquisitions editor, I repeatedly see authors focus on their royalties (or they tell me about their lack of royalties). There are many dynamics in play with a publisher receiving and paying these royalties such as the slow rate that bookstores pay publishers—which is something many authors forget. In my view, the royalty focus is the wrong focus. As an author, you can't control your royalty payment. If it comes, terrific. There are many element I mentioned in this article that you as an author can control. Seize those elements for your focus and work on them. It will yield a far greater financial result.

Every author needs to continually work at building their platform and expanding their influence. If you want or need to know more about building an author platform, get my free ebook on the topic. You can do it but it will take effort and initiative on your part. From my experience, it is not a simple one-two-three process but the journey is different for every author. Keep at it and if I can help you, just reach out to me and let me know what you need.

How are you moving beyond the book? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sometimes You Have to Push a Little

Sometimes writers need to do some pushing like this baby elephant is pushed.

Several times in these entries, I've written about the power of asking for what you want. I recognize there are relationships where we hesitate to ask. From my experience, if you are professional and straightforward, then you can push past your hesitation and go ahead and ask.

Several weeks ago I noticed one of my authors posted on Facebook about having a meal with a high profile television personality. I knew this author has a forthcoming book to be released next year. I reached out to this author and encouraged him to ask this television personality for an endorsement or foreword for his book. In his initial response, he was reluctant because he had been childhood friends with this person and known her for years. My author was hesitant to ask for this endorsement. I encouraged this author to move forward and ask because of the prominence of this person in the marketplace. He took my advice and I recently heard he had secured this endorsement.

Now with the endorsement in hand, the next question is where it will be placed in the forthcoming book. My encouragement again to the author is to ask for it to be prominent on the front cover. I've had authors gather these endorsements then the publisher puts the words in small type on the back cover with little promotion gain for the author. Once again I pushed this author to ask the publisher to get this endorsement on the front cover. If the author is straightforward and professional with his asking, there is nothing wrong with giving a little self-protecting push in this process.

Some books have endorsements and some do not. Here's what you need to know: your literary agent or your publisher or your publicist doesn't solicit and generate these endorsement. It can happen from those people but it is rare. The bulk of the endorsements come from the author and the author asking people for these endorsements. My encouragement is for you to take action to secure these endorsements because endorsements sell books.

I encourage you to study this article from Jacqueline Marcell about her self-published book. Why? This author had remarkable endorsements from numerous well-known celebrities, business people, athletes and others. How did she get them? Marcell asked—and sometimes she asked over and over to break through and get them. It's a combination of professionalism and perseverance that makes the difference in my view. Yet as the author you have to take action in this area.

Recently I was in Nashville with my Morgan James authors. As an acquisitions editor, I helped these first-time authors get a foreword from a bestselling and recognized author in their field of expertise. During our interaction to get the foreword, this author offered to have these new authors on her forthcoming podcast. The authors reminded me about this generous offer and had not heard any more about it nor had it been scheduled. My immediate encouragement was to give them this author's email and encourage them to follow=up on that offer and book that podcast.

We live in a busy world and the details can get lost in the process without  follow-up. The offer to appear on a podcast may have been done at the spur of the moment and without sending a follow-up reminder, the opportunity may disappear and not happen. As a writer and author, you have to seize all of these opportunities and follow-up. These actions are a key part of this business.

What are you gently pushing on to make it happen? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Real Test of A Writer

For my writing life, I've created some routines and habits. These habits are important because I do them without thinking and they keep my writing and my publishing details on track and moving forward. For example, I've written about using Refollow to follow 800 new people every day on Twitter. Using these tools consistently allows my numbers to keep increasing and my platform to grow.

I am a long-term coffee lover. In fact, I have a coffee pot in my office area. I fill this pot with water and coffee ahead of time. When I get up in the morning, one of my first daily actions is to turn on my coffee pot. Then as I begin my day, I enjoy my coffee. Yet today my coffee was filled with grounds. The paper filter went wrong and the entire pot of coffee was wasted and filled with grounds. It was a giant mess. Instead of enjoying my coffee, I had to clean the pot and begin again. I finally got my coffee pot working today but it took more than simply pressing the button to turn it on. Instead of a calm start to my day, I had an immediate mess to clean.

From my recent back to back trips to events (with only two days in between), I picked up a cold virus. While I try and wash my hands on the road and be careful, despite my best intentions, I get sick. I've been increased my water consumption and trying to get more rest (even sleeping during the day a few times). I'm on the mend yet several days last week when I called authors, I'm certain I sounded different. Yet I continued making calls, writing emails, answering questions and pushing forward with the work.

Throughout my travels and illness because of using scheduling tools, my social media feeds continued without interruption. The consistency and persistence is important and a quality that I've mentioned many times in these articles. These interruptions is one of the real tests for a writer.

Everyone has unexpected things happen such as illness or a technical difficulty or countless other things. When you are at this point of decision, you have two choices. First, the unexpected can throw off your schedule and sour your attitude and prevent you from writing or meeting any other task you have as a writer. Or there is another choice: you can move forward with your writing, find a work around, switch gears to a different task and keep going. For me as a writer, I've tried to make the second choice my default action. It doesn't always work and some days I get thrown off track. Normally I determine to keep going and accomplish the task at hand. Sometimes it is consistency for writing. Other times it is working with my Morgan James authors and answering their questions and making phone calls. Your tasks will be different than mine. My encouragement is for you to find the way to make the choice to keep going.

Many others will make the first choice and get derailed from the process. Their writing will not get done and they will miss their deadlines and the books will not be published. Or maybe it is in the marketing area and their book will not get pushed and promoted so people hear about it and purchase it. If you have gotten derailed, every day is a new day. I encourage you to start fresh and keep going.

Recently in Nashville, I was talking with one of my Morgan James authors. This author has gone through some personal issues about the time his book was released two years ago. Now he has weathered that situation and is refocused on his book and the promotion. In my view, it is never too late to for a book. Yes you missed the launch of your book but are you still passionate about the topic and message in your book? As the author, your passion will drive the on-going marketing and promotion of your book. Your publisher will press on to other books. Your choice is to begin each day new and dig into the expansion of your topic and promotion. You are the only person who can determine it is too late.

What has derailed you and how are you making a fresh start on your writing life? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Four Reasons to Get With Other Writers

Terry Whalin teaching at the Independent Authors Conference
This weekend I just returned home from back to back conferences. I had two days at home between the events. Each one was a completely different experience. 

First, I spoke at the Independent Authors Conference in Philadelphia. Book Baby organized this event and it was their second year. I taught a six hour class in two three hour sessions about how to Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. This session was the day before the conference and included a small group of hungry writers—read fun to teach. This conference had about 400 people.
Some of IAC audience
I taught a packed room about the characteristics of successful writers. The speakers and sessions were on various topics and I met a number of people who I've corresponded with but never met face to face (again fun). Several of the people I met lived outside of the USA so it was a unique opportunity talk with them face to face.

Dr. Sherrie Campbell & Terry Whalin
Then I went to Nashville for our third Morgan James Publishing author event of the year. Our largest group of over 40 authors came to this unique gathering. As an acquisitions editor, I had not met many of the authors who I introduced to Morgan James. It was a brief but intense time with authors and my colleagues at Morgan James. Prior to the Morgan James event, I went to Lipscomb University for the Art of Writing Conference from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

Author Panel at the Art of Writing
The afternoon and evening concluded with the Christy Awards to celebrate excellence in Christian fiction. The timing was perfect for me because of the Morgan James event and it gave me a chance to see old friends and meet new ones.

Our writing is a solitary experience. We sit and crank words into our computer. As storytellers (whether nonfiction or fiction), the start of the process is something we do individually. You don't have to continue alone. We are a part of a larger writing community which has been a large reminder to me again through these events. 

In this article,. I want to detail four reasons for you to attend events with other authors. While I've just returned from some amazing events, I recognize there are many types of opportunities for writers and my encouragement is for you to seize them and take action. 

Here's my four reasons why you want to attend these events:

1. Discover Innovative Ideas and Learn from Others. Whether in a classroom lecture setting or through a one on one conversation, I gained numerous insights from these events. The real work will come as I apply this information to my work. One author told me about how he was a poor typist and uses Dragon Naturally Speaking for all of his writing—including his emails. Years ago I tried this program with poor results so I did not continue yet this insight intrigued me and is something I hope to explore soon in my own work. I have pages of notes and insights from these events that I apply in the days ahead.

2. Invigorate your own writing and marketing. From being with other writers, I gained new insights and marketing ideas. Dr. Joe Malone and Sarah Harris have recently released Battles of the Sexes (Morgan James). They brought copies of their book and gave them to other authors (always a good idea). When I picked up the book, a page was sticking out from back. The natural inclination is to turn to this page and straighten it. This page thanked readers and encouraged them to be in touch with the authors—then it added something more with a handwritten note: “Review on Amazon and Connect with us. Joe & Sarah.” The bent page was brilliant to call attention. It takes some additional effort and work but will pay off for these authors.

3. Opportunity to give and help others. I've had numerous conversations with authors but also the chance to teach and give back and encourage. I will never know the impact of those conversations to help others.

4. Make new connections and renew others. I exchanged numerous business cards with authors at these events. The follow-up work will be critical to continue the relationship and explore new opportunities. If you follow-up, you will be rare since many people never do.

To attend a writers group, you don't have to travel. Maybe you have one in your area. Could you offer to speak at this group? There are infinite possibilities but you have to take action and attend. When you attend, bring your books and business cards to continue the relationship.

Are you consistently getting with other writers? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, November 04, 2018

Are You Building a Body of Work?

The conversation happened years ago yet I recall it like yesterday. I learned a guiding principle for my writing life in publishing. I was on the faculty of a writers' conference which no longer exists. Along with another faculty member who was a literary agent, we were on our way to the event. I had written a few books and been a magazine editor but not worked inside a publishing company. It was early on in my writing career. This agent advised, “Be building a body of work.” It was sound and profound counsel.

Many writers are focused on a book or several books but not understanding the need to build a body of work. That work appears in many places—including books—but also in magazines and online. It is not built overnight but in a continual stream of publishing.

Last week I was speaking with a new potential author for Morgan James Publishing. During our conversation. she commented on my digital footprint. What happens when someone “googles” your name? What do they find on the first few pages? Your digital footprint is part of your body of work as a writer. It's something built over time and with consistent action—like these weekly articles for The Writing Life. Your faithful actions will pay off in the long run.

While on this important topic of building a body of work, let me include several other important reminders for every author.

1. Our words are eternal. Recently I read this article from publisher and long-term friend Dan Balow about the lasting element of words online. As you post on social media, blog or write magazine articles or books, it's good to be reminded these words are captured online forever—a very long time.

2. Your reputation matters. Whether you are conscious of it or not, each interaction with others is building your reputation in the publishing community. From my years in this business, good communication is important and the smallest details can matter.

3. Consistency counts. As you work in the writing field, make sure you do the basics like return phone calls and answer emails. These simple business practices will pay off for you in the long run and help you build an even larger body of work.

How are you building a body of work in the publishing world? Let me know in the comments below.


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