Sunday, August 09, 2020

The Challenge for Every Learner

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
Several weeks ago, a reader contacted me about my book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. He had read the book and marked different pages in the book for additional study and action. Sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words and this reader sent an image.

I smiled at his use of post-its in books because when I read books, I often use the same system. I mark different passages with a highlighter and post-its. Then I return to these places and apply the material to my writing life and work. It is a system that I've been using successfully in my own life for years to keep growing as a writer.
While I've been in publishing many years, have a college degree in journalism from a top university, and have been attending writers conferences and classes for years, here's the key: I still have much more to learn as a writer.
Are you continuing to grow as a writer or have you arrived? I've interviewed more than 150 bestselling authors. In this process, I've met a few authors who have acted like they have “arrived” at the pinnacle of their profession. It is not an attractive attitude to witness and in fact a turn off for me. As I have watched what happened to people with this arrival attitude, I've noticed they have faded from the bestseller lists and are now in relative obscurity. Yes still around the community but not currently producing bestselling books. If you have that “arrival” attitude, I would challenge you to change it. Make sure you have others in your life who will give you honest feedback. With this honest feedback, you can continue to grow and learn as a writer.
As writers we need to keep learning and growing. In this process of growing, there is a tricky balance between continuing to learn and taking action. To move forward as a learner, you have to be doing more than learning, , you need to apply that learning to your work. Recently I was speaking with a writer colleague about this issue: many people take courses—but don't take action (implemention—where the rubber meets the road).
There is an old saying, “Knowledge is Power.” This statement is true—but only if you act on the information in your head. For example, I know about Goodreads and how every author can select quotes from their book and add them into Goodreads quotes. You give other people automatic permission to use your quotes—and promote your book. It's good to know that fact—but worthless if you don't take action, choose the quotes and them put them on Goodreads. Several weeks ago I wrote about the details of this process (follow this link to see this article.) This is just one example of dozens of things authors need to do to take action.

Recently I learned about the free online courses from the Muck Rack Academy. One course is on social media and the other is on pitching to journalists. I've completed the course on social media and learned a number of valuable insights which I implemented into my social media. The second course on pitching to journalists, I'm about to finish but have yet to implement it into my own writing life. I am a learner but have the same challenges of every writer—finding balance between learning and implementation (taking action).
How do you find the balance between learning and taking action in your writing life? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, August 02, 2020

The Power of Words

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I live near Denver, Colorado and watch some local news on Channel 9.  Countless times I've watched Marty Coniglio give his weather forecast. He has been with the station for 16 years. Like many in journalism, Coniglio is active on Twitter. Last week, he sent out a tweet comparing federal troops to Nazis. Here's the details in the Denver Post article. He is no longer employed at the station. As I read the story, it reminded me that our words have power.

The Danger of A Habit

As a reader, I have been reading and listening to books for years. Each time I write a short review (normally less than 150 words) and post my review on Amazon and Goodreads. I've written over 1,000 Amazon reviews and over 600 reviews on Goodreads (where I have 5,000 friends and my reviews get a lot of attention and reading). I read and listen to many different types of books. Recently I listened to part of a bestselling book—which was filled with hatred (in my view every sentence). As an editor, I often evaluate a book based on a short portion. In this case, I decided not to listen to the rest of the book and wrote that information into my short review. I followed my habit and posted the review on Amazon and Goodreads. There are hundreds of reviews for this book and my review joined those reviews.

The final portion of my habit is to post my review with the cover on social media. I have over 200,000 Twitter followers, over 18,900 connections on LinkedIn and over 4900 Facebook friends. I didn't think about my posting because it is a habit. The reaction surprised me but I should have known when I did it. I spent about 48 hours on Facebook monitoring, deleting and even blocking some people (when you have 4,900 “friends” it is no big personal loss to block some people). My short post was consuming way too much energy and time. I deleted the post on all of my social media platforms. In a few minutes, it was gone. Did lots of people see it? Yes and I learned even with a habit to think about each post.

I temporarily forgot some critical things about the Internet and social media. While you may be writing the material for yourself, other people read it. part of the social media process is other people are going to respond and react to whatever you said. Also these words are often out online forever. In this volatile, on-edge world, common sense reminds of the small talk advice: “avoid religion and politics.” It also applies to our social media. From this experience, I was reminded our words matter. In fact, our words have power and people read them. It's good to use caution and wisdom with what you put online.

As you write today, be aware your words have power to heal or to harm. Let me know your thoughts about this subject in the comments below.


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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Lessons from A Spilled Coffee Pot

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In my home office, one of my first actions of the day is to turn on my coffee pot and brew some coffee.  Yet today it bubbled and gurgled and spilled.  My coffee pot was a little off kilter and not in the place to catch the coffee so it backed up, spilt and made a general mess.

To prepare for the moment I'll turn on my coffee pot, the day before I add the water, put in the filter and the grounds so it is ready for me to turn it on and brew the coffee.  It has rarely happened but this morning, I had a mess on my hands—and a choice. I could react with anger and disappointment or calmness and just clean the mess. I cleaned up the mess.

I'm writing this story because I see comparisons to my life as a writer and editor. Sometimes there are messes:

-authors don't deliver what they are supposed to deliver to publishers.

-authors deliver late—many authors miss their deadlines and are notoriously date with their manuscript.

-authors that I expect to sign their contract, go in a different direction.

-the books are not selling. If you have purchased books and they are not selling, then this situation can be a mess and disappointing for authors.

-the writing is not working and storytelling is not good and needs rewriting. Yes you are putting words on your page but they are not the right words and basically create a mess.

-your computer isn't working right or you have some other website glitch. 

The potential list is endless. Each time I have choices how I respond—disappointment or calmness and acceptance. I recommend calmness because the results and outcome are much better.

These days are strange with hard economic times for some, sickness and even death for others. Yet our lives as writers and storytellers are important and vital to keep going. It is a choice to stop and do something else. For my life, I know I am called to this work and continue it—the good and the bad.

The Details Matter

Yesterday I needed to call one of my authors and talk about an editorial issue. I took her phone number from her signature—and it did not connect. I double checked the number in other emails—same. I finally looked at her proposal which had a different number. When I tried that number I got an answering machine and left a message. Two numbers were reversed. When I spoke with this author later in the day, I told her about the error in her email signature (which goes out in every email). She appreciated my telling her about this detail. In her next email, it was fixed.

I'm learning every day —important lessons about life and publishing. I hope you are as well. In the comments, let me know some of your lessons.


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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Your Opening Stories Require Work

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In the last few weeks, I've been starting another book writing project. My co-author and I are working on the overall structure of the book. It is coming together. This week I've started working on the opening chapter of this book. The experience has reminded me of a basic writing principle: the opening words are important and require thought and effort.

Years ago I crafted a book for a couple. As I listened to their stories for the book, I prodded around for something with drama. This book was focused on addiction and alcoholism. The husband admitted getting drunk then arrested and thrown into jail. He had one phone call and called his wife who had to come and bail him out. This successful businessman kept this arrest quiet and had never told his friends or family about it yet the experience was a key turning point and wake up call in his life to get on the road to recovery. I had found the opening pages of this book. This story grabbed readers and hooked them into the rest of the book.

While that book was nonfiction, it also happens in fiction. Recently one of my authors was creating a new world but spent over 30 pages in this process. Most readers wouldn't have the patience to go through those pages before reaching the storytelling. Our team worked with this author to reconfigure those introductory pages for the reader into a list of characters, background on the world, etc. With this revision, the reader will know this background is there but most people will jump into the storytelling.  

As writers, here's several things you have to understand to successfully publish your work:

1. Readers are fickle and you have to catch their attention from the opening paragraph and beginning sentence. In publishing, your first reader will be the acquisitions editor or literary agent. Several years ago I interviewed an acquisitions editor and asked him how he evaluated a new submission. He said, “I read the first sentence and if it is a good sentence, I read the next one. If it is a good paragraph, I read the next paragraph. If it is a good page, I read the next page.” Yes the process is subjective but that's how it works for professionals. Don't bury your excellent writing on page 25 because the editor may never get there.

2. A huge volume of material being written and released into the market every day. While it is fun to read new material, alsol consider all of the classic books which continue to be read, studied and sell year after year. As writers, we need to be aware of this volume when we write the opening stories.  A snappy opening story is a way to stand out and capture the reader.

3. This principle works for every type of writing—abook, a magazine article, a blog post, a radio script, and every other type of writing.  It will take thought, work and effort to craft the beginning pages. You may need to write something and set it aside for a few days then take another run at it.

Opening stories do require work from the writer—but if you gain more readers, it is worth the work you put into it. What tips do you have to find the opening pages of your writing? Let me know in the comments below.


 You can get my latest book for only $10 including shipping plus over $200 in bonuses. Read about it here.

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Three Reasons NOT to Create a New Word

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

This week a submission from some new authors crossed my desk. As editors, the title is the first thing we read. These authors coined a new word in their title. For every book or magazine article, the title is a critical part of the creative process. Your title is your memorable hook for the reader—and your editor or agent is your first reader in the publishing process.

I understand these authors were trying to be creative in creating a new word in their title. While there are probably many reasons for not creating a new word, in this article I want to give you three reasons:

1. Editors and agents will roll their eyes and reject. While the author will not see this roll of the eyes or shake of the head, it will happen. As an author, you have seconds to capture the attention of the editor and you want that attention to be positive and interested. Your title needs to draw the editor to read your work—and not veer off into “Why did they use that word?”—which leads someone away from your book.

2. If you decide to self-publish with your new word (and 1.6 million books were self-published last year), now think about your readers. They will also have questions about this unfamiliar word in the title. Can they pronounce it? Does it make sense? Many people will pass on reading more—which is not what you want to have happen with your book. 

3. Finally it is difficult to gain acceptance for a new word—especially as a new author. Do you have the visibility in the marketplace to coin a new word? Most new authors do not have a large audience and tribe and readers for their book. They should not go this route with their title.

A good title needs to be:

One to five words and something that draws the audience to read more. Why no more than five words? Because a title has to fit on the spine of a book. Most books are spine out on bookshelves.

Especially for nonfiction, your title will need an interesting subtitle. The subtitle needs to stress a benefit inside your book. For example, Book Proposals That Sell (Title), 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (subtitle and reader benefit). Subtitles are not as important for fiction nor always used.

I understand I've been pretty negative in this article but please understand my motivation is for editor and reader acceptance of your title. I'm certain your intention is draw readers and interest instead of rejection. There are exceptions to these cautions. You can use a new word in a title—if you have huge visibility in the marketplace. My example is Morgan James author Bryan Kramer and his book Shareology: How Sharing Is Powering the Human Economy. Notice the little extra words at the top of the cover on this book: USA Today Bestseller. While I work at Morgan James, I do not personally know Bryan Kramer.  From my knowledge of publishing, I know a book like Shareology does not reach the USA Today Bestseller list without a great deal of effort from the author. Also notice this word is easy to pronounce and use.

Your title is a critical part of your submission. I encourage you to put a great deal of thought and energy into your title. I understand publishers control the title—but repeatedly I've found a well-crafted thought-provoking title will make it through the publisher consideration process and end up on the published book.

What type of energy do you pour into the title for your book? Have you created a new word? Let me know about your experience in the comments below.


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Sunday, July 05, 2020

Why Authors Need to Add Goodreads Quotes

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

For the last several years I've been active on Goodreads. I've written over 600 reviews and have 5,000 friends on Goodreads (the maximum number of friends). I've claimed my books as a Goodreads author and my blog entries appear on Goodreads where some people read this information. If you are an author, I hope you have also handled these details at Goodreads and become a Goodreads author.

In this article, I want to call to your attention the section called Goodreads quotes. The top information bar on Goodreads has several different options. Select the Community tab which has a little arrow beside it. Click on this arrow and it will reveal a number of other features on Goodreads. One of these features is Quotes. I encourage you to highlight quotes and go to the Quotes section of Goodreads (or use this link).

Besides using other people's quotes, this section also allows you as a Goodreads author to add your own quotes. Here's the process:

1. Select a series of key quotes from your book. I found 10 quotes from 10 Publishing Myths.

2. Go to add a quote. You will include the quote, Author (you). As a Goodreads author, when you add your name in this field, it adds another field with a list of books. Select your book and add it into this field. Finally there are tags to help people find your quote when they are searching for a specific quotation. Each of these fields is important fill out correctly in this addition process. 

3. Promote your new quote.  You've just added this quotation to a sea of other quotations. How will anyone know about it if you don't promote it? Use this link to see the quotations I've added on Goodreads. Some of these quotes are from Book Proposals That Sell and others are from 10 Publishing Myths. To see this promotion portion (an important part of the process), let's look at one of my quotations (follow this link).   You will notice buttons to share the quote on Facebook or Twitter. Below these buttons, there is a link to recommend the quotation to your friends (follow this link to see it).

In the past, I've used the friends button on Goodreads to invite people to become my friend. I have the maximum number of friends or 5,000 friends. You can share your new quotation with friends and encourage them to “like” it. If you select the button “all”, then it will highlight 100 of your Goodreads friends. This process opens up an additional field which is optional—and allows you to send a message. The first time I used this feature, I did not add a message—but I believe you will have greater interest in your new quotation if you do include a message like:

Subject: Four Ways to Use Goodreads Quotes


Thanks for being one of my Goodreads friends. I just added this quotation to Goodreads. I encourage you to please “like” my quotation. Here's four ideas how to use this quotation:

1. Cut and paste it into a Goodreads email—maybe to one of your Goodreads groups.
2. Post the quotation on Facebook
3. Post the quotation on LinkedIN
4. Post the quotation on Twitter.

Please keep my name and the link to my book when you do this process.

Bonus tip: Check out my special offer to get 10 Publishing Myths for only $10. Shipping is FREE and you get over $200 in FREE bonuses. 

Thank you,


Note my email uses clickable HTML so people can click the link and go right to the page.  

Will this process work to promote my book? I'm just beginning to try it so don't really know. But I do know if I do nothing, nothing will happen. It is another way to be proactive and try something to promote my new book. There are millions of registered readers on Goodreads—people who love and read books. It is a solid place to be doing this effort. 

Are you using Goodreads quotes? Are you promoting them to your Goodreads friends and using the tools on Goodreads to the maximum? I encourage it. Let me know your results in the comments below.


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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Use Your Resources To Meet Needs

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Last week my cassette tape recorder quit. I know many of you don't use cassette tape recorders any longer but I had developed my own technique for recording and gathering information. Now I needed to chart a new path.

1. I have ordered a replacement on ebay because I still have information on tapes that I need to be able to access. I easily found a used tape recorder. Whenever I purchase something on ebay, I always look at the reviews and feedback. I always make sure to buy from someone who has a good reputation and ratings. While it was good to get another tape recorder, I knew I needed to make additional changes.

2. I needed a new method of recording interviews on the phone and conducting interviews. 

To find my new method, I could have used Google and searched through a bunch of articles and pages.  Instead, I wrote a short email to several online groups to see what I would learn. I have a number of journalist and author friends. I wrote some straightforward simple questions and posted it in a couple of places.

In a short amount of time, I got some answers from experienced authors. These people also needed to record interviews and write from a transcription. Several people listed the same resource--TapeACall. I downloaded this app on my iPhone. It had a seven day free trial. I experimented with the program and recorded a couple of calls with friends.    

Last week I recorded an hour session with my author and my current writing project. We recorded for an hour (and the tape worked great). Then I tried the transcription feature.  It took about 20 minutes for the program to convert the tape into text. While the transcription is not perfect, I have the recording as the back up for clarification. The program has an annual fee of $59.95 or $5 a month which is well worth it in the time and energy it will save me. I am still perfecting my use of this program. 

In this article, I wanted to give a practical example of how I used my resources to find a new tool for my writing work. It's the same path you can take if you need something. Asking others who have already gained the experience and done the research is one of the quickest and best ways that I have found.

When you need a resource, what do you use? Let me know in the comments below and I look forward to learning from your experiences.


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