Sunday, May 20, 2018

Four Ways to Prepare for a Conference

For many years, I've been attending and teaching at conferences. Many of the articles that I've published and the books that I've written have their beginnings with someone I met at an event. If you have never been to a writers conference, I encourage you to make plans and attend one this year.  It will boost your writing life to a new level and help you on a number of different fronts. A number of the people at each conference have never been to a writers event and it is their first time. If you are holding off going to a conference because you've never been, do it. It will change your life and propel your writing forward.

Editors and agents work with people that they know, like and trust. Yes we get tons of pitches and proposals on email and online and in the mail. But if you have met an editor or agent at an event, maybe even eaten a meal together or sat in one of their classes, the relationship goes to a new level of depth. Many of those relationships begin at conferences.

As an editor, I've been preparing for several events, updating my handouts, critiquing a few manuscripts for people I will meet and gathering my business cards and other materials for the events. I always bring plenty of business cards to handout.  Numerous times at conferences I've asked an editor or an agent for a business card. This person forgot their cards and had two or three and they've already handed them out. I do not want to be one of those types of editors so I make a point to bring enough.

For the person attending the conference, I want to give you several ways to prepare for the conference:

1. Study the conference program ahead of time. Make some initial choices about the classes you will attend. Also notice who is coming from different publications and publishers. Be aware of their names and positions so when you run into them in line or in the dining room, you can begin a conversation with them.

2. Prepare pitches for particular editors and agents. You will see some of the faculty are more relevant to your writing than others. Create a small list of people you want to set appointments or sit at their table during a meal. Because of the weight, editors and agents are some times reluctant to take a full manuscript but they will often take a “one sheet” (where you summarize your idea on a single piece of paper with your contact information—including email and phone). I always like to see as much as someone wants to show me. I will often take full proposals or manuscripts home with me (if available). Or some authors bring their material on a flash drive to give to editors and agents.

3. Create and bring business cards. Even if you have never been to a conference, create a business card with your name, email and phone number. Also I like to include a mailing address so I can see the time zone where you live. Also if you have a current photo, include it on the card. Bring plenty of cards and hand them out generously throughout the event. In my view, it is always best to trade cards. You give the editor one of your cards and you get one of their cards.

4. Bring an attitude of learning and listening and taking action. Throughout the conference, you will learn new things, write them down in a little notebook. Ideas and requests should go on a separate page that you can cross off as you handle them when you return home. As a writer, you have invested a lot of time and money to attend these events. One of the best ways to get your value from the event is to follow-up and send the requested materials. If you take these actions, you will make a positive impression on the agents and editors that you meet at conferences.

Some people wonder how my writing has been published in more than 50 magazines and I've written more than 60 books. There are many reasons but one of the main ones is my follow-through. If someone asks me for an article or a proposal, I send it to them after I return home. You'd be surprised at the lack of follow through from others at the event.

Are there other keys to prepare for a conference? Tell me in the comments below.  


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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Review A Book & Promote Your Latest Book

For years I have supported other writers through reading their books and writing reviews. Writers are readers and I am always reading at least one or two books. As a practice, when I complete a book (or even hearing an audiobook), I write a review of that book on Amazon and Goodreads. In addition, often I will tell others about my review on my various social media connections. If the book is tied to writing (as some of them are), I will also repurpose some of my review on a blog article about the Writing Life.

In this article, I want to show you how to promote your latest book on the bottom of your review. There are several details involved in successfully doing this type of review and promotion. If your review is short (only a sentence or two—as many people write), then this technique will likely not work and you could even be banned from writing reviews on Amazon. Please pay attention to the details of your review.

1. The review has to be of substance or at least 100 words. In your review, you show that you have read the book because of the summary you give about the book—but also I normally include a short sentence or two quotation from the book and I list the specific page for the quotation. It shows the reader that I didn't just flip through the book one night but read it cover to cover.

2. Normally I write my review in a Word file where I can easily count the words and see the length of my review. I craft a headline for my review. Then I cut and paste it into the customer review place on Amazon. Note you do not have to have purchased the book on Amazon to write a review of that book. You do have to have purchased something on Amazon to be able to write reviews. This detail about purchasing something is not normally an issue but it is one of the basic requirements from Amazon to write customer reviews. I've written almost 900 customer reviews on Amazon. Yes that is a lot of reviews and didn't happen overnight but little by little.

3. At the end of my review, I write a separate little paragraph that says, “Terry Whalin is an editor and the author of more than 60 books including his latest Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist.” (Notice this link is a live link that takes people directly to the page for my book on Amazon). As a rule, Amazon does not allow you to add working website links on your review. But, they do allow you to add product links within your review. A few times (maybe half a dozen with almost 900 reviews) this technique does not work and my review is rejected. In those few cases, I have my review in a Word file, so I resend it without my little one sentence bio line. Then the review is still posted on Amazon and still helps the other writer.

Here's the review as I'm putting it together. Notice the arrows for the extra product feature I added.

This is how the review looks in the preview mode. Notice my book is in blue--which means the link is active and works.

As an author I know how hard it is to get people to write reviews. Serving and helping other writers is one of the reasons I have consistently reviewed books.  I've written so many reviews and my email is easy to find, that several times a day I get requests from authors to review their books. I do not review ebook only books. I look at the book and normally I answer their email but I politely decline the offer to review their book. In my decline, I also send them to my free teleseminar about reviewing books to give them this resource. If they take me up on my offer, they join my email list in this process.

4. After I write my review on Amazon and Goodreads, I normally tout my review on social media. If that author has a twitter account, I include their twitter account in my social media post. Some of these authors re high profile people who thank me via social media for my review. Before my review I had no connection to these authors and it has been fun to see their gratitude and responses on social media.  If I originally got the book directly from the author or from a publisher or publicist, I make sure I email this person with the links and results of my review. This final step of follow-up is important because it shows your professionalism and puts you on their radar for future books. As I've written in other places,this follow-up step is necessary. 

I've included the details about this process because I have not seen other authors using this process to promote their latest release. It does take work to read a book then craft a thoughtful review but it is worth it in my view. 

Are you using such a process? If so, let me know in the comments below.  


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Sunday, May 06, 2018

Little By Little Gets It Done

How do you write a book? How do you get published in magazines? How are you invited to speak at an event or conferences? How did you get so many Goodreads friends or twitter followers? How did you write so many entries in this blog? I get these questions often from others. In this article, I'm going to give you the answers (which admittedly you may not like but they are a dose of reality).

1. Take consistent action. Writing does not happen when you “think about it.” Words are written for a book or a magazine article or a blog or anything else, when you sit in your chair, put your fingers on the keyboard and write. One of the authors I'm working with has a busy day job and is struggling to complete her work. I'm encouraging her to set a number of words that she wants to write every day (even 250 or 500 words would be OK). Then carve out the time in her day to write these words. From interviewing numerous bestselling authors, hitting a daily word count is one of the ways to accomplish the work.

2. Regularly reach out to others and knock on doors. If you want more people to review your books, you ask more people. If you want to sell more books, you have to be telling more people about your book (either in print or through social media or any number of other methods). If you aren't asking people (figuratively knocking on doors), then the chances of anything happening are slim. I have so many friends on Goodreads because I actively use it and I've used the Goodreads tools to ask others to be my friends. I have so many followers on twitter because I regularly follow other people.

3. Pitch editors. If you want editors to publish your book, you have to be talking with them about it through pitching your book proposal. If you want to write for magazines, then you have to be crafting a query letter or writing the full article and sending it to the editor. Look for publications with theme lists and then write queries and articles for those themes. It is one of the best ways to catch their attention—because you are giving the editor what they are requesting.

4. Reach out to coordinators, conference directors, and other leaders. Often writers will ask me how to get speaking engagements and more meetings. Just like the editors who are making decisions about books and magazine articles, coordinators, conference directors and other leaders are making decisions about who will be speaking at their events. As you raise your profile in a niche or industry, these leaders “may” approach you about speaking. From my experience, more often I pitch myself and my possible workshop or keynote talk to the leader. Make a list of events then pitch one or two leaders every day. Your little by little action will pay off.

5. Seize opportunity. When you get the request or the offer from an editor or coordinator, take it. One of my friends books authors on radio programs. He tells me about authors who often have some conflict or excuse when he calls with an opportunity. I've taken the opposite approach when he calls and I always say “yes”—whether it is early or late in the day—even if I have a conflict. I will move that conflict to have the opportunity. It is what I recommend you do as well.

How do you divide your tasks into small chunks to get it done? Let me know in the comments below.  


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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Are You Searching for a Magic Bullet?

As I talk with writers at many different levels and places in the publishing world, it seems like many of them are looking for a magic bullet.  They are searching for the one place to publish their book and propel them to the bestseller list. These writers have created a book proposal or a book manuscript and believe with the right publisher or the right literary agent or the right publicist, they will sell many copies of their book and succeed in their quest to accomplish their dreams.

I don't want to burst anyone's optimism and dreams in their quest, but from my experience and years in publishing, it is not finding a magic bullet or single path. There are many paths and options to achieve success in the publishing world. If there was a single path or formula, then every book would become a bestseller—and succeed—and we know that is not the case.

Many details have to come together in the publishing world for a book to sell and succeed. Last week one of my authors at Morgan James told us they and their book were going to be promoted on a national television show this coming week. I was excited for them to hear this news—but also a bit skeptical about the actual results. 

Yes people will be able to buy the book online—yet 76% of our book sales are in other places such as brick and mortar bookstores. A bookseller has to order and carry your book inside their store for it to be there. This sales process takes time and is very fluid. If the author doesn't promote and tell people about their book (a continual process) then the bookseller assumes no one will come in their store asking about the book. As a result the bookseller returns the book to the publisher and it is no longer available for the customer to buy it.

Let's return to this author who is going to be on a national television program. She has not been in communication with her publisher (Morgan James) about her promotion efforts. This information has not been passed on to our sales team who promote the author to the bookseller and get the book sold into the bookstores. In fact, the opposite has been happening with this author. We've not heard about their efforts (even if they were happening) so no information has been passed to the sales team and I suspect many of the books that were sold into the stores several years ago, have now been returned. 

Because of the short window of notification from the author, there is little opportunity to resell the book into the various bookstores. It means this book is not positioned for such a national appearance. I did not name this author and hope their television appearance is a huge boost for this book (despite my skepticism).

A single appearance is like looking for a magic bullet—hard to imagine it being successful. Studies about sales have proven that someone has to hear about your book or product at least seven or eight times before they purchase the book. The television appearance is just one of the exposures. As an author, you have to use many different means to expose your audience to your book.

Here's a different author and situation. Last week Amberly Lago launched her book, True Grit and Grace. I acquired Amberly's book for Morgan James Publishing and encouraged her to work with an editor (which she did to produce a well-written book). Also Amberly is working with a publicist who has set up some great events for her. Amberly also has an email list and is using this list to stir excitement and promote her events and her book. About a month ago, I learned that Amberly was scheduled to appear on the Today Show. Megyn Kelly was going to interview her. Notice the timeframe (a month) which gives us time to sell the book into the bookstores so it is physically in the stores (as well as available online).

I encourage you to watch this less than ten-minute video clip. It was two segments on the show and you can't get much better to have Megyn Kelly tell her audience to “buy the book.” Notice the book cover and title of the book was shown several times during the interview.  On the day the book launched the book was #127 on Amazon (where the numbers change every hour and the lower the number the better in a place with millions of books).

It takes multiple exposures, broad distribution and on-going and varied promotion to sell books. The team (publisher, author, distributor, publicist) have to work together—not in isolation. I hope these stories and details give you some ideas for your own book. As the author, you have the greatest passion but good communication and teamwork is also an essential element.

Are you still looking for that magic bullet or on-going, steady sales? Tell me in the comments below.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Updated One of My Popular Free Ebooks

Do you ever return to an old Ebook and update it? Over ten years ago, I wrote Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. It has been one of my most popular free Ebooks. It is also one of the entry points where someone signs up for my email list.

I've worked at three publishing houses as an acquisitions editor plus for several years I had my own literary agency (now closed). I've read thousands of submissions and worked with many authors to contract and publish their books. Also I've published over 60 books for traditional publishers. From this vantage point, I wrote Straight Talk From the Editor.

Whether a writer is brand new and trying to get published for the first time or someone has been in the market for years, every type of writer can gain insights from this Ebook. I detail things not to do and actions to take which will rejection-proof your submission. Each story and detail are packed with practical insights from my experience. Each chapter ends with a summary and action steps for the reader.

Originally I wrote this Ebook for the Amazon Short program (which was stopped years ago). Amazon had the book exclusively for a period of time then it went to a nonexclusive relationship. Recently this Ebook wasn't working and I got that little technical glitch worked out so it does work.

I pulled up the Ebook on my screen. I had not revised this Ebook in four years. Some of the details needed revision and I had some new resources to add to the Ebook. In other places, links in the Ebook did not work and needed to be fixed. The book needed an update—something we can easily do in this electronic world. Admittedly it took a little editing and writing time to revise it. Then I had to do some technical work to upload the revised Ebook. Finally I tested these changes to make sure the replacement Ebook was in the
right place and everything in the book works.

I use this Ebook in a variety of places including on my blog on the Writing Life. Also this Ebook is on the back of my personal business card which I use at events and conferences. Often I am with other writers so an Ebook from an editor is an appropriate gift to others. Also this Ebook is one of the few links in my personal email signature (another way I let people know about it and encourage them to get it).

If you haven't read this Ebook, I encourage you to subscribe. You will have access to the Ebook right away.  Or maybe you read this material years ago as a subscriber and want the latest version, then subscribe again for access.

I wrote Straight Talk From the Editor (and have updated it) because I want you to succeed as a writer. Editors and agents receive hundreds of pitches, proposals and submissions. If they respond, they send a generic rejection letter which gives no idea why it was not accepted. From my experience, writers struggle to get real insights about why their pitch didn't hit the mark and get published. My Ebook is focused on providing information which is not easily accessed from my experience in the publishing world. Even at a writer's conference where you are face to face with the literary agent or editor, it is hard to get this information. I love conferences but editors and agents know the attendees have invested a lot to get to this event and the purpose is to encourage and train rather than give the hard truth. In Straight Talk, I've attempted to be transparent and balanced to help writers succeed with their submissions. Admittedly it is tricky to achieve.

Do you update your Ebooks from time to time? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, April 15, 2018

When You Face Discouragement

While I've been in publishing many years, not everything that I try succeeds. In fact, I've had some pretty unproclaimed but spectacular failures over the years. One of my books got a six-figure advance for my book proposal (exciting). Then when this book was published, the sales were way less than expected (read poor) and the publisher put the book out of print after six months. I have a few copies of this book but most of them were returned and destroyed.

Other times I believe in an author, convince my colleagues to believe, Morgan James issues a contract and the author signs the contract, so we are going to publish the book. A beautiful book is designed and published—but the author doesn't generate pre-sales or orders and the book launches with zero pre-sales and zero orders. Because of the huge financial investment to publish a book, these facts can be discouraging.

Discouragement comes in all sorts of shapes and forms. I've reached out to conference directors to see if I can teach at their event (one of the ways I find new authors as an acquisitions editor). My requests are ignored (unanswered) or they choose to go in a different direction with other faculty. I give these examples of a few ways that discouragement has come knocking on my door recently but it can be in many other areas of the publishing world. The reality is “no thank you” is a frequent response (or simply silence and no response). How do you keep moving forward in the face of such obstacles?

1. Switch gears to a different type of writing. One of the best and most basic ways to find new opportunities is to change to a different type of writing. If you are writing books, begin writing some query letters and getting magazine assignments. If you are not getting much response on your books, maybe work on getting some speaking engagements or workshops. If you can't get any traction on personal appearances, then set up teleseminars. As writers we have a lot of diverse possibilities with our skill set. If you need more ideas, look at the first chapter of my Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams book which includes a list of different types of writing. This change might be exactly what you need to find the next open door. 

2. Read and take a break. Can you read a how-to book and learn something new to apply to your writing? I continue to read how-to books and learn from each of them. A new opportunity can come from your reading.

3. Reach out to old friends and colleagues. Pick up the phone and call some of your writer and editor friends. Is there something new they are working on that you could do or help with? From my experience many editors and agents have possible projects yet are looking for the right fit for that project.Your call to check in with them might be arriving at the right time for you to get one of these pending opportunities. If you aren't on their radar, that casual phone call might put you on their minds again.

Life is full of every day challenges and surprises. You will hit periods of discouragement. In those times, it is critical to move forward and jump into a new activity. It will push the discouragement away and your concentration will be focused on something new.

What steps to you take when you face discouragement? Tell me in the comments below.


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Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Importance of Multiple Follow-up

My Billy Graham biography has been released for three and a half years. I'm still working on increasing the number of book reviews. As of this writing, I have 73 Amazon reviews, which are mostly four and five stars from readers. I've had others promise to review the book. I've written these people to follow-up and confirm they received the book (which they have) and are still working on reading and writing their reviews.

With the passing of Billy Graham, my book has garnered attention from the media and I've been able to do a number of interviews. In late March, I was surprised to learn from the founder of Morgan James that my book was trending in the top five books from the publishing house. See this link for the details. When you receive this type of news, some authors would believe they can coast instead of continuing to promote their book—which would be wrong in my view. Instead of coasting, I've been working even harder at my promotion.

As people agreed to write a review, I have kept a list. A couple of times, I've used this list to follow-up with these individuals and stir more of them to write their reviews.  I understand the challenges with writing reviews. Because I've written over 850 Amazon reviews and I have 5,000 friends on Goodreads, several times a day, I'm approached to review books. I answer these emails but the majority of these requests, I turn down because of my limited reading time and I'm already committed to write reviews on other books.
Why should I care about adding new reviews for my Billy Graham book? The book has been in the market several years but there are new things to talk about. On November 1st, the audiobook of Billy Graham released. While I have a number of reviews, few of these reviews relate to the audiobook (like this one). I continue to promote this audiobook and look for people to listen and write an honest review.

Each new review gives me something else to promote and talk about the book. Book promotion activity will stir more book promotion activity.

As the author, I have the greatest passion for my own book. If I've given up, why wouldn't others (like my publisher) give up on the promotion of the book? My advice is to keep going on the promotion of your book—despite the amount of time your book is on the market, how it was published (traditionally or self-published) or when it released.

If you are not happy with your book sales, then it is never too late to change and take action to promote your book. The consistent promotion is an important aspect. If you don't try, it will not fly. Not everything that you attempt will succeed but I applaud your continued efforts.

Are you continuing to promote a book which you published and are in it for the long-term? Tell us your experience in the comments below.


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