Sunday, June 17, 2018

Four Actions After A Conference

The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College

This weekend I traveled home from Write To Publish, held on the campus of Wheaton College at the Billy Graham Center. Off and on, I've been going to this event for many years but had not been for two or three years. Throughout the event, I spent time with old friends, met many new ones and spent several intense days talking about publishing and writing and books. 

Often these events are filled with writers attending their first conference. Others attend each year to give a boost to their writing. These writers come with their writing and their dreams and plans to speak with editors and agents during the event. As an editor, I taught a few classes during the event but also met with numerous writers one-on-one listening to their pitches and helping from my years of experience.

I heard some remarkable stories and pitches. From others I heard about their heart-wrenching stories about their struggle to get published and find the right place for their work. Throughout the event I listened and spoke with them. Admittedly these events can be overwhelming when you return. The world of publishing contains many different opportunities and a wide variety of publications and publishers. When you are overwhelmed, one response is to spin and do nothing. My encouragement is for you to take action and here are four steps:

1. Take time for reflection. Which opportunities did you hear about which you want to do? Make a list of these publications or publishers, and then reconnect with the editor.

2. Review the editor's guidelines or theme list. Are you writing something that they want or are seeking? If so, read through your book proposal or query and send the editor what they requested. Throughout the event, I heard about some great book ideas—nonfiction, fiction, Christian, general market, and children's books. Some people handed me a paper copy. In each case, I asked them to email the material to begin the process. A few writers emailed the material during the event (very few). A number of them will go home, revise and improve their material, then send it to me. Others will never respond. 

3. Organize your business cards and contact information. Get it in a form you can access quickly. We work with people who we know, like and trust. A business card with an email and phone is a great first step, but add the information into your address book. You might not need it now but you may need it several months from now and want to be able to easily access it.

4. Apply what you have learned to your writing life. Throughout the conference, I taught three different workshops (social media, book proposals and Goodreads). It is wonderful to learn about these topics and listening to the information is the first step. Yet your actions after the conference are critical to your writing success. In each of these workshops, I gave specific action steps for the writers to do. The writers who take these actions steps will move forward with their writing and be closer to achieving their dreams and plans.

During the conference, I met several editors and learned about publications that I want to write for in the months ahead. I am taking my own action steps to move ahead for these dreams to become reality.

5. Bonus action. Reach out to some of the people you met at the conference and write them right away via email or even snail mail. It will do a great deal to foster and build your relationships. 
What steps to you take after attending a conference? Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to learning your action steps.


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Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Importance of Sending Good Content

Are you learning from others online? Excellent. Are you passing along this content to others? For me, this process of sending good content to others is an important part of the writing life. In this article, I want to give you some ideas how you can pass along what you are learning or reading to others.

I have been on twitter since 2009 and tweeted thousands of times. If you look at my twitter feed, you will notice the majority of my posts are pointing to articles from others. I follow a series of blogs from experienced writers and receive these blogs in my email box. If you have a blog, it is important to add this feature to your blog so others can read your content on their email. Over and over email has been proven as one the most effective ways to reach others.

If you want to send out good content to others, you need to develop a method or system for taking consistent action. The regular action is important to establish your reputation in the market as someone who helps others—not just once but over and over.

For example, I use Hootsuite to schedule my social media posts then I tweet about 12 to 15 times a day but these posts are spaced throughout the day and each one is different (with different words and a different image). Each day I have developed a pattern with my posts. This pattern is something I've created with different spots on my posts for different types of content and from different people. For example, I post content from a writer about once a day and not multiple times. I begin each day of social media posts with an inspirational quotation and image. The fact that I have a pattern makes my repeat actions easier. I don't have to create something and instead I am simply filling in the designated positions.

Your social media posts will be different than mine and in a different pattern. My key point is encouraging you to develop a system that works for you and your writing life. After you have such a system, your actions will be routine. Each week I take about 30 minutes to finalize my social media posts. I say “finalize” because the grid or slots for my different posts is not finished until I finalize—but I have much of that grid filled in because I take a few minutes each day looking for great content and adding it to my posting plans in Hootsuite.

Reading about my actions are a good first step but here's some action steps for you to take:

1. Decide to send good content to your audience on a regular basis

2. Create a system (possibly using Hootsuite) to make your actions regular and consistent.

How are you sending out good content to your audience? Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to learning from you.


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Sunday, June 03, 2018

Why Every Writer Needs Persistence

Publishing is an imperfect process with many variables and much which can go off the rails in the process of making or marketing a book. For example, one of my authors launched a one-day only giveaway of her book on Amazon. She had sent emails, Facebook posts and all sorts of other means to spread the word about this one day event. The author had worked with our team at Morgan James and gotten it all set—so she thought. Then Amazon did not reduce the price.

Early in the morning, I got a call from the author about this potential disaster to her marketing effort. I reached out to a colleague who reached out to someone else to get Amazon to quickly adjust the price to zero for the day. In an hour or two, it was resolved and the author was able to continue to market her one-day special event. Morgan James does not control Amazon but we work with Amazon to make such campaigns happen and the author persisted to get it going.

Today I tried to call an author using the app which I use for my Morgan James work. The app shows my New York phone number and why I consistently use it for calling authors. In my case, the app did not work or dial the number and only gave me an error message. This app had been updated overnight and something was not working. I persisted to get it working, deleted the app on my phone and reinstalled it. Then it worked again. For this author, I only had her phone number. I did a quick search and found her website—which had no email address or phone but did have a contact form. I filled out the form so she would have my email and know what she needed to do to reach me with her submission. I persisted rather than giving up when I could not get my phone app to work. These types of actions are what we have to do as writers and professionals. Normally there is a way around the challenge—if you persist.

Or another example, I have almost reached the limit on my Facebook friends and throughout each day I post material related to publishing and writing. Facebook continually makes changes to their system and recently I noticed the images on my posts from twitter were not showing up. I figured out how to edit those posts and add the images so I made that adjustment.Then a day or so ago, Facebook removed the ability to add images to such posts when you are editing them. I had to make another adjustment to get it to work. Persistence is key to this process for every writer.

There are many strange technical things that happen every day in the process of my work. Do I let it derail me and keep me from working or do I persist and find a way around it? These challenges often have nothing to do with me but it takes persistence to accomplish the work.

How are you applying persistence into your writing life? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Don't Be an Unreachable Author

Last night I came home from another terrific writers' conference. In addition to teaching three hour-long workshops, I met one-on-one with over 35 writers.  Each of my workshops had a good attendance and after each one, numerous people came forward to get my business cards and give me their information. Besides these moments of interaction. we ate three meals together during this event.

During one of the meals, I spoke for a while with an author who works with other authors in editing and copywriting. I enjoyed this conversation and wanted to reach out to this author. The conference had a bookstore and while I didn't get a lot of time to look at these books, I noticed this author had copies of a how-to-write book on a topic I had not seen. I searched Amazon and saw this author had only three reviews for her book. Since I have written many reviews for books, I did not purchase this how-to book. Instead I wanted to reach out to this author. I intend to ask for a “review” copy of her book and offer to review this book. It is a book that I'm interested in reading. This exchange of books for my review is a common one in the publishing community.

This author told me that she had given me her business card. I dug into my business cards and located her information. It was an attractive card which included her name, a title or two of her book and her website. The card was missing an email address or a phone number or an address. One of the hardest elements to proofread and think about is something not on the page (or card). Your email address is one of the critical elements which should be on every business card.

I continued my process to try and reach this author. I looked at her website.  It was a clean and crisp site but included no contact page and no contact information. Some sites have a form you can fill out and it goes to the author's email. I've filled out these forms in the past to reach authors but this one didn't have such a page or form. I searched for her on Facebook and noticed we are Facebook friends. I have over 4,900 Facebook friends (almost the maximum of 5,000). I wrote her a little Facebook message.

Finally I thought about LinkedIN where I have a lot of publishing connections (over 5,200). I signed on to LinkedIN and searched for her name. Turns out we were connected there so I downloaded her profile and finally located her email address. I will reach out to her in a bit with my request to review her book.

I'm writing about this experience because I want you to look at your own situation as an author. How easy are you to reach? Is your contact information on your website? If not, are you using a contact form which goes to your personal email address?

I understand how you may be a private person and don't want everyone to have your contact information—but you do want people to be able to reach you when they have a legitimate need or request. This situation of the unreachable is not unusual and you'd be surprised how often it happens working with authors and going to conferences. After the editor or agent returns home, you want them to be able to reach you and follow-up. It can't happen if your contact information is not easily available. Don't be an unreachable author.

Are others able to easily reach you? What techniques are you using? Let me know in the comments below.


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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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