Sunday, July 14, 2019

Writers Must Look in Two Directions

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

When I was a child, my parents sternly warned me, “Look both ways before you cross the street.” It was wise counsel then and is also relevant today. As writers, we have immediate deadlines and long-range plans. Are you working on both? These actions are important for every writer and it is something that I do every day—work on both types of deadlines.

Immediate Plans

As an acquisitions editor at Morgan James, I am processing submissions and talking with authors about the details of Morgan James to see if it is a fit for their book. If so, then I need to champion the book to my colleagues with relevant details to see if they will agree—and then send an official publishing contract. When the contract comes, I need to send it to the author (or their literary agent) and then answer questions and negotiate and finalize the contract. There are numerous steps in this process yet it is important to keep moving on these submissions and contracts. It is a continual part of my immediate work.

Also as an editor, I make follow-up calls and send follow-up emails to authors about their contract to see if they have questions and encourage them to move forward. Authors have many choices about their books and sometimes it takes many of these follow-up calls before they sign and move forward. It is a continual process and often with many twists and turns.

As a writer, I'm sending magazine editors and online editors requested articles on their deadlines. I have a number of these deadlines and use reminders on my phone to make sure I meet their needs. As my friend New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins says only one in a hundred writers will hit their deadline. As you meet deadlines, it is one of the simple ways you can distinguish yourself from others.

Another immediate deadline is to prepare for upcoming conferences. For example, next month I will be teaching a continuing class on Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers. The conference gives the faculty deadlines for their handouts. I have taught this class other places so I have a prepared handou—yet I need to check this handout and make sure everything is working on it (all the resources, etc.). My class will be teaching related but distinct material from my book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams.

Another immediate deadline is working on growing and feeding my own social media connections as well as my own network and platform. The growth process is continual for every author. These immediate deadlines are just examples of immediate deadlines—and not a comprehensive list.

Long-range Plans

Besides these immediate plans, I am constantly initiating long-range plans as well. I'm in discussion with some authors and publishers about writing projects. I'm blocking time and regularly writing on my current book project. I'm initiating and making marketing plans for the launch of my next book. I'm pitching myself as a speaker at forthcoming conferences and events. Some of these plans are for events in a few months and some of them extend into next year. Long-range plans are also mixed into my schedule.

As you think about your own writing life, are you looking in both directions? How are you mixing short term plans and long-term plans into your day? Let me know in the comments below.


Are you making immediate and long range plans for your writing?Get insights here from this prolific reader and writer.  (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, July 07, 2019

How To Handle Criticism

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

The old expression is true: everyone's a critic (or can be). In this world of social media, multiple ways to reach people with your ideas and thoughts, how do you handle criticism?

Several weeks ago, I received a short email asking me if one of my websites was actually my site. The email continued and said she wondered about it because of some typos on the site for some common words. I thanked her for the email and said I would look into the errors.

If you follow my work, you know that I have a number of domains and products online that I've developed over a period of years.  I fill the orders from these sites (sometimes automatically if they are an Ebook) but in general they operated without the need for me to go and check out the site. 

A few hours later, when I checked this site, I learned this person was right. The website had some basic words misspelled and these words made her wonder if it was really my website or was something fake. In a short amount of time, I printed the entire website and reviewed it carefully line by line looking and marking any typographic errors. Because I handle my own website design, I loaded my design program and fixed the various errors. A few hours later, I wrote this author, expressed appreciation for her feedback and let her know I had fixed the errors. Also in my email, I briefly touted some of the benefits others had achieved from the product on this site. She responded that she appreciated how quickly I had fixed the issues.

I have a second recent story to tell you about this area. In recent months, I've been working on a new book which will release late this year. Behind the scenes, I've been working on this book—and in fact, I was able to take some early copies to a recent conference and sell some of them. A new author bought the book and wrote an email saying she had noticed some typos in the book. I wrote back and asked for the specifics. A day or two later, this writer sent pages with the details.  I have worked through these details and fixed the various issues. Does that mean everything is perfect now? The book creation process is not one time but an ongoing activity. The proof will be in future feedback from readers.

As writers, everyone receives criticism. When it happens, each of us have a choice how we respond. Some people choose not to read their critics and not to respond. Admittedly you have to use wisdom and discretion because you don't want to set off a firestorm (as we see sometimes on social media in particular).

One of the best ways for writers to learn about handling criticism is to join a critique group. Follow this link if you want more details.

Here's four basic principles about how to handle criticism: 

1. Listen to the feedback. If you can't stand to read it, ask a spouse or friend to read it and see if the criticism is valid and something needs to change.

2. Be even handed and matter of fact about your response. Don't show the other person your irritation or emotion—even if you actually feel it. Possibly craft your response on an email or written letter rather than on the phone because you can respond with more care and deliberation.

3. Thank them for their feedback. This response is often an unexpected one but everyone likes gratitude and appreciation.

4. Take action to make the necessary changes. Maybe it is a behavior you will have to change but maybe it is something in print or online that can be fixed.

From my years in publishing, I understand it's best to have a team for the process. If you are self-publishing, then create your own team of readers and colleagues. Your overall goal should be an excellent writing to put into the world. Yes there will be critics but listen to your critics and handle them with care.

How do you handle criticism? Let me know in the comments below.


How do you handle criticism? Here's several ideas from a prolific editor and writer. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

What Writers Can Learn From Songland

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Some of my friends have grown tired of television and rarely watch it. While I'm involved in reading and many types of publishing, I continue to watch television.  In the last few weeks, NBC has launched a show called Songland. The premise is to find a hit song for a top recording artist. Each week the artist changes and have included John Legend, will.i.am, Kelsea Ballerini and the Jonas Brothers. Four song writers come into the studio where they sing their new song in front of the artist and three legendary music producers. Then the artist narrows the four songs to three and these songs are improved with the producers. At the end of the show, the artist picks one of the three songs to record and include on their next album (the prize for the song writers).

Here's a short video clip from the program:

I know almost nothing about the music industry but I've been fascinated to compare the process for Songland with book publishing. I've been aware of several lessons:

1. The best music like publishing is a collaborative process. Yes a self-published book can become a hit but from my experience the ones that do had a sharp professionally designed cover (not from Fiverr.com), used a professional editor to create an excellent manuscript and used a launch team process to get the book attention and out into the market (among other things). Can you come up with a hit by yourself and your own resources? Yes it is possible but very unlikely because of the benefits of working with a team and the great things that happen from this collaborative process. It's why the best agents from my experience work over their proposals and greatly improve them before pitching them to publishers.

2. The artist selects the winner for their listeners—just like a publisher selects which books they will invest and publish. You might not agree with the song they seleft but the final decision is in the hands of the artist. I hope the national exposure for these song writers opens some great doors of opportunity beyond the television program—but I have no idea if this is happening.

3. You are only seeing one piece of the process. Like with book publishing, I suspect with song writing there is a great deal to the process. You have to write a great book proposal and pitch to get into the pub board room where your book is pitched to publishing executives. I assume the process is similar with song writing. Each song writer has to work hard on lyrics and melody to get selected to be one of these four possibilities for the artist.

Have you watched Songland? What lessons have you learned about song writing and other types of writing? Let me know in the comments below.


Discover Three Lessons for Writers from the TV Show Songland. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Three Reasons to Write Devotions

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Recently at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference I spent some time speaking with Susan King, who for many years has been an editor at The Upper Room. If you don't know about this devotional publication (a bi-monthly), it reaches six million readers. Each devotion has a particular format and are less than 300 words. I have been published in The Upper Room but it was years ago. In the early days of my writing for publication, I often wrote devotionals. Susan told me they continue to need more devotions from men and in particular from the Old Testament (except Psalms). These pieces of advice are important so I write something that meets their publication needs. As a writer, you can go in many different directions so this focus was very helpful.

After speaking with Susan, I decided I would write some devotions and submit them for consideration. During the conference, I went to the freebie table and collected a sample magazine and their guidelines. Whenever you want to write for a magazine, studying their publication and guidelines is always the first step to getting published.

With a publication and writing target in sight, I began to think about writing some devotions. It is a different type of writing than I have done in a while. I decided to write several devotions for the same publication to increase my possibilities for getting published.

Here's three reasons to write devotions:

1. Different can be good for your writing. Sometimes we get in a rut with our writing. Devotional writing is a connection to the spiritual and applying these lessons to your writing. For me, writing a devotional is different from writing a chapter in a book or a book proposal or other types of magazine writing. As a writer, you still get to practice your storytelling craft with devotionals.

2. Devotions are short. They are often 300 words or less. This type of writing can be a challenge to say something meaningful with only a few words. The Upper Room guidelines give insight into this area encouraging you to look at snapshots of life in the stories that you include.

3. Looking for devotions to write puts you in touch with the “God moments” in your life. It is easy for life to drift past if you aren't in touch with these spiritual moments in your life (at least it is for me). I began to consciously look for these moments and grew more aware of them in my life.

Bonus reason 4. Devotion writing is another way to serve others with your writing and also a way to gain your own exposure. If my devotion gets published in The Upper Room, I will reach millions of readers.

Do you write devotions? What are your reasons for writing them? Let me know in the comments below.


Learn Three Reasons to Write Devotions from this prolific reader and writer. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Interview Others to Grow as a Writer

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

For many years, I interviewed authors about their books and the craft of writing for magazine articles. Sitting with these bestselling authors and asking them about writing taught me much more than I could pour into a 1500 word or even a 1,000 word magazine article.  Interviewing others is a critical skill for any writer.

If you don't interview others for your magazine articles, I recommend you write some query letters and pitch writing personality profiles. These profiles are magazine articles focused on a single person and many publications love these types of stories. After you get the assignment from an editor, you can secure your interview with the person. If they are well-known and you don't know how to reach them, go to someone in the publicity section of their book publisher. These publicity people book interviews for journalists to reach their authors.

These publicity people will track down the author, nail down a time for your interview. I always ask for 45 minutes to an hour for the interview to make sure I get what I need for my profile. Also these publicity people will send you review copies of any books and background that you need. Gather all of this information from the publisher ahead of time. Then read the books and look for unique insights and questions you can ask the personality.

If the person you are interviewing is well-known or has been interviewed often, your preparation and creating unique questions is a critical part of your preparation.  If you don't prepare, you will not gather unique stories and information from your interview. Instead the person will tell you their “stock stories” or material that they always tell journalists during their interviews.  For your article, you are looking for stories which have not been told or are rarely told.

As a part of your preparation, write down a list of specific questions. Take time to imagine yourself doing the interview and how you are going to ask different questions. As you specifically write them down, it will help your preparation for the interview. Then during the interview, use your questions but also be flexible to ask other questions as they happen. At the end of the interview, ask if there is something else you should have asked. It gives the individual a chance to sell you something they wanted to tell you.

Whether the interview is on the phone or in person, I tell the other person that I'm making a recording of our conversation and get their permission on the tape. As a practice, in general, I do not transcribe this tape (which from experience seems like a waste of time and energy). Instead I write from my notes but use the tape as a back up tool—and for expansion of information. I can't write fast enough to get down everything (at least in a format so I can read it after the interview). I have found this method of recording and using the tape for additional information as the most effective way for me to use the recording.

Also as a part of the interview, I ask the person how I can check the facts of my story with them before I send it to my editor. The editor may edit and change around the story—but I can protect the accuracy and integrity of what I'm sending. Most journalists never take this step in the interview process. Then if you publish something inaccurate, it will potentially ruin your relationship with the individual. If on the other hand, you check the details with the person, then you are taking steps to preserve your relationship with the person—and can easily return to them for something else in the future (even the distant future).

Last week instead of interviewing another person, Patricia Durgin interviewed me on Facebook Live. I loved Patricia's preparation and questions for this hour-long interview. You can follow this link to watch the interview.

Do you interview others? Has it helped you grow as a writer? Let me know your experiences and tips in the comments below.


Discover interviewing others is a way to grow as a writer. Get insights from this prolific journalist and author. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, June 09, 2019

What Is Your Publishing Agenda?

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In the early days of my writing life, I wanted to be published in as many magazines and other places as I could publish. I met editors, studied their guidelines and wrote for their readers. I didn't always succeed and get published but it happened frequently and I grew as a writer (still learning). I wasn't focused on the financial rewards from publishing back then but I was focused on writing credits and getting into many different publications.

Through the years, I've seen many magazines begin and many magazines close their doors. There is still great opportunity for writers to publish in magazines. It is a stance that I encourage others to do and something I actively do as well.

At a recent conference, I picked up some of the free magazines and took them home to study them. As I looked at these magazines, I was thinking about their audience and focus. Did they use freelance material? What information was included in the author bio? Did they even mention any details about the author such as a new book or point to an author's website?

As you ask and answer these specific questions, you will learn more about the focus of the publication and their agenda. I noticed several of these publications had material that I “could” be a possible writer. Yet as I studied the author bio section, I noticed several didn't even have a single line about the author. Others included some information but nothing about an author's book or website. I figured out the agenda of the publication (which the editor's establish) was not a match for my own publishing agenda. My agenda is to reach new readers and point toward my recent books or a website. Your agenda has to match the agenda of the publication otherwise you are wasting your limited writing time and energy.

One local editor has been teasing me about writing for her publication. At my encouragement, she sent me a few issues of the magazine. I studied it and noticed this differing agenda (the magazine's agenda and my goals). Instead of blindly crossing them off my writing possibilities, I wrote this friend about what I observed. She can correct my misunderstanding or confirm it. It's the type of communication work we need to do as writers and something I've not written about in these articles. I hope it helps you.

In the comments below, let me know if you have a publishing agenda? What steps to you take to see if your agenda matches a new publication for your work? I look forward to your thoughts.


Do you have a publishing agenda for your writing? Get some ideas from this prolific writer. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, June 02, 2019

Control Your Social Media

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In recent years, I've gained a large social media following with over 200,000 on Twitter, over 4,900 Facebook friends and over 12,000 connections on LinkedIn. In other articles, I've provided details about what I am doing and how I am doing it. Today I want to talk about a different aspect of social media: control.

All of these social posts are something I personally do. I don't have an assistant or someone else doing it. I realize several things:

--consistency is important

--people are reading this information and at times responding to it

--the information will be online FOREVER (yes I understand that all CAPS is shouting but I want to make sure you see these posts are around for a very long time)

The words matter. I begin each day with an inspirational quotation and an image of this person. Today on one of these social networks, someone added a comment about the person I quoted and flamed this person because of other actions they have taken. The comment was inappropriate and very public—and I've watched these types of things escalate on social media to move in a strange direction. I immediately deleted the comment. Then I took further action: I blocked this person from this network so they can never again make such a comment on my posts. I'm in control of my own social media so I took immediate action. Yes I believe in free speech but I also understand that I can control my own social media.

When you read something you don't agree with, you can post a comment or you can move on in silence or you can write the person directly (not public). Each of us have choices in this area. The person who puts out the social media post has a choice and the person who responds (or doesn't) also has a choice.

Several points in this area:

1. Take control of your social media

2. Monitor the comments so you can respond and engage with it. Engagement is a huge reason for being active in social media and the more your audience is engaging, the better in my view.

3. Use tools like Hootsuite and others to help you easily monitor the responses to your social posts. For example, people try to send me direct messages often on Twitter and I don't read those on Twitter because of the time involved (mine is limited for social media because of other things I do throughout the day—a choice). Instead I read these messages and at times respond through Hootsuite. Find your own way to handle this aspect of social media.

4. Always look for ways to expand your readership and grow your social networks. I'm not talking about doing it artificially where you buy Twitter followers but organically where you connect with more and more people. As you increase your reach, you will increase your interest from editors and literary agents and others in the publishing community.

OK, that's my view on the necessity for us to take control of our social media. Do you agree or not? Let me know in the comments below.


Are you in control of your social media? Get insights here from a prolific editor and author. (ClickToTweet)

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