As I begin a new year (2018), I take some time to reflect on the accomplishments of last year and also look ahead to what I want to happen in the year ahead. I'm grateful for the different opportunities I've had to write and also help others. As I get into this reflective mode, I look at some of my habits. For example, over the last few years, I've focused on growing a large following on Twitter which has grown to over 220,000 last year and continues to grow. Twitter has added a graphic of twitter impressions (see this image from my twitter page)
Since 2008 when I joined Twitter, I have tweeted almost 40,000 times. In recent years, I tweet about publishing and writing almost a dozen times a day. I use a tool called Hootsuite which has a free version and also a paid version. Recently I have switched to the paid version because Hootsuite added a limit of the number of future tweets you could have on the free version. I exceeded this number. For me, Hootsuite has been the right tool for my social media because: --I can schedule the tweets --I can add an image to my tweets (important for visibility) Because of my commitment to Twitter and Hootsuite, I have developed my own system with my tweets. For example, I begin my day with an inspirational quote. As I locate these quotes in various places, I cut and paste them into my Hootsuite with a photo. I've saved many of my photos in a little folder on my desktop called Twitter photos. Rather than search each time for a photo, I often have an image saved in my folder because I've saved them and developed an easy system to keep and retrieve them.
Your writing goals will be different from mine. Maybe you want to be published in more print magazines. You will need to learn how to write a query letter and develop a pattern or habit of pitching editors on a regular basis. If they are Christian publications, I encourage you to use the Christian Writers Market Guide 2018. If they are general market publications, then use the 2018 Writers Market Guide and make sure you are contacting the right editors with your pitches. You can also find the Writers Market Guide in the reference section of most public libraries. If you want to sell more of your books, then you will need to be reaching your audience through the radio or print or social media or your own newsletter list. Each of these venues are effective and ones where you will need to learn the right tools and develop a regular pattern or system. As I use my various regular patterns or systems, I don't have to reinvent anything but simply use what I've created earlier over and over. What tools are you using with your writing? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. Tweetable: Every writer must use the right tools for your writing. Get some ideas here. (ClickToTweet)
With the large number of new books releasing every day, authors need to show up in unexpected places with their books. While I acquire books for Morgan James Publishing, I also attempt to follow my own advice and model this principle of my books appearing in unexpected and new places.
In this article, I want to tell you about two places my book, Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist has shown up in recent days—yet I'm giving the details about how this happened—and you can take similar action with your books. Five days ago, I got a random email from Jeff D'Alessio, an editor at The News-Gazette in Champaign/ Urbana. Jeff told about putting together a story on well-known people from Illinois in celebration of the 200th birthday of the state. He asked, “The question (just need a few sentences — or paragraphs, if you’re so inclined): What’s one not-so-obvious/overdone remarkable fact, figure or anecdote about Billy Graham’s brief time in Illinois that you find particularly fascinating or interesting? Take it wherever you’d like. If you can’t pick one and want to send multiples to choose from, that works, too. Details are great for this. Anything that reveals why you find it so interesting.” Billy Graham had some significant milestones in his life in Illinois—meeting his wife, Ruth, and pastoring his first church. This request came on a very busy day for me—but I took a few minutes and pulled a brief excerpt from my book—in fact one that people normally had not seen—and sent it off to this editor—on the same day. From my years in publishing, I knew newspapers move quickly and you have to be responsive to have any possibility in this area. I received no response from D'Alessio. Yet today, a portion of my excerpt was at the top of his article along with my name, and the title of my book. The News-Gazette has a circulation of about 25,000. Normally I would not know about this article, but months ago, I set up a TalkWalkerAlert (FREE) for anything with my name “Terry Whalin.” The alert about the article showed up in my email. From my newspaper experience, I know these articles can fade quickly. I created a PDF of the article and uploaded it to my own website where it will never disappear (yet still gives credit to the publication). When you have these types of articles, I encourage you to take similar action to preserve the article. On Monday, December 18, Homekeepers on the Christian Television Network ran an interview about Billy Graham. You can see it here:
Yes I flew to Tampa, Florida for this 20–minute interview. I was grateful for the opportunity and show it to you here. Here's the age-old question that every author wants to know: Will this exposure help you sell more books? My answer is yes. Buying studies have shown that someone needs to hear about your book seven or eight or ten times before they buy it. Each exposure is a part of that process to tell others about your book. I'm continuing to promote a book which has been out over two years. As I interact with people, I encourage them to write reviews and received my 66th review yesterday. Many authors give up too soon on their book promotion then wonder why their book isn't selling. It takes an on-going effort. Is your book appearing in unexpected places? Give me some of the details in the comments below. Tweetable: Is Your Book Showing Up in Unexpected Places? Learn how here. (ClickToTweet)
Most of publishing isn’t good at communication any time of the year. Often it takes weeks to hear from an editor or literary agent. This time of year between Thanksgiving until after New Year's Day are an even slower time of year. It is like your submissions go into a black hole with no response. As an editor, I understand that people are focused on holiday shopping, sending greetings and other events which interrupt the typical publishing responses. At Morgan James Publishing, I'm still processing manuscripts with authors and contracts. Our publication board meets weekly (instead of the typical once a month) and has one more meeting before the end of the month. In a long-standing tradition, Morgan James will be closed from December 22nd until January 2nd .
How can you make your writing life productive during this period? It is possible for you to be active during this silent period of publishing. Last week I had the opportunity to drive to Denver and do an in-studio radio interview about my book, Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist. Most of these types of radio interviews are 20 to 30 minutes and I “thought” that was what I was doing. As I settled into my place in the studio, they thanked me for co-hosting the program (which I learned was two hours). I loved the opportunity to talk for two hours about Billy Graham—even if unexpected. Here's a little seven-minute glimpse at that session (use the link to download it and then open it on your computer).
Here’s six different ways to make the most of your writing during the holidays: 1. Work on building your platform and presence in the marketplace. Use my ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Writer on this topic or something else for some idea starters. Can you take some actions to increase your twitter followers or add to the number of people who are reading your newsletter? 2. Rework or update your website. I've not reworked my own website in some time and I'm going to use this time to update some of my websites. 3. Write a free ebook for a list generator. Can you take a series of blog posts or articles and turn them into a free ebook that you offer to your mailing list? Use this time to create such an ebook. 4. Create your own event in January. Your new ebook (#3) could be the ethical bribe that you use with this new event. Now is the time to be planning the details of such an event. 5. Read a book on marketing such as 5–Minute Book Marketing for Authors or Online Marketing for Busy Authors. Follow the links of those books because I wrote in detail about each of these books. When you read the book, apply some of the lessons to your books and writing. 6. Begin a new income stream. Writing has multiple paths and income possibilities. During this quiet time, select a path that you are not currently using such as affiliate marketing, then begin to develop a new income stream. I have a list of writing possibilities in the free sample of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. Follow this link to get this free resource. You may not be able to tackle all six of these ideas but hopefully several of them help you. Notice each of them are something you can do without a connection to an editor or agent. As a seventh way,I encourage you to polish or create a book proposal. Even if you are going to self publish, you will still need a proposal. The proposal is the blueprint for your book—especially if you are writing nonfiction. If you are writing fiction, you will still need this information for the platform and marketing section. A free resource to learn more insights about proposal creation is at: AskAboutProposals.com. You can move forward with your writing even during the holidays. I understand this time of year has many things pulling for your attention. It is a matter of commitment and focus to get these actions for your writing in motion. What suggestions do you have for your writing life during the holidays? Tell me in the comments. Tweetable: Make the Most of Your Writing During the Holidays. Get Six or Seven Ideas here. (ClickToTweet)
Unless you study my tweets on a regular basis, you probably don't know that I love going to movies. In fact, if I'm in town, we often go almost every week to some film. If the movie is worth it, after I get home, I will often send a tweet about the movie and a rating. Just like every book, not every movie is worth telling you about so if it is a dud then I say nothing about it. Last weekend, we saw The Man Who Invented Christmas which is currently in the theaters. If you haven't caught this film, I recommend you get there. Why? Because this film captures something unusual about the life of a writer and the writing process. The movie is set in 19th century England and tells the story behind the writing of the Charles Dickens' classic novel, A Christmas Carol. While over 50 movies have been made from the novel, this film captures something different. It is focused on the behind-the-scenes elements of how Dickens wrote the book. Yet like any good piece of fiction, the film still takes creative license with the historical facts. The acting from Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Scrooge is well-done and the story is a fun film. My reason for telling you about this movie is how it portrays the writing process and the pain that a writer must go through to create his work. The interaction with family members and how Dickens had to face personal nightmares from his own past to complete the work on deadline mirrors things that I've experienced in my own writing life. The epilogue of the movie said A Christmas Carol was released in bookstores on December 19, 1843. Every copy of the book was sold by Christmas Eve on December 24th. Also charitable giving throughout London dramatically increased that Christmas season. Dickens wrote this book in a short amount of time but it has become a Christmas classic about our need to be generous and celebrate life. This movie is one for the entire family yet it shows something important about the writing process. Tell me if you go to movies and how this experience feeds into your writing. Tell me in the comments below. Tweetable: What can you learn about writing through going to movies? Get some insights here. (ClickToTweet)
Over my writing life, I've written in many cluttered and noisy places—but it is not my preference or where I do my best creative work. For example, with my journalism training, I have written in busy noise editorial offices where everyone is pounding on their own keyboard right next to each other. The distractions are incredible in these situations. Some of my friends haul their laptop to a coffee shop and write. I've discovered I do some of my best creative work when my environment is organized. Yes some writers use organization as a method of procrastination. They sharpen their pencils and other such tasks to put off getting their hands on the keyboard and writing words. If I take time to get organized, I've discovered my writing is more focused and less distracted and I become more productive. 1. Clarify your current goals. What are you attempting to write and how are you moving forward to accomplishing those goals? If you aim at nothing, you will be certain to hit it. Take a few minutes to write down and clarify what you are trying to accomplish then plan the steps to get that done. Maybe you need to set a specific amount of words you are going to write every day on a project so it gets moving ahead. Or maybe you need to create a little chart of your word count game plan then cross it off with each accomplishment. Organizing your goals and plans then moving ahead is a key part of the process. Use this link to get a more detailed handout from a workshop I teach.
2. Reduce clutter in your office. Over the years, I've written more than 800 reviews on Amazon. This link is my public Amazon profile. Several times a day, I will receive emails from people who want me to read their book and write a review. Also in the mail, I get Advanced Reader Copies and review copies of books that authors and publishers want me to read and write reviews. In the last few months, the books have poured into my office and are currently overflowing my bookshelves and becoming clutter and somewhat chaos. I sort through the books and get my reading plans organized. 3. Expand your network and opportunities. Do you have unanswered email? Or phone calls that you have not returned? Instead of seeing it as a burden, you can view these emails and phone calls as an expansion of your network and new opportunities. It is often through the follow-up and follow-through that things will happen for you. I encourage you to continue meeting new people and expanding your writing network.
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4. Carry out what you've promised. One of the keys in the writing life is to complete what you've promised to complete. I have incomplete manuscripts and proposals and projects which have not been finished. An old proverb says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The good news is you can pick up projects which you didn't finish, make a new effort and get them done. 5. Look at new directions for your writing. Every writer needs to continually work at diversifying your income. Whatever is working now for you, may not be working in six months or a year. I've learned the hard way to create different income streams. Then when one slows or stops, you are not in a panic but able to quickly transition to something else.
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Several years ago, I interviewed Robert W. Bly (Bob Bly) who has created an active online information business. I encourage you to listen to this free interview (follow the link or click the image) and download the free Ebook, then take action to read and begin to create your own products. Or maybe your writing is headed in a different direction. Create and execute your game plan for this direction. OK, there you have my five ways to organize your writing. Let me know in the comments, the action steps you are taking for your writing life. Maybe you have other ideas for us. I look forward to seeing them.