Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Real Test of A Writer

For my writing life, I've created some routines and habits. These habits are important because I do them without thinking and they keep my writing and my publishing details on track and moving forward. For example, I've written about using Refollow to follow 800 new people every day on Twitter. Using these tools consistently allows my numbers to keep increasing and my platform to grow.

I am a long-term coffee lover. In fact, I have a coffee pot in my office area. I fill this pot with water and coffee ahead of time. When I get up in the morning, one of my first daily actions is to turn on my coffee pot. Then as I begin my day, I enjoy my coffee. Yet today my coffee was filled with grounds. The paper filter went wrong and the entire pot of coffee was wasted and filled with grounds. It was a giant mess. Instead of enjoying my coffee, I had to clean the pot and begin again. I finally got my coffee pot working today but it took more than simply pressing the button to turn it on. Instead of a calm start to my day, I had an immediate mess to clean.

From my recent back to back trips to events (with only two days in between), I picked up a cold virus. While I try and wash my hands on the road and be careful, despite my best intentions, I get sick. I've been increased my water consumption and trying to get more rest (even sleeping during the day a few times). I'm on the mend yet several days last week when I called authors, I'm certain I sounded different. Yet I continued making calls, writing emails, answering questions and pushing forward with the work.

Throughout my travels and illness because of using scheduling tools, my social media feeds continued without interruption. The consistency and persistence is important and a quality that I've mentioned many times in these articles. These interruptions is one of the real tests for a writer.

Everyone has unexpected things happen such as illness or a technical difficulty or countless other things. When you are at this point of decision, you have two choices. First, the unexpected can throw off your schedule and sour your attitude and prevent you from writing or meeting any other task you have as a writer. Or there is another choice: you can move forward with your writing, find a work around, switch gears to a different task and keep going. For me as a writer, I've tried to make the second choice my default action. It doesn't always work and some days I get thrown off track. Normally I determine to keep going and accomplish the task at hand. Sometimes it is consistency for writing. Other times it is working with my Morgan James authors and answering their questions and making phone calls. Your tasks will be different than mine. My encouragement is for you to find the way to make the choice to keep going.

Many others will make the first choice and get derailed from the process. Their writing will not get done and they will miss their deadlines and the books will not be published. Or maybe it is in the marketing area and their book will not get pushed and promoted so people hear about it and purchase it. If you have gotten derailed, every day is a new day. I encourage you to start fresh and keep going.

Recently in Nashville, I was talking with one of my Morgan James authors. This author has gone through some personal issues about the time his book was released two years ago. Now he has weathered that situation and is refocused on his book and the promotion. In my view, it is never too late to for a book. Yes you missed the launch of your book but are you still passionate about the topic and message in your book? As the author, your passion will drive the on-going marketing and promotion of your book. Your publisher will press on to other books. Your choice is to begin each day new and dig into the expansion of your topic and promotion. You are the only person who can determine it is too late.

What has derailed you and how are you making a fresh start on your writing life? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Four Reasons to Get With Other Writers

Terry Whalin teaching at the Independent Authors Conference
This weekend I just returned home from back to back conferences. I had two days at home between the events. Each one was a completely different experience. 

First, I spoke at the Independent Authors Conference in Philadelphia. Book Baby organized this event and it was their second year. I taught a six hour class in two three hour sessions about how to Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. This session was the day before the conference and included a small group of hungry writers—read fun to teach. This conference had about 400 people.
Some of IAC audience
I taught a packed room about the characteristics of successful writers. The speakers and sessions were on various topics and I met a number of people who I've corresponded with but never met face to face (again fun). Several of the people I met lived outside of the USA so it was a unique opportunity talk with them face to face.

Dr. Sherrie Campbell & Terry Whalin
Then I went to Nashville for our third Morgan James Publishing author event of the year. Our largest group of over 40 authors came to this unique gathering. As an acquisitions editor, I had not met many of the authors who I introduced to Morgan James. It was a brief but intense time with authors and my colleagues at Morgan James. Prior to the Morgan James event, I went to Lipscomb University for the Art of Writing Conference from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

Author Panel at the Art of Writing
The afternoon and evening concluded with the Christy Awards to celebrate excellence in Christian fiction. The timing was perfect for me because of the Morgan James event and it gave me a chance to see old friends and meet new ones.

Our writing is a solitary experience. We sit and crank words into our computer. As storytellers (whether nonfiction or fiction), the start of the process is something we do individually. You don't have to continue alone. We are a part of a larger writing community which has been a large reminder to me again through these events. 

In this article,. I want to detail four reasons for you to attend events with other authors. While I've just returned from some amazing events, I recognize there are many types of opportunities for writers and my encouragement is for you to seize them and take action. 

Here's my four reasons why you want to attend these events:

1. Discover Innovative Ideas and Learn from Others. Whether in a classroom lecture setting or through a one on one conversation, I gained numerous insights from these events. The real work will come as I apply this information to my work. One author told me about how he was a poor typist and uses Dragon Naturally Speaking for all of his writing—including his emails. Years ago I tried this program with poor results so I did not continue yet this insight intrigued me and is something I hope to explore soon in my own work. I have pages of notes and insights from these events that I apply in the days ahead.

2. Invigorate your own writing and marketing. From being with other writers, I gained new insights and marketing ideas. Dr. Joe Malone and Sarah Harris have recently released Battles of the Sexes (Morgan James). They brought copies of their book and gave them to other authors (always a good idea). When I picked up the book, a page was sticking out from back. The natural inclination is to turn to this page and straighten it. This page thanked readers and encouraged them to be in touch with the authors—then it added something more with a handwritten note: “Review on Amazon and Connect with us. Joe & Sarah.” The bent page was brilliant to call attention. It takes some additional effort and work but will pay off for these authors.

3. Opportunity to give and help others. I've had numerous conversations with authors but also the chance to teach and give back and encourage. I will never know the impact of those conversations to help others.

4. Make new connections and renew others. I exchanged numerous business cards with authors at these events. The follow-up work will be critical to continue the relationship and explore new opportunities. If you follow-up, you will be rare since many people never do.

To attend a writers group, you don't have to travel. Maybe you have one in your area. Could you offer to speak at this group? There are infinite possibilities but you have to take action and attend. When you attend, bring your books and business cards to continue the relationship.

Are you consistently getting with other writers? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, November 04, 2018

Are You Building a Body of Work?

The conversation happened years ago yet I recall it like yesterday. I learned a guiding principle for my writing life in publishing. I was on the faculty of a writers' conference which no longer exists. Along with another faculty member who was a literary agent, we were on our way to the event. I had written a few books and been a magazine editor but not worked inside a publishing company. It was early on in my writing career. This agent advised, “Be building a body of work.” It was sound and profound counsel.

Many writers are focused on a book or several books but not understanding the need to build a body of work. That work appears in many places—including books—but also in magazines and online. It is not built overnight but in a continual stream of publishing.

Last week I was speaking with a new potential author for Morgan James Publishing. During our conversation. she commented on my digital footprint. What happens when someone “googles” your name? What do they find on the first few pages? Your digital footprint is part of your body of work as a writer. It's something built over time and with consistent action—like these weekly articles for The Writing Life. Your faithful actions will pay off in the long run.

While on this important topic of building a body of work, let me include several other important reminders for every author.

1. Our words are eternal. Recently I read this article from publisher and long-term friend Dan Balow about the lasting element of words online. As you post on social media, blog or write magazine articles or books, it's good to be reminded these words are captured online forever—a very long time.

2. Your reputation matters. Whether you are conscious of it or not, each interaction with others is building your reputation in the publishing community. From my years in this business, good communication is important and the smallest details can matter.

3. Consistency counts. As you work in the writing field, make sure you do the basics like return phone calls and answer emails. These simple business practices will pay off for you in the long run and help you build an even larger body of work.

How are you building a body of work in the publishing world? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, October 28, 2018

An Important Truth to Remember

Here's an important truth for every writer to keep in mind. Are you ready for it? Here it is: Much of the world is outside of your control.  I know pretty obvious? Yet when your chaotic world falls apart (and everyone has things which happen), it is important to remember that you can't control everything. In fact, some days you feel like you can't control anything.

Let me give you a couple of examples from my life in publishing. I recently promoted through my email list and social media, one of my long-term friends. I was using an affiliate link and going to earn money (eventually) from my promotion activities. Then the friend's computer crashed and the event is now going to be rescheduled. The potential earnings and promotion are now delayed but completely outside of anything I could have controlled or foreseen.

Here's another one. Recently I was looking forward to traveling to a live event. The event looked to have a great crowd and the people would be good potential authors for my work with Morgan James Publishing. Then the organizer got laryngitis and cancelled the event. She told me it was her first time to have to cancel an event in the 20 or so she had held before. It will be rescheduled in the spring but again the details were outside of my control.

When you have these types of things happen to your writing life, here's several things to do:

1. Don't let it make you depressed or ineffective. Yes the emotions are real and play into our work but shrug off what you can't control.

2. Change course and keep going in new directions. Our writing world has endless possibilities. If you need a list of possibilities, then download this free chapter from my Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams book (no optin).

3. Determine again to control what you can and let the rest go. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Maybe get outside and walk around the block. The fresh air will help you clear your head and return with new enthusiasm.

4. When you went in a new direction (#2), now dig into your new work. Because you are working on a different area, hope can increase and you can move forward.

As a writer, there are dozens of directions that you can go. Your consistent action and moving forward in the chaos is one of the keys from my experience. Yes there is much in our world that we can't control but we can take control of our own writing. As you faithfully meet your own deadlines and writing projects, you will be able to touch and help many people. If I can help you in this process, let me know. In the meantime, I will be cheering you forward.

When your writing spins out of control, what steps to you take? Are they different than the ones I wrote about here? Let me know in the comments.


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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Distribute Selected Targeted Content

One of the blogs I read consistently is from the Steve Laube Agency. I've known the various writers for years and they write solid valuable content. If you haven't subscribed to their email version of their articles, I recommend it. Recently literary agent Dan Balow wrote about Eternal Words. It's a concept that I keep in mind with every social media post and blog article—my words are around online forever. If you feel a rant coming on or want to post something strange—think twice before you send it out to the world.
I've written over 1400 articles for The Writing Life and I've posted thousands of tweets and other social media posts. With each one I've thought about the eternal nature of our words. A few weeks ago I wrote about developing writing routines.

One of my routines is to use Hootsuite to schedule my social media posts. I post numerous times throughout a day (12–15 times) yet each post is crafted and includes an image along with often a link to additional insights. As I write each one I'm asking:

1) Is this information right for my target audience?

2) Is the article that I'm highlighting timeless? For example, this time of year, a number of articles are about Halloween but I'm scheduling the posts in the future. It is not appropriate to post an article about Halloween in December.

If you study my tweets, it doesn't take much to see they are in patterns. I begin each day with an inspirational quotation. Then I follow with a couple of posts which include my writing (either on my blog or a free ebook or teleseminar). The bulk of my posts are targeted content for people interested in publishing or writing with links to additional articles and insights. Finally I end my social media posts with another article or free ebook or teleseminar or product. The next day, I begin the process again.

My encouragement is that you create your own pattern for your posts. This routine will help you be consistent and yet not have to invent something new each time. I am constantly reading blogs and articles about publishing and writing. When I find something that fits my audience, I will often schedule it right away. My social media feed can be a remarkable education for the reader about the world of publishing. Your audience and your material will be different. My intention with this article is to give you some ideas and help your planning and social media posts.

How are you distributing targeted content for your audience? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Are Your Book Chapters Like Pringles?

For many years, I've admired and read the books from New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg. We follow each other on Twitter and have exchanged emails. I've reviewed and promoted his books but never met face to face. His parents live nearby and attend Calvary Chapel South Denver. When Joel's father retired after four decades as an architect, they created Ministry Architecture. I learned about their annual fund raiser at their church, bought a ticket and attended the event. As a writer, be aware of these types of events (which may be in your city) then make plans and attend them. In my local Denver Post newspaper, the Tattered Cover announces author events each week in the Sunday newspaper. Attending these types of events can give you some unique opportunities—if you are aware and seize them.

His first novel was The Last Jihad (Forge Books) published in 2003. This political thriller was a page turner with an opening that I still recall 15 years after reading it (yes that good and memorable). The book caught on and reached the New York Times bestseller list. A committed Christian, Rosenberg moved this book and his future books to Tyndale House Publishers.He has written several nonfiction books but the majority of his books are fast-paced political thrillers.

Rosenberg spoke to a packed crowd for over two hours. The majority of his talk was about flash points and current geo-political events where he has first hand knowledge. I found it educational and fascinating. Woven into his speaking were several keys for writers that I want to emphasize in this article.

1. Joel C. Rosenberg is a brilliant storyteller and writer. I suspect some of it is his natural ability but other skills he learned and perfected. Every writer needs to learn how to spin a solid story whether in print or orally.

2. As a writer, Joel Rosenberg is plugged into the world geo-politics, traveling and meeting with world leaders. He mentioned meeting with the President of Egypt, the U.S. Secretary of State and other officials—and these meetings were recent with a current and fresh perspective. Formerly he lived in Washington, D.C. and now he lives in Israel. His lifestyle plays into his writing. If you want to know more details and keep up on Rosenberg's insights, one of the ways he suggested was subscribing to his blog updates (follow this link).

3. He pours his personal insights about the world into his novels. He talked about writing chapters that were like eating Pringles. He dares his readers to just read one chapter without continuing to the next chapter. The ongoing action and short chapters compel readers to keep going. Rosenberg told about getting regular emails from readers who have stayed up all night reading his novels. Now that is amazing storytelling and something each of us should aspire with our writing. Are you making your book chapters to be consumed like Pringles?

Each of us can be learning and growing from our world around us. I encourage you to take action in this area in the days ahead.

When a bestselling author comes near you, do you attend the event and what do you learn or gain? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, October 07, 2018

Create Writing Routines

I have a number of writing habits including writing each week for the Writing Life. Every morning I use Refollow to follow 800 new people in my target market.  I've been doing this habit for years and yes clicking my mouse 800 times is a bit boring and routine. Why do it? Because consistent use of this tool is one of the reasons that I have a large following on Twitter. This fact combined with the other habits I've created have gathered a large following or platform. Follow this link to learn the details of my every day actions on Twitter.

Every day I read and/or listen to audiobooks. As I read, I'm learning new things but also feeding into my writing life and habits. As I've mentioned before, for every book that I read or hear (good or bad). I take a few minutes and write a review. I've reviewed over 900 books and products on Amazon and over 500 books on Goodreads. This volume has happened because I've created a writing habit which I execute over and over.

Currently I am listening to an audiobook from historian Doris Kearn Goodwin called Leadership. It's a book on the current bestseller list and I got the book from my local library through Overdrive. Goodwin compares the leadership style of four different U.S. Presidents. In my listening so far, she has included Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. The background and style of each man and how they tackled the leadership issue has been insightful. Eventually when I complete the book, I will write and post a review. Listening to audiobooks is a habit I've cultivated which feeds into my writing.

Whether you write a lot of a little, consistency is one of the keys. If you begin a blog, then I encourage you to grow that blog and consitently write or post on it. Some people use guest bloggers to fill their blog. There are many different ways to do it—just be consistent as a basic principle. You can also reuse this material or a book or in a newsletter or any number of places. I have a free teleseminar about reusing your content. Also I have a 31 Day course on making money from your blog which is risk-free during the guarantee period.

Your writing routines will be different from my routines. Create patterns in your life for your writing. If you do, I believe you will be more consistent, prolific and productive. In some cases, a routine can become boring but change it up to keep it interesting—yet continue doing the action. Each of us as writers needs to be continually building our email list, completing magazine writing deadlines, getting to events and meeting new people.

In my view, the payoff for having a writing routine is completing and getting done what others just dream of doing. Many people want to write a book but if you get that book published you enter a smaller circle of people. And if your book sells (and not just a few but in a large number), then you enter even a smaller number of people who succeed in writing a bestselling book.

One of the basics is creating writing routines then sticking with those routines. What sort of writing routines do you have? Let me know in the comments below.


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