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Sunday, September 25, 2022


How To Have Perfect Timing


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Much of the publishing world is outside of our control as writers. Publishers, editors, agents, retailers and readers are just a few of the key decision makers in the publishing process. As someone who writes for a variety of places and works in the community as an acquisitions editor, occasionally I see internal dynamics which will make a decision go against the author instead of in their favor to get published.
 
Here's a recent example, an author submitted an excellent book which was appropriate for our publishing house. In addition this author was committed to spending a large and explicitly stated amount of money on the promotion of this book. Yet when my colleagues looked at the details, the manuscript was large and in fact when moved into production was going to be over 400 pages. My colleagues asked me to return to the author and see if he would be willing to reduce the book manuscript to something with a higher likelihood greater book sales or possibly split it into two books. When I spoke with the author, he was unwilling to reduce it or split it. This stance became a red flag warning that he was not coachable and would likely be a “difficult” author. Despite the large promotion money, my colleagues decided to pass on publishing this book.
 
I'm telling you this story for several reasons. Publishers are looking for authors but the right authors and publishers also have experience about what sells and doesn't sell in the marketplace. As a writer, you show them something through your response. In this case the author revealed his lack of flexibility and willingness to learn from the publisher. The publisher made their decision from this interaction.
 
Because there are many details that can be seen and unseen outside of your control as a writer, how can you have perfect timing? 
 
1. Be active pitching your ideas and book proposals. Whether it is a guest blog post or podcast or radio show interview or speaking at an event or publishing a book, the author (or their representative) has to be pitching them. You have to be actively pursuing these opportunities because in general they will not come to you through passive activity.
 
2. Be consistently meeting new people. As writers we need to be constantly expanding our network and connections. As I've often written in these entries, who you know is as important as what you know.  It's one of the reasons I continue to expand my connections on LinkedIN. Last week I spoke with an experienced editor who called me and was referred from another friend. I spoke with this editor and also we connected on LinkedIN.  This editor was looking for either a full-time position or freelance work. I noticed his small number of connections on LinkedIN and encouraged him to expand them.
 
3. Seize and follow-up, when an opportunity comes across your desk (for anything). You must actively do something.  Your activity and consistency is one of the critical elements for finding and having opportunity.
 
4.  Learn new aspects and continue to experiment. You must apply what you are learning to your writing life. There are many different paths to success. You can learn from many different sources such as live events, reading books, reading online, taking courses and much more. Be committed to continually learning.
 
You can't control anyone other than yourself. Take your own responsibility and get out there. Like the author Paul Little said, “God can't steer a parked car.” The timing for many parts of publishing is simply outside of our control. Your consistent action and perserverance will be the difference maker. Many others will give up and yet you continue. Then some day your timing will be perfect.
 
I'd like to have perfect timing and the only way I've found achieve it is to take consistent action. What insights have you found to have perfect timing? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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Sunday, September 18, 2022


Dos and Don'ts When Signing Books


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Several months ago, one of my long-term author friends rolled his eyes when I asked him to sign my book. He probably didn't know I noticed his lack of enthusiasm for signing books. He took my black sharpie and scribbled something and handed it back to me. Weeks later when I read this book and wrote a review of it, I discovered the print copy I received was an early release before the book arrived in the bookstores. My friend never mentioned this detail when he gave me the book. I'm always interested what authors do to sign their books.
 
Through the years I've watched many authors sign their books at events as well as to sign my copy of their book.  I've interviewed more than 150 bestselling authors and to prepare for my interview, I often read several of their books then bring them with me to my interview. At the end of the time, I ask them to sign my book. In my office, I have a section when I've kept a number of these signed books.
 
In this article, I'm going to give a series of don'ts and dos related to signing books.
 
Don'ts
 
Don't sign the inside of the front cover. It is not where people expect you sign to a book—even though I've seen a number of new authors sign on the inside of their front cover.
 
Don't simply sign your name. Some people want a generic signture without their name but in most situations, people want the signature personalized to them. Years ago I sat with a bestselling author in his living room and interviewed him for about an hour. At the end of our time, I asked him to sign my book. “Sure,” he said as he pulled out his pen, opened my book and signed his name (and nothing else) then handed it back to me. I didn't say anything but was surprised at the little effort he put into signing my book—not even including my name. After this experience, I decided that if anyone asked me to sign their book, I would put more effort into personalizing it for that reader.
 
Dos
 
Do sign on the title page for your book. The tile page is the common place to sign a book. If you have endorsements, this page is located several pages from the front of your book and right before the copyright page. The page layout often has room for you to personalize it and sign your name.
 
Do use a black permanent ink pen. These pens are the common ones authors use to sign books and present a bold black line for their writing and your signature.
 
Do personalize the book. You are creating a keepsake for this person when you sign their book.
  
My Personal Pattern to Sign a Book
 
When I sign a book, I turn to the title page, write a date, then the name of the person (making sure I spell it right). I don't have standard words I use each time (like some authors do). Instead I personalize my signature to that individual. Maybe I say something about nice to meet them at an event or something about why I wrote that particular book. I understand I'm creating a keepsake for this reader and I'm making it special for them.
 
Do you have a method of signing your books? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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Sunday, September 11, 2022


Time For Another Book Sort


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I'm an avid reader and love books. If you have read these entries for any amount of time, this fact comes through loud and clear. Books change lives and I know because years ago, my life was changed through reading a book. It's a key reason I've worked in publishing for decades. Because I read and write about books, authors and publishers will send books. They pour into my office and some days it is a challemge to open the packages—much less read the pages of a particular book.
 
My reality is that I work in a small office and the books can become overwhelming and stacked on my bookshelves. Every few months, the new books stack on my shelves and reach a point where they have to be sorted and eliminated. It's what I'm writing about in this article. I've reached the point where it is time for another book sort. I find this process painful because I love books and don't want to eliminate any of them. Yet I work better without clutter and chaos. Stacks of books can turn into chaos so they have to be narrowed down and eliminated.

My time for reading is limited to a few hours each day. As I sort through my books, I'm evaluating whether I will have the time to read this book. If the answer is “no” then I will have to eliminate it and remove it from my office. Some publishers send me their books. In other situations, I've asked publishers for their books. Also authors send me their books and in some cases I've asked the author to send me their books. The narrowing process is challenging for me because I love to read but also a reality check on what I can actually do in the limited time and hours I have for such reading.
 
Several months ago when we moved, I eliminated an entire bookcase because my new office would be smaller and not have the room for this third bookcase. That was a painful elimination process. Also I check out books from my local library and read those books.  In addition, I listen to audiobooks but thankfully they are stored on my phone and do not require the space of print books.
 
Do you have to sort your books and eliminate? What tips can you give in this process? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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Sunday, September 04, 2022


The Best Marketing Plan


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Authors are on a continual search for the best marketing plan. After being in publishing for many years, I will tell you that you plan will be different than mine. A cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all plan does not exist. There is no formula and if a formula existed then every book would be a bestseller and successful. There are some great books which are not marketed and never get discovered. I've purchased other books which aren't that well-written yet because of excellent marketing, they become bestsellers.
 
To discover the best marketing plan is a process and takes continued effort to try a new tool, use it, then evaluate if the process helped you sell books and if not, try something else until it works. From my experience while there is no formula, there are continued practices such as having your own website, blog and email list. Some people sell many books on the radio and others through podcasts. Others sell books through live events or zooming into book clubs. There are many different ways to market your book. I have a shelf full of these books and each of them have valuable insights.
 
In these articles, I've written about how Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen followed the rule of five when they launched the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. You can read this old post to learn more about this practice. I encourage your perserverance in this area of marketing your books. It will pay off. Once a month I blog for Writers on the Move and several years ago I wrote the story of bestselling author Andy Andrews. Follow this link to learn the story and see the persistence and perserverance that Andy endured before he hit the bestseller list. 
I encourage you to read how-to write books and apply the material to your writing life. Each book will have insights for you. The updated edition of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams is available in bookstores across the country. Several years ago I got this image from a reader along with his appreciation. Notice all of the post-its stuck in this book and how he found insights in my book.
 
In 10 Publishing Myths, the conclusion of each chapter includes an MBA (Myth Buster Action). Many things in the publishing process are outside of our control as authors. This book emphasizes the aspects you can control and encourages you to take action in this area. If you haven't read my book, I encourage you to take advantage of this special offer (follow the link).
 
From my experience in publishing, the Best Marketing Plan is a plan that you as the author will execute—and not just once for over and over for the long haul. My biography of Billy Graham was published years ago but I continue to promote it every day. As the author, you have the greatest passion for your book and need to focus that passion into your regular marketing efforts to continually sell books.
 
Where have you found the best marketing plan? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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Sunday, August 28, 2022


What Lindsey Vonn Taught Me About the Writing Life


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

As a writer, I consistently listen to audiobooks on various topics. Some of these books are exceptional and teach me lessons about my own writing life. Rise, My Story from skiing champion Lindsey Vonn is one of those books. I have never been on a ski but found Rise to be filled with great storytelling and insights for every writer.
 
At nine years old, Lindsey Vonn and her father made a detailed plan for her to go to the Olympics in skiing for 2002, Her perseverance, commitment and grit to reach this goal made at a young age was impressive and built into the fiber of this story.  Vonn’s honesty and transparency come through the pages of this book and in the stories.
 
Writers need to learn to face and conqauer their fears and Vonn writes about her own struggles with fear and how she overcame it to be able to fling herself off the top of a mountain and race to the bottom of the course. Also Vonn talks about her mindset and the importance of being in the right frame of mind before a race. It was another connection that I made with my own writing life. It's important to be in the right mindset as you write.
 
Vonn tells her readers that she is an introvert and how she's learned to support and encourage her teammates. The majority of writers (including me) are introverts and needed to learn these lessons as well with their writing life. Other topics that Vonn covers in her book arer how to handle criticism and gossip from others. It was another area where I could identify from my own writing life. Through stories, Vonn wrotes about the sacrifices that she has made to achieve her dreams. As I heard these stories, I could identify with some of the sacrifices I have made for my own writing life.
 
Built into the fiber of Rise was the reality of hard work as an athlete and how she has overcome injury and depression and much more. Also Vonn details the importance of working with the right people at the right time such as trainers, coaches, physical therapists and others. I've learned similar lessons during my journey in publishing. I need to note Rise is not a Christian book and has some profanity sprinkled into the stories but I found the insights far outweighed these few words. I recommend and enjoyed listening to Rise from cover to cover.
 
Do you listen to or read books in an entirely different topic which provide insights about your own writing life? Let me know in the comments below.
 
Other Recent Articles
 
As I've mentioned in these entries, I regularly write for some other publications. Here are some of those articles. It's a practice that I encourage you to do with your own writing.
 
Self-care for Writers on the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference blog


Why First Impressions Matter on the Writers on the Move blog


Looking For Authors Who “Get It”  on the Almost An Author blog in the section about book proposals
 
Tweetable:

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Sunday, August 21, 2022


Three Reasons to Use Gentle Follow-up

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

As a writer, I participate in a couple of online groups. Several of these groups, I have been an active participant for decades. I hope you are active in some of these online activities for your own growth as a writer and the opportunity serve and help others. In one of these groups, members can ask questions and get help. Recently an author asked about what to do with a submission to an agent. This author followed the agent's submission guidelines and sent his material. The guidelines gave an estimated time for a response but this writer hadn't received a response and the time had been about three times past the estimated timeframe. What should he do?

 
I understand this situation from two perspectives. First, as a writer, I know the pain and frustration of waiting with no response or even finally getting a form rejection letter. Many publishers and agents never even bother to respond to the submission because of the large volume they receive. 
 
As an editor, I know the challenges of responding to authors and while I try to be prompt and in touch, I'm imperfect and know I have a number of submissions that I still need to press forward for my publisher. The work is never done and there is always more to do, another book manuscript and another author to process. Each of us have the same time limitations and over the years I've tried to give myself (and others) some measure of grace in how we communicate. 

Each publisher, editor and literary agent has their own system and method of responding and keeping up with their authors and relationships. The easiest answer for an editor or agent to give is one the author doesn't want to hear: “no thank you” or “not the right fit” or “going to pass.” That's why in the title of this article I include the adjective “gentle.” You want to be careful how you reach out to this decisionmaker/ gatekeeper to foster and build your relationship with them. While they may reject your current idea, they may be attracted to your next idea. There is truth in the old saying, “Never Burn A Bridge.”
 
In the remainder of this article, I want to give you three submission ideas for your writing:
 
1. Simultaneously submit. You should not wait around for a single editor or agent to respond to you because for reasons outside of your knowledge or control, they may never respond or respond months down the road. Waiting is hard for everyone. Your best action as a writer it so submit to multiple places at the same time. The key if you use this strategy is to explicitly say so in your cover letter and/or proposal. Then a second critical step is when you sell the project or sign with a literary agent or something happens, you need to notify everyone else who has not responded. This step keeps the lines of communication clear, transparent and professional. 
 
2. Keep track of the timeframe. How long has your submission been out? After a few weeks, it is often time to send a gentle follow-up—which I will explain in the next point.
 
3. Use The Gentle Follow-up. A gentle follow-up reaches out to ask if they received it. Maybe it got lost or arrived when they were out of their office. Or any number of other things could have happened to yur submission. It's a reasonable question to ask if they received it. If they have acknowledged their receipt (as we do at Morgan James), then follow-up asking if they need any additional information. This request is not pushing but gentle and reasonable and simple to answer. 
 
The reality is weird things happen in the publishing world. Many of those strange things are outside of your personal control. For example, I've written about 2,000 reviews on a large bookseller's website (not going to say the specific name). During an afternoon last week, about 800 of my posted reviews disappeared.  I have no recourse or anyone to ask about the reason. My response is to keep pressing forward and writing more reviews.
 
If you haven't read my 10 Publishing Myths book, I encourage you to take advantage of my special offer, get this book and read it. Of my goals with this book was to explain that much of the publishing process is outside of our control as writers. I balance this fact with a series of pro-active actions every author can take to get the word out on their book which will translate into sales. As you read this book and apply it to your life, you will be able to take advantage of my decades of experiences in the publishing world.
 
As writers, we need to use the gentle follow-up with our submissions. What experiences have you had in this area? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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Sunday, August 14, 2022


How to Write a Book Review


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Last week I gathered with a group of local writers for a backyard barbecue to celebrate the beginning of our school year and to begin again our monthly meetings. One of the writers brought her first book which was going to release in a few weeks. I asked if she had a launch team or any other plans to get her book into the market. She looked a bit lost how to answer my question then said, “I'm going to put the cover up on my Instagram account and tell people it is available.” 
 
I encouraged this author to get friends and others to write book reviews because readers are making buying decisions every day when they read reviews online at any place books are sold and not just Amazon. I understand the influence of book reviews and it's one of the reasons I've been writing book reviews for decades in print publications as well as online. As you read or listen to books, writing a simple book review is a way to support other writers. If you want to know more about how to get reviews, I have created a free teleseminar on this topic (follow the link). 
  
I've seen many people write a sentence or two for their review but I believe a more detailed review is helpful to the readers (and the author). In this article, I want to give you more of the details about how I write a review. While each review is individually crafted, there are some consistent elements in my reviews to give you some ideas for y0ur reviews. The books that I read and review come from a variety of places. Sometimes publishers will send them to me, others will come from authors, and other times I learn about books from reading other reviews or news releases. I'm often reading one book and listening to a different book. As I read the book, I will open a Word file and sometimes make some notes about the book. These brief notes often turn into the review. Also as I read, I will mark interesting quotes or sections with post-its to be able to easily reference these sections with my review.
 
Every review begins with a headline. This headline can be a summary statement about the book but involves using a few words to draw the reader into reading your review.  Spend a few moments crafting your headline for the review.
 
In my review, I summarize the contents of the book, point out key sections of the book and in general, I include a few sentences which I quote from the book and reference the specific page where it comes from. I inelude this quote to show the reader that I've actually read the book and it gives the reader some more insights about the book. I conclude each review with my recommendation about the book.
 
In recent years, I've learned to use an online program called Mock-Up Shots which has a set of diverse marketing tools. One of those tools allows me to upload the book cover then I select a unique image with the book which I add to my review on Amazon and also use the image to promote my review (and the book) on social media. If you want to learn more about these tools for your use, follow the link. You can get lifetime access which is well worth it in my view and I use these tools almost daily.
 
The bulk of my reviews are about 150 to 200 words in length and afterwords, I will often print the Word file with my review, then read it again and make any changes before posting it on Amazon and Goodreads. The Goodreads review appears right away but Amazon sometimes takes a day or two or three before it appears. When the Amazon review appears, I will post about my review on social media to my different channels (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn).
 
The final step in my process relates to how I received the book. If I got it directly from an author or publisher or publicist, I will send the Amazon and Goodreads links to my review along with a link to my posting on social media. Taking this step is important to affirm to the receiver, I have completed the review—and it opens the door to additional books for possible review.
 
Do you write reviews for the books you read or hear? Do you have a pattern or system you've created for these reviews? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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