Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Necessity of Continual Pitching

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I would love for writing assignments, speaking opportunties and many other aspects of the publishing world to just appear in my email or on my phone. While Ive worked in this business for many years, it is rare that anyone approaches me about teaching or speaking or podcasting or writing or anything else. Instead everything that I want to get published involves continued pitching.

In this article, I want to show you what I do as an author, writer, journalist or speaker and encourage you to follow follow a similar well-worn path. 

Read Widely and Watch for Opportunity

I read books, print magazines, and numerous online publications. Also I subscribe to newsletters and blogs. When I get these publications, I read them (sometimes skim). As I read, Im looking for opportunities or needs that I can take action and help the author but also expand the opportunities for my books and my work in publishing. As you read, look for changes--new editors, retiring editors, editors and agents changing roles. These shifts are often opportunities because in this new role, that person is looking for new people to write or publish or whatever skill is involved with their company. 

A Practical Example

In recent months, I have recorded two different podcasts with an author about two different books. In each case, I sent this podcaster a list of possible questions and a signed copy of the book. Then when the podcast was edited and appeared on the site, I have promoted this podcast a number of times. From my reading about others, some of these actions are different from others. Many people dont furnish a list of suggested questions which means more work for the podcast host. Also they dont mail a physical and signed copy of their book. Finally when the podcast interview goes live, they dont promote the interview. 

This author / podcaster noticed my actions and wanted to do something to help me. He introduced me to three different podcasters in my topic area which could be a fit for their podcast. In each case, the podcaster sent me their calendar link and I offered suggested questions and mailed a signed copy of the book that we were discussing on the show. 

Ive recorded these three shows but none of them have been launched--yet. With one podcaster, she asked if I would be willing teach an online class to her writers group. I agreed and have this workshop on my schedule. Another podcaster expressed interest in a return visit to her show and talking about a different book and topic. I noticed the opportunity and Im working to get that second show scheduled and on our calendars.  

None of these actions are complicated but as an author, I have to be listening for the opportunities, then seize them and get them on my schedule. 

As an author, there are many possibilities for your work but you have to be listening for them, then when you hear an opportunity, seize it and follow-up. 

Learn to Create the Response Tools

Within the publishing world, every writer needs to learn to create the various pitching tools such as a query letter, a book proposal, a pitch letter, a news release and a suggested list of interview questions. 

Its not complicated the create these pitching tools then when you get some interest or opportunity, follow-up on it. The follow-up could be to write and deliver whatever you pitched or simply a follow-up to make sure the other person received it. Using the gentle follow-up doesnt push the other person toward saying no or a rejection. 

Whats Your Action Plan?

Your goal and desire may be completely different from mine but whatever your goal, you still need to continually pitch. As you consistently pitch, you create a steady stream of opportunity and potential additional writing work. If you arent continually pitching, then you will suddenly face a period where little is happening in your writing life. When you hit this silent period, I encourage you to return to the basics and do more pitching.

Its also critical to continue to expand your network and reading as you look for opportunities. For example, LinkedIN will often suggest people for new connections. Take a look at those suggestions and if they make sense, then connect with these individuals and expand your connections. 

Continual pitching is a necessity for every published author and the awareness of opportunities. They are everywhere--whether thumbing through a market guide or using google to find more podcasts to pitch. Your continual actions is a critical part of this process.

What steps are you taking to pitch your ideas and your writing? If Im missing some aspect or you have another aspect, let me know in the comments. 


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Sunday, June 09, 2024

How To Get Free Books

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I love books--whether they are brand new, forthcoming or older books. Ive been in publishing for decades but Ive not written in these articles about the details of how to get free books and what to do with them when you receive them.

Authors and publishers need reviews yet you dont have to buy those books to get them. I write reviews about books that Ive purchased or checked out from my local library. If you love a print copy of the book in this article, Im going to give you the details about how to get these books. This process is a basic because Ive been in publishing for decades, I assumed others know this basic. Im going to correct this assumption with this article. Through the years, I’ve written over 1,000 Amazon reviews and over 800 reviews on Goodreads. Also I’ve written many print magazine book reviews. 

My title for this article includes an exaggerated word (Free). The books are not really free whether they come from the author, a publicist or a publisher because they have been sent to you with a spoken or unspoken commitment. Because you requested this book, you are promising to write an honest book review about it.

You Ask For The Book

Within the world of book promotion, a print copy of the book from the author or publisher is one of the least expensive promotion tools--especially compared to other promotions like paid ads, print materials and other promotions. The easiest way to get a copy of the book is to ask the author or the publisher. Some people read electronic books on NetGalley. I have rarely used this system. I spend hours looking at my computer and phone. I do not like to read ebooks and prefer to receive a print copy. I can mark key passages and quotes in the print book. Your preference may be different.

As a writer, you want to be known as someone who does what they say they will do--i.e. write a review because many people who receive the book dont post their reviews. If you do write then post your review, you will be the exception and easily stand out to the author and the publisher. 

Join Launch Teams

Another way to read new books before they release is to join a launch team. You will help other authors in this process and learn some of the behind the scenes details about book promotion. There is one caveat with launch teams. In recent years since the pandemic, publishers do not print as many advance reading copies nor sent out print copies to launch teams. You will likely get an ebook version or access to NetGalley and have to read the electronic version. I like and appreciate launch teams and do participate in a few of these efforts.

The Importance of The Release Date

I encourage you to be aware of the release date for a book you are going to review. Books launch on a Tuesday whether online or brick and mortar bookstores. You can write your review on Goodreads but not before the release date on Amazon or another online website (unless you are a part of a special group within those websites). 

In general, the closer you can write and post your review to this release date, the more positive attention you will get from the author and the publisher. These early reviews are important and appreciated. Ive read that 90% of people who purchase a product online have read a review before they buy it. This fact is one of the critical reasons you want to encourage and gather reviews for your book as well as others. I have a free teleseminar about book reviews. Follow this link to have access

When You Get The Book

I have written the details about how to write a book review. I encourage you to develop your own pattern and style for these reviews. If you havent written reviews, then use a template to get going on your review.     
After You Read The Book

In general, I write my reviews in a Word file. Then I cut and paste this review on Goodreads as well as Amazon. At times I review it a third time on BarnesAndNoble.com but not every time. As Ive written in these articles, I use MockUp Shots where I have a lifetime access with my reviews to create a unique image and add that image to my review. Also I use the image on social media when I promote my review (and the book). Finally I show the author or the publisher or the publicist, my published review on Goodreads and Amazon or anywhere else. I send the permanent link along with a sample of my promotion of my review. This final process shows this professional that I have completed what I promised and builds integrity and trust that I will do it in the future.

Just so you know, no one pays me to write these reviews and I do it on my free time. I receive many more books to read than there are hours in the day (even if I was doing it fulltime). In some cases, I dont get the book read or reviewed. In general I have a good track record in this area. You can develop the same sort of reputation, if you do it consistently. 

What process do you use to get books for reviews? Am I missing something from the process? Let me know in the comments. 


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Sunday, June 02, 2024

Writing Mind Games

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Is there a best time for your writing? Are you a morning person or a night owl and how does that affect your writing? Do you need some perfect environment to be able to write? Do you play music in the background or have to be out at a coffee shop or in complete silence? 

Many writers are playing mind games when it comes to the answers to such questions. In this article, I want to dispel some of these misconceptions of the mind and encourage you to take a different mindset and action strategy.

Some people feel like they cant write on their current project until they get in the perfect place and environment. Their pencils have to be sharp and the surrounding atmosphere has to be right. Maybe you like writing on your home computer in silence or you prefer being at a busy coffee shop tucked into a back corner with your laptop and a cup of your favorite drink. 

Many writers set a specific word count goal for their work in progress to make sure they hit their deadlines and produce what their editor is asking from them. I like the word count strategy and have used it a number of times when Im in production on a book project. The issue is what happens when something is off from your expectations. Do you still manage to write or does it throw you off track? 

For my writing life, my mindset in these situations is critical.  I began writing for publication in high school, then trained as a journalist in college. For the college newspaper, we wrote our stories in a busy room with about 30 manual typewriters and shoulder to shoulder with someone else writing their story. I spent one summer working as an intern in the city room of a local newspaper. Reporters were talking on the phone and sometimes shouting at each other. In the middle of it, we were charged to write our stories and meet deadlines. From this experience, I learned a valuable lesson: I can write anywhere. Its a trick of the mind to tell you that you cant write in a less than perfect situation. 

Because I learned to type on a manual typewriter, Ive always been hard on my keyboards where I spend a lot of time every day. In fact, the several frequently used letters on the keyboard wear off because of my extensive use of them. About once a year, Ive been replacing the keyboard on my desktop computer. 

I often write in my office on my desktop computer and without any background music. I admit it is a simple environment. Ive written in coffee shops, in airports, in airplanes, in hotel rooms and many other locations inside and outside. Whether I crank out a number of pages or just a few paragraphs or phrases of things which I will write, there is one consistent fact: I put my fingers on the keyboard and move them cranking out words. In this process, I set aside any mind questions about whether I can do it or not or whether it will be productive or the right words. Instead of answering these questions of the mind, I simply tell my stories and write.  This process has served me well through the years because Ive written for numerous publications and many books. 

In past entries, Ive mentioned using my Alpha Smart 2000 which I bought on Ebay for about $20. When Jerry B. Jenkins interviewed me, I mentioned using this tool and he had not heard of it. Follow this link to hear my 35-minute interview. The Alpha Smart is a full-size keyboard and holds about 150 pages of words. Some of my novelist friends will use it on their back porch or in their local library or any number of other places. Its old technology and works on three AA batteries. You never lose anything and can simply write. When you get to your laptop or desktop, you hook up the Alpha Smart to your computer, open a Word file and push the send button. Yes, it is that simple. 

How do you stop your mind games about where and when you should write? Let me know in the comments. 


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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Tech Challenges

By Terry Whalin

The writing world continues to change and a key element is our technology. Years ago when I faced a deadline and needed an extra day or two, I could tell the editor the submission was in the mail. At that time, the mail was slow and not dependable (little has changed in this area). You would mail a floppy disk with the story and later a hard disk with the electronic file. 

With the advent of the internet and high speed transmissions, the writer has no ability to fudge on their deadline. Instead the editor or agent wants the file right away as an attachment. Many professionals expect to receive the file in a few hours instead of days later.

These days it seems like Im constantly learning a new program or a new technical skill. Sometimes I'm an early adapter and other times Im behind the curve of what others are doing. For example, Ive not had a webcam on my desktop for many years. In these days of zoom teaching, Ive used my iPhone on a tripod instead of a webcam. 

Recently I purchased a GUSGU 1440P Quad HD Webcam. I used google to find a top webcam. When it was delivered, I set it up and experimented to see if I could get it working. I could only see the black screen. Then I decided to pull out the instructions and read them. Thats what you do when you are experimenting and not succeeding with some tech matter. After reading the instructions, I discovered this webcam has a “privacy cover which arrived closed.  Its a nice feature so no one can “spy on you without you knowing that it is turned on. When I slid back the cover, the webcam worked perfectly. 

Also reading the instructions, I discovered my webcam came with some accessories like an extension cord, a tripod, a powerbank and a device to extend some ports on the computer. To get these extras, you had to send an email and ask for them. I followed the instructions, furnished my order number and then these extra accessories arrived and Im using them.

If you get stuck with a tech challenge, I encourage you to read the instructions. If this doesnt work, then reach out to a friend. If this doesn't resolve it, then possibly reboot your computer. Often my “challenge is something easy to fix with a bit of patience and persistence.

Do you have tech challenges? What steps do you take to resolve them? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, May 19, 2024

If You Are Stuck...

By Terry Whalin

As an author, there are many times when you can get stalled or stuck. When you face this type of situation, where do you turn? Throughout my years in this business, I have often been stuck or stalled. In this article, I want to tell a few stories, give you some ideas and action steps.

Several weeks ago, one of my Morgan James Publishing authors was in the final stages of production on his book. The pages were set in type and he showed those pages to one of his friends. This “friend carefully reviewed the book and sent several single-spaced pages of editorial changes. This friend knew nothing about the process of book production. The rule of thumb is the closer you get to a final book to print, the less changes you want to make because that change process can become costly to the author. With these editorial suggestions, my author was stuck and trying to determine what to do. 

From my work in publishing, I understand that many editorial choices such as where to put a comma are subjective and will vary from editor to editor. To help this author, I called an editorial friend and asked if she would review the changes and give me a suggestion who could fix it. To my relief, she agreed and a few days later validated that many of these suggestions needed to be fixed. This expert gave me several recommended people to correct these suggestions. I sent the information to my author. He investigated and came back with a range of costs and timeframes for each of these experts. Again, he reached out to me and was stuck. I made some suggestions. I know this author and even if it was going to cost him financially at the end of the day he wanted his book to be in the best possible shape when it released this fall to the bookstores.

Notice how this author took action when he got stuck. He reached out to his acquisitions editor (me). I made some suggestions and used my resources to help him. Then he made a decision to get unstuck and move forward. 

You may be stuck for a number of reasons. Maybe you want to do more podcasts and radio interviews to promote your book. You need to ask an expert to help you or learn to craft the pitch yourself and book interviews. Maybe you want to break out of self-publishing and get your book into the bookstores. It's possible but you need to explore your options and meet the right person to help you. Possibly you need to plan to attend a large writers conference and meet the right person. Possibly you need to learn how to write a book proposal to improve your pitch. There are many directions to head but you need guidance to make a wise decision. First, understand you are not on your own unless you make this decision. There is a writing community and experts who can give you good options--if you explore these possibilities.

In the end, my author made some wise decisions which are going to cost him financially. The interior type for his book will be reset and all of the corrections fixed so an excellent book will be released this fall. 

If you are stuck, heres some ideas:

1. Switch to something else. Sometimes your mind will continue working on the challenge as you work on something else and the right idea will come to you.

2. Move out of your chair and take a walk. Exercise will clear your mind and help you make a better decision.

3. Read a book for inspiration
and a fresh perspective. This week the publisher sent me a little book called A Drop of Courage. I dont know about your situation but on a daily basis I could use more courage. This little 120 page book is packed with ideas and inspiration. You can open to any colorful page and read a few pages, then return to where you are stuck. Its a new book which will remain on my shelf and be used often. 

4. Call or email a friend for help. You have to put away your pride to do this process but understand others are eager to listen to your need and you can get unstuck. 

Our world is filled with possibilities and opportunities. I follow these steps often in my daily work in publishing. Take action and move forward. It could be just the step you need to take instead of feeling stuck.  What did I miss? How do you get unstuck? Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to learning from you.


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Sunday, May 12, 2024

Authors Must Prime the Pump

By Terry Whalin

When I begin a new nasal spray for my allergies, I have to spray a couple of times to prime the pump. Then it will work properly. For this article, Im adding an image of an old-fashion pump. For this pump to give water, you have to pump it a number of times. Through taking action, you bring the water up from the well until it runs out of the pump. 

Authors have to prime the pump to sell their books and in this article I want to give you some ideas and details about actions in this process.

Someone must hear about your book dozens of times before they purchase it. The author is the person with the greatest passion for their topic--and it is up to you to drive this exposure or prime the pump--with social media, stressing the benefits of your book, telling stories, sending emails, writing magazine articles, shooting videos, going on podcasts and radio shows and many more actions--hopefully you get the idea.

Recently David Hancock, the founder of Morgan James Publishing, and I were talking about the presale process. He said at 13 months bestselling author Dave Ramsey will begin talking with his audience about a forthcoming book and the content of it. He will tell his readers that he is writing the book and a bit of what it will contain.  When Ramsey talks about this forthcoming book, he is peaking the interest of his readers and priming the pump for them to prepare to purchase it. 

In other articles on The Writing Life, Ive mentioned that Im a Daniel Silva fan of his writing. Each year, Silva writes a single novel which is released in July. Almost a year ahead, he will announce the title in his newsletter then a few months later, he will show the book cover. A few months later he will announce the book is ready to be pre-ordered. His next newsletter will announce that readers can order a signed copy of this forthcoming book. How does he sign these books? His publisher sends him a page of the book and Silva signs these pages then returns them to the publisher. They are bound into signed copies. Its called a book tip-in and is used to drive pre-sales for the forthcoming novel. 

I ordered my copy of A Death in Cornwall on April 3rd and the book will not release until July 9th. Whether you order your book from your favorite independent bookstore or an online bookstore like Target, no copies of the book will ship until the release day. Ive already ordered my signed copy. 

According to David Hancock, “The best time to begin marketing and telling people about your book is the moment you decide to write it or today--which ever day comes first. As David told me, there are three reasons bookstore buyers purchase a book. First, youve compared your book to other books on your topic or category. Because other readers have bought X number of that book, the bookstore will order your book for their customers. The second reason for bookstores to order your book is you are the right person, talking about the right topic at the right time. Yes, there were a number of rights in that last sentence but you can sell books if they line up. The final reason is that you as the author are consistently talking to your reader about this topic. That consistent effort pays off with a steady stream of book sales in the bookstore. 

Every Author Must Cross Two Bridges

As David Hancock recently told me, every author with their book needs to cross two bridges. The first bridge is:

1. The Authority Bridge. The public must perceive you as the right person talking about the content of your book. You show you are an authority through consistently talking about the topic of your book. Also you bring the audience along on your publishing journey as you write the book, look for a publisher, get rejected, keep trying and eventually get accepted. 

2. The Permission Bridge. Most authors dont build this bridge. Instead the hold their content close to themselves then begin to share it when their book comes out. If you have built the permission bridge you have shared your content and expertise on the topic and earned the right to ask your readers permission to buy your book. Youve not only created a book but created associated products such as a readers guide with study questions or a journal or have launched an online course associated with it. What else can you build in addition to your book? Can you create a keynote speech tied to your content which you give to various groups and settings? As David Hancock said, readers beget readers. 

As you build the authority bridge and the permission bridge, then you begin to build the community or tribe who love your content and your work. As Jay Conrad Levinson, the creator of Guerrilla Marketing in the 80s often said, he made $35,000 on his book but $10 million because of it and the related products from it. 

During my conversation with David Hancock, he also gave me the top four best practices to sell books:

1. Word of Mouth. People talk about the books they are reading. How did the book change them? Give them access to your content and they will talk about you and your book.

2. Consistent Email. It sounds old fashion but here's the truth. Not everyone has a Facebook page but everyone has an email address. David suggested sending one email a month and this regular communication on your topic will build your audience.

3. Podcasts. There are millions of podcasts and they need authors who can speak with authority and passion about their topic. Learn how to pitch and get on these podcasts

4. Social Media. Many writers will groan at this final one because in general there is a lot of noise on social media. David advises you to be consistent, be a real person and it takes patience. 

In this blog post, I want to give you an unedited recording of my interview with David Hancock which is about 35 minutes. This recording will provide more details than this article. Follow this link and download the audio to your computer and save it. There are three vertical dots on the right side of the recording. Click the top dot of the three on the right and it will let you download the audio then listen to it. 

What steps are you taking on a consistent basis to prime the pump with your audience? What am I missing? Let me know in the comments.

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Sunday, May 05, 2024

Don't Overuse This Word and Get Blacklisted

By Terry Whalin

Words have incredible power to influence and affect our life and work in the publishing community. There is a common word which authors will often use but in this article I want to give specific examples and discourage you from overusing this word and having the retailers blacklist your book.

Years ago when I was on the faculty of the San Francisco Writers Conference, I spoke with a bookseller and learned not to use this word in my conversation. I showed this retailer the first edition of Book Proposals That Sell and in my pitch I told him the book had over 100 Five Star Amazon reviews. Instantly he frowned and told me that he didnt care about Amazon reviews. Yes the single word not to overuse is Amazon.

Instead of touting that you have an Amazon bestseller, you can say your book was a bestseller in _____ category. Instead of saying you have 56 Amazon reviews, you can promote your book has 56 Five Star reviews (or whatever number of Five Star reviews you have received). It is a slight revision but a significant one.

Amazon is a large player in the book retail market but many bookstore people believe Amazon has destroyed their business. The book market has made dramatic shifts and Amazon has been a factor in those changes. For example, at Morgan James Publishing, Amazon accounts for about 24% of our overall business. When I meet an author who has only published on Amazon, I tell them they are missing 76% of how Morgan James can distribute and sell their book. Our books are in 98% of the bookstores in North America including the brick and mortar bookstores. Recently I was looking for a book cover image on one of our novels and the first place I located it was at Target.com. Morgan James sells our books at Target along with over 180 other online retailers.

Give Your Readers Options

When you set up your website and the page to sell your book, what link or links do you include? I was looking at the books from a long-time author friend. He writes a new blog each week and sends it like clockwork. I admire and respect this type of consistent action from any author. Today I checked his book sales page. Each book had a single button that said, “Click Here to Buy on Amazon. He used a publishing company to create his book and I didnt recognize the name of his publisher. Yet he was giving his readers one option to buy the book: Amazon. As Ive been saying in this article, its the one word you dont want to overuse. 

Instead of sending your readers to a single place like Amazon, I encourage you to give them options like Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, their local independent bookstore or getting it directly from you (even encouraging readers they can get a signed copy from you). Its how I set up my sales pages and heres a couple of examples for some of my books. The sales page for Book Proposals That Sell is here. The sales page for 10 Publishing Myths is here. The sales page for Billy Graham, A Biography of Americas Greatest Evangelist is here. The reader is going to buy the book where they normally purchase books. As an author, you want to give them options and dont just send them to a single place. 

A Little Known Bookselling Fact

While on the surface, the community of booksellers looks large with thousands of bookstores from chains like Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores. Most of the sales people for these chains have been in the book business for many years. As a part of their work, they cultivate and maintain relationships with owners, authors, editors and many other people in the industry. These sales people know each other and have developed friendships. On one level they are competitors but on another level they are colleagues. These colleagues speak together and share information. When an author is only focused on sending readers to Amazon, these sales people notice and can blacklist your book from the brick-and-mortar bookstores. According to my recent conversation with David Hancock, the founder of Morgan James Publishing, such a blacklist practice is happening.

Sometimes You Cant Avoid the Word

In 2019, Morgan James Publishing released Steve Andersons book, The Bezos Letters: 14 Principles to Grow Your Business like Amazon. Even before the release date, this book garnered a great deal of attention. The Morgan James foreign rights person sold the book into multiple languages including the highest advance received in this area for a book in the 21-year history of the company. The Bezos Letters has hundreds of Five-Star reviews and a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Its unusual for a book to achieve this level of success which translates into many book sales. 

Yet this book could not avoid using the word Amazon. According to David Hancock, “The brick-and-mortar bookstores blacklisted The Bezos Letters from the release in 2019 until this year. Now in 2024, the brick-and-mortar bookstores began to order and sell this title.  The success and continued sales of this title eventually removed it from the blacklist. At the end of the day, retailers want to stock and sell books which will move off their shelves and into the hands of buyers. The steady and continued sales of The Bezos Letters eventually won over the retailers who want to serve their customers and sell books.

What actions will you take?

Ive written this article to encourage you as an author to take action for your website and sales pages. Will you remove the word Amazon in your social media and promotion efforts? Will you give your readers a wide variety of bookstore options to purchase your book? What actions are you going to take? Let me know in the comments.

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