Sunday, July 21, 2024

Seize Opportunity


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I encourage every writer to be looking for opportunity. When it happens, seize it. Its important to take immediate action and not delay and forget about what you intended to do. In this article, I want to give some specifics about how to seize opportunity and some actions that I took and also learn about others. In the past, Ive mentioned Im a fan of bestselling author Daniel Silva. He writes one novel a year then goes on book tour. His new book, A Death in Cornwall, released on Tuesday, July 9th and in his newsletter, he announced his national book tour. 

When I checked the dates, I learned he would be at the Norma Hertzog Community Center in Costa Mesa or a few miles from where I live in Orange County. I put the event on my calendar and made plans to attend. My last opportunity attend one of Daniel Silvas events was in 2010 when I lived in Scottsdale, Arizona and saw him at the Poisoned Pen bookstore. From this event, I knew the Costa Mesa event would draw many people.

I arrived about two hours before the start of the event. When I arrived, there was already a short line and I learned the doors would not open for an hour and a half. As a fan, I had pre-ordered my copy and received it in the mail. I also brought the previous novel and I planned to purchase another copy of the book for a friend.  My two books were already signed--and I will tell about this detail later in this article.

While standing in the line, I met another author and his wife. From our conversation, we exchanged business cards. Almost always I have a business card to be prepared for any opportunity. Later that evening when I looked at his card, it had his phone number but was missing his email address. From his author website, I tracked down his email and reached out to him. The most difficult aspect to proofread and check on our material is something not there. I encourage every author to take a look at your business card and make sure your business card has complete information: name, email, phone and mailing address. Its an important detail if you want to connect and have opportunity.

As I walked into the event, a librarian handed each person a copy of A Death in Cornwall which is a $32 hardcover. In my years of attending author events, I had never been to one where everyone received a complimentary copy of the book. I estimate about 1,000 people attended this event. When I asked the librarian about it, she said they raised the funds through a foundation to give away the books. Journalist Jamie Gangel, Daniel Silvas wife, moderated the event and her voice is on this Facebook reel of everyone holding their book.
For about 45 minutes, Jamie Gangel interviewed her husband. She asked her questions but also drew submitted questions from the audience. I learned a number of things about his writing pattern and work. Hes produced 27 novels and A Death in Cornwall is his 24th Gabriel Allon novel. Each of these novels have been on the bestseller list. Routinely these books are at the top of those bestseller lists. A few days ago, Silva announced his book is the #1 hardcover on the New York Times fiction bestseller list. 

To write about a 400+ page riveting novel, Daniel begins his writing on Labor Day each year and writes seven days a week often 12-14 hours a day. If he has something going on that he has to do outside of his office, he will get up at 3 am or 4 am to make sure he writes his required pages during that day. Some in the audience gasped at the notion of working seven days a week. 

This week I heard Darren Hardy for Success magazine interview music hitman David Foster. During the interview Foster said, “If Im not working on Saturday, someone else is. Then he said, “People who dont work on the weekends don't like their jobs.Im not working. Im living.” I identified with Foster and Silva because of my work pattern which is living and not working. 

Silva has some interesting writing habits. He writes using a particular pencil which is sharpened a particular way. He writes on a particular type of legal pad laying his stomach on the floor of his office. He also needs quiet in his home to concentrate. Every author has to find their particular optimum pattern is what I learned again from listening to Silva.

How did I already have a signed copy of his novels in my briefcase while I had not seen in person in over 14 years? I read his newsletter and each year I pre-order a signed copy of the forthcoming novel. For example, this year I pre-ordered my signed copy on April 3rd and the book didnt release and ship until early July.

Daniel Silva told each year, he spends a full week of time signing thousands of tip-ins or a single page. He returns these pages to the publisher and they are bound into the book. While Daniel signed my books, I asked about the tip-ins. He doesnt like them and how they make the book feel and appear. He would prefer to go to the warehouse and sign the actual books. His publisher wants Silva to sign these pages so he spends the time, signs and returns the pages. My conversation with him reminded me that there are many aspects of my work that I dont love but in spite of that feeling, I do it regardless. Its part of living and not working--and doing whatever task needs to be done for the work. 

What opportunities are coming across your desk or computer screen this week? What steps are you going to take to seize them and weave them into your writing life? Let me know in the comments below. 


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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Do Book Gimmicks work?

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Throughout my week, I often receive packages from authors and publishers with books. I read these books outside of my work and write reviews to support other authors and publishers. Occasionally a package will stand out as different. Some people call this an attention-getting gimmick. Do they work? In this article, I want to give you some ideas and cautions.

Once I received a book to possibly review. This author added confetti into the package which caught my attention but also made a mess in my office. Confetti was on the floor, on my keyboard and anything sitting on my desk. It was a nuisance and took some extra energy to clean up. The confetti caught my attention but it wasnt what the author was expecting because it was negative attention and not the right impression. Whatever you do in the book gimmick area, you want to think about the person who will receive the package and make sure you are making a positive impact.

Several weeks ago, I received a package with a book which was in a pink package. When I opened it and looked closely at the book, I was interested in reading it and writing a review about it. The pink package received positive attention and increased my interest. The book gimmick worked in a positive way to encourage my reading and writing about the book.

More recently, I received this package:
I opened it right away and it had a signed copy of a new book from Jacquelyn Lynn called Christian Business Almanac. She emailed recently and showed me a page in the book where she quoted something from these entries in my blog. I reviewed the book on Amazon and Goodreads plus promoted it to my various social media connections (an example). Its a simple way we can help each other as writers and authors. Her package got my attention. You can use this same envelope (follow this link).

I recommend you be selective about where you use it. Ask yourself, who will help me tell others about my book and where can I get the biggest impact for using this tool? From my experience, just a little forethought about this question will help you use the envelope for the greatest impact on your book.

I want to show you another simple book tool that every author should create and use for their book: bookmarks. I love creating this tool and use it with my books and at conferences. People may not purchase my book but will take a bookmark and maybe buy the book at a later point in time.

As you create this tool, I encourage you to pour some thought and creativity into it. For example, I wrote a biography on Billy Graham. While the book has been out a few years, I continue actively telling others about it. I have bookmarks in my briefcase and use them often. Im adding an image of this bookmark do you can see the thought I poured into the creation?

The front includes ten facts about Billy Graham and at the bottom, I have my book website. The reverse is also full color with the book cover, an endorsement from biographer and bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins and the words “Available at bookstores everywhere. Finally I include the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to help the reader or bookseller easily locate this book.
If you are going to invest in printing a bookmark, spend the creative energy to make it effective. I collect these bookmarks from others and I'm always surprised at the missing information. One of the hardest things to proofread or see is something that not there.
Do you use any book gimmicks? How did they preform and what am I missing? Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to your comments.


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Sunday, July 07, 2024

The Unpredictable Writing Life

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

For decades, Ive been in the world of publishing and working with authors. Repeatedly Ive seen the unpredictable nature of this work and life. For example, as I meet authors and acquire their books at Morgan James Publishing, I learn about authors who are eager to sell their books and reach their readers. I have one author who writes fiction and published two novels with us. She was actively selling these books at specialized trade shows which tied to her plot and characters. When she pitched her third novel, she told me that she had sold over 300 books during the last year which showed her activity as an author. 

As a part of the acquisitions process, I checked in with a colleague about her bookstore sales for her first two books. This number will give me an indicator of the enthusiasm (or lack of it) from my colleagues about the third novel. I was surprised to learn she had sold about a carton of books inside the bookstores. In general, a carton holds 25-35 books and depends on the size of the book. It was not an impressive sales record and showed me that my colleagues would not be inclined to publish a third novel from this author. I spoke with the author about these details and she decided to self-publish her third novel in this series. If the bookstore numbers improve, then its possible she could bring this third novel into her series, but not at the moment.

I could not have predicted these bookstore sales and believed the number would be much higher than a single carton. This example shows again one of the many unpredictable details and how a great deal of those details are outside of anything that I can know about or control.

Heres another example: I wished a long-time publishing professional a happy birthday. Its something I do on a regular basis and gives me a touch point with people. In her response, she told me she was no longer working at that publisher. I called this author to hear more detail. I learned the change happened because she didnt hit the sales number for her authors books. This key number is outside of anything this editor could predict or control. She told me about one of her authors with a large Instagram platform has a daily gathering of thousands of participants. The book this group was using repeatedly wasnt the authors book but a book from another author. This simple choice gave huge exposure to a different book than the authors book and contributed to the editors dismal sales numbers. 

These stories about publishing teach me lessons about the details of this business and how it works. Yet repeatedly Ive discovered there are a myriad of details outside of anything that I can control or do anything about. There is one singular person who I can control: me

Id love to have some predictions but the only prediction I can control is myself. I keep promoting my own work. I continue to pitch authors to my colleagues and writing different material. I work with various authors and various types of books. In addition, I listen to my colleagues, answering their questions and helping as many authors as I can. I cant control others or much of anything--but I can control my own activities.

What about in your writing life? Is it predictable or what steps are you taking for your books and your writing? Let me know in the comments below. 


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Sunday, June 30, 2024

Explore Your Publishing Options


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

The book publishing community is in constant motion and change. While they may not feel like it on the surface, authors have a great deal of control and options in this process. The roots of it are understanding your choices then making good ones. I admit is is not easy and there are lots of options. In this article, I want to help you explore your options and talk about some of the pitfalls. If you take one of the pitfalls you can waste a lot of money and time.  

Look at Your Assumptions

Many authors dont explore their options because they have signed with a literary agent and expect this agent to connect them with a publisher. Agents do great work but they dont sell 100% of their submissions. Is this agent giving you what you expect? If not, then talk with the agent and if that process isnt satisfactory, then think about making a change. Ive contracted books with authors who have spent a length time chasing an agent or working with an agent without results. During that period, their book could have been published and gotten out into the market--but they made some different choices and didnt explore their publishing options.

Other authors have heard the advice, “Never pay to get published. There is some degree of wisdom in that statement but it is not 100% correct in my view and this opinion can prevent you from exploring other possibilities.

Many Possibilities for Publishing

For many years I published books through traditional publishers. These companies produced attractive books and got them into bookstores. If you write a book proposal or have a literary agent or pitch the right person at a writers conference, you can still be published through a traditional house. This option is not without some cautions. You give up your “right to title your book, when the book will release and many other publishing details. I speak with authors who are frustrated because their books are only on Amazon and not in the other online bookstores like Barnes & Noble or even Target. 

No publisher is perfect but if you hear these sorts of concerns from authors, they give you pause to work with these companies. Speak with people who publish with these companies and listen to their experiences before you jump in the wrong direction.

Self-publish is another option. Using this option is limiting in my view because you are responsible for every aspect of the creation, marketing and distribution of your book. If you do not choose wisely, you can spend a lot of money with little possible return. 

The independent or hybrid publisher is another possibility. For 12 years Ive worked for Morgan James Publishing. If you google the name, you can easily find a few complaints. Heres the truth, every publisher has people who complain about them. What I know from working on the inside of Morgan James Publishing is that our system is strong. Our books are sold around the world with an excellent appearance. In the last 21 years, Morgan James Publishing has produced over 5,000 titles or about 180 to 200 books a year. The reputation of the company for excellence is solid and has integrity. 

There is no cost (other than time) to the exploration process. I have authors who get a Morgan James book contract and decline it. Timing is a key part of the process and maybe it was not the right time for this author and this book. Ive had a several authors return to me after months or even several years asking if Morgan James would now publish their book. I check with my colleagues and I discover the answer is yes. We revise our contract with a new date and anything else that has changed such as the authors address. Then the author signs their contract and their book gets into production and scheduled for release in the bookstores. 

There are many different possibilities for publishing your book. My encouragement is to not place limitations on what you can or cant do. Instead explore the options, make a selection and move ahead. There are many different paths but your consistency and perserverance make a huge difference in the process. If I can help you, dont hesitate to reach out to me. What am I missing in this exploration process? Let me know in the comments below. 


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Sunday, June 23, 2024

See Something and Say Something


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

The details of publishing are important. Each of us as individuals can make a difference in our world--but only if you see something and say something about it. In this article, I want to give several specific examples.

As a writer, its easy to feel like you are writing and putting material into the world, but getting little feedback and few things are changing. Or you feel like there is little you can do about incorrect things you see in your work. I understand these feelings and yet I want to tell about a couple of actions that I took this week. They are actions any writer can take whether you are experienced or a beginner. 

As a regular practice from time to time, I will join a launch team for a forthcoming book. Im a part of such a team for a new book which releases on Tuesday, June 18th. The launch manager sent us a list of websites where we can post our review. In general, I write my review in Microsoft Word. I also create a unique image for the book that I can post with my review. When I got this list of possible places, I opened each one, then cut and pasted my review into the right section. Some of these sites will send a confirmation email to make sure you are who you say you are. Others will take time to post the review and still others will not post the review until when the book releases. 

One of the review sites on this list was a well-known bookseller. The forthcoming book was listed but this website did not have the book cover. Instead they posted a generic book graphic. I posted my review but without the right book cover, my review has less visual impact on the consumer. On my computer, I had downloaded the missing book cover. At this bookseller site, I looked for how to contact customer service about this missing book cover. I filled out a form on their website and attached the book cover asking them to add it to the appropriate place (and I gave them the exact website address). After a day or two, the customer service area sent an email they had added the book cover to their site. I checked it and now the image of the book appears with the book information. My action took a little effort but hopefully helps this author sell more copies of his book. Anyone could have made this change. It did involve seeing something that was missing, then saying something so this missing element was added.

Recently one of my friends on Facebook posted the cover of his new book. It was an attractive cover but when I read the words, I noticed a key word was misspelled on it. I could have shrugged it and figured others would catch this error. Instead, I reached out to this author. I was hopeful that what I was seeing was a preliminary cover and not a final one. My friend appreciated my feedback but I was seeing a final, printed cover. Ouch. As he told me, I would be surprised how many people had reviewed this cover and didnt catch the misspelled word. I encourage you to help others when you see errors, then say something.

In these articles, occasionally I highlight my consistent actions on Goodreads. There are millions of dedicated readers on Goodreads and I encourage every author to take the time to build their Goodreads profile and connect with friends. The average person on the site has about 200 to 400 friends. Ive got over 5,000 friends or the maximum. Why is this detail important? When I review a book on Goodreads, the review shows up on the main page of each of these friends. That translates into lots of exposure for my review and the book. Exposure is one of the first actions to drive book sales for every author.

While reading a recent book to review on Goodreads, I noticed the cover was white instead of blue. It was a small detail but important. The book wasnt my book nor from Morgan James Publishing where I work. I could have ignored it. Instead I filled out a help form on Goodreads and sent them the cover with the right color. BTW, Goodreads has excellent support for such questions. Within 24 hours, they responded and fixed the cover. 

Each of us can take these types of simple actions to improve our world. My encouragement to each of you is to take these small but significant actions. Much in our world is outside of anything in our direct control. Yet each of us can take our own responsibility for making our own changes and fixing what we see needs to be fixed. If you are a Christian, you have a powerful underutilized resource for whatever you see needs to be changed outside of your control: prayer. We can talk with the God of the Universe about these aspects and ask for his help. 

Recently I read and reviewed 1001 Ways to Be Kind by Dallas Woodburn. Each of us can use more kindness in our lives and that can begin with you being kind and spreading kindness. Get this little book and tuck it into your desk or briefcase or purse, then read it and get a practical idea to apply into your life. 

If you want to be a world-changer, that process begins with you and your actions. What actions can you take to improve what you see and make a difference? Let me know in the comments below. 


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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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