Sunday, February 25, 2024

Missed Opportunities

By Terry Whalin 

As writers and others involved in publishing, I believe we live in one of the greatest times in human history. Markus Dohle, the former CEO of Penguin Random House wrote a couple of years ago about books are now enjoying their biggest renaissance since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the fifteenth century. I was on a webinar listening to Dohle where he made this statement and gave his reasons. If you follow the link, you can see a webinar where he talks about the explosion in book publishing around the world.  

In my own life and work, Im finding great opportunities for my writing and other aspects of my work. Recently I was on a zoom call with a writer and an agent. During this call the writer talked about his new podcast and offered the agent and myself, the opportunity to be on his podcast. I appreciated this offer, made a note and a bit later, followed up with an email. In my email, I pitched my topic which was tied to one of my books. The writer sent a link to his calendar and we recorded the podcast recently. One of these days I will get a notice about when the recording will be published. Im including this story as an example of how we are surrounded with such opportunities. They can slip through our fingers and never happen--unless we take action and pitch.

As a part of my work at Morgan James Publishing, I get leads of authors who are pitching their work. For anything to happen, I have to craft an email and encourage these authors to submit their work, get into the consideration process and possibly get a Morgan James contract. When I sent this series of emails asking for submissions, some people respond right away and others do not respond. 

A week or so after sending a series of these email requests, one of these writers called me. She looked at our website and was interested in possibly submitting to me. On our website, we clearly say that our process includes a financial commitment from the author to purchase their own books--during the lifetime of their book. Her question to me was a good one, “Do you work with authors who are cash poor and dont have those funds?”

“Yes,” I responded then told her about a creative way to raise the money. Morgan James Publishing has their own branded version of a program called Publishizer. Its like a GoFundMe or KickStarter campaign but Publishizer is only for book authors. Heres an example of one of my authors who raised the funds for her book using Publishizer. As we spoke about it, this author caught the vision of how she could use this tool to raise the funds for publishing and marketing her book. I admit it will take some additional creative effort for the author to create such a campaign, market it, then succeed with it. 

After my call, I followed up and sent this author some detailed information so she could explore the possibilities. Currently I have not heard anything additional from this author. I have not received her submission or anything else to move forward through the Morgan James process. Im hopeful that she will still send it but if not, it is another missed opportunity. 

Any author can publish their book through Amazon, which is a big customer for Morgan James but only 24% of our overall business. If you publish with Amazon, you are missing 76% of where we sell books, which are being sold in 98% of the bookstores in North America including the brick and mortar bookstores. 

Many authors miss their opportunity when they dont submit their material. Others miss their opportunity to publish with a traditional publisher and are impatient to get their work into the market. These authors self-publish and essentially eliminate any traditional publisher. The only exceptional authors who dont get eliminated in this process are the ones who are wildly successful selling their own book like The Shack. Thousands failed yet The Shack succeeded. 

There are many other opportunities that I miss because I didnt craft a pitch to a radio station or a podcast. Another way I miss opportunities is through a lack of follow-up. In fact, many writers will submit their work and not use the gentle follow-up to get an update on their submission. 

As Ive written in these articles, a key part of the publishing process is finding the right fit. It is not an easy or simple business. The author has to work to find the right connection and not miss the opportunity.

Several weeks ago, a publicist reached out to me about a new book from Joyce Meyer called The Pathway To Success. She complimented my reviews on Goodreads and asked if I would like to read this book. Yes, I responded with my mailing address and I received the book. Ive been reading it and learned a great deal. Heres my review of it. Even for a much published author like Joyce Meyer, she has faced rejection and adversity on the pathway to success. 

Each week, I get rejected. Yes, things that I pitched are not answered (rejection). Contracts that I send to authors are turned down and other events that I try fail. In the face of rejection, I have two choices. I can wallow in my disappointment and quit. Or I can renew my determination and keep knocking on new doors for some additional opportunities. If I stop, it will become a missed opportunity. Its a strange juxtiposition but Ive learned failure and success are a part of the journey and necessary if you dont want to miss an opportunity. 

How do you handle the opportunities that are coming your way? Are you missing them or do you have another strategy? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, February 18, 2024

Invest In Your Writing

By Terry Whalin 

Many editors and agents are difficult to reach. These gatekeepers play an important role in the publishing community. This aspect of publishing is rarely discussed but your connection to this person is important aspect of publishing. As Ive written in these articles, every author needs a champion for their submission. 

As a new writer, how can you connect with these important gatekeepers? Many publishers dont take electronic or mail submissions which is sometimes called a slush pile. They are not on LinkedIN or interested in developing new connections. These professionals are busy with their current books and authors. Its the same story with the literary agents and often more difficult to get their attention much less to have them represent your work. In fact, its rare for them to sign a new author. 

If you want to break into the publishing business, what are your options? They are limited but one of the best ways to make connections with an editor or literary agent is to attend a writers conference. For many years Ive been teaching and attending various writers conferences. In detail, this article gives the reasons why you should attend a conference. At the bottom of the article, there is a link to learn about various conferences.

Next month I will be teaching at the Blue Lake Christian Writers Conference. This particular event is a smaller conference (about 100 people) which gives each person the opportunity to get to know the faculty, talk about why you want to do what you want to do, then get their ideas and input. 

I understand that attending such an event is an investment in your writing. It will cost you time and money to make this effort but it is an investment that Ive seen return many fold through my years in publishing.

I encourage you to invest in your writing and attend a conference--even plan to come to Blue Lake next month. Take the time to get prepared, select your classes and the people you want to meet at the event. Also create a business card and bring lots of them to exchange with people. Create a one-page pitch with your article idea or your book project. Then go to the event with an open heart. You never know who you will met and what door of opportunity they will open to you during your conversation. I find often what happens is not what you expect or anticipate. At these events, Ive made life-long friends who have read and reviewed my books. Ive also met editors who have called or reached out to me when they have a writing need or a project for me to tackle. These relationships often began at a writers conference. 

As writers, we spend a lot of time alone but we need each other to accomplish this work and reach others. Some of these connections happen at a writers conference. I look forward to what will happen at Blue Lake next month. I hope to see you there. In the comments below, let me know what steps you are taking to invest in your writing


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Sunday, February 11, 2024

The Consistent Writer

By Terry Whalin

Last week I picked up the phone and called a writer I met over a year and a half ago. I encouraged her to send me her material. It was not my first phone call or email to this author but in a consistent pattern since we met, Ive been reaching out. As of this writing, she hasnt sent her material. Months ago I recall reading her book proposal and seeing potential. My follow-up work has not been done in a nuisance way so she wonders about my persistence. I have had a steady pattern. This characteristic of consistency is an important one for every writer. In this article, I want to give you some ideas how to build consistency into your writing life.

First, each person needs to determine what do you want to accomplish with your writing? Do you want to increase your presence on a specific social media platform? Do you want to get more readers to your blog or your newsletter? Do you want to get more reviews for your books? Do you want to sell more books? Do you want to write more magazine articles? There are endless possibilities and questions. My point is to select something specific. 

Now with a specific writing target clearly in focus, how are you going to execute this task? From my experience the consistency comes from creating a system. For example, I post on my social media about 12 to 15 times a day. Yet I only spend about 30 minutes a day on these posts. I am consistent in this process because Ive developed a system for creating and posting my social media. Years ago I decided to post my tweets every hour throughout the working day--and not at the top of the hour but at five minutes past the hour. In a few cases each day I post at 35 minutes past the hour. Each of these posts are scheduled a planned. 

Sometimes I will post immediately and often happens when I review a book and promote the book and review. If you follow my social media stream (which some writers do because they repost and share my material), Im providing an education in publishing and the writing world--particularly if you read the various articles. My posting is a continual part of my effort to share what Im learning and also educate others on this complex and ever-changing world of publishing. Other writers, editors, agents and leaders in the publishing world are reading these actions--including these articles in The Writing Life

My results and success in publishing didnt happen overnight but happened because of my consistent action. I tried something, then adjusted the plan and then continued it--thousands of times. Im consistent because Ive created and continued my system. It is that simple and something you can do as well. 

Or maybe you want to blog each week or several times a week or once a month. Select a schedule which will work for your writing life and is something you can do over and over. I write these articles about The Writing Life once a week and have posted consistently for years. Throughout the week and often at odd times, I will have an idea for an article. I write it down and keep a running list of these ideas. During spare moments throughout my week, I will write my article. Sometimes I have it written early and other times I do it at the last minute but every time I get it done because I have developed a system.

For my blog, each entry is intentional to my particular audience with topics and labels (to help the SEO), a clear by-line who wrote it, a relevant, royalty-free image, a different image at the bottom of my blog and tied to my special offer (and if you click the image it goes to the offer), a click-to-tweet at the end of each article to help people easily pass along my writing to their audience, and many other details are included. If you want to know how to make money with your blog, I have a risk-free resource (just follow the link or click the image). Yet each detail is planned and a part of my created system which I use on a consistent basis. Because I have been blogging on a consistent basis, with millions of blogs, my blog was named as one of the top 27 content writers (which was a complete surprise to me).

Recently I received a proposal submission which was probably this writers first attempt. The submission was incomplete with a hand-drawn illustration which will likely never be published (unless the author does it herself). As an editor, I could have:

1) ignored it and not responded (a common response) 
2) scheduled it for rejection or 
3) responded 

I chose to respond to this writer and take a few minutes to send her some free resources and guidance. I have no idea if she will take my suggestions or ignore them (another choice). I recall my own early submissions and the mistakes which I made over and over. If no one helped me, I would still be unpublished. I include this story to show that each of us have things we have learned in our publishing journey. I encourage you to make the effort to pass along these lessons to others and help them. 

How can every writer become consistent? It begins with creating a system which works for you, executing your system over and over, then reworking it as needed. None of these actions happen randomly. My consistent actions and development of an ever-improving and refined system is working. What actions can you take to become a more consistent writer? Let me know what else you suggest in the comments. 


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Sunday, February 04, 2024

How to Keep Moving Up

By Terry Whalin 

Notice the tiny lady bug on a leaf. This insect uses persistence and consistency to keep climbing upward on the plant.  I see this effort as a metaphor of the same sort of continual effort we make as writers to keep in motion toward our goals and dreams for our writing. The path isnt often clear and filled with challenges and set backs. Yet the people who succeed are the ones who continue forward despite any setbacks.

My own path has been filled with false starts and stumbles along with surprises and opportunities. I began writing for magazines and was trained in newspaper journalism at a top school, Indiana University. To the surprise of my classmates, I joined Wycliffe Bible Translators out of college and spent ten years in linguistics before I returned to my writing. I started writing for magazines and learned how to craft a query along with other skills. 

At one of my first writers conferences, an editor told me about her problem then asked me if I had any ideas. I pitched and she said, “That sounds like a good idea, Terry. Write that up and send it to me.” I made a little note, went home and sent the submission. It started a chain of events which ultimately led to my first published book, When I Grow Up, I Can Go Anywhere for Jesus.

Since then Ive written many different types of books and even had two of my book proposals receive six-figure advances. I have long stories about what happened to those books and will give those details another day. While I have had many failures, Ive also succeeded with a number of writing projects. Throughout my journey, I continue to meet new people and learn from different sources. 

Last week a friend asked me if I was interested in reading her book. As Ive mentioned in these articles, publishers and author often send this question because Ive written a large number of book reviews. I turn down the majority of these books because no one could read the volume of material that pours into my home. I agreed to read WRITING FOR MONEY & MEANING

Ive read many how-to writing books (and written several of them). I have never seen anyone tell me the path and direction to move upward and increase your income and fulfillment. The detailed information and questions to ask a prospective client is something I have not found in other books.  

Every writer is trying to find the right place for their work. Publisher Julie Anne Eason has been in that place and with honesty and insight opens the door of opportunity in the pages of WRITING FOR MONEY & MEANING. She clearly says there is not one path but some essential attitudes and practices for every freelance writer. 

Many writers are looking for black and white answers to different questions related to the publishing world. Eason encourages writers to experiment, learn and find their own path. As Eason writes in the opening pages, “This book is going to give you a glimpse into dozens of ways to move your career forward.” (Page 4)

Deeper in the book, Eason writes, “Its up to you to ask the right questions and find out what their expectations are before you quote a price for your writing services. Some short books fall in the $10,000 range for your services,  while others can run into six figures for a project. That a huge range and it took me a long time to figure out how to get to those $100,000 ghostwriting contracts.” (Page 44) 

If you want to earn more money, Eason provides readers with a detailed path and questions for writers of every level. As I read the book, it stirred a cornucopia of possibilities for my own writing life. I wish I had read this book 10 or 20 years ago but it didn’t exist. The opportunity for every writer is out there. You have to read the information, ask the right questions and then seize the project. I learned a great deal reading this book and highly recommend it. 

Have you found this type of information in another source? What steps are you taking with your writing life to keep moving up? Let me know in the comments below. 


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Sunday, January 28, 2024

When You Feel Overwhelmed

By Terry Whalin 

In the publishing world, its easy to feel overwhelmed with all the responsibility that falls on every author. It doesnt matter if you are trying to publish your first work or you have written bestselling books. The feelings of overwhelm can spring into your life. As a writer you have a multitide of things that you need to accomplish. Heres just a few of them:
--Create excellent writing
--Make the right connection
--Write an attention-getting book proposal (follow the link for a free copy of my much-reviewed book)
--building a website
--beginning and maintaining an email list
--blogging on a consistent and regular basis
--connecting through social media
--marketing yourself and your writing
--and much more

Each of these various skills can consume many hours to accomplish. Some of them like excellent writing is never accomplished because as writers we continue to grow, learn and improve. 

From my decades in publishing, I want to give several facts. First, every writer feels overwhelmed from time to time including me. At times the work is daunting and the results are often unpredictable and outside of anything I can control. Also while I accomplish and complete individual tasks, the work is never done and there is always more to be done. 

When you have these feelings (and everyone does), what do you do? Before I give you some active suggestions, lets talk about what not to do. First, dont quit. Then dont procrastinate and do nothing. Each of us spin our wheels from time to time but snap out of it and get going. I’ve seen many people stop working in the writing world.

Here’s my encouragement about what actions to take. First get your fingers on the keyboard and keep going. Continue to write stories. Your consistent writing and making progress counts and will pay off in the long run. No one sits at their keyboard and in a single session completes a full-length work.

Make time to plan and organize how you are moving forward. For example, Ive learned that I dont work well in chaos or mess. I understand some people write well at a coffee shop but I dont. I complete more work and quicker if I have a plan and a relatively neat office. As Ive written in the past, publishers and authors will send books that they want me to read and write reviews. Last week these books were stacking up in my office and becoming overwhelming. I took a few minutes and narrowed the books and organized them into something manageable. It took a few minutes but lessened my overwhelming feelings. I encourage you to take these sorts of actions in your writing life to plan and organize, then move forward. If Im not going to read a particular book, its better for me to put it out of my sight and donate it or give it to someone else.

Also keep learning, experimenting and growing. For example, a much published author reached out to me last week and asked if I would read and review her book. I agreed and she sent it to me. Im learning a great deal from reading it. This book was released late last year and has no reviews (at least on two online places that I checked). It takes work and effort to get these reviews. Its something every writer has to do and if you need ideas, follow this link

When you feel the stress and overwhelmed, take some time to exercise and walk around the block or any type of movement. As writers, we spend a lot of time sitting and in our chair. There is value and reduction of stress through taking simple actions to care for yourself. 

I hope these words encourage you because if you are feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone. Every writer feels this way but the critical element is what actions are you taking to move ahead in spite of those feelings? Let me know what else you suggest in the comments. 

My Articles in Other Places. 

In these articles, I often encouraged you to publish your book on other blogs and other places. Here’s some of my articles which have been published recently: 

Create a Fascinating Marketing Plan Most of us would like to delegate this responsibility to someone else. In this article I explain why every writer needs to take these steps. 

Take An Underused Author Path Most writers want to publish a book. In this article, I encourage authors to take a different journey to get published which can reach more people and give you visibility in the marketplace for editors and literary agents.  

Get Writing Wisdom and Experienced Insights
 As writers, we need wisdom and experienced insight. In this article, I give specific suggestions where you can find these elements for your writing life.  


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Sunday, January 21, 2024

Before You Hit Send

By Terry Whalin

As a writer and an editor, I understand the importance of good communication. In fact, if you clearly communicate, it’s one of the simple ways to stand out in the publishing world. From my perspective, the bottom-line of the publishing business is communications. Yet as a writer, I’ve often submitted things with no response or silence. I’ve heard editors say if you don’t hear anything from us in a certain number of weeks, then you can assume we are not interested in your submission. When I hear this comment, it strikes me as poor communication from the professional. I understand that we get thousands of submissions which can be overwhelming. Yet it does not take long to cut and paste a simple response and send it to the author.  

Recently I copied a colleague on a note to an author about an internal matter. This colleague is reading her email because she reached out to me and filled me in on some behind-the-scenes changes which I didn’t know about but were important for my day to day work. I appreciated the communication from my colleague. 

Many of us are working electronically and in this article, I want to give some general guidance and cautions before you hit send.  

Several months ago, Google changed their email and allows you to “unsend” your email (if you do it almost immediately after you have sent something). While I have not used this feature often, I like having this ability to unsend. Also Google gave users the ability to schedule emails. I like using this feature from time to time with my work emails.

As you write an email to someone, make sure you include enough information and not too much detail. Sometimes I will get an email from someone which is several pages in length. Then often I have to read and re-read it to make sure I absorb all of the information. If I have too much going, I will plan to read it later--and sometimes later never happens and I don’t read it. The balance can be tricky but it’s something I encourage you to consider and shoot for with each communication.

Also I use the draft feature with my email. If something comes in which needs to be answered and I can't do it at that time, I will put it into my draft folder to handle later. It’s critical that you check your draft folder from time to time so an important email doesn't get stuck in it. To my chagrin, I have found an email stuck in the draft folder and not sent.

As a writer, there are many different types of writing I send with email. I will send book proposals and manuscripts as attachments--only after I have sent a query and the editor agrees to receive it. Many news agencies don’t open attachments because at times they have a virus or bug. To reach them with your pitch, it is better for you to embed your release or pitch inside the email. 

When you send an email to your newsletter list, before you send it, check and make sure all of the links work. On a recent bestselling author friend’s newsletter where I’m on her list, she included a list of forthcoming speaking engagement and a city with the state abbreviation CS (which was actually SC for South Carolina). The details matter. I have an inexpensive product to help you with your email list called List Building Tycoon (use the link to check it out). 

As an editor, I sent sample contracts and other information as an attachment after I have spoken with an author. Then when our publication board meets and makes a decision about a book, I will also send the contract and other information as an attachment.

If you email someone and don’t get a response, I encourage you to resend it or follow-up about it. Many opportunities are missed because of not following up. 

You can also use google to find other resources on this topic like Your Top-to-Bottom Email Checklist: What to Include Before You Hit Send. What else do you need to consider before you hit send? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, January 14, 2024

Serve Before Asking

By Terry Whalin

Several years ago I was at a conference and in the hallway listening to the director of the conference talking with another leader about a faculty member. This director said, “I encourage you to be cautious about how you use ______. She’s a taker and not a giver.” It was the first time that I’d witnessed this categorization. 

In this article, I want you to consider the importance of your reputation and how you want others to know you. My encouragement is for you to be known as a giver and not a taker. 

In these articles, I’ve encouraged you to get connected to as many people as possible through LinkedIN and through exchanging business cards at conferences or events. It is important to know as many people as possible. As I’ve often said who you know is almost as important as what you know.  On a deeper level, how are you serving or helping those people you meet? 

For example, if you have a new book and are gathering endorsements for this book, how can you serve the person before asking for their help? A simple method is to get their latest book, read it then write a review and promote that review to your social media channels. When you promote the review, use their name, hook it to their Facebook page or their X (Twitter) account or any number of other ways to connect your review and get their attention. 

Then when you reach out for their help, add a sentence in the request about what you've done and even include a link. Don’t overdo it but your message is that I’m a giver and helper to you before I’m asking for your assistance. 

For example, several years ago I read and reviewed a new book from author and journalist Piers Morgan. After my review appeared, I wrote about my review to my social media channels and used his X (Twitter) name in my post. Piers publically thanked me for my review. It’s the only exchange we’ve ever had but it happened through social media. If I can do this sort of reach, you can too. Admittedly it takes some effort on your part but is possible.

In the most basic form to build relationships, you want to give the other person a reason to connect with you instead of making a random request. 

Here’s another important element in the asking process: don’t overask. Narrow your focused ask down to one thing. Recently I received an email request from another writer friend--but it included four or five asks in this email. I read it and almost did not even respond. Yes, I could have ghosted this friend and not responded. That can happen if you ask for too much in a single email. Instead, I did respond but picked the easiest element to do for this friend--and said no to the rest of them. The overask made an impression--but not the one that my friend expected or wanted. 

In what ways can you serve another person before asking for their help? Let me know in the comments below.


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