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Sunday, September 15, 2019


How To Eat An Elephant


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin


How do you eat an elephant? It's an old joke but you eat an elephant one bite at a time.  It the same way to accomplish any huge task—one action at a time. Recently I began to write another book.  It doesn't matter that I've done it over and over through the years. Each time it looks daunting to write an entire book manuscript. No matter what others will tell you for everyone getting started is hard. The writing in the middle is hard and finishing is hard. Yes the task is difficult and looks impossible. So how do you get it done? One bite at a time.

What is the deadline for completing your book? If you don't have a deadline, then I suggest you set one. After you have a deadline, how many words a day are you going to write to complete the deadline? Make sure you build in some extra days for the unexpected (happens to everyone) but make sure you hit your deadline.


Or maybe your goal is tied to your social media. You want to reach a certain number of followers on Twitter or a certain number of connections on LinkedIn. Are you actively working on these networks? Are you posting a number of times each day? Are you connecting with new people? Without your regular actions, then it will be hard to increase your presence and meet your goals.


Do you want to do more speaking? Are you pitching different conference directors and leaders? From my experience you have to be proactively promoting your speaking skills to get more speaking meetings.


Do you want to appear on more radio shows and talk about your latest book? There are thousands of radio stations and programs which use guests on their program. These bookings do not happen just sitting back and waiting for them to call. Your phone will be silent if you take this action. Instead, you need to be actively pitching the producers of these programs.


Or maybe you want to write more magazine articles or appear on more podcasts? Waiting for the phone to ring will likely not happen. What proactive steps are you taking to either go ahead and write the article then submit it to the publication? Or you can write a query letter and send it simultaneously to different publications and get an assignment?


Many are surprised that I have written over 60 books through the years. There are several keys in this process but one of the most important is consistent writing.  It is a matter of writing one paragraph, then another paragraph which becomes one page then another page. It is the same process as eating an elephant—doing it in bite-size pieces.


Do you break your writing into smaller pieces? I'd love to have your tips and insights in the comments below.


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Sunday, September 08, 2019


What Is Writing Success?


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Success is a pursuit for many writers, authors and publishing professionals. If we are honest, each of us will define success in different terms. In this article, I want to give you some ideas which hopefully will encourage you to keep going with your writing.

Occasionally book authors will ask me about success or becoming a bestseller. When asked, I attempt to give them my best answer—and basically it will boil down to that author's marketing activity and drive to sell books. There is no single path for each author. If there were such a path, then every book would be a bestseller and we know that isn't the case.

For me, I write about topics and people which interest me. Thankfully I have a broad spectrum of interest so there is never a lack of possibilities for my writing. I learn a great deal with each article or book or writing project. Each one has built a great deal into my life and the richness of that experience. I hope writing brings that sort of experience in your own life.

I've been promoting my book about Billy Graham every day for over four years. I post different messages and links and images but have been doing this process over and over every day. Last week one of my long-term friends added a message to one of my Facebook entries about Billy Graham saying, “Wow I didn't know you wrote that book.” She purchased the book and is reading it and has told me she is going to write a review of it when finished. I'm grateful this friend discovered my book and is reading it. This one exchange is success for me and one of the reasons I wrote that book.

As authors (from my experience), we don't get lots of feedback from readers of our work. Yes you may see an occasional review or get an email or comment. For every review or comment, I expect there are many more readers who never reach out to the author.

It's the same with these articles in my blog. The people who comment are rare (outside of the spammers which I delete). Yet each week for years I continue to write and post a new entry in The Writing Life. I see these lists of the top writing blogs—and mine is not on it. These lists come from well-known and respected writing magazines. Yes I have an email subscriber list of about 500 which goes up and down but stays around that same number.

Last week I got an email about this list of ranked writing blogs. To my surprise, The Writing Life blog was the fourth rank of 100 blogs. Notice this ranking includes several criteria for the ranking—including followers. It was encouraging to see my followers and be listed on this ranking.

My encouragement to you:

1. Follow your own path with your writing and persist to reach the right publisher and right readers.

2. Understand that success varies for each piece of writing and some writing will reach people you have no idea that it reaches.

3. Continue to move forward in spite of rejection, doubts, fears and other emotions. The journey is a key portion of the reward.

Success is different for each of us and I hope in this article, I've given you some insights and motivation to persevere and move ahead with your writing. Enjoy the journey.

What is your definition of Writing Success? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sunday, September 01, 2019


Get Inspiration




By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin


Where do you find inspiration for your writing? For me, this inspiration comes from many different sources but as a writer we have to be aware and watching for it. I love a good story and find myself returning to these stories mentally and thinking about them over and over.

I've mentioned in the past about listening to audiobooks through Overdrive. It is a free resource through the public library. You can easily check out audiobooks, download them on your phone then listen to them as you walk (through earphones) or drive (through bluetooth) or many other means.


I love listening to memoirs and self-help books. Recently I listened to actor Michael Caine's memoir, Blowing the Bloody Doors Off. At 85 years old, actor Michael Caine has lived an amazing life. Like you would expect, his life is filled with ups and downs—and both aspects are captured in the pages of this fascinating book. I listened to Caine’s narration of the audiobook version cover to cover and enjoyed the book.  It is filled with stories and life lessons. To give you a taste of some of these insights, I tracked down the introduction to this book and wanted to include a few paragraphs:



“THE FIRST TIME I was in the United States, when I had just made Alfie, I was sitting on my own in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel and heard the sound of a helicopter landing in the gardens opposite. This, the porter told me, was strictly illegal. He and I stood at the door to see who was so flagrantly flouting the law—presumably the President, of the United States or at least of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Across Sunset Boulevard, out of a swirling sun-flecked cloud of dust, six foot four and in full cowboy get-up, strode the unmistakable figure of John Wayne. As I stood there with my mouth open he caught my eye and altered his course to come over to me. What's your name, kid? he asked.

Michael Caine, I managed to croak.


That's right, he agreed, with a tilt of his head. You were in that movie Alfie.


Yes, I said. I wasn't really keeping up my end of the conversation.


You're gonna be a star, kid, he drawled, draping his arm around my shoulders. "But if you want to stay one, remember this: talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much."


Thank you, Mr. Wayne, I said.


"Call me Duke. He gave me a chuck on the arm, turned around and swaggered off.

 
It was a mind-blowing Hollywood moment for an ambitious young actor on his first visit to the city of dreams. And it was great advice for anyone who was going to be acting in Westerns and delivering all his dialogue from a horse. Talk low and slow so you don't scare the horses, and say as little as possible before the horse runs away. But it was not such great advice for someone like me, an actor who was going to play all kinds of characters with tons of dialogue, and mostly, thankfully, with my feet planted firmly on the ground.

I am often asked what advice I have for actors starting out in this business. And for many years my answer was Never listen to old actors like me." That was because, until John Wayne offered me his words of wisdom, I always used to ask older actors what I should do, and the only thing they ever told me was to give up.

But as I've got older, I've been reflecting on my life, as older people often do. And I've realised that, over my sixty years in the movie business and my eighty-five years of life, I have been given a lot of useful advice—by Marlene Dietrich, Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier among many others—and I have learnt a lot of useful lessons, from my many glittering successes and my many disastrous failures. I started to think I could do a bit better than never listen to advice. In fact, my advice would be, don't listen to that advice.


This book is the result of that reflection. I wanted to look back on my life from the Elephant and Castle to Hollywood, and from man-about-town Alfie to Batman's butler Alfred, with all its successes and all its failures, all its fun and all its misery and struggle, its comedy, its drama, its romance and its tragedy, and find, among it all, the lessons I've learnt and want to share, not just for aspiring movie actors but for everyone.

 
A few of my 
lessons are quite specific to movie acting. But I hope that most of them will speak, somehow, to most of you. You won't all have to audition for parts but in some ways life is always an audition: everyone has moments when they have to put themselves out there for what they want. You won't all have to learn lines but everyone sometimes has to make sure they're properly prepared. We all have to deal with difficult people and we all have to learn how to balance our professional and personal lives.” (From the introduction of Blowing the Bloody Doors Off.


I just gave a taste of the profound material in this well-crafted book. I highly recommend Blowing the Bloody Doors Off (which was the last line in the entire book). I hope this example has given you some ideas about where I find inspiration—and you can too.


Where do you find inspiration? What are some of your sources? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, August 25, 2019


The Necessity of Continued Pitching


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Admittedly after years in publishing, I get tired of the continuous pitching. Afterall, I've written for many magazines and publisher, don't the publishing offers just come to me without effort on my part? No. Rarely in my years in this business does someone come to me with a writing project. Yes it has happened in my writing but I recognize the rarity of that occurrence.

One of the realities of the publishing world is the writer has to continually pitch their ideas to get published. For the world of print magazines, you have to either write your article completely then send it to the editor or write a query letter with your idea and get a magazine editor to assign the article. I've written complete articles which never got published and I've written query letters which never got picked up an garnered an assignment. It is part of the risk that every writer takes.

To get on the faculty of a conference or to get a speaking assignment, you have to pitch the directors of the event. These directors get a lot of pitches so sometimes you have to pitch multiple times and multiple possible workshops to get selected. Of necessity the writer has to be crafting new workshops and innovative ideas to get selected and not use the same old ideas that have worked in the past. Last fall I was at a conference and met a writer who I have long admired his work. Yet during the event I overhead another speaker exclaim, “I heard ___ years ago and they gave exactly the same workshop that they gave today.” That is not the reputation I want as a writer and speaker—same old same old. It's why I am continually making new workshops and teaching new sessions.

To get a publishing deal, you have to write a proposal or for fiction a complete manuscript and synopsis, then pitch that material to the right literary agent or right editor. These book pitches involve crafting the right words which are innovative and catch attention. While these book pitches are done through email or mail, the key is they are done through written pitches. As an acquisitions editor, I regularly have unpublished authors who want to get on the phone and pitch their idea. I've heard some amazing phone pitches that do not match the written pitches so those written pitches get rejected. Pitching on the phone can be a complete waste of time. I need the written pitch to convince my colleagues to give you a book contract. It's how the system works within publishing and excellent writing drives everything.

What is your strategy or plan to continually pitch? Do you pitch different things during different seasons? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Sunday, August 18, 2019


Four Reasons to Send Me Your New Book


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Every day new books pour into the market and millions of other titles are already in print and on the market. As an acquisitions editor at Morgan James, a New York publisher with about 150 new titles a year, I'm actively involved in bringing new books into the market. I'm a contributor to the volume of new books entering the marketplace.

Over the years, I've received many books from publishers and authors. At a Book Expo in Los Angeles, I picked up an advance reading copy (ARC) of a book from Doubleday called Covenant House. I had this book months before it released to the public. I read the book and wrote a short query letter to a magazine. This publication gave me a word count and a deadline for my review (which I met). It was my first published book review.  I was a book review columnist for two print publications (both no longer exist). Each issue I selected the books which were reviewed in these columns. Some publishers sent me most of the titles they published with the hope I would select one of their books to include in the magazine. It amounted to hundreds of books in many different genres and types. I gave away so many of these books to a church library in Kentucky, the mayor of the town declared an official Terry Whalin Day.

In this article, I want to give you four reasons to send me your book (even if it has been out a while):

1. I read constantly in many different genres—mostly nonfiction but some fiction.

2. I write reviews about books (currently over 900 on Amazon and over 500 on Goodreads). In general if I read a book (or listen to it in audiobook format), then I write a review of the book. From my experience it is often a challenge for writers to find people who will not only read their book but write a review of the book.

3. I tell others about these books when I teach at conferences. When I teach at these events, I talk about authors and the different books that I've read.

4. I tell others about my reviews of books through my social media connections (over 200,000 on Twitter, over 15,500 on LinkedIn and over 4900 on Facebook).

How to Pitch Me on Reading Your Book

1. Understand I only read print books. I do not read Ebook versions through net galley or any other format.

2. I don't read every type of book and I'm selective. For example, one author has been pitching me several times to read and review his book. I looked at his Amazon page and it is over 500 pages and not on a topic that I'm interested in (much less the large size). I politely declined that book

3. Email your pitch on your book and why I should read it. Your pitch should be interesting yet short and to the point with the page count, the release date and the publisher.  I will read it and email you back whether I want to read it or not. If I want to read it, I will send you a mailing address for the book.

Every author can use this simple pitching process for their own books. The best way to get reviews for your book is to ask others. If you are not proactive on gathering and getting reviews, normally it does not happen—especially for nonfiction books. Sometimes fiction writers have an easier time getting reviews (depending on the genre and publisher of your book).

Do you read books and write reviews? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sunday, August 11, 2019


An Unusual Pitch Session


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

During a recent Saturday, I participated in a virtual pitch session. Through zoom (a computer connection), for two and a half hours, I listened to 25 authors pitch their book to me. The sessions were rapid fire and each one lasted about four minutes each.

While I've been going to writer's conferences for many years and meeting writers face to face for their pitches, this session involved no travel for me. I was sitting in my office listening to these authors pitch their work. I understand from the conference director that the writers came from all over the country for this event. Before they pitched, they knew my background and about Morgan James Publishing. I had nothing in advance of my meeting with them—not even their names. I was one of five possible people for these authors to pitch. There were three literary agents and one film producer besides me. Of these varioous professionals, I was the only one who worked directly with a publisher (and can actually issue contracts and publish these books). If you don't know, literary agents are great but they have to sign these authors as their clients for their agency then shop their proposals or manuscripts to a publisher before they get a contract. My publisher work is much more of a direct connection for these authors.

I enjoyed this unusual pitch session. Here's some tips from what I learned—and these tips will work whether you pitch virtually or in person at a conference:

1. Establish a connection with the person. Virtually we greeted each other and exchanged names. In person I often give someone my business card right away to begin the process.

2. Be enthusiastic about your pitch. Each of these authors read their pitch on their computer but some were more polished and at ease than others. Your enthusiasm will show as you are excited about your book.

3. Do more than talk about your book and story. Many authors just stuck to their story and told me about it. Others added a short piece at the end of their pitch about themselves. Remember the editor knows nothing about you and your background and most important your ability to sell books. For example, one author had a moving personal story but also hinted about her own marketing connection with millions of YouTube views. These details matter and will be significant to the editor or agent.

4. Follow-up and actually send your material.  From speaking with the conference director, I learned each of these authors have completed their manuscript as a part of this coaching program. In each case they told the status of their project and when they expected to begin submitting their work (often around Thanksgiving).

These oral pitches were terrific and impressive to me as an editor. Through the years I've had many writers give fantastic oral pitches yet their printed work does not match the oral pitch. At the end of the day, it is your writing which is going to win the heart and enthusiasm of the editor. Also  I wonder how many of these 25 people will actually send me their material? When they pitched I had nothing from these writers—nothing in print but I'm working to change that and get their contact information so I can follow up. Why? From going to conferences for years, I know without my follow-up, I suspect many will never send me their material—at least this has been my experience from past pitch sessions and hopefully they will be better than the past. Some of those pitches are still in my mind—which means to me they have lots of good potential and I'm eager to get them moving and published.

Have you ever been in a virtual pitch session like I am describing? How did it work out for you? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sunday, August 04, 2019


The Ministry of Your Book


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

There are many reasons to write books. Some people write to make money. Others write for a business card to lead to more business and speaking engagements. Others write to teach others and get their message into the market. Each of these reasons is a valid one but not the focus of this article.


First I want to mention a great resource. From my years in publishing, every author needs to read and learn from experts who know publishing intimately and learn from their insights. This type of wisdom fills the pages of MISTAKES AUTHORS MAKE.  Authors Rick Frishman, Bret Ridgway and Bryan Hane have worked with thousands of authors on marketing, promoting and selling books. Their combined experience is poured into the contents of MISTAKES AUTHORS MAKE.  Here’s one brief example of the information packed into this book: “Your book is a door opener. It’s an introduction to you and your message. It’s a marketing weapoin in your arsenal as you look ato build your platform and increase your reach to the world. If you happen to make some money on the direct sales side of your book that is wonderful. You should consider that a bonus. The smart book marketer recognizes that the real money is in what the book can do for you in terms of opening doors and making opportunities available.” (Page 8-9)

In this article I want to help you see how your book can have a broad ministry and touch readers in unexpected ways. Next month, one of my Morgan James Publishing fiction authors, L.K. Simonds will launch her novel All In. The story is about Cami Taylor, a blackjack dealer, bestselling author and a fraud. I was the acquisitions editor for this novel and have been watching and reading about Simonds marketing activity. 


I watched this four-minute video where Simonds tells about learning about Bookmates4Inmates.com and how she has ministered in prison and knows about life in that world. After corresponding with the director, she decided to donate half of the books which she had at the time—130 books. It turns out they have over 400 women that have requested books and did not have books for 127 of them—or funds to get the books. Simonds' donation was an answer to a need and their prayers. To receive the books, the reader is required to write an honest review. In the video, Simonds reads some of these reviews and the feedback about her book. The way these books are touching and influencing lives is incredible and moving.

Can your novel or nonfiction book have an unexpected ministry? What steps are you taking today to open these doors of opportunity? It doesn't just happen naturally but as an author you have to be seeding the market and knocking on doors to see which ones will open for your book. I hope this story gives you some ideas and encouragement. Let me know in the comments  below.

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