Sunday, July 28, 2019

Good Customer Service Is Important

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Good customer service is something important to me. In my own work in publishing, I try hard to deliver some basics of good customer service in my responses through email or on the phone or in the mail. It is important to be timely and thorough in this process.

There are countless examples of companies that don't practice good customer service and I wanted to point out a recent example. For the last several years I get my internet connection, landline and television bundled through CenturyLink. Overall I've been pleased with their service and responsiveness. My wife and I enjoy using our DVR to record television programs then watch them together. We watch a variety of different types of programs.

Last Sunday I went to one of the standard stations— CBS and found a message from DirectTV (the television arm of CenturyLink). Apparently DirectTV and CBS are in “negotiations” for service and that service is now disrupted—i.e. you can't get it. No one knows how long these “negotiations” are going to be going on. I called the billing area of CenturyLink and learned this disruption was a complete surprise to them as well. DirectTV did nothing proactive to warn their customers. They simply put up a screen on the disruption.

In this article from the Wall Street Journal, I discovered I was one of 6.6 million people having this experience with DirectTV. Someone at DirectTV  knew this was going to happen and they did nothing proactive to help their customers. Apparently there is some local cable where you can still get the channels when you attachment. I've been trying for the last few days to get one of these local connectors from DirectTV but they are “back ordered” (little surprise here). The package finally came but it is not a simple fix with pages of instructions and various wires and connections (not hooked up at my place yet).

I'm certain with the millions of customers involved and missing a standard network channel, someone at CBS and DirectTV are doing some consistent work to resolve this customer service nightmare. My key point in this article is some of these people knew this was going to happen and they did nothing to warn their customers or partners like CenturyLink (at least that is obvious).
Here are some basics for good customer service:

1. Answer your phone and return your phone calls.

2. Answer and respond to email.

3. In your answers, attempt to resolve the issues if possible. I can think of several emails from Morgan James authors this past week where I wasn't the right person to answer the author's question. I still responded and pointed them to other people on the team who could provide the answers. At least they heard a response from me—even if not the response they wanted.

How important is good customer service to you? How do you handle it in your own writing life? Let me know in the comments below.


Good customer service is important. Get several tips and insights from the editor and writer. (ClickToTweet)


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Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Anatomy of a Book Review

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I've been writing reviews on books for many years. My first book review appeared in a magazine that no longer exists. I've written hundreds of print book reviews and for two publications, I was their book review columnist which meant I had regular deadlines to deliver my columns which contained multiple reviews. In recent years, I still write some reviews for print magazines but in general, my reviews appear online.

I read many different types of books then write these reviews. Often as I read the book, I open a file in Microsoft Word and begin to write some of my thoughts about the book. When I finish the book, I will craft my review. Sometimes I will post the review right away on Goodreads and Amazon and my social media—but not always.You can follow these links for Amazon and Goodreads to see the various types of books that I read and review. Notice not all of them are print books but I also write reviews about the audiobooks that I hear. Sometimes I will write reviews in batches or one review after another. Do you ever handle a certain type of writing in batches?

The majority of the books that I read are nonfiction—and this has been my pattern for years and explains why I have written mostly nonfiction for years (a few short stories are mixed into that writing). I do read several fiction authors and look forward to these books.

In the last few days, I've finalized a number of book reviews—in a batch. When I write a review, it is not just a sentence or two—like some people do. Instead, I write at least a paragraph which summarizes the content of the book. What are the major sections in the book and is this something worth writing about in your review? I do sometimes and sometimes not. Normally I as I read the book, I am looking for a quotation or two from the book. Often it is several sentences that I locate from the book. I like to use quotations because it shows readers that I actually read the book and pulled out something important for me from the book. At the end of my quotation, I include a specific page number from the book. 

As I read a book, I will take little post-its and flag a particular passage or section so it will stand out—and I can use it for my review. I use these flags to highlight possible quotations or content that I want to highlight in my review.

While many of my reviews are five star reviews and positive, I write honest reviews so not all of them are five stars. If I didn't finish the book or something else, I try and write about it in my review. It is important for reviewers to write their honest feedback about the book. My reviews are much more than a sentence or two. Normally they range from about 120 to 220 words in length.

I hope this article gives you some ideas to write your own reviews. The  key is to jump in and write reviews over and over for the books that you read or hear. It is a solid way you can support other writers with your reviews. For more information and insights, I recommend you get this free interview and ebook from Dana Lynn Smith. It is a resource I created to help other book authors with reviews.

Do you write book reviews? If so, let me know about your tips and insights in the comments below.


Some people have no idea what to write for a book review. Get the details from a prolific editor a reviewer in this article. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Writers Must Look in Two Directions

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

When I was a child, my parents sternly warned me, “Look both ways before you cross the street.” It was wise counsel then and is also relevant today. As writers, we have immediate deadlines and long-range plans. Are you working on both? These actions are important for every writer and it is something that I do every day—work on both types of deadlines.

Immediate Plans

As an acquisitions editor at Morgan James, I am processing submissions and talking with authors about the details of Morgan James to see if it is a fit for their book. If so, then I need to champion the book to my colleagues with relevant details to see if they will agree—and then send an official publishing contract. When the contract comes, I need to send it to the author (or their literary agent) and then answer questions and negotiate and finalize the contract. There are numerous steps in this process yet it is important to keep moving on these submissions and contracts. It is a continual part of my immediate work.

Also as an editor, I make follow-up calls and send follow-up emails to authors about their contract to see if they have questions and encourage them to move forward. Authors have many choices about their books and sometimes it takes many of these follow-up calls before they sign and move forward. It is a continual process and often with many twists and turns.

As a writer, I'm sending magazine editors and online editors requested articles on their deadlines. I have a number of these deadlines and use reminders on my phone to make sure I meet their needs. As my friend New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins says only one in a hundred writers will hit their deadline. As you meet deadlines, it is one of the simple ways you can distinguish yourself from others.

Another immediate deadline is to prepare for upcoming conferences. For example, next month I will be teaching a continuing class on Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers. The conference gives the faculty deadlines for their handouts. I have taught this class other places so I have a prepared handou—yet I need to check this handout and make sure everything is working on it (all the resources, etc.). My class will be teaching related but distinct material from my book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams.

Another immediate deadline is working on growing and feeding my own social media connections as well as my own network and platform. The growth process is continual for every author. These immediate deadlines are just examples of immediate deadlines—and not a comprehensive list.

Long-range Plans

Besides these immediate plans, I am constantly initiating long-range plans as well. I'm in discussion with some authors and publishers about writing projects. I'm blocking time and regularly writing on my current book project. I'm initiating and making marketing plans for the launch of my next book. I'm pitching myself as a speaker at forthcoming conferences and events. Some of these plans are for events in a few months and some of them extend into next year. Long-range plans are also mixed into my schedule.

As you think about your own writing life, are you looking in both directions? How are you mixing short term plans and long-term plans into your day? Let me know in the comments below.


Are you making immediate and long range plans for your writing?Get insights here from this prolific reader and writer.  (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, July 07, 2019

How To Handle Criticism

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

The old expression is true: everyone's a critic (or can be). In this world of social media, multiple ways to reach people with your ideas and thoughts, how do you handle criticism?

Several weeks ago, I received a short email asking me if one of my websites was actually my site. The email continued and said she wondered about it because of some typos on the site for some common words. I thanked her for the email and said I would look into the errors.

If you follow my work, you know that I have a number of domains and products online that I've developed over a period of years.  I fill the orders from these sites (sometimes automatically if they are an Ebook) but in general they operated without the need for me to go and check out the site. 

A few hours later, when I checked this site, I learned this person was right. The website had some basic words misspelled and these words made her wonder if it was really my website or was something fake. In a short amount of time, I printed the entire website and reviewed it carefully line by line looking and marking any typographic errors. Because I handle my own website design, I loaded my design program and fixed the various errors. A few hours later, I wrote this author, expressed appreciation for her feedback and let her know I had fixed the errors. Also in my email, I briefly touted some of the benefits others had achieved from the product on this site. She responded that she appreciated how quickly I had fixed the issues.

I have a second recent story to tell you about this area. In recent months, I've been working on a new book which will release late this year. Behind the scenes, I've been working on this book—and in fact, I was able to take some early copies to a recent conference and sell some of them. A new author bought the book and wrote an email saying she had noticed some typos in the book. I wrote back and asked for the specifics. A day or two later, this writer sent pages with the details.  I have worked through these details and fixed the various issues. Does that mean everything is perfect now? The book creation process is not one time but an ongoing activity. The proof will be in future feedback from readers.

As writers, everyone receives criticism. When it happens, each of us have a choice how we respond. Some people choose not to read their critics and not to respond. Admittedly you have to use wisdom and discretion because you don't want to set off a firestorm (as we see sometimes on social media in particular).

One of the best ways for writers to learn about handling criticism is to join a critique group. Follow this link if you want more details.

Here's four basic principles about how to handle criticism: 

1. Listen to the feedback. If you can't stand to read it, ask a spouse or friend to read it and see if the criticism is valid and something needs to change.

2. Be even handed and matter of fact about your response. Don't show the other person your irritation or emotion—even if you actually feel it. Possibly craft your response on an email or written letter rather than on the phone because you can respond with more care and deliberation.

3. Thank them for their feedback. This response is often an unexpected one but everyone likes gratitude and appreciation.

4. Take action to make the necessary changes. Maybe it is a behavior you will have to change but maybe it is something in print or online that can be fixed.

From my years in publishing, I understand it's best to have a team for the process. If you are self-publishing, then create your own team of readers and colleagues. Your overall goal should be an excellent writing to put into the world. Yes there will be critics but listen to your critics and handle them with care.

How do you handle criticism? Let me know in the comments below.


How do you handle criticism? Here's several ideas from a prolific editor and writer. (ClickToTweet)

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