Sunday, March 29, 2020

An Unusual Editing Story

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

If you love thrillers and adventure stories, a legendy writer of these books recently passed away. I'm talking about Clive Cussler. Recently in Publishers Weekly, one of Cussler's long-time editors, Neil Nygren wrote a fascinating article, “An Editor Remembers Clive Cussler” (follow the link to read the full article). The full article is great but there is one paragraph I want to highlight here. Speaking about Cussler, Nygren wrote:

“The last time he’d switched publishers, he said, it was to a major house with a justly famed editor. When Clive turned in his first manuscript, however, it came back heavily revised—pencil marks all over the pages. This did not please Clive. He took the manuscript and, on the top of the first page, he wrote one word: stet. Nothing more. And then he wrote the same word on the top of every page in the entire manuscript. And then he sent it all back. A couple of days later—as he told it to me—he got a panicked call from the editor asking him to come to the house’s New York office to talk. Clive declined, stating that “it would be... inconvenient.” That book was published the way he wrote it.”

I pulled this paragraph to point out some editorial details to you:

1. Cussler knew his readers and what they wanted with his books. Most writers are not in touch with the needs and desires of their readers. I'm certain this information came over time but Cussler knew the expectations of his readers and when he wrote, he was focused on meeting those needs.

2. As a best-selling author, Cussler knew not to change because of the editor's suggestions.  Make sure you notice some of the other details in Nygren's story: Cussler was with a major publisher and working with a famous editor who put pencil editorial marks on all of his pages. The novelist did review the ssuggested editorial changes but could see these changes were going to change the fabic of his story and he was going to lose more than he was going to gain.

3. Most writers do not fall into such rare territory. i call this an unusual editing story because from my years in publishing, the opposite is normally true. Editors are focused on readers and producing and excellent product. Their detailed insights are important for you as a writer to pick up on and respond to their directions. This sort of team work produces excellent manuscripts. I don't want to pretend it is easy because it is not but it an important part of the editorial process to produce excellent work. Cussler was an exception more than the norm.

I've worked with writers who want to debate their editor over every single word changed. These writers are not the type that editors love and want to work with on another book project. The word about the writer's reaction is quick to get out to others in this small community.  Editors are not your enemy but should be your colleague to help you produce an excellent book.

Admittedly Clive Cussler was unusual about how he handled this edited manuscript. What lessons and insights have you gained as you have worked with different editors? Let me know in the comments below.


Read about an unusual editing story about bestselling novelist Clive Cussler and some insights from long-time editor and prolific author. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Some Keys for Being Active on Social Media

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

For years, I have worked at developing a large social media following—over 200,000 Twitter followers, over 18,000 LinkedIn Connections and over 4,900 Facebook friends. These types of numbers do not happen overnight but are something every author can do—with consistent work. I continue to expand and develop these areas.

In this article, I want to give you several keys for doing your own social media. Yes you can hire others to do social media. 

From my experience no matter how much you train them, they will not do it like you do it. Your passion needs to show through. I have always done my own social media posts.

1. Control Your Social Media Time. It's easy to waste hours on your Facebook feed or Twitter feed or LinkedIn feed. I do go over to these places but my time is controlled and not very long at any time.

2. Have the Mindset Your Social Stream Is Like a Magazine. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, you notice I have a great deal of variety on my social media streams. Yet everything is focused for people interested in publishing. My mindset when I put together my posts are like I am putting together a print magazine targeted to a particular audience. I will keep you on track with what you are putting out.

3. Work Ahead. I use the paid version of Hootsuite to post consistently throughout each day. The majority of my posts come from other people and each one has an image and a link to more resources, The only exception is the quotation and photo I use to begin each day. In general, once a week I fill out my plans for the entire week and it often takes me about 20 to 30 minutes for this task.

4. Create A Grid for Your Scheduled Posts. No one but me probably knows the pattern of my social media posts. I begin each day with a quotation and a photo of that person. I follow that with a couple of posts to my own material such as a free ebook or a product that I'm selling. These posts are followed by six hours of posts from others—yet to my target audience. I close the day with a couple of personal posts to a blog article or a free resource. You could create a formal grid (I haven't) but I recommend you make a pattern for yourself and then it is automatic and something you do rather than work to create.

A recent Pew Poll has proven that 80% of the tweets on Twitter come from 20% of the people. Because I tweet 12 to 15 times a day, I believe I'm in the 20%.  Here's an extra truth about social media: Not everyone reads every post but people are reading your posts. I can see from the comments and reactions.

These are some of my keys for being active on social media. What are your keys in this area? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Courage to Face the Changes

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I'm writing these words from a hotel room in Nashville. Later today, I'm flying home from a several day Morgan James event for our authors. It is my ninth trip to this city in the last four years. Yet it was my first time to walk the red carpet with my fellow Morgan James Publishing authors. It was in celebration of my new book, 10 Publishing Myths. While I've watched others be interviewed in the past, it was fun and exciting to be interviewed and be able to tell others about my book. I'm including a photo. I understand in a few weeks I will have a video clip of my time on the red carpet. 

By the way, my flight home was "different." My plane backed up from the gate, then they told the passengers the ski resorts in Colorado had closed. The plane returned briefly to the same gate and about half the plane got off since they were headed to ski but now couldn't.  The airline wouldn't remove their luggage but straightened that out later.  It was something in all of my years of traveling, I had never seen. 

The news is full of changes in our world. Events are being cancelled and because of this coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty, many plans are changing. 

For example, last Thursday night I planned to see one of my publishing friends who lives near Nashville. She and her husband didn't come to the event so I texted her to ask if she was coming. Her response was telling about our current situation. She leads a large Christian organization with a huge annual conference in June (several thousand people normally attending).  She had only slept a few hours all week and been consumed with leading her organization. She was not coming to our event. 

While I was on the road, I received an email about the cancellation of a convention in April which I often have attended over the years but was not planning to attend this years. It is probably the first time in the long history of this organization that they have cancelled their national meeting.

In this article, I want to give several ways to find courage in face of these changes. This time in history is an unusual time but publishing is always changing--now more than usual. 

1. Have courage and continue writing. Books and magazine articles will continue to be published. Deadlines still need to be met and you will stand out from others if you continue to  produce and write. Some people will be stuck and not write so if you do, you will be different.

2. Use your common sense about protecting yourself and keeping yourself healthy in the midst of these changes. The news is full of advice about cleaning and washing your hands and just simple actions you can take.

3. Eventually the situation will pass and everything will return to normal. History shows us this will be the case even though it might not feel like it at the moment.

4. Look for opportunities in the midst of the changes. Is there an online way for you to do something which you can't do face to face? Many teaching opportunities are moving in this direction. 

5. Keep learning from others and growing in your skills and craft of writing. I have some new things I'm trying and learning. I will be showing you these new skills in the coming days. I hope you will take this type of action as well. 

The world needs the stories only you can tell and only you can write. Yes there are many changes in our world but I encourage you to keep your fingers on the keyboard and find the courage to face these changes and keep going.

Let me know what steps you are taking to handle the changes and keep going in the comments below.


How do you find the courage to face the changes? Get ideas from this much published author and editor. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, March 08, 2020

How to Handle Editorial Trauma

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Over the last few days, I have been in editorial trauma. It has happened to me over and over in my years in publishing. I don't like to be here but it is a reality of this business. Every writer needs an editor (or maybe a series of editors) to help you with your blindspots, raise questions where information is missing and improve what you are publishing. Whether you are writing for a traditional publisher or self-publishing, this editor is a critical partner in producing excellent work.

Months ago on deadline, I completed a book manuscript, which is one of the first books in a series from this publisher. My book will be published later this year and during those silent months, the publisher was evaluating and talking about the pattern for their series. Whenever you write one of the first books in a series of books, there will be revisions and bumps in the process. I've been working through those bumps this past week and it has not been easy work.

No matter who the publisher or editor, the process is fairly straightforward. You write your manuscript in Microsoft Word, then the editor turns on the tracking feature in Word and edits. If they have questions or need you to fix something, then the editor adds a comment into the margin which looks like a little post-it on the screen. As the writer, my role is to go through these questions and answer each one to the best of my ability. When I am asked for additional information, I add it. When something needs clarification, I clarify. It's the detailed and important work for the book to be excellent. While I understand this truth, it doesn't make the process any easier to complete successfully.

It has been months since I focused on the content for this book. The publisher eliminated some of the features (narrowed them) and added a section or two (which now I have to complete).

Several lessons for you when you are in the middle of this editorial process:

1. The editor's questions are professional and not personal. It is all about the work and producing excellent work for the reader. I've worked with this editor for years and admire his editorial skill—even if I don't like answering all of the questions—I answer them anyway and rewrite and improve my book.

2. The process is messy at times. I've had to do additional research to answer some of the questions and dig into some reference books on my shelf. I've worked long hours at my keyboard with a screen covered with questions and editorial marks.

3. It is all part of the process of making excellent books which touch lives and help readers. It does not have to be easy (because it isn't). If it were easy, everyone would do it.

4. I know I will get through this editorial trauma—eventually. As much as I've been through this process over the years, I look at some of those questions and to myself say, “Enough with all these questions.” Then I get up and take a few minutes away from my screen. I return to it and keep moving forward and making the requested changes and adjustments. The mansucript is finite and I will get through it.

5. Excellent publishing is a team sport. You can certainly design your own cover, edit your own book and self-publish. Unless you are a multi-talented person, I suspect your book will be hard to sell, receive little positive feedback and probably few sales. There are exceptions to these statements but overall we need each other to succeed. However you publish, you will have different people on your team who are experts in their part of the process.

6. I learn a great deal each time I go through this process. I've published many articles and books over the years but I am still growing as a writer and learn as I answer these questions. Months ago I worked hard on the manuscript that I turned in—but now with this additional work, it will be even better. I can absorb the lessons from the questions and improve my next manuscript.

I'm going back to my editorial work and determined to keep moving through it and answer every question to get this manuscript back to my editor. Then the book can move into copy editing, proofreading and eventually printing then distribution to the bookstores.

The reality is we don't have to like every part of the publishing process—but we do need to understand it and work our way through it to produce an excellent book. I hope this article has helped you understand it is not easy to produce excellent books but each of us with persistence (and some patience) can do it.

Have you been through this editorial trauma process? What tips and insights do you have to get through it? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, March 01, 2020

Your Persistence Matters

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
What is the topic or subjects where you have the greatest passion? How are you translating this passion into your writing? What persistent and consistent steps are you taking with this passion to be telling people about it?
I hope these questions stir some ideas and thoughts for you. From my years in publishing, persistence is a key quality for every writer.  I encourage you to take a few minutes every day and spend time on this topic of your passion. Maybe you write an article for a magazine. Or you work on a plan for a membership course. Or you pitch someone on doing a workshop on this topic. Or you write a chapter in your book on the topic. Take some steps (even if small ones) every day to move forward and be persistent.
Several months ago, a magazine editor approached me to write an article about essentials for a book proposal. When I got the request, I wanted to do it but with my current writing projects, I could not see how I could get it written. I had written for this publication in my past and wanted to meet the editor's deadline. Yet it came and disappeared. To my fault, I never communicated with the editor about needing more time and extending the deadline.  I was not a good communicator with my editor  (something every writer should attempt to be in this business). If you need more time, ask for it—but I didn't.
Several months later I interacted with this editor about another matter. In our email exchange, she said something about the book proposal article. To my surprise, she still wanted me to write it for her publication—even though my deadline had come and disappeared. This editor was persistent in her pursuit of the article. We negotiated a new deadline for the piece. Thankfully with this new deadline, I found a little time to brainstorm how I would write this article.  Besides my bestselling book, Book Proposals That Sell, I've written a number of articles about different aspects of a proposal.

Can you take something you wrote for another publication (and hopefully saved on your computer in a place easy for you to locate), then use this writing as a springboard for the new assignment? Hopefully when you write for magazines, you are selling “first rights” which means when the article is published, those rights return to you for you to use again. As I thought about other articles I had written, I recalled a series of articles I had published on proposals. In a few minutes, I pulled those articles into the longer requested article for this publication. Last week I reworked the article so it flowed correctly and sent it off to the editor. I met her deadline and her persistence paid off with getting what she wanted for her audience.
Several lessons for you from my experience:
1. Maintain your relationship with the editor, agent or other publishing professional.
2. If you need more time, ask for it and renegotiate a new deadline. Don't fall silent like I did and let it pass.
3. Reuse material you have written in the past. Preserve it on your computer in files and folders you can easily locate. Then get more mileage from your previously published work with new publications and new readers.
4. You will reach more readers with your magazine work than most books. I've long been an advocate for writing for magazines as a way to spread your message.
How are you practicing persistence in your own writing life? Are you continuing to build new relationships with publications and editors? Let me know in the comments below.

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