Sunday, July 26, 2020

Lessons from A Spilled Coffee Pot

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In my home office, one of my first actions of the day is to turn on my coffee pot and brew some coffee.  Yet today it bubbled and gurgled and spilled.  My coffee pot was a little off kilter and not in the place to catch the coffee so it backed up, spilt and made a general mess.

To prepare for the moment I'll turn on my coffee pot, the day before I add the water, put in the filter and the grounds so it is ready for me to turn it on and brew the coffee.  It has rarely happened but this morning, I had a mess on my hands—and a choice. I could react with anger and disappointment or calmness and just clean the mess. I cleaned up the mess.

I'm writing this story because I see comparisons to my life as a writer and editor. Sometimes there are messes:

-authors don't deliver what they are supposed to deliver to publishers.

-authors deliver late—many authors miss their deadlines and are notoriously date with their manuscript.

-authors that I expect to sign their contract, go in a different direction.

-the books are not selling. If you have purchased books and they are not selling, then this situation can be a mess and disappointing for authors.

-the writing is not working and storytelling is not good and needs rewriting. Yes you are putting words on your page but they are not the right words and basically create a mess.

-your computer isn't working right or you have some other website glitch. 

The potential list is endless. Each time I have choices how I respond—disappointment or calmness and acceptance. I recommend calmness because the results and outcome are much better.

These days are strange with hard economic times for some, sickness and even death for others. Yet our lives as writers and storytellers are important and vital to keep going. It is a choice to stop and do something else. For my life, I know I am called to this work and continue it—the good and the bad.

The Details Matter

Yesterday I needed to call one of my authors and talk about an editorial issue. I took her phone number from her signature—and it did not connect. I double checked the number in other emails—same. I finally looked at her proposal which had a different number. When I tried that number I got an answering machine and left a message. Two numbers were reversed. When I spoke with this author later in the day, I told her about the error in her email signature (which goes out in every email). She appreciated my telling her about this detail. In her next email, it was fixed.

I'm learning every day —important lessons about life and publishing. I hope you are as well. In the comments, let me know some of your lessons.


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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Your Opening Stories Require Work

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In the last few weeks, I've been starting another book writing project. My co-author and I are working on the overall structure of the book. It is coming together. This week I've started working on the opening chapter of this book. The experience has reminded me of a basic writing principle: the opening words are important and require thought and effort.

Years ago I crafted a book for a couple. As I listened to their stories for the book, I prodded around for something with drama. This book was focused on addiction and alcoholism. The husband admitted getting drunk then arrested and thrown into jail. He had one phone call and called his wife who had to come and bail him out. This successful businessman kept this arrest quiet and had never told his friends or family about it yet the experience was a key turning point and wake up call in his life to get on the road to recovery. I had found the opening pages of this book. This story grabbed readers and hooked them into the rest of the book.

While that book was nonfiction, it also happens in fiction. Recently one of my authors was creating a new world but spent over 30 pages in this process. Most readers wouldn't have the patience to go through those pages before reaching the storytelling. Our team worked with this author to reconfigure those introductory pages for the reader into a list of characters, background on the world, etc. With this revision, the reader will know this background is there but most people will jump into the storytelling.  

As writers, here's several things you have to understand to successfully publish your work:

1. Readers are fickle and you have to catch their attention from the opening paragraph and beginning sentence. In publishing, your first reader will be the acquisitions editor or literary agent. Several years ago I interviewed an acquisitions editor and asked him how he evaluated a new submission. He said, “I read the first sentence and if it is a good sentence, I read the next one. If it is a good paragraph, I read the next paragraph. If it is a good page, I read the next page.” Yes the process is subjective but that's how it works for professionals. Don't bury your excellent writing on page 25 because the editor may never get there.

2. A huge volume of material being written and released into the market every day. While it is fun to read new material, alsol consider all of the classic books which continue to be read, studied and sell year after year. As writers, we need to be aware of this volume when we write the opening stories.  A snappy opening story is a way to stand out and capture the reader.

3. This principle works for every type of writing—abook, a magazine article, a blog post, a radio script, and every other type of writing.  It will take thought, work and effort to craft the beginning pages. You may need to write something and set it aside for a few days then take another run at it.

Opening stories do require work from the writer—but if you gain more readers, it is worth the work you put into it. What tips do you have to find the opening pages of your writing? Let me know in the comments below.


 You can get my latest book for only $10 including shipping plus over $200 in bonuses. Read about it here.

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Three Reasons NOT to Create a New Word

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

This week a submission from some new authors crossed my desk. As editors, the title is the first thing we read. These authors coined a new word in their title. For every book or magazine article, the title is a critical part of the creative process. Your title is your memorable hook for the reader—and your editor or agent is your first reader in the publishing process.

I understand these authors were trying to be creative in creating a new word in their title. While there are probably many reasons for not creating a new word, in this article I want to give you three reasons:

1. Editors and agents will roll their eyes and reject. While the author will not see this roll of the eyes or shake of the head, it will happen. As an author, you have seconds to capture the attention of the editor and you want that attention to be positive and interested. Your title needs to draw the editor to read your work—and not veer off into “Why did they use that word?”—which leads someone away from your book.

2. If you decide to self-publish with your new word (and 1.6 million books were self-published last year), now think about your readers. They will also have questions about this unfamiliar word in the title. Can they pronounce it? Does it make sense? Many people will pass on reading more—which is not what you want to have happen with your book. 

3. Finally it is difficult to gain acceptance for a new word—especially as a new author. Do you have the visibility in the marketplace to coin a new word? Most new authors do not have a large audience and tribe and readers for their book. They should not go this route with their title.

A good title needs to be:

One to five words and something that draws the audience to read more. Why no more than five words? Because a title has to fit on the spine of a book. Most books are spine out on bookshelves.

Especially for nonfiction, your title will need an interesting subtitle. The subtitle needs to stress a benefit inside your book. For example, Book Proposals That Sell (Title), 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (subtitle and reader benefit). Subtitles are not as important for fiction nor always used.

I understand I've been pretty negative in this article but please understand my motivation is for editor and reader acceptance of your title. I'm certain your intention is draw readers and interest instead of rejection. There are exceptions to these cautions. You can use a new word in a title—if you have huge visibility in the marketplace. My example is Morgan James author Bryan Kramer and his book Shareology: How Sharing Is Powering the Human Economy. Notice the little extra words at the top of the cover on this book: USA Today Bestseller. While I work at Morgan James, I do not personally know Bryan Kramer.  From my knowledge of publishing, I know a book like Shareology does not reach the USA Today Bestseller list without a great deal of effort from the author. Also notice this word is easy to pronounce and use.

Your title is a critical part of your submission. I encourage you to put a great deal of thought and energy into your title. I understand publishers control the title—but repeatedly I've found a well-crafted thought-provoking title will make it through the publisher consideration process and end up on the published book.

What type of energy do you pour into the title for your book? Have you created a new word? Let me know about your experience in the comments below.


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Sunday, July 05, 2020

Why Authors Need to Add Goodreads Quotes

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

For the last several years I've been active on Goodreads. I've written over 600 reviews and have 5,000 friends on Goodreads (the maximum number of friends). I've claimed my books as a Goodreads author and my blog entries appear on Goodreads where some people read this information. If you are an author, I hope you have also handled these details at Goodreads and become a Goodreads author.

In this article, I want to call to your attention the section called Goodreads quotes. The top information bar on Goodreads has several different options. Select the Community tab which has a little arrow beside it. Click on this arrow and it will reveal a number of other features on Goodreads. One of these features is Quotes. I encourage you to highlight quotes and go to the Quotes section of Goodreads (or use this link).

Besides using other people's quotes, this section also allows you as a Goodreads author to add your own quotes. Here's the process:

1. Select a series of key quotes from your book. I found 10 quotes from 10 Publishing Myths.

2. Go to add a quote. You will include the quote, Author (you). As a Goodreads author, when you add your name in this field, it adds another field with a list of books. Select your book and add it into this field. Finally there are tags to help people find your quote when they are searching for a specific quotation. Each of these fields is important fill out correctly in this addition process. 

3. Promote your new quote.  You've just added this quotation to a sea of other quotations. How will anyone know about it if you don't promote it? Use this link to see the quotations I've added on Goodreads. Some of these quotes are from Book Proposals That Sell and others are from 10 Publishing Myths. To see this promotion portion (an important part of the process), let's look at one of my quotations (follow this link).   You will notice buttons to share the quote on Facebook or Twitter. Below these buttons, there is a link to recommend the quotation to your friends (follow this link to see it).

In the past, I've used the friends button on Goodreads to invite people to become my friend. I have the maximum number of friends or 5,000 friends. You can share your new quotation with friends and encourage them to “like” it. If you select the button “all”, then it will highlight 100 of your Goodreads friends. This process opens up an additional field which is optional—and allows you to send a message. The first time I used this feature, I did not add a message—but I believe you will have greater interest in your new quotation if you do include a message like:

Subject: Four Ways to Use Goodreads Quotes


Thanks for being one of my Goodreads friends. I just added this quotation to Goodreads. I encourage you to please “like” my quotation. Here's four ideas how to use this quotation:

1. Cut and paste it into a Goodreads email—maybe to one of your Goodreads groups.
2. Post the quotation on Facebook
3. Post the quotation on LinkedIN
4. Post the quotation on Twitter.

Please keep my name and the link to my book when you do this process.

Bonus tip: Check out my special offer to get 10 Publishing Myths for only $10. Shipping is FREE and you get over $200 in FREE bonuses. 

Thank you,


Note my email uses clickable HTML so people can click the link and go right to the page.  

Will this process work to promote my book? I'm just beginning to try it so don't really know. But I do know if I do nothing, nothing will happen. It is another way to be proactive and try something to promote my new book. There are millions of registered readers on Goodreads—people who love and read books. It is a solid place to be doing this effort. 

Are you using Goodreads quotes? Are you promoting them to your Goodreads friends and using the tools on Goodreads to the maximum? I encourage it. Let me know your results in the comments below.


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