Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Importance of Story

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

During the holidays, I was speaking with one of my relatives who I don't see often. She is a prolific reader and was talking with me about various books she was reading. Then she turned the conversation toward my books. “I loved reading your book Sojourner Truth,” she said. “I was amazed to learn in about a freed slave in upper state New York and her role in American history.”
Of the many books I've written, I was surprised with her choice. I wrote this book over 20 years ago. My name isn't on the cover or the spine of the book (something the publisher controlled). I wrote this book during a season when I was writing a number of books each year (and many of them were work made for hire—like this one—no royalties). This book is still in print and occasionally I will receive letters from school children about it.
Why did my relative love it? It was simply the unusual nature of the story.  The role of story is important in every book and every magazine article. How do you learn to tell these stories? I believe it comes from years of writing (practice) and reading good stories. You can also learn about story through reading and studying how-to books like Story by Robert McKee.
One of the key ways to practice is writing short stories or magazine articles. These types of writing are not 40,000 to 50,000 word pieces but more like 800 to 1500 word pieces which make them easier to produce yet effective to learn and reach readers. If you haven't written for magazines, I recommend you carefully study this article I wrote about the basics of a magazine article. While writing these shorter articles you will learn:
  • how to create an effective headline
  • how to draw the reader into your story with an opening
  • how to move the reader along with the middle section and maintain interest
  • how to draw the reader to a single point or takeaway
  • how to write to a word count of the publication (read their guidelines)
  • and many other related skills
What type of stories can you write?
I recommend you begin with the personal experience story. Each of us have personal experiences and some of those incidents can be woven into interesting magazine articles. Almost every type of publication will take these types of stories. You can use a market guide or search online for guidelines to see which places. If writing for the Christian market, make sure you have the latest edition of the guide since a lot of this information changes every year. Then you can submit the article or write a query to get it published. Yes it takes effort and time to learn the skill of telling good stories and getting them into print—but it is a key part of the writing life.
It might even take you into American history to write about someone like Sojourner Truth. How have you  learned the importance of story for your writing? Let me know in the comments below.

Story is one of the key elements in our writing. Get ideas about how to practice this important element in your writing from this prolific editor and author. (ClickToTweet)

Isaiah is one of the best-loved Old Testament prophets. Check out this new Isaiah Study Guide for the Passion Translation by Brian Simmons (@BrianWSimmon) I was honored to write a portion of this book and highly recommend it. (If you like the image and want to get the same for your book, check out this tool.)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Improve Your Book Images With This Tool


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I'm a writer and (if I'm honest) not the best person when it comes to visual presentation and graphic design. When I need a graphic, I get help from others. In recent days, I discovered a tool called MockupShots which is easy to use and has great diversity. The templates and designs are varied for many different types of authors and books. I've been using it and wanted to pass this experience along to you in this article.
MockupShots is simple to use because it is basically point and click. In seconds, any author can load their book into the template and the program generates hundreds of images (no exaggeration). The creators include short videos which illustrate how their program works.  Right now, there is a special on this tool and I gained lifetime access for only $80. For someone like me with multiple books, it made perfect sense.
You add your book to the program, select a design to download, then use it on your website, social media locations, your email list and anywhere else you need an image. Some of the designs are specific to a holiday or season while others are generic which you can use on other occasions. Beyond the stationary images, MockupShots also generates GIF images (which move when displayed). Also this tool generates short videos with your book. There are many different options to easily select, download then use.
Because I am writing this article just before Christmas, I'm going to include holiday illustrations for several different books. From my view, this tool is perfect for:
  • authors
  • publicists
  • book reviewers
  • editors
  • literary agents
  • anyone who writes about books and uses book covers

MockupShots includes a 30 day money back guarantee. In a few days of use, I've also written their customer support several times. I've been impressed with their responsiveness and quickness to correct anything wrong with their program.

I've only been using MockupShots for a few days and still have much to learn about this tool. Hopefully you can see the diversity and importance of this tool for the Writing Life.
I'm enthused about the multiple uses for this MockupShots tool. If I've missed some aspect, let me know in the comments below.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Sunday, December 13, 2020

Advantages to Being Organized


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

It is true confession time. I tend to be a bit of a “pack rat” (which my wife can affirm). For example, I save magazines. Recently I sorted through a large stack of Publishers Weekly—which arrives every week. I saved a few issues but most of them I tossed and it felt great to get more organized.  Through the years I've learned that being organized saves time and stress. If I need something, if I've organized it and put it in its place, then I can easily reach the particular item. Otherwise I waste time searching for it. Admittedly it is easier to put it in a pile—but that is not a productive action.
In the past, I used to create little piles of paper and other things to be filed. My wife would come to my office and wonder how I could accomplish anything since I was surrounded with piles (and it looked chaotic). I've learned the hard way that it's better to process and organize as I work and it makes it easier to find something as well as takes care of it in a timely manner. It also helps my focus because I work in an orderly and neat environment instead of chaos. Now I'm not obsessive compulsive about the order but it is a regular part of my daily activities.
There are an endless area of places that need to be organized: books, magazines, articles, conference information, book projects, book pitches and proposals from authors and much more. Some of this material is physical and in my office. Other elements are electronic and I need to be able to access them easily on my computer.
I suggest you tackle organizing different areas at different times. Maybe one day you organize a single drawer in your desk then the next day you work on organizing your books. One of the ways you keep from being overwhelmed is to do it a little at a time. With my books, I have my reference books in one place and my how-to-write books in a different area. I don't have my books organized alphabetically (like one of my publishing colleagues used to do). I do have an area on my shelves where I keep the majority of my autographed books. I have another area on my bookshelves where I keep new books that I am reading and reviewing. I encourage you to organize your books in a way which will work for you and your work habits. As you organize, the books will be easier to locate. For example, I have several writing how-to books about contracts and others about marketing or publicity. I group these books together so they can be easily used.
After you get the material organized, it is important and generally easy to maintain this order. If you don't do maintenance, then the paperwork and other things can easily stack up and bounce you right back to where you started organizing. The organized writer is a productive writer and gets things done and meets deadlines. If you don't have this skill, I encourage you to learn it and implement it in your writing life.
From my experience in publishing, if you are organized, it will save you time, stress and effort. What other steps are you taking to be organized? Let me know in the comments below.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Sunday, December 06, 2020

An Example of a Missed Opportunity

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Over the holiday break, I have been reading What Are the Odds? by Mike Lindell. You've probably heard of him or at least seen his MyPillow commercials. I do not know Mike Lindell but I enjoyed and recommend his book—yet it is filled with missed opportunities because he self-published it. In this article, I want to point out some of the flaws in this book and missed potential. Why write such an article? I do it so you can learn some of the critical elements in book production. Even if you self-publish your book, you can produce a book that looks exactly like any well-known publisher. To achieve this result will take planning and intentional forethought on your part.
Books have standards in how they are put together. If you violate the basics, it will make your book stand out in a negative way instead of helping it succeed in the market. You don't want readers to wonder why you missed some element in the production. Instead you want them to simply accept the book, read it and tell others about it. One of the most difficult things to proofread during production is to notice missing elements. What Are the Odds? is missing a number of standard book items including:
No back cover copy. The words on the back cover are sales copy to entice readers. They often include endorsements and other details. Instead What Are the Odds? includes a second holographic image which is different from the cover.
No barcode on the back cover. A properly done barcode is important for retailers to effectively use the book. because this book only had a holographic image, it did not have a barcode to help retailers sell the book—a glaring production error in my view.
No author name on the spine of the book and instead it included the subtitle. Most books are spine out and the authors name should be on the spine instead of the subtitle.
No endorsements. While this book includes a Foreword by Dr. Ben Carson, there are no endorsements inside the book or on the back cover. People buy books because of these endorsements and they are an important missing element.
Missing information on the copyright page. While this book includes a copyright page, it includes Bible quotes but no reference to the translation used (normally on this copyright page). Also throughout the book, Lindell includes lyrics from a number of well-known artists and songs. If permission was secured, it is normally pointed out on this copyright page and nothing is said on this page about permissions.
No table of contents page. While the book includes divisions and titles for each chapter. There is no table of contents page with numbers to help the reader.
No appendix or cross-promotion with MyPillow.  What Are the Odds? includes no advertising or promotion for Mike Lindell's MyPillow company or his foundation for addiction or any number of other things he could have included in a simple appendix. This book does not contain an appendix.
I learned about this book because I am a long-time subscriber to Publishers Weekly. Each issue of PW has a front and back cover and the responding inside pages in full color. This space is advertising space that some individual (like Mike Lindell) or a publisher to buy or advertising space. You can learn more details through their media kit (but does not include the prices). When I saw the retail price for this book: Hardcover $39.99 or Softcover $29.99, I looked on my local library to see if I could order the book—which I could. It's how I read the book. Lindell is a Christian and the book is distributed through Broadstreet Publishing.
Why Did I Read This Book?
I love biographies and have written a number of these types of books. The stories of changed lives always fascinates me. Mike Lindell has a dramatic story and the storytelling in this book is well-done and worthwhile reading. Inside the book a number of interesting sections of full color photos and captions are included. Yet the production problems detract from the reading experience and will frustrate many readers. Some of the missing elements like the missing barcode will frustrate retailers so they will be hesitant to carry the book. What Are the Odds? does have it's own website.
I wrote this article as a cautionary tale for authors. No matter how you publish your book (even self-publishing), you need to take charge of these various elements. As the author, it is up to you to make sure you are producing an excellent finished book which will be accepted by the publishing community (bookstore retailers and others). The lack of these critical elements is a huge error—which could have been fixed in production but is hard to fix after the book is produced. I hope it will help each of you seek good counsel and not make these errors.
Have you read What Are the Odds?  Did I miss some other missing element? Let me know in the comments below.

Labels: , , , , ,