Sunday, January 31, 2021

Awareness of A Fine Line

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Within publishing as you approach or pitch editors and agents, there is a fine line between being creative and interesting in your pitch—and being strange (asking for rejection). Editors and literary agents are actively looking for creative and interesting submissions. Even if you are getting rejected with your pitches, I know they are actively reading their emails and looking at their mail submissions for excellent submissions.
Recently a novelist approached me to possibly edit their book. As I reviewed the book, it was a clean, well-written novel but had several issues. First, it was substantially longer than a novel I could publish at Morgan James Publishing. We have a limit of 100,0o00 words which is typical for many publishers and based on our experience (sales) and the price point for the novel and other elements. This particular novelist had written a 145,000 word novel (way over our limitation). I pointed out this challenge to the novelist but I also told him about another “different” feature in his novel. Throughout the book for emphasis, he created words from his characters with extra letters. For example, he took the word “buzz” and would add letters so it became “buzzzzzz.” While such action was creative, it also bordered on strange and gave the gatekeeper (agent or editor) a reason to reject the novel. In the rejection process, we don't give such reasons to the author (not our role or responsibility). The author will likely never learn the reason for the rejection. This author was asking me for a critique or edit. As I examined the work, I didn't find anything worthy charging or critiquing so instead I sent a brief email with a few observations and suggestions.
The experience reminded me of several important principles that as writers we need to be aware:
1. We need to pour creativity into our submission but not cross into strange. Don't give that editor or agent a reason (even if unspoken) to reject your work. Instead give them reason to keep turning the pages and reading. This process is a careful balancing act.
2. Follow the guidelines from the agent or editor and even take a few minutes to review them before sending off your submission. Does your submission fit what they are looking for? If not, don't send it and find another place.
3. Your pitch or proposal is important and needs to be complete and excellent. Every publisher is looking for authors who are connected to their readers or what some people call their “tribe.” If you are beginning or don't have this group of readers, then start immediately to gather it. As I've written in the past, every author should have their own email list. You also need to have a social media presence (not every social media place but select a couple where you will work at building your presence). For example, I have invested a great deal of energy into Twitter and LinkedIn. Admittedly these sites are “rented” and not anything that I control or own. Any editor or agent with a few key strokes can check out your presence or lack of it on these places.  The look and numbers are important to these editors and agents as they make their decision about working with you (or not).
Publishing is a complex business that looks easy and simple on the surface but isn't. As a writer, you are lookng for the right connection. Finding this connection will take effort, education and insight but can pay off to advance your publishing career and also garner sales of your book. From my decades in publishing, it much better to work with others and produce excellence, than to do it on your own (self-publish). This simple principle explains why there are so many strange self-published book. There are plenty of companies that will take your money, publish your book and not give you honest help in the process. My advice is to choose carefully, ask many questions and avoid the missteps.
Are you aware of the fine line between creative and strange? What steps are you taking to get help from an editor or agent? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Like A Frog in a Kettle

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

It happened over months so I didn't notice it. I'm talking about the slowness of my computer. In the mornings, it took forever to get on a website and other functions. My computer was acting like a frog in a kettle. Let me explain. Many years ago, I interviewed George Barna about his book, The Frog in the Kettle (which has a subtitle with the year 2000 so you know it is dated).  George told the story in his book. If you put a frog in water, the frog will not notice if you raise the temperature of the water. Eventually the frog will die because he is unaware of the rising temperature of his water.
I was having a “frog in a kettle”-like experience with my computer. Without being aware of it, the computer was getting slower. Finally last weekend, the slowness built to a crisis. My Google Chrome browser crashed. I could not get on a single new website. Thankfully I had a version of Internet Explorer on my computer and it allowed me to get online.
Several years ago I began to use the Geek Squad. In fact, every year I pay them an annual fee. They are on call 24 hours a day seven days a week. I called their toll-free number then followed the instructions to reach them online.  I explained my tech problem and the technician remotely took over my computer. He analysized my problem, cleaned up my computer and reinstalled Google Chrome. The process took several hours but everything was working when he finished.  Also I knew the Geek Squad would probably need to reboot my browser. Before I reached out to them, I made sure I saved open files on my computer so no matter what someone else did, I would not lose any information in this process.
The surprising result is my computer came back to life. The slowness disappeared and everything is workng faster and better.
Be aware of these types of issues for your own computer. I'm going to make a note in my reminders to contact the Geek Squad for a general maintenance at least every quarter. I'm paying annually for their expertise but I need to proactively ask for their help.  Take a few minutes to think about your own writing life. What frog in the kettle experience are you having? Maybe your writing is getting harder to do each day. Maybe you are struggling to sell your book and need to change something in this area. There are several keys in this process:
1. Awareness. Without awareness, you will continue on the same path.
2. Asking for help. Many situations we can't handle on our own and need to ask others for help.
3. Taking action to make a change. You need to take action to change your situation.
4. Regular maintenance. Take preventive steps so this situation does not happen in the future.
No one wants to be a frog in a kettle but it happens. Have you ever had this situation happen to you? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Is Advertising Your Book Worth Trying?

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Some of the bestselling authors use advertising as a solid portion of their strategy to sell books, build their email list and bring traffic to their sites. Yet you have to be wise about how you use these advertising tools. Otherwise you can waste a lot of money with little results. 

One of the authors who is known to succeed at advertising is Mark Dawson. Ive heard Mark rave about Facebook ads that he has not found anything where he can spend $1 and get $10 in return (sales). Each week he spends thousands of dollars on Facebook ads. This self-published author has sold many books—and teaches other authors how to follow the same path through his online courses. These courses have limited enrollment and are only open a few weeks a year.
There are many different places online for authors to advertise—yet which places are the most effective and how do you learn the most effective practices so you succeed in this effort. From my experience in publishing, if you are going to advertise, you need to learn from others who are successful in this effort and follow their guidance so you can have the best possible result. 

I am currently taking Mark Dawsons course and working through the various lessons. One of the advantages to such a course is you get lifetime access. These advertising platforms are notorious for modifying their systems. Dawson updates his programs and teaching as the systems change—so even with changes, you will remain effective in what you are learning through his courses.

Currently Mark Dawsons course Ads for Authors to advertise on Amazon is open for enrollment. Use this link to check it out. If you read this entry and the course is not active, then sign up for their waiting list and you will be notified when it is open again.
To help you learn more about Ads for Authors, Dawson has launched a free mini-course with an Amazon ads expert Janet Margot. Margot is a former Amazon employee and part of the team which established the Amazon ad program. She recorded three short videos which are now available. These videos help you take a look at the program and see if you have done the preparation work necessary to start advertising. In this article, Im going to include the links to all three of these videos.

In the first video of the series - PRODUCT - youll learn how first impressions count. Janet considers the factors you need to bear in mind when it comes to the product that you are advertising – your book – and the ways in which you can make your ads more “clicky.” You’ll see how a reader’s first look can convert to sales and what might stop them from clicking buy. And the video is available today. Click to watch it.


Part 2 of our series covers just that: how do you find TRAFFIC? Well review the internal and external mechanisms to attract pre-qualified customers to your book page. And well learn what you can do to influence the fabled Amazon algorithm and get readers to engage with your author brand.

Part 3 of this series is AD STRATEGIES. We’ll share insight on prioritizing which titles to advertise, the difference between strategy and tactics, timing, and what you need to consider when creating your budget. Learn what questions must be asked and answered in order to build a solid foundation in order for your Amazon Ads strategy to be successful. This year start your ads off on the right foot with a plan that can help unstick your author business. You can watch this video here.
I encourage you to watch all three videos then consider taking Mark Dawson's course Ads for Authors and learning the details about advertising your books on different platforms. Get guidance from others who are successful with their advertising then follow their suggestions and see how it works for your books. It's a strategy which others are using successfully with their books and hopefully will work for your books. It will never work if you don't try it—and I encourage you to get some training, then try it with your book.
Have you tried advertising for your book? Let me know about your experience in this area in the comments below. 

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

When You Update a Book

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

 While I've worked in publishing for decades, I have only updated an existing book twice. From my experience in working in publishing, it is rare to update a book. Of course, you will be updating a book every year if it an annual reference book. But I've not worked with those types of books. While in publishing, I've worked with hundreds of authors and written over 60 books. 
In 2009, I self-published my only book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. The content for this book started in my blog articles, The Writing Life. While a blog has a target audience, the articles are written about random topics for the audience.  I took those random topics and organized them into a series of chapters which became Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. In the book business, it is called a blook when you take random blog entries and organize them into a book. While you may have some of your basic content, I learned such an effort was detailed and time-consuming. I worked hard to create an attractive and professional self-published book.
Several years later, I edited through the contents and moved the book to Morgan James Publishing with the updated edition. If you want to see the first chapter (follow this link) to download it. I'm grateful for the feedback I continue to receive about this book and how it helps people. Here's an image from a recent reader who marked different sections as he read the book.

Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success is the second book that I've updated and revised. Originally I wrote Book Proposals That Sell in 2004 as a frustrated editor who wanted to help writers. This book has over 130 Five Star reviews on Amazon and has helped many writers through the years. Yet much has changed in publishing during the last 15+ years. In recent weeks, I've gone through my book in detail and updated everything. In a few more months, the updated edition will be available. I'm working on new endorsements and a foreword. The original book didn't have a foreword.
Have you updated a book? What process did you go through to make the changes and get the updated edition into the market? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sunday, January 03, 2021

What Changes Will You Make?

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Let's be honest for a minute: the older I get, the harder it is to make changes—anywhere. It's much easier to continue doing my same habits over and over—even if they are not working. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. We simply don't get different results unless we change.
Last February, I took an intensive three-day workshop where I learned how to build and launch this series of pages for 10 Publishing Myths. Our instructors told us these pages have the goal of selling 500 to 1,000 copies of of my book every week. No one could have predicted a worldwide pandemic would change our world drastically starting the next month. That goal simply hasn't been realized yet—but I believe it is still possible. I'm taking responsibility and moving forward with several plans for the coming months. Yes I'm making some changes and learning some new insights which I believe will increase these sales. Only making the effort and changes will show me whether it happens or not. I have watched other writers succeed with such tools and believe it is possible for me as well.
I tell you this story to help you see that you too will have to make changes in your life to find the right opportunity for your writing. As I have done, it may involve trying numerous things—and failing—yet continuing to try other things before you hit on the right combination. The path to success is different for each of us but there are traces of success from others that will help guide us in this process.
One of my changes started several months ago—my eating habits. I'm not making these changes alone (one of the keys from my experience) but doing it with my wife. We've changed our eating habits and both lost weight in this process and my overall health has improved. It has not been easy and involves many daily decisions but is something that I will be continuing to work on in the days ahead.
Last year I started (and paid for) several training courses which I have not completed. I still believe in the importance of these trainings and will be continuing to devote time and effort to completing them—and then putting the lessons into practice with my writing. Maybe you have take similar steps with your writing life. Are there courses you've started but never completed? Take a hard look at these trainings and see if you need to return to them, complete them and take action.
In the days ahead I have several books in the works. Some of these books I'm writing for other people. Some of these books are my books which need to be completed. Some of my books need a fresh marketing push so more people know about them.  If your book isn't selling like you want, it is normal to blame others: your publisher, your editor or whoever else other than yourself. I encourage you to look inside first and see what you can be doing to reach new readers and potential buyers for your book. One of the truths of publishing is publishers can create and sell into the bookstores beautiful and amazing books. Yet it is the author who drives readers (in many different ways) into those bookstores to buy the books. I encourage each of us to take our own responsibility for these actions and make the necessary changes in your life to take action.
The steps are not easy—for any of us—but completely possible. I believe in you and your work. If I can help you, don't hesitate to reach out to me. Great days are ahead for us. Let me know about the changes you will be making in the comments below.

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Friday, January 01, 2021

Resolutions for Writers


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I don't normally post a new article on a Friday but it is the first day of the year. Happy New Year, everyone. I'll be back next week at my normal time. As we turn the calendar to a new year, I reflect how 2020 was a strange year on many fronts. I'm glad to turn the calendar page. As a writer, what I like to do is think about the year ahead and make plans. Years ago I used to make resolutions but most of them were broken before I reached February. Now I make resolutions which I can keep.
Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? If you are like me, you have goals, dreams and plans for the New Year. I encourage you to write down these resolutions or plans or goals. You want to make them specific actions so you can hold yourself (or your partner can hold you) accountable to carry them out.
Over 25 years ago in 11 days I wrote a diet book by Carole Lewis called First Place. I took such a crazy writing deadline because the publisher was determined to have the book inside the bookstores for January. If you look at bestseller lists, often in January there will be several diet books about losing weight. In our overweight society, many people resolve to lose some pounds in the New Year. They begin with such great resolve and commitment.
To become a proactive author, I want to suggest several resolutions or goals that you can keep throughout the months ahead. I encourage you to use these ideas to create your own goals. Make sure you make each one specific, measurable and action oriented.
1. Plan to consistently talk with others about your books or products. As the author, you should take the primary responsibility to market and tell other people about your books. There are dozens of tools and ways to do it. Your method should be a way that serves other people (helps them) and doesn’t pound them with “buy me” messages. The “buy me” message is a turn off and the service to others is an attraction. Can you take your book and create a teleseminar or take chapters from your book and turn them into magazine articles or blog posts?
2. Resolve to Persevere. Are you trying to publish something which is getting rejected? You are in good company. Just check out this article from bestselling novelist James Scott Bell called Rejecting Rejection. Possibly you have not made the right connection to get your work published. Are you consistently submitting your work? Often when I ask writers about this detail, I find they haven’t been consistently working on getting their book pitch to the right editor at the right time and the right place. I don’t believe that I’m a great writer. I work hard at improving my storytelling and writing—yet I am persistent and preserve. I’m determined to a fault. Nurture this quality in your own life in the weeks and months ahead.
3. Resolve to take better care of yourself. Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard at getting more consistent sleep, taking a daily multiple vitamins and a commitment to regular exercise. Also I attempt to watch my weight and eating patterns to be in balance. Am I perfect? No, but I continue to consistently work at these elements and build regular patterns into my life. With a pandemic this year, my weight increased but several months ago my wife and I began changing our eating patterns and working on weight loss. Currently I'm at my lowest weight in over 20 years and my blood pressure has lowered and other health benefits. It's all part of my resolution to take better care of myself and something I encourage you to do too. Your goal will be different for your lifestyle and situation but do consider this area of your life.
4. Resolve to learn a new skill then practice it repeatedly. Maybe you want to develop your storytelling skills. Or maybe you can learn from a how-to book or take an online training. I use all of these methods to keep growing in my abilities and skills.
5. Resolve to do more writing. It takes more than a resolution to increase your writing. You need a plan. Do it consistently and set a reasonable word count then do it day after day. No little elves come out and write your words. You have to sit in your chair, get your fingers moving on the keyboard and do it.
6. Resolve to do more reading. Writers are readers. Read widely and varied types of books. I read but also learn from listening to audiobooks.
I’m expecting great things will happen in the coming months. How about you? Are you setting goals and moving in this direction? Take action today. As you look at the new year, are you creating resolutions you can keep? Let me know in the comments below.


How do you make resolutions you can keep? Get ideas here for your writing from this prolific editor and writer. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers. His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. One of Terry's most popular free eBooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has  190,000 twitter followers

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