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Sunday, May 01, 2022


A Writer's Reality Check

 

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In my recent writing life, I’ve been calling and emailing editors and others with little or no response. This sort of response is common and happens in seasons. Sometimes the responses are often and other times, you hear crickets—nothing.

Today I want to write about several realities of the freelance life. First, there is a basic principle: always be pitching. Without pitching or proposing or telling others about your idea, nothing happens. If you want to get more speaking opportunities, then you need to be pitching your speaking topics to different leaders and organizations. If you want to write more magazine articles, then you need to be pitching these article ideas. Or maybe you want to be on more podcasts as a guest, then you carefully target these podcasts. As you target your pitches, the podcast hosts know you understand their audience and why you have valuable information for their audience. 

If your calendar is not full of activity such as writing projects and speaking opportunities, then you need to take action and pitch more speaking or other types of activities.

I like what one of my bestselling writer friends, Bodie Thoene, told me about writing novels—and it applies to every other aspect of publishing:  “No little elves come out of my closet to write 650 manuscript pages. Some mornings I don’t feel like writing, but I do it out of obedience to God.”  In some cases, you can hire a publicist with connections to pitch you on radio shows or television or podcasts. Or you can do it yourself, but you must take action.

I’ve been in publishing for decades. If my phone isn’t ringing off the hook with opportunities, I expect yours is not either. Always be expanding your network of connections. Who you know is often as important as what you know. Be reaching out to these people, checking in, learning what new projects they are working on and is there something they need that you can help them with? This innocent question can turn up opportunities for you, but you have to raise or ask the question in the first place.

Also you have to follow-up. Recently I was at an event in Colorado Springs. I had dozens of conversations with people and we exchanged business cards. I need to follow-up on those conversations and connections. It is because of follow-up that ideas turn into reality and projects. Sadly, many people never follow-up and they miss out on these opportunities.

Another reality: a lot of the work is repetitive and, in some ways, boring. I’m writing these words in an airplane on the way to another conference. I’m grateful live events have returned. But to prepare for this live event, I scheduled the majority of my social media posts for the entire week. Yes, it took some planning and effort, but my audience is expecting my posts and they will be happening even if I’m away from my computer.

At Morgan James Publishing, we are publishing new books every week. This process doesn’t happen randomly but involves a chain of events. As an Acquisitions Editor, I’m working on the front end of this process. An author reaches out to me with an idea about their book or maybe it is a query letter or maybe they send a proposal or a full manuscript or part of a manuscript. The key action is they have something they would like to publish. I respond and get their material into our internal system for processing and things start to move forward. The author has to make the initial pitch in this process. Sometimes an editor will have an idea of something they want written—but that is extremely rare from my decades in this business. The more typical path is for the writer to create and pitch their idea.

Over the years I’ve read thousands of submissions (no exaggeration) and out of my frustration as an editor, I wrote Book Proposals That Sell in 2004  to help writer understand the publishing process and also (selfishly) so I could receive better submissions. My original book helped many writers and has over 130 Five Star reviews. But publishing has changed over the years.

Last year the revised edition of Book Proposal That Sell released. One of my original 21 secrets was to always include an SASE (self-addressed-stamped envelope) because in the pre-internet days there were no electronic submissions. To receive a response from a publisher—even a printed rejection letter—you needed to send them the return postage. 

Today submissions are electronic, but editors and agents are leery of clicking on attachments from people they don’t know. You need to approach the editor or agent via email then get their permission to send your material as an attachment. It’s a completely different process and one every writer needs to understand to get into the submission process. It is simply another reality of our lives as a writer.

As an author another reality is consistent promotion of your book. You bear the greatest passion and responsibility for telling others about your book. There are many different ways to be effective in this process but if you stop promoting, then your book sales will tank (in general). My advice is not to stop but weave appropriate promotion into your life every day. If you follow my social media feeds on Twitter or LinkedIn, you will notice that I promote several of my books every day with different images and different messages yet continually pointing toward my book. Someone has to hear about your book at least a dozen times before they will purchase your book. You can be actively involved in getting these various messages out into the market. It’s another reality of our life as writers.

I see the world as full of opportunity. For me the glass is half full rather than half empty but you have to move for something to transpire. 

When you face discouragement and rejection (as we all do—including me), understand it is not personal, but you are looking for the “right” opportunity and the “right” fit. That search will take some time and effort on your part. Nothing happens without effort—another reality check for the writing life. What resonates with your writing life? Let me know in the comments below.

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