Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Importance of Boundaries


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Sunday morning through LinkedIN, I got an email from a writer I met several years ago. She wasnt ready when we met to submit her work but now she is ready. She was asking if I was still interested in seeing it. I could have waited until tomorrow to answer. Instead I wrote a short response encouraging her to go ahead. A little later, I researched my email and learned I met this author in 2019 at a conference. She wasnt ready to send her submission back then but is now. Its a good thing Ive been doing this acquisitions work for over ten years with the same company. Sometimes my longevity in publishing pays off. As of this writing, she reached out but hasn't sent anything (which is another key part of the process).

I work in my home office and you can easily have no boundaries or parameters around when you work and when you dont. Some of my publishing colleagues are difficult to reach and slow to answer email or return phone calls. Ive gone a different direction in this area and a number of people have told me that Im one of the most accessible people in publishing. My personal email address is in my Twitter profile because I want people to reach me. 

I love my work in publishing--not all of it but most of it. The authors and people who work with me know that I will often answer emails late at night or early in the morning or on the weekends--outside of the normal work hours.

I have other friends and colleagues who create stricter boundaries in this area. They dont respond to work emails after hours or on the weekends. When others look in at my work, it doesn't seem like I have any boundaries--but I do. It is rare that I do much work after 5:30 pm. If I have an intense writing deadline, I may write more pages late at night but in general, after 5:30 pm, I stop working for the night. Its my family time and a solid boundary related to my work. 

Some of my quick actions come from my love of the work. Also some emails are easier to go ahead and answer, rather than have them hanging around for an answer. Other times I will draft something, then hold the email in my draft folder until later in the day or the next day--just to make sure I've written the right details.

My emails are intentionally short and to the point. Also part of my reasoning for answering quickly is that I understand as a writer and editor that I am in the communication business. Yet many people in this communication business do not communicate. As a writer, I would approach editors or agents and never get a response or get a response weeks or months after I sent it. It's true we get a lot of email and submissions, but from my years of reviewing these pitches, it does not take weeks or even months to make a decision. Often in a matter of minutes, I can make a decision about a submission. The key is taking the time to respond. At Morgan James Publishing, we acknowledge every submission with a printed letter in the mail--even though each year we receive over 5,000 submissions and only publish about 200 books a year. Why make such an effort? Because making such an effort is good communication with the writing comnmunity.

As someone who has consistently processed submissions for years, one of the keys is to be organized and keep working at processing the submissions. It is an organization skill which every editor needs to develop. It's the same skill used to write and finish a book. It happens because you have a word count for the day or the week that you are going to consistently do. These blog articles don't happen without consistent effort. The lack of response shows me the editor isnt organized. The longer it takes to get back to the author, Ive found it less likely the author will be interested in working with you to publish their book. The reverse is also true, the earlier you can process it, the more likely they will come with you. 

As a writer, if you arent getting responses to your pitches (book or magazine), then maybe you aren't pitching the right person. A great deal of publishing is tied to something outside of your control--timing. I encourage each of you to keep expanding your connections in the market and keep pitching to finally connect with the right person to publish your work. It's not an easy process but takes consistent work for it to happen.

What boundaries have you set in your writing life? Let me know in the comments below. 

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Sunday, March 19, 2023

Do The Silent Work

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

As writers, we sit in our chair, put our fingers on the keyboard and create words. Some people when they do this creative process, love to have noise around them and sit in a nearby coffee shop. Others prefer a silent office. Other writers put on ear phones and listen to background music while they write. Whatever process you use, in this article, I want to write about the importance of doing this silent work.

No one pushes you to do this creative work. You have to draw from some internal motivation where you get to your keyboard, plan your writing, capture ideas and then put your fingers on the keyboard and consistently create. 

Years ago I interviewed bestselling author Bodie Thoene who has won multiple ECPA Gold Medallion Awards in the Christian fiction category. Each day she has the goal of writing five finished pages a day. She told me, No little elves come out of my closet to write 650 manuscript pages, Bodie says. Some mornings I dont feel like writing, but I do it out of obedience to God. 

Throughout each day, as writers, we have many tasks such as continuing to write on our work in progress. It could be a few pages or a chapter but keep moving forward. A 50,000 word nonfiction book or a 100,000 word novel is not made overnight but the writing happens in consistent effort. Or maybe you are working on a book proposal. Whether you are self-publishing or some other method of publishing, I encourage you to write a book proposal because you will create a business plan for your book. Get a free copy of Book Proposals That Sell and use this link.  

In these articles, I have encouraged you to create a routine and a system for various aspects of your writing life such as blog posts for yourself or others, your posting on social media, writing a query for a magazine article or writing a magazine article. Each of these writing tasks involve learning the system, then doing the silent work to execute it consistently. 

As an acquisitions editor, I have additional silent work. I get submissions, have to enter those submissions into the system so they get acknowledge. I schedule a detailed phone call with the author where I ask questions, give feedback and information about why Morgan James Publishing from my many years in publishing. Record the call, send them the recording, send the follow-up material. Then I have to fill out my internal documents to get them a contract. These are a few of the steps I do over and over in silence--yet are critical to the process. Then when I get a contract for an author, I follow-up to see if they have questions. No one is pushing me to do this work other than my own drive and work in the silence.

As writers, each of us have dreams and goals for our work but a lot of it is grounded in this silent work. This silent work has to be done and no one is calling for us to do it. We have to sit at our keyboard and get it done. Your persistence and consistency as a writer will get attention. This payoff may not be immediate but keep at it and it will happen.

What steps are you taking to do the silent work of writing? Let me know in the comments below. 

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Sunday, March 12, 2023

Four Ways To Get More Reviews

By Terry Whalin

Recently one of my Morgan James Publishing authors contacted me. Her book was released a few months ago and she told me a couple of moving stories about the effect of her book on her readers. 

Out of curosity, I looked at this authors book on Amazon. I was expecting to see a few reviews yet was surprised that no one had written a review. These reviews are a critical sales tool because every day people are looking at these pages, reading the information then making decisions whether to buy the book. 

I was listening to american psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini speaking about the power of influence. He read an article which said 97% of people buying online will check product reviews before they make a purchase. This statistic should motivate you to get more online reviews for your book.

Every writer has to be aware of the importance of reviews. With over 4,500 new books going into the market every day, any book needs these reviews. Also last week I received two self-published books from a long-time writer friend. One was published last year and the other in 2021. I checked the book page on Amazon and of the two books, one had one review and the other had no reviews.  

Years ago, you used to be able to get your friends and relatives to write reviews for your book. Amazon and other online retailers have created sophisticated algorithms which remove these reviews. If you write a review, it is best not to mention any connection to the author. Instead you approach the review as a reader and tell about the book. 

There are simple steps every author can take to get more reviews and I want to give some ideas in this article. 

1. Ask your readers to write a positive review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other websites. For my last several books Ive included a page in the back of each book encouraging readers to review the book and even I provide some short links to specific websites.

2. When you get feedback about your book, encourage them to write a review and include a link to write it. If someone writes or emails you about how much they enjoyed your book, respond with gratitude. In addition, ask them to write a few sentences of positive review and even include the link to your book page. 

3. Get some training. Several years ago, I interviewed Dana Lynn Smith about how to get more book reviews. The free webinar and ebook are free at: YourBookReviewed.com I encourage you to use this resource, hear the recording and take action from what you learn. While the steps sound simple, you would be surprised how people will download the material then never listen to it or not take action from what they hear.

4. Create a web page to encourage others to write reviews. For my Book Proposals That Sell, I created a page with a variety of ways the reader can promote my book including writing a review. If the reader doesn't know how to write a review, Ive provided a free template with these details. I created a similar page for 10 Publishing Myths

A reality of the publishing world, you have to work or take consistent action to gather reviews. As a bonus tip, I would encourage every writer to have a goal regarding the number of book reviews. My first goal would be 25 reviews. Then when you reach that mark, I would revise my goal to 50 reviews. When you reach 50 reviews, I would revise again to reach 100 reviews. Behind the scenes, your online retailer will notice when you reach these different benchmarks and expand their own promotion of your book through their tools. 

Do you have other ideas how you can stir people to write reviews? Let me know in the comments below. 

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Sunday, March 05, 2023

The Acquired Skill


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

It seems easy to publish a book. Thousands are doing it every day.  Ive been studying the market for years, reading and looking at books. What is not obvious to readers and people outside of publishing is this fact: each aspect of the process is an acquired skill. Because it is an acquired skill, you can learn this skill but you will have to make a concerted effort for it to happen.

Lets take the back cover of books as an example. Many years ago, a publisher hired me to write back cover copy for their books. They mailed a hard copy of the edited manuscript, which I read then crafted the words for the back cover. If you study back covers, you will learn a consistent pattern for how these words are written. At times, they begin with a short and powerful quotation from someone well-known who is endorsing the book or the author. Other times they will have a moving headline to draw you to reading the other words on the back cover.

You only have seconds to catch someones attention with these words so they have to be carefully selected. The words often have bullet points and they emphasize the benefits from reading the book. What will a reader gain from spending time reading this book? That is a critical question which you want to answer with the back cover copy.

Sometimes the back cover will include a sentence or two about the author. Other times the entire space is used to entice the reader to purchase the book. This acquired skill is called copywriting and can be learned but the writer has to make a conscious effort to learn this craft. To learn about copywriting, you can take an online course or read a book on this skill. 

One of my long-time friends and a skilled copywriter is Robert W. Bly. His book, The Copywriters Handbook is in the Fourth Edition. You can learn a great deal as a writer if you study this text. 

Another acquired skill for book creation is gathering endorsements and/or a foreword for your book. In these articles, Ive written about this process in the past (use this link to see some of those articles). Ive encouraged you in these articles to build relationships with well-known authors and other leaders. If you have these relationships, then you can use them to gather endorsements. A foreword is like a short magazine article and typically 1,000 to 1,500 words. Ive written forewords for a number of well-known people. The key action in this process is to make it easy for the person to say something like, That looks great. Run with it. You have to secure their permission to use it from the person themselves. Your editor doesnt gather this foreword or the endorsements but the writer gathers these words as a part of the book creation process. 

Whether you publish with a traditional house or an independent publisher or self-publish, the back cover copy, the endorsements and the foreword can be critical elements which will help you sell books. Forewords are typically used with nonfiction books--not fiction or childrens books or gift books. To get this detail right, you have to study the type of book you are publishing, then make sure you conform to the expected details in this process. 

Whether you are aware of it or not, every aspect of the publishing process involves an acquired skill. Its something you can learn and do--but you have to take action in this process or it will not be done. What are other acquired skills in the process of publishing a book? Let me know in the comments below.

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