Sunday, April 30, 2023

Writers, Use Your Marketing Assets

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In recent weeks, several unpublished authors have written saying they were pursuing traditional publishing because they were writers and didnt want to spend their time in marketing and promotion. In my role as an acquisitions editor at New York publisher, Morgan James Publishing, I recognized these authors will have some hard realities ahead of them--especially if they want to sell books and be successful. Whether you publish with a well-known traditional house or independent publisher or self-publish, in this process of selling books and reaching readers, you will have to spend a portion of your time on marketing and promotion. 

During my decades in the book business, Ive seen many missed opportunities. One of my co-authors was interviewed on The Today Show. Her book was never mentioned and yes, I was shouting at my television while watching it. This author had no media training where they teach you how to create a sound bite with the name of your book and weave that into the conversation (no matter what is being discussed). Our book is long out of print. It is not what you want to have happen to your book but another reality of publishing.

After you understand the importance of marketing and promotion then including it in your regular efforts. You will discover it takes continual work combined with wise actions. Some of your actions will sell books and others will fail. It's all part of the process of connecting with your readers and it is different for every book.

Ive encouraged my Morgan James authors to promote their book on radio. There are thousands of radio shows and opportunities to be interviewed and promote your book. Sometimes they tell me they tried it but didnt feel like they sold any books from it.

There are several key actions in this process. First, understand your reader has to hear about your book at least seven or eight times before they purchase it. Ive seen others say ten to twelve times. A part of what you are doing on the radio is giving your book this exposure which eventually leads to sales. 

When you are on the radio, you need to speak in sound bites and make sure you are sending people to multiple places to purchase your book. Dont simply send them to Amazon (a word bookstores dont want to see and hate (yes, hate). You want to give multiple options including their local bookstore or direct from you.

Heres the actions that my authors who didnt get much out of radio have skipped--but are critical. After your radio interview, get the digital recording. This recording becomes a  marketing asset but only if you use it. I upload my recording to my own hosting place where it is in my direct control and does not disappear. Then I continue to promote these live recordings on social media. Readers listen to them and buy books from it. 

I want to conclude this article with a personal example. Radio host Bob Crittenden at Faith Radio in Alabama interviewed me about Book Proposals That Sell. I promoted the radio station website through my social media connections. Then I uploaded the recording to my own website where I toll continue to promote this asset. Follow the link to catch this 20-minute interview.  
Do you have marketing assets for your book and are you using them to promote your book? Let me know in the comments below. 


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Sunday, April 23, 2023

Help Me Reach This Milestone


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

There is an ancient Bible verse that says you have not because you ask not (James 4:3). A more modern translation would be dont ask, dont get. Its one of the favorite expressions of David Hancock, the founder of Morgan James Publishing

Recently I noticed that I have 44 book reviews for 10 Publishing Myths. A new friend from a writers conference purchased my book and then added a new review. I specifically asked this writer if he would add a review and he followed through and did it. His five star review was my first new review in over a year. Why? Because I haven't been asking people to post reviews.

Im writing this article to ask for your help to reach the milestone of 50 reviews for 10 Publishing Myths. If you have read my 10 Publishing Myths book, will you post a review? If you have bought the book on Amazon, then that would be a verified purchase review (which are nice but not essential in my view). Ive written Amazon reviews on books that I have purchased other places and books that Ive checked out of my local library. My local library has three copies of the book. If you live near me, you can check it out or if not, you can order it through interlibrary loan. 

If you havent read it, why not? I make it inexpensive for you to get this important book. In fact, several years ago (before the pandemic), I spent several days taking a $5,000 book bootcamp where I set up this site to sell this book for only $10 including the shipping postage. It comes with over $200 of bonus gifts. If you havent gotten this book, I encourage you to check out this resource and opportunity.

I wrote 10 Publishing Myths for several reasons. First, I meet many authors who have unrealistic expectations about what will happen with their book such as my book is going to be a bestseller or my book will make a lot of money. While they say these statements, they have no action plans for those statements to come true. 

There is a second critical reason I wrote this book. From my decades in publishing, I have seen many of my own book plans and dreams crash and not happen. Its because much of the publishing process is outside of what the author can control. In each chapter of 10 Publishing Myths, I include a practical MBA or Myth Busting Action which every author can take achieve--even if you self-publish. 

You dont have to get the book directly from me. It is broadly available in any bookstore whether online or brick and mortar. 

Even if you dont get my book, I encourage you to look at this page I created to promote my book. It includes sample social media posts, links to a book review template and other tools for you to help me spread the word about my need for some more book reviews. Or you can use the ClickToTweet at the bottom of this article to spread the news. 

I hope this article will also give you some ideas about action steps you can take to tell others about your book. If you find a good idea here, please take it and use it for your book. 

One final time, Im encouraging you to get 10 Publishing Myths, read it, then write a couple of sentences of review. Heres hoping you will take action. Will you help me reach this milestone with my book? What insights did you learn for your own books? Let me know in the comments below. 


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Sunday, April 16, 2023

The Dark Side of Christian Publishing


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Within Christian publishing there is a dark side to this business. In over 1600 entries, Ive never written about it--until now. Recently I traveled to a small Christian writers conference in Alabama. There were about 100 people at this event and I knew a number of the faculty. Besides meeting with a number of writers one on one, I taught two workshops and gave a keynote address during the event. 

At the first meal, I sat beside an older gray-haired man who was clean shaven and well-dressed. Almost immediately we engaged in an interesting conversation. He was a former missionary in South America and a retired pastor writing a book. We exchanged business cards. It was a brief and common exchange which Ive had with many writers at numerous conferences over the years.

For my flight home, I traveled with several other faculty members who were also headed to Colorado. We were changing planes in Dallas and waiting around in the boarding area for our flight. One of them mentioned possibly doing some writing coaching for the retired pastor I met the first night. To prepare for the possible coaching, he did a simple google search of the writers name. He was shocked to find a website dedicated to the sexual abuse victims and tied to the writer's name. He watched a couple of the YouTube videos and saw the image of the same conferee we met at this event. In the boarding area of the airport for our flight home, I learned about this conferee. A writers conference is a public event and anyone can attend. 

I tell this story to point out the dark side of Christian publishing. Most of us presume a Christian writers conference (and the church in general) is a safe place to meet new people, form relationships and grow in your personal life. I read the news and know about people (even leaders) with wrong motives who do terrible acts to the people who cross their path--even in the church. 

The majority of the time among Christians, we believe people have good motives and reasons for their actions. Yet the reality is each of us have a sinful nature and that is my reason to point out this dark side of Christian publishing. 

Several years ago, my journalist friends Ann Byle wrote about this element in a magazine article in Publishers Weekly. When the article came out, I was shocked because I know each of the conference faculty named in her article. I had no hint from my relationships with these people that they were bent this direction. Anns original article had a follow-up piece which had 3,000 comments in response. 

As a result of these articles, some conferences have started including a signed Code of Conduct statement from the faculty and attendees. Heres an example:

By participating in ______, we expect you to live out 1 Peter 1:15 and act according to these guidelines:

Behave in a biblical manner, treating all individuals with respect and consideration at all times.

Refrain from any behavior that is threatening, violent, aggressive, or sexually or morally improper. Examples of such behavior include but are not limited to:
• verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual advances, propositions, requests, or comments (or anything that could be reasonably construed as such)
• visual conduct of a sexual nature, such as leering; making sexual gestures; or displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or cartoons
• suggestive contact, such as inappropriate touching or impeding or blocking movement
• inviting a member of the opposite gender to meet you in or accompany you to a private place, such as your conference dorm room, an off-site hotel, an unoccupied room, an empty hallway, or a basement corner
• use of coarse, vulgar, or profane language.
Avoid being alone with a member of the opposite gender in any private location.

Reporting Inappropriate Conduct

Report to _______ right away any behavior you witness that does not meet these standards or if you feel threatened or are made to feel uncomfortable by a conferee or another faculty member. Don’t wait until after the conference when we can’t deal with the situation.

All complaints of inappropriate behavior will be investigated as promptly as possible, and corrective action will be taken where warranted. All complaints will be treated with as much confidentiality as possible, consistent with the need to conduct an adequate investigation. 

I agree to abide by this code of conduct.

Its a sad day that such a code of conduct is explicitly needed for a conference but its a reality of our world.

Lets wrap this article with several explicit lessons:

Be aware of the potential danger--its really everywhere. You would think a Christian writers conference would be free from such a situation, but it isn't. Our reality is we live in a fallen world and have to take responsibility for our own actions. I encourage each of us to guard your own heart and life

How do you handle the dark side of Christian publishing? Let me know in the comments below. 


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Sunday, April 09, 2023

Every Writer Needs a Champion


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

The process of getting published is complicated--especially if you are looking for something besides self-publishing. Even self-publishing is complicated with many wrong possible choices. Every writer is looking for the right place to get published. That process of finding the right place often involves asking many questions. As someone who has been in publishing for decades, I personally see the complexity. 

One of the ways to ease your publishing journey through the complexity is to locate a champion. Within publishing, this champion does not carry the title of champion. It could be a writing coach, a literary agent or an editor at a publishing house. If you have such a champion, they are looking out for you as your book goes through the publishing process. Good communication is a value for this person and they understand that if the details dont line up properly, then you will not get a contract offer. This champion will help you get through the process and answer your various questions. If the champion doesnt know the answers, they will find the right person with the answer. 

If you dont have a champion, then you will get generic rejection letters with zero information or insight. Its possible for you to be stuck in this rejection cycle for years. At the heart, the publishing business is relational and you have to work to find the right relationship--someone you trust and who has wisdom and experience that you need.

Let me include a couple of stories to illustrate the important role of a writers champion. Recently at Morgan James Publishing, I got a submission from a pastor with a daily devotional with 365 entries or 125,000 words. As an editor, I could see the internal discussion with my colleagues and this book was going to get rejected because of the proposed size. When this book got into production it was likely going to be over 400 pages and have a retail price of $35. These production details were something out of the authors sight but critical for the decision-making process. I asked my colleagues for suggested alternatives and one suggested a 180 day devotional. Because the page count is smaller, then size and retail price would be a fit for the marketplace. With the reduced size, it could become a product which could generate sales and succeed. I called the author to see if he was willing to make this adjustment. Some authors are willing and others are not. Thankfully this author was open to our suggestion and got a contract offer for his book. Notice the flexibility of the author to make such an adjustment.

With another author, I looked at the internal comments about her proposed book, and I could see it was also going to be rejected because of the proposed size. I called this author to see if she could reduce her word count to something which could work and thankfully she was willing to make this adjustment and received a contract offer. 

There are several lessons in these stories. First, as a writer, you have to be aware of the word count and what is working in todays marketplace. Readers are looking for shorter books. Ive had several authors who have proposed novels which are 200,000 word novels or similar to large works of fiction. When I suggested finding a place in the middle of the book to break it into two books, the author refused which terminates the possibility of publishing their book. For your book to succeed in the marketplace, it has to be commercial and reasonably priced. As an author, you have to be teachable and coachable to find your place in the market and sell books.

Often in these articles, I encourage you to take consistent time and energy to expand your connections in the publishing world. It will take work for the writer to locate the right champion or publishing connection. Whether you make this connection in person at a writers conference or online, make the connection. If you and I are not connected on LinkedIN, then look at my profile and send me a connection invitation.

What actions are you taking to find a champion for your writing? Let me know in the comments below. 


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Sunday, April 02, 2023

The Value of Contract Negotiations


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

If an editor sends you a contract for your book, you should celebrate. As someone who has been in publishing for years, I know it is a huge success to receive a contract. 

As an acquisitions editor, I have been involved in hundreds of contracts during my over ten years at Morgan James Publishing. Ive also worked at two other publishers in this area and Ive witnessed and been involved in my own contract negotiations through publishing over 60 books with traditional publishers. 

It may surprise you but many people dont do any negotiation. They sign the document and return it. It is important to negotiate with the right attitude. The basic principle is to tell the other party upfront, you are negotiating in good faith and do not want to do or say anything that will kill (or stop) the deal.

Recently an author told me a literary consultant was giving her contract advice. I received over three pages of wording suggestions and this author believed she was negotiating to send them to me. To be fair, some of the suggestions could possibly go through and be accepted. Several of the suggestions were deal killers. When there is a deal killer, the publisher will stop the negotiation and walk away from it. As I read through the suggested changes, I knew this author needed some of my assistance. If she was willing to remove the deal killers then I suspected a number of the suggested changes could be accepted and incorporated into her contract. 

The publisher and the author have devoted a considerable amount of time and energy into the decision making process to even issue a contract. If the deal is killed at this point, the author returns to searching for a publisher and the publisher simply moves on to the next book. While it is more work for me as an acquisitons editor, I hope we can resolve the differences and still negotiate this contract. The balancing act in this process is tricky. As of this writing, Im unsure how it will work out for this author.

Recently editor and author Jane Friedman wrote about The Business Skill I Wish I Could Grant To All Writers. The skill is negotiation. One of the surprising details in this article: Not even the majority of agents negotiated the contract as well as they should have, because they were so advance focused. I wish I could say that your agent will definitely negotiate all the finer deal points, but that’s not the case in my experience. So even if you do have an agent, you should be asking them questions, too. Most writers feel if they have an agent, then they will be well-represented in the area of negotiation. Like Jane, I have worked with a number of agents who dont do much negotiation on the contracts for their authors. 

My point is even if you have someone else negotiating for you on a book contract, you should still take the time and energy to understand the proposed changed and what is going on. Why? Because when the contract is signed, it is not the agent or literary attorney whose name is at the bottom of the contract and ultimately responsible for the contract. That responsible person is you, the author.

I have a couple of contract resources on my Right-Writing site to help you with understanding your contract and the negotiations. First Publishing Contract Checklist by attorney Timothy Perrin (scroll down to read this excellent article--I have an unresolved formatting issue). Also I encourage you to read Five Magic Phrases: Tips for Negotiating Like a Pro by Jenna Glatzer. Each of these resources will give you additional information and help you become a better negotiator.

Do you negotiate your contracts or do you give that responsibility to someone else like an agent? Let me know in the comments below. 

My Articles in Other Places

In these entries, I encourage you to publish in other places. Here's where several of my articles have appeared:

Why Writers Need To Become Time Aware If you want to increase your productivity as a writer, one of the first steps is to become more conscious of how you are using your time.

Authors Who Succeed in the Book Business Success leaves traces and this article details some of those principles from successful authors.

Why You Must Understand Your Target Audience Every effective author knows their target audience and give the details in this article. 

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