Sunday, May 28, 2023

Celebrate The Joy of Anticipation

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

As you read this article, Im attending to one of the largest Christian writers conferences in the country--the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. Last year there were 600 people at this event which translates into a wide variety of types of writers and publishing professionals. Its been my privilege to attend this event numerous times through the years. Im teaching a continuing class and a single workshop plus meeting one-on-one with many people throughout the event. 

In this article, I want to capture some of the preparation steps and the joy Ive been feeling about this event. I wrote these words to give you a hint at the diverse activities and how they can be life-changing for you and your writing.  I encourage every writer to make plans to get to at least one or two of these events each year. At each one, you will make new connections and expand your worldview and resources for your writing life. Admittedly it takes effort and planning on your part to attend these events but the opportunities are priceless from them. 

For over ten years, Ive been working with hundreds of authors through Morgan James Publishing. Many of those authors I have never met face to face. A number of them (less than a dozen) are coming to this event. It will give me an opportunity to get to know them better and strengthen a bond which is already in place. Im excited to have such meetings. Several of them have already published their books with us and Im bringing my copies so they can sign them for me. Im a genuine fan of their work and I have joyful anticipation about these forthcoming meetings.

While to some the Christian publishing world seems large, it is actually a small community. I have not seen a number of people on the faculty for many years. For other faculty, Im familiar with their name but have never spoken with them. The opportunity to talk with these seasoned professionals face to face is precious. There are things which arent easily put in an email or a phone call that will be said. As you go to these events, I encourage you to do what Im doing. Be curious and be prepared to ask questions. Im praying for the opportunity to have those conversations--early, late or during the day. These things happens at these events.

Also a conference is an opportunity meet new people and form new friendships. One of the faculty is a childrens author coming from Australia. Ive already connected with her on LinkedIN. I noticed her book had no Amazon reviews. I purchased her book, read it and reviewed it. Since she is traveling internationally, she is limited on the number of books she can bring. Ill be bringing my book to get her autograph. Also Im anticipating a possible opportunity to work together. I have other Australian authors. Morgan James prints and distributes in Australia--or maybe my reason for meeting this author is to encourage her. 

During the conference, Im teaching four parts of a continuing session on the actions every author can take to make a difference in their publishing experience. Im taking some of my former teaching and reworking it around these themes and developing new material. This information comes from my working writer and editor perspective. Im praying and expecting it to be life-changing for the conferees.

Each faculty member and attender have a full life and we are stepping away from that life for a few days of different activities. Its not easy but we do it because of the immense value each of us find from these events. 

There are many of these writers conferences around the country. My encouragement is for you to get it on your schedule and then plan your interactions (to a degree). Select your classes and then let the Lord guide your steps. How do you anticipate going to a conference? Let me know in the comments below. 


Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Cost of Publishing


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

It is a common question I get from writers, “Does your publishing program have a financial cost?” The answer is not simple and the reality is every type of publishing costs--even self-publishing. Thousands of new books are published every day through the Amazon Kindle program. The costs can be minimal but then you have to reach your audience and sell the book. I often say that making books is easy but selling books is a completely different story.

As an author, you will have to weigh the cost for your path. Ive met authors who have paid over $10,000 to self-publish. By the time, they hired an editor, a cover designer, a layout designer the pages, it cost to get their book into the market. As this friend who spent $10,000 told me, when he looked back, he wished he had gone with Morgan James Publishing because then his book would be in bookstores and not just on Amazon but over 1,800 online bookstores. If you go the traditional route, you will need to create a book proposal and possibly find a literary agent (unless you meet a publisher at a writers conference). 

Even if you traditional publish, you will need to spend time marketing and reaching your audience. Whether your publisher gives you this information or not, understand the majority of the marketing (80%) will be up to you.

As you make your choice about the publishing path, I encourage you to get advice and help from others but be aware that advice could cost you. Recently an author emailed me who had three independent publishing contract offers and wanted my help in a phone call. I responded and was willing to help--but not for free. 

Admittedly I have a lot of free online information through my blog, free ebooks, my newsletters and other places. Yet when you are looking for my specific help for your contracts or publishing advice, I encourage you to expect to pay something for that help. From my decades in this business, the cost is minimal for the savings and value you will receive.

I compare such a request to having a friend who is a physician and youve gotten ill and need a prescription, you would not expect this friend to help without charging. Why would you expect it for a publishing question? Yet this author wrote me assuming I would call her, freely giving my counsel without charge. It is not a realistic expectation. Even if you publish with an independent publisher like Morgan James Publishing, it will cost you.

The road isnt easy but success and selling books is possible on any of these paths. The exploration process costs nothing other than your time. What process do you use to count the cost of publishing? Let me know in the comments below. 


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Tap the Power of Hope


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In the world of publishing, its easy to get discouraged. Lets think about the volume of books which are published every day: over 4,500 titles. Recently, a colleague emailed me the link for this article: The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing. I encourage you to follow the link and study it, its pretty easy to feel small, discouraged and overwhelmed. Yes, Ive felt all of those emotions in my daily work. In this article, I want to emphasize how you keep going in spite of these truths. What is your method to tap into the power of hope?

Look at the elements at the bottom of this article.
Strategies For Responding to “The 10 Awful Truths”:
1. The game is now pass-along sales and pre-orders.
2. Events/immersion experiences replace traditional publicity in moving the needle.
3. Leverage the authors’ and publishers’ communities.
4. In a crowded market, brands stand out. 
5. Master new digital channels for sales, marketing, and community building.
6. Build books around a compelling, simple message.
7. Front-load the main ideas in books and keep books short.

If you read these articles about The Writing Life, you know I see the glass as half full rather than half empty. When you have something discouraging happen, then you have to say the word “next” and look for the next opportunity.

We live in a world full of opportunities which are everywhere. Recently I recorded a podcast about Faith in Publishing. If you follow the link you can hear the 18 minute interview.

Another way to tap into the power of hope with your writing is to make sure you know why you are writing. Yes, some of your writing is to make money--but heres an important truth: not all of it. For example, Ive written over 1,000 book reviews on Amazon and over 800 reviews on Goodreads. I write these reviews to support other writers. Other times I write devotions and not for the pay which is often minimal. I write these words to encourage others. I encourage you to mix some of this type of writing into your writing life along with the writing which helps you pay your bills.

As Christian writers we have a super power in prayer and Gods promise to lead us with our writing and to open new doors. The right opportunity for your writing is out there. But this opportunity doesnt just fall from the sky or into your email box or on your phone. Every writer has to be actively looking for the opportunity and open to it. As you have magazine ideas, you need to write query letters and pitches. I encourage you to attend writers conferences to meet editors and agents. At these events you can speak with them face to face about ideas and possibilities. Also as you have book ideas, I encourage you to write a book proposal or a business plan--even if you self-publish. Then pitch this book proposal. 

As you pitch your ideas, no matter what happens whether it is accepted or rejected, keep going. I keep going because the journey is all about finding the right opportunity and fit. What practical actions do you take to tap into the power of hope? Let me know in the comments below. 


Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Sunday, May 07, 2023

Why Your Word Count Matters


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Good writing and storytelling is foundational in every submission.  Ive been in publishing for many years and in a few minutes, I can read part of your writing and see if the writing and storytelling is there.

Throughout my writing life, Ive been encouraging writers to gain this writing and storytelling skill not in the book area but in the magazine area of the market. It is easier and faster to work with the shorter form and you will likely reach more people than with a book.

If you have passed the hurdle of good writing, what other factors are important in your book submission? The one I want to emphasize today is your word count.

Recently got a novel submission from a New York agent who has not worked in the editorial area. I liked the writing and storytelling from these authors. It was unusual for this agent to submit something to me. I knew that it was likely she could not sell it anywhere else and that I was a last resort submission. Because Ive worked in the editorial area of publishing for years, I could instantly spot the challenge of this submission: the word count. This novel was 213,000 words. 

To be fair to this agent, she didnt come from an editorial background. She probably has never focused on the importance of the word count and how that detail translates into the production costs of the book.

I knew instantly the word count would be a concern to my colleagues. I reached out to one of them for clarification. This colleague confirmed my suspicion about the projected size of this book. A 213,000 word novel will be 700 pages in a 6 x 9 format and have a retail price of $49.95 (Yes, $50). The sales for this book in this length are going to be dismal and it explains why another publisher had not decided to publish this book. 

I explained the details of my discovery to this agent and I recommended the authors find a couple of places in the story to halt the action and end the book. I suggested the single story be split into three 70,000 word books. Then the retail price could be normal and the page count would be much more attractive to the readership--which sells books. 

There are some additional reasons for making such a shift. In recent years, the price of paper has increased and this increase drives the increases in the retail price for books. Also in terms of a trend, people are reading smaller and shorter books. These factors play into your pitch to a literary agent or an editor and your word count may be one of the deciding factors.

During a recent marathon pitch session with multiple authors, I spoke with several authors who had novels with a 200,000 word count. I encouraged them to divide their story into a smaller novel. To a person, they instantly responded the story had no division point and was one piece. It is a common experience that Ive had with authors. They either are open to guidance, follow it and increase their possibility of success. Or they are doomed to search for some publisher or agent to take it and when that does not happen, they self-publish (with likely dismal sales). As an author, you either listen to experienced advice or reject it. 

Whether you are aware of it or not, the word count is used to calculate the finished book size and this detail figures prominently into the decision. I wrote a different author last week with a 107,000 word book to see if he can divide his book into two (or hire an editor to help him). Our upper limit for fiction used to be 100,000 words but now it is closer to 80,000 because of the increased retail price. This author was open to my suggestion and even pointed out a natural place in the story for the division. I liked this authorcoachable attitude and passed this positive information along to my colleagues who are still in the throws of deciding whether to offer a contract or not to this author. 

As editors and agents get increased submissions, even the smallest details like word count can be a reason to reject the author. It takes time to coach or explain to them the reasons for a smaller book. Rather than spend that time with the author (and maybe not succeed), it is easier to pass on it and press on to the next submission. 

As you write your books, are you aware of the importance of the word count? Let me know in the comments below.


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,