Sunday, August 27, 2023

Save Or Discard

By Terry Whalin 

True confession, I am a lifelong saver of stuff. I love my books and its hard to part with them--even if they sit on my shelf and I never open them again.

There is a basic principle of human nature: if you have empty space in a drawer or closet or bookshelf, as new material comes into your life, you will fill that space with something. 

As I write this article, we are moving again. Every time you move there is a lot of sorting and getting rid of things as a part of the process. Ive been sorting through my various books and narrowing down the books which will actually stay in my office. Its been a difficult experience for me but with each book, Ive asked myself, “Will I ever open or read this book again? Will I need it for some forthcoming writing project?” If the answer is, “no,” then Im probably getting rid of it. 

Think about the various books on your bookshelf. Do you read one type of book such as suspense or romance or nonfiction? I read many types of books such as a variety of how-to-write books, nonfiction (Christian and general market), children's books, fiction (in many different genres). I also have a series of Bible reference books and a variety of translations of the Bible. My bookshelf space in my new location is limited so I've been reducing my books--which is a painful experience but Im being realistic with each book. If I get rid of one or two books, I can often track down the information which I need using another method. Ive done this process with past moves and it is rare that Ive gotten rid of a book which later on I needed. This sorting process while difficult is a necessary part of the move.

I understand the necessity to sort my possessions on a regular basis from the example of my parents. For over 45 years they lived in the same home. After their passing, we even found their report cards from grade school. The volume of stuff they accumulated was remarkable and has taken a lot of energy to process. As I mentioned earlier, in many ways Im a saver but Im also trying to walk a different path and regularly slim down my possessions--even if I miss a few books and need them later. 

How do you handle this process of saving or discarding? Do you have a regular system or just allow any empty space to fill? Let me know in the comments below.

My articles in other places. Often in these article, I encourage you to publish your work on other blogs and places. Here's some of my articles which have been published recently:

Every Writer Needs a Safety Net
appeared on Writers on the Move. I give the background and reasons for every writer to diversify in their writing life. 

Write an Evergreen Magazine Article
is a type of magazine article you can publish over and over. Get the details of how to put it together for your writing in this article. 

A Practical Story: Why A Proposal Is Important
 Once a month I write an article about book proposals and in this piece I give a practical story about why every author needs a proposal which is your business plan for your book. 


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Sunday, August 20, 2023

Why Book Size Matters

By Terry Whalin 

Our growth as writers and authors is a combination of experience, learning about the marketplace then putting what we learn into practice. In this article Im writing about a detail of publishing which can be easily overlooked yet can be significant for your book and how you use it. Im going to tell you why your book size matters.

Recently a publishing friend reached out to ask me about this size detail. She heard me talk about it but didnt recall the specifics. Ive written in the past about how your word count affects the size and acceptance of your book with publishers. Follow this link to read this information if you havent. Space is limited in every bookstore and most books are spine out in the bookstore. Your book has to be large enough to take your space inside the bookstore (provided you have a way to even get your books into that space).

Some authors will not be able to do anything about the size of their finished book because they are publishing with traditional houses. Whether true or not, these traditional houses do not include the author as they plan the size of the book because whether right or wrong, they believe they know these details better than the author and there is no need to include them in the decision process. Education and knowledge is a key part of the publishing process. When you learn this detail, you may be able to have some influence on your own books during the production process--at least that is my hope and why Im writing this article. 

In the area of adult books, there are two common sizes: 6 x 9 and 5 1/2 x 8 1/2. If you do get a chance to discuss and influence this book production element, I prefer the slightly smaller size of 5.5 x 8.5. My reason is “unusual.” The smaller size will pack perfectly into the free priority mail boxes from the US postal service. The larger size does not pack as well in this process.  

This detail is important if you ship boxes of books because there is a flat rate priority mail box. There are different types of priority mail boxes and to get the best rate, make sure you get the right one). Then you can pile your books tightly into these containers and get the maximum use from them. The other reason that I prefer this smaller size related to my frequent travel to conferences. 

When I travel to a conference, I often have the opportunity sell some books in the bookstore. In my carry on bag, I will put two of these priority mail boxes and pack them with my books. Because they fit perfectly into these boxes, with no extra effort, the books arrive in pristine shape and no bent or damaged covers. 

Admittedly this size decision seems small but it can have big implications for your future if you dont consider it. 
this small decision can be significant later on. These small details are important as you create, market then sell your book. What other details are important to know about during the production process? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, August 13, 2023

The Hardest Element to Find


By Terry Whalin 

Have you ever dropped a needle into a haystack? It is a challenge to find that needle when buried in the hay. The discovery is possible but will take considerable effort and possibly time to find it. Or maybe youve accidentally dropped a supplement like a clear vitamin D on your kitchen floor and struggling to find it? As with the needle, it will take time and effort to find that missing pill.

What is the most difficult element to find with our writing? Im not asking a trick question because the answer is: something which is missing

Within the publishing community, I have often heard it said the hardest thing to find in anyones manuscript or proposal is something that is not there. It is easy and obvious to work on the elements which are there but how to you find the material which is not there?

Heres some ideas how to find whatever you are missing:

1. Use a checklist. For example, if it is a book proposal, Ive created a free book proposal checklist with the elements in a standard proposal. You can use this list to make sure you are not missing something. 

2. Read often and widely. If you read extensively, you will have a better idea what should be included in your writing. 

3. Read your writing aloud to yourself. The ear is less forgiving than the eye and it will be easier to pick up on what is missing or not there. 

4. Have your critique group read it and react to it. Getting feedback from other writers can be helpful to find items which you are missing.

5. Hire an outside editor or proofreader. I encourage you to get recommendations from others. Dont hire someone blindly because they may or may not have the experience that you need. 

Whether you are writing a book proposal, a manuscript, a query letter or a magazine article, every writer needs feedback before you send it off to an agent or editor.  Which element do you find the hardest to find with your writing? Let me know in the comments below. 


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Sunday, August 06, 2023

A Critical Difference Maker


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Through the years, new books pour into my house from other authors, publishers and publicists. I open the packages then take the path of least resistance--put them in a stack. But the lack of action works against me. Stacks of books are sometimes scattered in different places in my office. It is only as I take action and process these books or take action, will things get moving forward. Some books I will read, write a review and tell others about the books. Others will be given away and others I will keep to hopefully read later or sometimes then give them away. 

Ive written about my consistent action to write book reviews for the books that I read or hear in audio format. In fact, Ive developed a detailed system about how I handle such books and after writing my review, promote them to others. No one pays me for such actions and its a way I support other authors. 

In this article, consistent action is the critical difference maker that Im writing about today. Opening books then stacking them doesnt count. It’s the same with writing. When you think about writing, that doesn’t count. The only action which counts on the writing front is putting your fingers on the keyboard and creating sentences, paragraphs and pages of cohesive writing. 

For example, I’ve been thinking about writing another book. Ive created a title, audience, shape and theme--even imagined the book proposal and other elements in it. Yet my work on this future book is all in my head. I have not taken the actions which will lead to an actual book: writing at my keyboard. Without the actual writing, this future book is simply a daydream and not a forthcoming reality. 

As writers, we play many mindgames with our work and at the end of the day your actions (writing) moves everything forward so something happens. 

There are many different types of writing. In the first chaptger of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, I have a detailed list of possibilities. If you need some more ideas, I encourage you to download this chapter (follow the link which does not have an opt-in). If you are writing a book (fiction or nonfiction), you need to write a book proposal or a business plan--even if you self-publish. Get a free copy of Book Proposals That Sell (the Revised Edition) 

Whatever you are writing, take action and do a little bit every day. As you set personal and professional deadlines, you can make daily progress on your writing. This process is not a sprint but a marathon. Your persistence and consistency will pay off in the long run. There is a saying which is filled with truth about the writing life: “Inch by inch, it's a cinch.

Finally, keep building new relationships in the publishing community with editors, agents, publicists and other professionals. I encourage you to continue to pitch new ideas with these relationships. When you get an opportunity, take action and seize it. Its the path that Ive been taking for many years.

When I was in school, I often used the Encyclopedia Britannica which has an entry: Carpe Deim and says, carpe diem, (Latin: “pluck the day” or “seize the day”) phrase used by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that one should enjoy life while one can.” If you want to get published, there are many steps along this journey but at the most basic level, each of us have to seize the day and take action and get some words into our computer.

With this article, I pictured a rock climber. Just like a writer, he will never be able to scale the top if he doesnt take action and begin to scale the wall. Your dreams of writing and publishing will never happen if you dont sit in your chair and keep your fingers moving on the keyboard. Action is the critical difference maker for every writer. What steps are you taking with this critical difference maker? Let me know in the comments below.


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