Sunday, September 24, 2023

Create a Writer's Pipeline

By Terry Whalin

Take a look at the image for this article and you will see the inside of a pipeline. These pipes are built to move and transport material from one place to another. As a writer, I also need a pipeline of work. With this pipeline, I will continue to publish my writing and also earn a living to be able to pay my bills. Im going to give you some ideas how to create and maintain your own writers pipeline.  

What is a pipeline? A pipeline is what I am calling a series of actions that you take to get writing projects and increase your income as a writer. These actions are not singular but something you grow and do over and over on a consistent basis. You want to create this pipeline because it is the method to get consistent and regular writing work. Every writer needs a steady stream of work and writing projects. Your pipeline will be unique to you and whatever you want to write.

How to create one? This creation process can be formalized with a simple spreadsheet or some other method but you intentionally work at getting more projects on your schedule. And you need to create a method to keep track of what you are doing, the responses and to help you follow up in a consistent yet gentle way. The truth is every one of us have way too much in motion and a correctly handled follow-up will stir activity and possibly a book deal or a magazine assignment.

For example, last week, why was I creating and scheduling posts on social media posts which would not appear until the second week in October? These actions were a part of my planning process to stir connection, relationships and also add to my pipeline. Your pipeline will be completely different from mine but if you want a steady stream of writing projects, you need to be creating and maintaining it. 

While your pipeline will be different, every writer has some consistent elements in their pipeline. Each of us have to learn to use the right tools for your writing. For example, if you want to write magazine articles on a consistent basis, some publications require you send a query letter or one page pitch. It's a developed skill to learn what goes into a query letter but one every writer can do. I have detailed information in this article (follow the link). Also I have written a much more detailed resource (and inexpensive) resource called How to Succeed As a Magazine Writer.

If you are writing a book, then you need to learn how to write a book proposal--even if you self-publish. This document is where you create the business plan for your book and is another important skill for every writer to learn and develop. Ive written two book proposals that received six-figure advances and Ive reviewed many proposals in my years in publishing. The best way to learn about proposals is to read my Book Proposals That Sell (use this link to get it free) or you can buy it here. I've also created a free teleseminar answering your questions about proposal creation. You can use many different ways to learn about proposal creation. The key is to learn this information and give the editor or agent the best possible submission. 

Where do you want to take your writing? Do you want to have more assigned projects and more book contracts? Then you need to be pitching more editors and agents with your ideas. If you feel like those pitches are going into a black hole (no or little response), then you need to use the gentle follow-up. Hardly anyone talks about it but there is a large volume of submissions and things get lost or mishandled in the process. Your gentle follow-up can stir things back into action. 

Im encouraging you to create this writers pipeline then use it with persistence, clear and timely communication and consistency. That continued effort on your part may not have instant results but you will gain traction and results if you stick with it. Many writers give up way too early on the process. 

Do you have a writers pipeline? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, September 17, 2023

Preserve and Expand Your Relationships

By Terry Whalin 

Admittedly at times, it is frustrating to be a writer. Ive been rejected and had books cancelled. Internally I moan and groan but I never burn my relationship bridge. To outsiders, the publishing world looks daunting and huge. After decades in this business, instead of huge, I find this world often interconnected and small. Many of us know each other from going to conferences, working on different projects and maintaining our connections. 

For example, Ive been acquiring books at Morgan James Publishing for over ten years. Even earlier, I acquired fiction at Howard Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster) and before that experience I acquired books at David C. Cook. With each of those positions, I worked with editors and literary agents. Some of those agents Ive not spoken with in years but we maintain our relationships and connections. If I reached out to them via phone or email, I would likely get a response. 

In addition to my publishing work, Ive also interviewed more than 150 bestselling authors and written their stories for over 50 publications.  If you dont have this type of experience, dont be concerned. I didnt begin with these connections but they were built over time and one relationship at a time. Each of these relationships is important. You need to design your own system to keep track of the various emails, phone numbers and other critical information. You never know when you might need to revive one of these relationships.

Several years ago I was working on the audiobook version of my biography of Billy Graham. From listening to audiobooks, I was looking for a way to make my audiobook to be “different.” One of the most iconic songs related to Billy Graham is the hymn Just As I Am sung at the end of his crusades. I did a simple Google search and found a YouTube version with the Gaithers singing along with Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea. Using an audio program, I clipped out a few seconds but then I needed permission to use it in my audiobook. 

Years before I met and exchanged business cards with Gloria Gaither who was an author with Howard Books. In a few minutes, I crafted an email to Gloria Gaither and told her about my audiobook project. I sent along the YouTube clips and asked for royalty-free permission to use them. Within a few hours, I received the official permission. Each chapter in my audiobook begins with a brief clip from the hymn. If you follow this link, you can hear a sample. From this story, I hope you can see the value in preserving and maintaining relationships. 

One of the ways I have preserved my relationships with bestselling authors was through my unusual practice of pre-publication review. Years ago I learned that I could not control the editing process at magazines but what I can control is what I turn into the publication. Before I submit my articles, I returned to the subject and showed them my article asking them to check the facts. I was careful how I reapproached them because I didnt want them to rewrite my piece but I wanted to make sure it was accurate. When I told Chuck Swindoll about my practice, he affirmed something I knew saying, “The media never checks.

Journalists are taught they control the story and never to let your subjects see the article before it is printed (pre-publication review). Yet I have done it for the simple reason that it preserves and maintains my relationship with these authors. 

Heres some additional action steps everyone can take with their relationships:
--answer your emails
--return phone calls
--follow-up with authors and leads
--check in with others to see how they are doing and how you can help them

This week on social media, I noticed a new book from one of my friends. I reached out to that friend and ask for a review copy of the book so I could read it and write a review. I did not hear from my friend but someone in publicity later that day emailed to say they were mailing the book. The bottom-line is be known as someone who wants to help other people succeed. Look for creative and simple ways you can help them. 

Another wise place to expand and continue your connections is on LinkedIN. For years I ignored the email invitations to connect. Yet today I have over 19,400 LinkedIN connections. If Ive not reached out to someone in a long-time, LinkedIN is my first place to check on their email and sometimes their phone number. Editors, literary agents and writers will often change positions. When they change, they often will take their LinkedIN accounts with them. Recently I needed to connect with an agency for my work. I selected a couple of leaders in this organization and sent them personalized invitations to connect. A few hours later I was connected to one of those two leaders and sent them a personalized email. You can do the same thing on LinkedIN to expand your network. 

Are we connected on LinkedIN? If not, follow this link and send me a personalized invitation (even mentioning this article). What methods do you use to preserve and expand your relationships? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, September 10, 2023

Moving and The Writing Life


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Last week I missed writing a new article about the Writing Life for the first time in years. After ten years in Colorado, we moved back to the community in Southern California where we lived ten years earlier. Change has been a key word in this process.  In this article, I want to show how my skills as a writer gave me what I needed to make this move.

Moving is Hard

To get published is also hard but possible. We used movers to pack some of our fragile possessions and to carefully lift outside our furniture. With publishing, there is much to organize and learn how to write a book proposal or a query letter or just formatting your magazine article so it looks professional. Each of these steps is part of the process and something every writer has to do if you want to get published. 

Much Is Different

Our new place is radically different from our former location. To enter the writing life, you have to continually make new connections and study different companies. For example, to get published in a magazine, you have to study that publication and see what types of stories they publish and do freelance writers send those stories or are they staff written? For three days to get to our new location, we drove eight or nine hours each day. Ahead of time we had made hotel reservations and planned our path. Yet at times there were delays in the process and it's the same with the writing life, sometimes it takes an unexpected amount of time to reach a particular editor or literary agent. 

There Is A Lot to Learn

Because we lived in this community years ago, the street names and various locations has a feeling of familiarity, yet we are struggling with even simple directions. Im constantly using the directions feature on my phone to go to anywhere. The world of publishing is similar and is always changing. Ive been studying the details for years yet I still have a lot to learn. It's an action step I encourage for each of you--always be learning more about the publishing world. 

Your Routines Are Changed

When we moved across country, the location of everything shifts. For several days last week, the bulk of the day was spent unpacking boxes and organizing the things as they came out of those boxes. The process of moving interrupted my writing and I wasnt able to blog last week. Often my writing routine has been changed or interrupted. Many writers create a certain pattern about when and where they write. Of necessity, Ive learned not to place restrictions on my writing routines. Ive written in busy environments such as coffee shops but also in libraries, on airplanes and in hotel rooms. Every writer needs a measure of discipline and persistence to get it done when your routine is interrupted.

You Have to Adapt

To prepare for our move, I used my scheduling program for my social media posts to Twitter and LinkedIN. Because of using this tool, these posts continued whether I was near a computer or not. My posts to Facebook simply didnt happen during these days. The move has forced many changes and Ive had to adapt to get things accomplished. For example, during our several days of driving to our new location, I had authors sign their Morgan James contracts. Often late at night, I was working on my laptop to keep these authors moving forward through the production process. Admittedly working on my laptop is different from using my desktop computer. I had to adapt to accomplish some simple publishing tasks. 

The same sort of action happens in the writing world. We need to adapt as writer to give the readers (and our editor) what they expect and want. If your book proposal is incomplete or missing a critical section, because of the volume of submissions, you will often get a simple form rejection letter. It is best in these situations to use a checklist to ensure you have all of the essential and expected items. It's why I created my book proposal checklist to help writers achieve this need and submit a complete proposal.

Each Day Gets Better 

As I explained in the opening, moving is filled with confusion, a feeling of being lost and many changes. Yet as weve worked through the details of each day, it has also gotten better. We love our new location. As weve unpacked our belongings, the routines of life are slowly falling into place and getting better. 

The same sort of process happens in the writing world. As you tackle something unfamiliar such as writing a magazine article or a book, the more you work at it, the process gets easier. Each day is filled with challenges yet also opportunities. As a writer, I am often a plodder and keep moving forward in the process. It's the same element Ive used with this move. Persistence and the ability to keep moving forward helps me know that eventually all the confusion will disappear and life will even out. 

Continue Your Routines

As weve set up our kitchen, weve intentionally kept many of the same patterns of our former kitchen. For example the plates and silverware are located in similar places. This pattern has helped us settle into the new location. I suggest the same is true in the writing life. If you have a place where you write, where you keep your pencils and computer, maintain that place as much as possible. It will help you be able to consistently take action with your writing life.

Overall there are some basic characteristics of every writer which have also been in play with our move:
--a commitment to continued learning
--a sense of curiosity and adventure
--knowing as I continue, things get better every day

My writing life feeds into my regular live including my recent move. Let me know what you think in the comments below.


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