Sunday, December 31, 2023

Every Writer Is An Entrepreneur

By Terry Whalin

Within the writing community, there is an age-old discussion about whether a writer needs talent or can learn the skills to be a writer. From my perspective, talent is a God-given ability but the skills and how-to information about craft are elements that each writer can learn. In fact, each writer when you enter this business as you submit or pitch your work, you are forming your own business and entering the world as an entrepreneur.

While Ive written about the up and down sides of the writing life in these hundreds of entries, in 2008, I compared my life as a writer to a roller coaster. When you submit your work to an editor or agent, your optimism is high as you wait for a response. It is like when you’ve gotten on a roller coaster and that car is climbing the steep area toward the top of the experience. Then when the agent or editor engages with you about your submission, you have the excitement about what could happen with your work as it gets into the marketplace. It’s the same sort of exhileration when you fly down the first steep area of the roller coaster. 

The business aspects of publishing are comparable to the ups and downs of a roller coaster. Last week, I pulled a book from my shelf called The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster. Ive had this book for several years yet had not read it. Maybe you have a few books like that on your bookshelf.  I also have the audio version of this book. Over several days I listened to the audio while I read the words in the book. I used this method of reading to be fully focused on the contents and absorb as much of it as possible. 

For my life in publishing, I found the stories and the how-to information relevant and practical. In this final entry on the Writing Life for the year, I want to give you the ability to have the same experience. On his website, Darren Hardy offers you this book for only the postage of $6.95. His offer includes more than the hardcover book, but also the audiobook files and other resources such as worksheets for each chapter. 

I highly recommend you take advantage of this offer. Dont follow my example and leave the unread book on your shelf for several years. Instead I encourage you to find the time to read and listen to this book. Then as you consume this book, apply the lessons to your writing life. The experience will help you understand and succeed with your journey as a writer. 

As you think about your writing life, do you identify with the comparison to a roller coaster? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 24, 2023

Is Self-Promotion Bad?

By Terry Whalin

As writers, we are the people with the greatest passion about our area of expertise and our book. Yes, our publisher has an investment in the book and gets the book out into the marketplace. But over and over, I’ve learned it is the author's activity or promotion which moves that book out of the bookstore and into the hands of readers. This process happens in many different ways and methods. In the process of telling people about our book, we are involved in self-promotion. In this article, I ask and answer the question in my title, Is Self-Promotion Bad?

As Christians, we are taught to lift up (promote) others instead of ourselves. Even the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought." (NIV)

From my decades in publishing, the key in this process is a balancing act along with a focus on helping and serving your reader with your various messages. For example, once a day in my social media feed, I promote my Billy Graham biography. I achieve this promotion with different words, different images and pointing out different places where others have interviewed me about Mr. Graham. Follow this link for an example.

Recently I’ve read and reviewed a resource which can help you in this area of self-promotion. Paula K. Parker, Mike Parker and Torry Martin have combined their experiences into Shameless Self Promotion and Networking for Christian Creatives. Each of these authors have vast experience in interviewing--and being interviewed with other creatives. Because they have worked as journalists as well as authors, they bring a different perspective and view to their readers. 

In the early pages of the book, they write, “creative people are often right-brain dominant; but while the right-brain opens the door, it’s usually the left-brain that does the business. That’s why we wrote this book, Shameless Self-Promotion, and Networking for Christian Creatives is designed to help equip you, whether you re an individual or organization, with the tools you need to successful self-promotion, using tried and proven methods and with out the need to sell your soul in the process.” (Page 4)

As Christian writers, they have a different perspective for example in the chapter about The Interview, they write, “We pray before every interview because we believe our meeting whoever we are interviewing can be a ministry moment. We believe that the stories we write about people and their art can impact the reader, in much the same way great music impacts the reader, and a great stage performance can impact the theater-goer. our responsibility is to help the person we are interviewing to tell their story in such a way that it might minister to the people who read it.” (Page 93-94) I hope you see the truth and insight in this quotation and how their perspective is different from the typical marketing book.  

In these articles, I’ve repeatedly encouraged you to build relationships in the publishing community. In this chapter they write, “Torry Martin is a master at networking from a different perspective. His unique approach to networking eschews the common idea of ’what can you do for me,’ and turns it around with a ’how can I help you?’ attitude that is both godly and powerful. It’s what we call shameless self promotion, because there is nothing shameful about it.” (Page 148)

Some books you read once and are done with them. That will not happen with Shameless Self Promotion and Networking for Christian Creatives.  This book contains a plethora of ideas and insights for every author from these three much published authors. I encourage you to read this book with a yellow highlighter and turn to these insights over and over for your writing life. 

The process of self-promotion is not easy for any of us. What methods are you using in your writing? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 17, 2023

Control What You Can

By Terry Whalin

Much of our world is outside of our control--especially if you are going the traditional publishing route. Many authors have unrealistic expectations or myths about their publishing experience. For 10 Publishing Myths, I focused on ten of these myths and you can use this link--or the one at the end of this article to get the book for only $10 including the postage. Each chapter ends with practical steps every reader can take to control what they can in the publishing process or take their own action.

Through the years, Ive built an active presence on social media with thousands of connections. In these articles, Ive written about my actions where I spend limited time on the social media sites where Im active (X or Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN). I do not control these websites which are called rented media yet in general I post on these sites 14 to 15 times each day. Its a pattern that I've been doing consistently for years. 

In this article, I want to point out two simple yet important actions I regularly take on two different social media platforms. 

First, lets turn to Facebook. On my personal Facebook page, there is a limitation of 5,000 friends. Im fairly close to that limit. Several times a week, people will add a comment to my post saying Facebook has suggested friendship and request a connection. Yet I dont have room for such a connection. Heres the actions I take each time:

1. I block this person so they will not be able to see my posts or get such a suggestion from Facebook in the future.

2. After the block, I delete their comment from my post.

This action can be done quickly but shows that you are monitoring your feed and account--or controlling what you can in this area.

Second, lets talk about LinkedIN. I have over 19,000 connections on LinkedIN and have written about the importance of these relationships with editors and other publishing professionals. My public site says that I have over 500 connections but my number of connections is much larger.

Often I will get a request on LinkedIN to connect. In each case, I look at the profile of the person making the request. Do I know this person? Are they in a part of the world where I want to have a connection? For example, if they are in a foreign country, do I want a connection with this person? In many cases, I am not interested and will decline the request--and also tell LinkedIN I do not know this person. The notification of not knowing this person will be reported back to LinkedIN.

I also look at the occupation of the person making the request. Frequently I receive requests from real estate agents and people in the financial services industry. I do not need any connection from either industry so I decline the request. 

Some of these requests I will accept and make a connection. Then I will be watching to see what the person does with this connection. Frequently I get some standard email introduction asking for me to schedule a 15 minute phone call to chat with them. I'm not interested in such a chat. I rarely use LinkedIN email because with thousands of connections it is not an effective communication tool--for me. I will send a short response expressing these details. Then heres my final step which I wanted to write about: I block this person and remove them from being a connection or being able to communicate with me through LinkedIN in the future. 

Such interaction is not worth the agony or mental anguish. Yes, build relationships on these social media sites. These relationships are important to every person in the publishing business. Each of us have the same amount of time. My encouragement is for you to control what you can and let the rest go. What steps are you taking in this area of controlling what you can? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Practice Age-Old Wisdom

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

During this time of year, activities tend to slow down--less activity on the publishing front and phone calls are not returned, etc. I use this time to read some books and complete some online courses. While Ive been in publishing for years, I have a great deal to learn and more improvements to make in my own storytelling and writing life. 

Many authors are looking for the magic bullet to propel their books on the bestseller list. These people are often chasing the latest shiny marketing tool or social media network. If you are listening to such information, you can easily find yourself pulled in many different directions. I understand why publishers are looking for authors with a presence on the internet and social media connections. They want authors who will use these different methods over and over to tell their readers about their work. From my view, social media is all about repeat exposure. Someone has to hear about your book at least ten or twelve times, before they will purchase your book. You tell them about your book in different ways such as through a radio broadcast or a podcast or a magazine article or ???. If you want to see or need an example, just follow my Twitter feed or LinkedIN feed and you will see how I talk about my books using diverse methods on a consistent basis. 

As I listen to training programs and learn, there is a repeated emphasis on returning to the basics--email. Why is a vital and effectively used email list much better than the shiny new platform? The simple fact is that as an author, you control your email list as far as the frequency of use and your efforts to grow and expand your list of readers. I dont control the spaces which are commonly referred to as “rented platforms.” 

For any of these social media platforms like Facebook, X or Twitter, LinkedIN and many others, if I violate (even unintentionally), my account can be cancelled or suspended. These rules that are violated are often buried in the settings and almost impossible to appeal or get reinstated because the restoration process is outside of what the author can control. Youve spent untold hours building a group of readers on Facebook then one day your account is suspended. Or your level of response and visibility radically drops because the site has changed their algorithm (which few people understand and almost no one can do anything about). 

Your own email list is what you can control, build and repeatedly use. Do you have an email list and are you effectively using it? Several years ago I created a simple and inexpensive ebook on this topic called List Building Tycoon. If you havent seen it, I encourage you to follow the link or click the small image and check it out. 

Ive not been using my own email list with the greatest effect. Particularly in the new year, I plan to increase my use of my email list and have some specific actions that Ive relearned from these courses that Ive been watching. Each of us have to learn these skills then put them into practice. Its an action step which I encourage every author to do in the days ahead. There are reasons the age-old wisdom works. 

Our life as a writer is a journey. Which age-old wise practices are you not putting into practice?   Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 03, 2023

First Impressions Count

By Terry Whalin

I love the photo which begins this article. The light has made a perfect reflection and impression of the scenery. Our eye is drawn to this peaceful and perfect image. As you reflect on this image, I believe you can gain some insights about the process of submitting your work for publication.

Notice the photo is taken from the right spot. To get the attention of an editor or literary agent, you have to make the right connection. Admittedly its not easy for any writer to make this connection but it is possible through personal emails, LinkedIN and other places. As Ive often said in these articles, who you know is as important as what you know. 

Also notice the photo is a perfect reflection in the water. As writers we must become aware of what the editor or agent needs and is looking for. For a writer to gather this information will take work and effort. Study the books they publish or list of authors. Also download and study their guidelines and what they need. It's different for each publisher or agent but this information is often clearly spelled out on their website (and the submitter or author doesnt always follow it--which is a mistake on their part).

Every writer must make the right pitch at the right time. If your pitch is not crafted right or the timing is off, the publishing professional will pass on it. 

Throughout my years in publishing, Ive seen many missed opportunities, poor and inappropriate pitches. For my example, recently an author submitted a childrens book manuscript. The submission was just a manuscript and not crafted into pages and without a book proposal. If the author had crafted it into pages, it would have shown knowledge about the childrens book market. A proposal shows the author's business plans and background for publishing the book. Admittedly it takes work to craft such a submission but is well-worth the effort from my experience. 

Unfortunately this author made the wrong first impression. He didnt learn Morgan James Publishing has published some childrens books but they are a small percentage of the types of books which we publish (maybe 3%). Also this author called my phone and then disconnected--over a dozen times--before he left a voicemail with questions asking for my return call. Such an action from an unpublished author raises red flags for the professional. The submission will be processed but a pass or rejection letter will also be scheduled. This author made the wrong first impression and it counted.

I love childrens books, have published more than a dozen of them and Im a former instructor for the Institute of Childrens Literature, which is the oldest home correspondence course for childrens writers. Beyond the submission, Im looking for the right author.

As New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins wisely said when he interviewed me (follow the link), editors and agents are reading their email looking for what they can publish or the diamond in the rough. Unfortunately it takes thoughtful work to send the right pitch or proposal. My encouragement for each of you is to do this work on the submission side of things and the relationship-building side.

To balance my previous story, let me tell you about another author. On the surface, the full-color book didnt look like one that Morgan James would publish. Through a series of over 50 emails and phone conversations, the publishing details for this book were worked out. The author received a contract offer. Admittedly there are a number of additional steps before this book gets published and in the bookstores. I include this story so you see that every author needs a champion inside the publishing house for their book. It will take effort for you to find this person but if you work at it, you can certainly find such a person.  I encourage you to always be expanding your relationships to have the right one for your right idea.

On the surface, publishing may look simple but it is a complicated endeavor with many twists and turns. I encourage you to continue to take the journey. What steps are you taking to find the right place for your pitch? Let me know in the comments below. 


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