Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Unusual Publisher Event for Authors

Last weekend, I was in Nashville for an unusual author event. Over the last four and half years, I’ve acquired books for Morgan James Publishing. It’s the nature of book publishing to introduce a steady stream of new books into the market. Often this event is called an author launch where they launch their book into the marketplace.

As a publisher, we set the date of this launch months ahead and encourage the authors to work to build buzz and momentum for that date. We encourage their activity but typical for publishers, the author will handle the actual work such as getting people to review the book on Amazon.

Several weeks ago, Morgan James invited authors whose books released from December 2016 through March 2017 to come to a red carpet event. The authors dressed up, held their books and were interviewed on the red carpet. The interviews were live streamed on Facebook Live. After the interviews, Morgan James had special dinner to honor our authors at the famous Wild Horse Saloon in downtown Nashville.

From my many years in publishing, I’ve never seen a publisher put on this type of separate and special event to honor their authors. As a part of the event, David Hancock, the founder of Morgan James, gave each author a special “challenge coin” in a presentation box. “Challenge Coins” started during World War I where a unit carried a coin and were challenged to present the coin to prove their affiliation. These coins are popular with the Army Special Forces. David created these coins which on one side have a book and include the words “Educate, Encourage, Inform, Inspire.” The reverse includes the Morgan James book logo and “the entrepreneurial publisher” and the Morgan James website address. The coin is a remarkable reminder to every author of the partnership with their publisher.

The next day, some of the authors stayed for a day of marketing training. Not every author could stay both days but a number of them stayed and invested in themselves. The training day was excellent and included a representative from Ingram Publishing Services (the distributor for Morgan James books), specific marketing training, media training and much more. Bret Ridgway, co-author of the book, Mistakes Authors Make, spoke about  some of the mistakes authors make and his services at Speaker Fulfillment Services. One of the key mistakes that authors make is writing a book without understanding the endgame with their book. What do they want the reader to do after reading the book? Hire them for coaching or get some of their services or sign up for the author's email list? These elements have to be written into the foundation of your book from the beginning. The training session was excellent and I learned a great deal from this valuable education.

Morgan James Publishing planning two more of these events in Nashville and will follow the seasons of releases for these books. I was honored to be included and look forward to going to the events later this year.  


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Monday, March 13, 2017

A Simple Promotion Idea for Your Reviews

Several times a week, someone will email and ask me to read their book and write a review. It is a good strategy to approach well-known reviewers. Normally their request mentions a book that I have read and reviewed, then pitches their book. Because I've written almost 700 book reviews on Amazon, I get these requests. To be honest, I look at their books and in most cases I politely decline the offer—for several reasons. Most of them are ebook only books on Kindle and I do not have an Ebook reader. Also when I look at the books, I'm not interested in reading their book so again I decline.

Because I've been reading and writing book reviews for many years, I have publicists and publishers often pitching for me to read their books and write about them. I am committed to continuing to read new books and write book reviews about those books. I review the book on Amazon but also on Goodreads, where I have 5,000 friends (the limit).

Repeatedly I see authors launch their book with no book reviews on Amazon--zero. In fact, during the last week, I've seen two long-time publishing professionals (literary agents) launch new books with no Amazon book reviews. If Amazon is selling 70% of the books (a number that I've seen recently in the publishing press--unsure if true or not), then it is critical for every author to get book reviews. I've mentioned this resource from Tim Grahl but get it and use it: https://booklaunch.com/amazon-reviews/ Scroll down and on the bottom get the free download from him because it has templates for emails and spread sheets and all sorts of valuable tools. It doesn't matter if your book came out last month or last year, you need to be working on these reviews. If someone goes to the page on Amazon and there are no reviews or only one or two reviews, this information affects whether others will buy your book.

Last week I was traveling and met with Charles Billingsleya well-known Christian recording artist. Charles released a new book from Worthy Publishing on March 7th. Charles he gave me a copy of Words on Worship. The book is a well-designed, attractive hardcover. Inside Charles had gathered four pages of great and well-known endorsements. I know that effort took work and is something every author should do for their new book. For my own curiosity, I looked on Amazon on his launch day and he had no book reviews on Amazon. 

To help Charles, I quickly looked at the book, wrote a review and posted it on Amazon--and also Goodreads. I also tweeted about the book a couple of times to my 200,000+ twitter followers. Writing book reviews is a simple way you can support other authors.

Here's my simple yet important idea for you when you write book reviews: include a live link to your own book at the end of the review. Within their customer reviews, Amazon allows you to include a link to another product. Why not use this tool to tell readers about your latest book?

Now take a closer look at my review for Words on Worship. Now notice at the end of the review, I write: “W. Terry Whalin is an editor and the author of more than 60 books including his latest Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist.”  Because this link is live to my book page on Amazon, a reader interested could go over to the page and purchase my book. 

As long as I'm writing about book reviews, I have a free teleseminar on this topic. Just follow the link and get the full replay and download the gifts associated with it.

Your work to tell people about your book is on-going after it is published. The key from my perspective is to always be looking for new ways and on-going ways to promote your own book--even when helping others with a book review.


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Monday, March 06, 2017

How to Get a Wealth of Social Media Content

Where do you get your content for your social media? Is it all your own material or does it come from others?

People in publishing are looking for writers with excellent content. I’ve been on twitter since 2008 and tweeted over 35,000 times. My following has grown from zero (no followers) to over 200,000. How in the world do I determine what to have on my social media feeds and why do I never run out of new content?

Haphazard and rare use of social media never works. To develop a following, you need to be putting out good and consistent content. I use a free tool Hootsuite to schedule my tweets throughout the day. Each communication is focused on my audience and readers (who are writers or people interested in publishing). Your target audience will be different but you must have a specific target.

Collect content and images. I subscribe to a number of blogs and newsletters who are in my target market I read these blogs and learn from them. Also I use these articles as content for my social media. As I find each one, I take a few minutes each day and add them to my Hootsuite releases for the days ahead. I keep the title of the article and attach the image from the article (since images get more social media attention).

When it comes to my tweets, I’ve developed my own structure for my daily game plan for my posts. Yours will be different but take the time to develop a structure. With this structure in place, your search for content is focused and deliberate. For example, I begin each day with a quotation and an image (often of the person quoted). Many people love these quotes so they are shared and retweeted. 

At the beginning and the end of the day,  I will point to my own resources such as blog posts (almost 1400 posts in my blog) or free teleseminars or other personal resources. I keep a small plain text file with these posts and recycle them on a regular basis. In the middle of the day, I have new content from the articles and blogs and newsletters that I regularly read. I do not automatically take every post from these newsletters. With each one, I’m focused on my audience and asking,” Is this material a good fit for my reader?” If the answer is no, then I do not include it.

From my experience, there is an abundance of resources to add to your social media feeds. It’s part of the reason I tweet at least 12 times a day. It continues to draw new readers and older readers.

The consistency and quality will draw people to your work. Yes this is platform building 101 but necessary for every author. If you need more information about platform building, then get my free Ebook on the topic.

As you have a wealth of social media content, the consistent effort is important and will pay off for you. You don't have to be on every social media channel. Pick one or two and major on that particular channel.


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Monday, February 27, 2017

Some Insights About Book Buying Habits

Take a minute and consider where you you bought your last few books. Was it in a brick and mortar bookstore? Did you buy them at an event or from an online retailer like Amazon? Was the book new or used?

As a long-term reader, I often purchase books. Last weekend I was at the third Writers on the Rock Conference and heard Allen Arnold speak.  For years, Arnold worked as an editor and publisher at Thomas Nelson Publishers and now he is working with best-selling author John Eldredge.  At the end of his keynote, Arnold mentioned his book, The Story of WITH which he sold for the discounted $10. I was interested to learn  Arnold self-published his book and I was glad to get an autographed copy and look forward to reading it.

This week I was talking with another long-term friend who is in publishing and he mentioned how he buys his books online from Amazon which offers choices whether to get a new book or a used version. We were talking about book buying habits because of the publishing news about Family Christian Bookstores closing 240 stores and over 3,000 employees losing their jobs. 

Several years ago, Family Christian Bookstores went into bankruptcy and had emerged from that situation. Publishers were the principal vendors who took a hit when Family Christian Bookstores went into bankruptcy.  One of the domino or related actions from this bankruptcy was the sale of Gospel Light. This family-owned publisher had a long-term history in the market and was sold to two different publishers.  Family Christian Bookstores owed Gospel Light $143,000. This debt was too large for Gospel Light to absorb and forced them into bankruptcy. The numbers of brick and mortar bookstores nationwide have been declining. Literary agent Steve Laube wrote more details about the closing of Family Christian in this article.

About four years ago when I lived in Arizona, a couple in my local church took part of their life savings and opened a Christian bookstore. It had several challenges from the beginning. While my friends had good motives, they did not come from a book or publishing background.  I knew way more about books, authors and the publishing business than they did. While eager to learn, they had a lot of ground to cover from a business perspective. Also the store was located in a shopping center and two doors from a well-known Hallmark store.  I often would drop by the nearby bookstore and talk with them and purchase things (if I needed them). Ultimately these friends closed their bookstore right about when I moved from Arizona. As I watched this store, it was an upfront and close lesson about some of the challenges of the brick and mortar retail business—and in particular in the Christian market.

A little off my topic but related: last week I went to Target to buy some blank audio cassette tapes for a new project. They didn't have any of them and were selling only one brand of tape recorder. Then I went to Office Depot who didn't have tapes in their store but said I could order them from their website online with free shipping. I ordered the tapes—only to have the online store cancel my order later in the day because the product wasn't available.[I don't know why I received a cancellation message because today the tapes showed up so I probably double ordered]. I attempted to buy this product at a brick and mortar store yet had to order it online from Amazon.

The book buying habits of consumers continue to change. Most of us have a smartphone in our pocket so wee can compare prices even standing in an actual store to see if we can get it less online. As I've written in these pages, the self-publishing world of books continues to increase (to the tune of over 5,000 new books every day—traditional and self-publishing combined). It's why every author has to continue to work on increasing their own audience (platform). Get my Platform Building Ideas for Every Author free ebook and use these ideas in your own writing.

In the comments below, let me know where you buy books. Book buying is a complex issue with no simple answers. All any author can do is offer your product in multiple formats (print, ebook, audio) and as many different venues as possible (online and brick and mortar). Our world is full of choices so you have to offer the consumer the broadest possible choices for your books.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When You Feel Like Giving Up

If we are honest, not every day in publishing is fun. Sometimes it feels like we are on one of those climbing walls and the way forward looks impossible. Yet even in those difficult days, I continue hitting the keyboard and cranking out words and stories. Other days I spend on the phone with authors or answering emails and questions about contracts or other issues.

Yet in the midst of the opportunities or challenges, I continue helping authors create new books through my work as an acquisitions editor. I continue to write for new blogs or magazines and working on my social media and growing my own measure of influence in the marketplace.  I continue the work because I believe in the life-changing effects of books. I know that first hand as I explained in this short video several years ago:

Often we can't see the results of our writing and how it is affecting others. Recently I was listening to actress Lauren Graham's memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can. I enjoyed this story she told about bestselling author James Patterson. Graham was in Atlanta and about to begin filming Middle School, based on the books by Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. At the cast dinner, Graham was seated next to Patterson. She turned and asked him a question that he had probably been asked many times, “How do you do it?”

“He turned to and said, “Keep going, keep going, keep going.”

I found this story encouraging that even  mega-bestselling author like James Patterson has to use this mantra of keep going. Each of face different curve balls along the publishing journey. Maybe your editor leaves the publishing house and you have to work with a different editor. Maybe your publishing house closes or gets sold to another publisher. Maybe you face an unexpected family crisis of health or any number of other situations. The challenges of life are plenty for everyone and enough for some people to throw in the towel and not move forward.

From my experience and listening to numerous stories from bestselling authors, the people who succeed and write their bestseller or find their best publishing opportunity, are the ones who keep going.  Many authors give up too early in the process and do not keep looking for the right publisher at the right time and the right place.

As someone who has been studying about publishing for many years, admittedly there is a lot to learn for every writer. You need to learn how to craft a pitch to an editor or a literary agent. You need to learn how to write excellent stories and then do the long-term work of telling people about your book (marketing).

I love the advice best-selling author Harvey MacKay gave in this recent article called Never Give Up. MacKay gives terrific specific details in this article and then he always has a summary statement that he calls a MacKay Moral: The hardest sale you'll ever make is to yourself.  But once you're convinced you can do it, you can.

When you face the bump in the road of your writing life, I encourage you to keep going.


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Monday, February 13, 2017

Why Self-Publishing Is NOT "Easy"

Publishing a book has never been easier. Almost everyone has a keyboard and a computer with the ability to crank in words and produce a manuscript—whether nonfiction or fiction. Authors struggle to find a literary agent and a traditional publishing deal. They get tired of crafting an excellent product, the waiting, and the rejection letters. Instead they decide to self-publish because that direction looks easy.

For over 20 years, I've been reading about publishing, writing and working in this business as an editor and writer. I encourage you to read this recent article from Jane Friedman, former editor at Writer's Digest and publishing expert. I want to quote a brief section of Friedman's article:

“Back in 2012, there were many headlines about the tremendous growth in self-publishing output as demonstrated by the increase in ISBNs used by indie authors.
Since then, Bowker—the agency that issues ISBNs in the United States—has continued to release annual stats that still show growth in the sector, but these numbers always come with important caveats, including:
  • Bowker’s figures don’t reflect all of the self-publishing activity out there. They can’t count books that don’t have ISBNs, and a considerable volume of self-pub titles are published and distributed without ISBNs.
  • Bowker’s counts are for ISBNs, not book titles. A single book title may use several ISBNs (e.g., one for the print edition, another for the ebook edition, and so on).
According to Bowker, ISBNs for self-published titles in 2015 reached 727,125, up from 599,721 in 2014, representing a 21% increase in one year. The increase since 2010 is 375%.
But I think more important is where the growth occurred. Bowker’s numbers indicate more authors are using Amazon’s CreateSpace, which is free to use; older, fee-based self-publishing services are falling out of favor. Here’s a selected glimpse (again, remember these are ISBN counts coming out of each service per year):
  • CreateSpace titles in 2010: 35,693
  • CreateSpace titles in 2015: 423,718 (+1,087%)
  • Author Solutions titles in 2010: 41,304
  • Author Solutions titles in 2015: 23,930 (-42%)
The only area of Author Solutions’ business that saw an ISBN increase in 2015 is WestBow, the Christian self-publishing imprint marketed through Thomas Nelson. Note that Penguin Random House, which used to own Author Solutions, sold it off in January 2016, unloading what was probably seen as an albatross.”
Are these statistics a surprise to you? 

The increase of over 1,000% percent on CreateSpace was startling.If you publish through CreateSpace, your book is only on Amazon and not available in other formats.
If you decide to self-publish, understand several facts: First, you are establishing a world-wide sales record of your publishing efforts. Traditional publishers and literary agents look at this information to decide if they are going to publish your next book or take you on as a client. Second, you are in complete control of your work which may feel easier but also you are responsible for all the details of the book creation (excellent cover design, well-written writing, distribution and sales).
Yes the creation of books has never been easier. Here's the reality that few people will tell you: making the book is easy but getting people to purchase the book will take hard work and persistent effort. If you have developed relationships with people in your target market and connect with them often. More specifically if you connect to your audience through an email list and speaking to them face to face, then yes you can sell your book.
No matter what I write, a number of you are going to take the leap into self-publishing. Here's several action steps if you go this route:
1. Work with an experienced editor to create an excellent book.
2. Work with professional cover designers and people to format and produce a book where every detail looks like something from one of the big five traditional publishers. This means including elements like endorsements and words on the spine of the book (including a publishing logo on the bottom of that spine).
3. Keep working consistently to grow your audience. Get my free ebook, Platform-Building Ideas for Every Author and trying new avenues to market and sell your book.
4. Continue to learn all you can about publishing. Get a copy of my Book Proposals That Sell and study the publishing insights in this book.
5. Never give up on your book. As the author, you have the greatest interest and passion for your book. This statement is true no matter whether you are traditionally published or self-publish. Always be looking for new opportunities to write or speak about your book.
This last point is something that I try and model with my own books. For example, in the header of my twitter profile, you see my Book Proposals That Sell book which is only available from me. My Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams book is in my bio for my recent Southern Writer magazine column. And finally, I continue to do radio interviews for my Billy Graham biography which came out over two years ago. Just follow this link to see some of the recent interviews and listen to them.
Have you self-published? Was it a good experience and “easy?” I look forward to reading your comments. 

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Monday, February 06, 2017

Three Reasons to Find and Join a Local Writer's Group

Writing is a solitary profession.  You sit down at your keyboard, put your fingers on the keys and write words which turn into stories. As I've written about in the Writing Life, getting published can be fairly easy. You can publish the material online in a blog or any number of other ways such as wattpad. The challenge is far greater than getting it out into the market. The real challenge is finding readers who will rave about your work and tell others.

Many years ago, when I was beginning my days in publishing, I saw the value of connections to other writers. I lived in Southern California and was one of the founding board members of the Orange County Christian Writers. At the time, I worked in the U.S. headquarters for Wycliffe Bible Translators and the group met twice a year in our building—so it was convenient for me to attend the meetings. I helped set up the room the day before our Saturday session. Also through this group, I got involved in a writer's critique group.

Every writer's group needs volunteers. These groups are run on a shoe-string budget and volunteers are critical for the group to succeed and continue.  As a volunteer, I was able to contribute to the group, but I also received and learned more from the experience. It's the first reason that every writer needs to find and join a local writer's group: increase your personal growth as a writer.

A local writer's group also provides the opportunity for inexpensive training (the second reason). For many of the large conferences, you have to travel on a plane, pay conference fees, etc. in a local setting you can learn a great deal and lower your expenses.  While it was years ago, many of the speakers I met at those Orange County Christian Writers meetings are still active in the publishing world. The foundation of my relationship with these individuals started in a local writer's group.

Also in a local writer's group, you have the opportunity discover what others are writing and where they are finding opportunities to get published. As you meet new people and listen to what they are writing, these experiences can open new doors of opportunity in your own writing life. Maybe you've never thought about writing an opinion editorial for the local newspaper or writing for a compilation book like Chicken Soup for the Soul or ______. Yet as you hear what others are doing, it opens your mind and heart to new possibilities.

In the bold type, I've highlighted three reasons to find and join a local writer's group. There are many different types of local groups. If you are not in a group, I encourage you to look for one (use google) or look for a local chapter of a national writer's organization.

Last year, I learned the Nonfiction Authors Association was expanding their local chapter program. When I looked at the various locations, there was no chapter meeting in Colorado (nothing). I filled out an online form and volunteered to start the South Denver Chapter (really the only Colorado NAA chapter). I found a place to meet and we've had about half a dozen meetings. If you live in Colorado, I encourage you to check our home page—but especially begin attending the monthly meetings (the third Wednesday of every month). Each meeting will have a speaker on a different nonfiction topic.

No matter where you live, I encourage you to join the Nonfiction Authors Association. The basic membership is FREE.  Every writer can profit and grow from being involved in a local writer's group. Are you active in a local writer's group? Tell me about it in the comments below.

If you don't have a local writer's group, you can always start one—like I did last year.

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