Sunday, January 21, 2018

Protect Your Good Name

I enjoy reading memoirs. About four years ago, I noticed a memoir at my library called Molly's Game. I brought it home and read it cover to cover. The story began with a competitive skier in Colorado. Molly Bloom. Ultimately Bloom began to run a high stakes poker game in Los Angeles. While I know little about poker, the story and writing held my interest. At the end of the book, the FBI had arrested Bloom and the story was not finished or resolved. While I enjoyed and appreciated the book, I went on to reading other books and didn't think much more about the story—until last month when the movie Molly's Game was released.

Prolific screenwriter Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay. While in general, I do not go to many R rated films, I was eager to watch Molly's Game. The movie picks up where her memoir stopped and tells the rest of Molly Bloom's story. Repeatedly throughout the movie, Bloom is pressed to give the government the details of her high stakes poker clients and she refused. If she gave in, she would get all of her funds back from the government and much more but she did not.Why?  She didn't want the release of this information to destroy or hurt the lives of her clients. Also she was protecting her own name. One of the themes of the movie is how Bloom was firm on protecting her own name. It is a well-crafted story and worth seeing.

This film started my thinking about what steps am I taking to protect my own good name? I've written many books and magazine articles and worked as an editor for several publishers. In this era of social media,  stories can spread rapidly on networks—whether they are true or not. What steps are you taking to monitor and protect your own name?

Here's a couple of action points:

1. Be aware of the necessity for every writer to be cautious about what they put out on social media. Those posts are there forever.

2. Be actively monitoring your own name and how it is used with free tools like Google Alerts, TalkWalker and others. I use several of these tools and I find each one finds different sites and are easy to use and monitor.

I have been on Twitter since July 2008 and posted over 40,000 times. No one else is making these posts. Each time I type something on Facebook or Twitter, I'm aware of the longevity of such actions. These posts are searchable and long-lasting as in forever.

What actions are you taking to protect your name online? Let me know in the comments below.


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Do you listen to audiobooks on Audible? Are you willing to listen to the audiobook for Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist, then write an honest review on Amazon? If so, please email me and I can get you a review copy of this new audiobook.
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Good Follow-up Is Important In Publishing

Good communication is important in the publishing world. As an acquisitions editor, I spend a lot of time every day answering emails, returning phone calls, texts and other forms of communication. Yet some emails go unanswered and phone calls are not returned. There are many possible reasons. Maybe it is the sheer volume of email. Maybe you are using the wrong email address or possibly you are trying to text someone whose phone line doesn't receive a text message. I've written about this topic before on The Writing Life. You can use this link to see some of these articles and read them.

When you approach a literary agent or editor, I encourage you to understand these publishing professionals are facing a torrent of such communication.  If your questions and emails do not, get answered in several days, I encourage you to send another email and follow-up.

Recently I could not reach an author for some additional information about his submission. If an author does not send their mailing address, I can't get their submission into our system at Morgan James.  We acknowledge every submission with a letter in the mail—and we receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 books. These numbers show the massive volume and potential for missing some details. With this particular author, I tried several times on email and could not get a response. It turned out my emails were landing in his SPAM folder.

A different author filled out a submission form on the Morgan James website located in the lower right corner when you go to the site. I contacted this author as soon as I received the information. She wanted a phone call back. I returned her call but did not get her on the phone and left a voice mail message. We did not speak but this exchange had some red flags in the communication process.  With each exchange she never gave her last name nor any specifics about what type of book she was writing (despite my specific requests for this information). 

Next this author didn't feel like she was getting in touch with me, so she filled out another submission form complaining to my colleague (another red flag). This colleague checked with me (see the internal communication which goes on?) and learned the details of our exchanges from my perspective. 

Finally this author called me again and we actually spoke to each other a few minutes on the phone instead of exchanging voice mail messages. She wanted to inform me how we had missed out on a great publishing opportunity (admittedly never explained) through my lack of follow-up. I listen and attempted to clarify but each time, she refused to give additional information (another red flag).

Our publishing house has worked with thousands of authors over the last fifteen years. Besides my work at this publisher, I've worked at two other houses and reviewed thousands of submissions. Whenever we publish a book, our company invests thousands of dollars in the creation and promotion of this book. Good and clear communication from the author is important—and something we learn and evaluate with every exchange. Here's some basic principles for you:

1. Follow-up when you don't hear back or get the information you need—in a reasonable amount of time. Maybe the person you are trying to reach is on a deadline, ill, traveling or any number of other reasons.

2. Be clear and forthcoming in your communication with the editor or agent. There are no “secret” books or problems with giving the editor your complete information including your last name and details about your book. Without the author, the idea has no value—zero.

3. As publishing professionals, we are looking for great ideas and clear communication. Because Morgan James is not a self-publisher but works as a team, I can not look at your submission and offer you a contract. Yes I have influence on the decision and champion the author and the book to my colleagues. If we are able to offer a contract, that offer comes from the group. The best publishing in my view is a consensus-building process. Individuals have blind spots and miss critical elements in this process where the group can help each other and produce excellent work. Authors have to take their own responsibility to market and promote their own book—yet working with their publisher in this process.

I wrote this article to help every writer understand the importance of good follow-up in the publishing community.  

Is follow-up one of your skills? If not, how can you improve in this area? Tell me your experiences in the comments below.


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Do you listen to audiobooks on Audible? Are you willing to listen to the audiobook for Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist, and then write an honest review on Amazon? If so, please email me and I can get you a review copy of this new audiobook.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Time for a Reboot

I love January and the fresh beginnings of a new year.  Whether you are reading this article in January when I wrote it or in the middle of the year, any time is a great time for a reboot or a new start. 

As I consider last year, I know some great accomplishments happened with new authors and my own writing life. 

Yet some of my goals were not met and some projects were not completed. Do you have some of these projects? Here's my good news: you can reboot those projects and push them into the marketplace. Maybe your book didn't sell as many copies as you wanted. Then take a reboot and begin reaching new readers. As the author, you are the person with the passion for your book. Maybe your publisher has pressed on to other books and other authors—but you still love your book and want to reach more readers. My encouragement is you can do it so make your plans and push forward. When your old book generates some new sales and new momentum, then your publisher will notice and join you in the push. As the author, you are in the drivers seat of this passion and momentum. 

Book publishing is not a sprint but more like a marathon. Some books shoot out into the marketplace and succeed while others are more of a slow burn and take time. If the author continues with their passion, these slow burn books can pick up momentum and begin to sell thousands of copies every month—but the author has to keep going on the marketing. My friend Sandra Beckwith has an inexpensive tool (yes 99 cents) called 365 Daily Book Marketing Tips. These insights come every day via email. Sandy sends you the full listing of the tips in a single PDF but I like the regular reminders through these daily emails. I do not take action on all of them but I read them and follow a number of the suggestions. Why?

As I've written about in the past, there is no single path to becoming a bestseller or achieving success with your book. If there were such a path, then every book would sell many copies and become a bestseller. Instead every author and every book has to find their own path. The author has to continually experiment and use tested methods to reach their readers.
Another resource is 5–Minute Book Marketing for Authors by Penny Sansevieri. Last year I wrote more details about this book (use this link). While I read this book last year, I marked my own book with numerous tags for action. As I look through them, I see more actions that I can take. I suspect each of us are in the same category. It's never too late to take action and get started. Make your plans and do it today.

For example, my biography of Billy Graham released over two years ago. In November, the audiobook version of the book released. At 99 years old, Mr. Graham is in his 100th year on the planet and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Decision magazine are celebrating this milestone. One of my marketing ideas for my book was to create a study guide. Small groups and book clubs are always looking for these study guides to enhance their group. I began to write the guide for my book in 2015 or two and a half years ago. Last week, I dusted off that file and decided now was the time to write this study guide. I've written study guides for other books plus I've used numerous study guides for books. I have the background and skills to pull together this study guide.  When completed and launched, it will give me a new tool to promote related to my book.

Does your book have a study guide with it? It doesn't matter whether your book is nonfiction like my Billy Graham biography or fiction? You can still write and launch a study guide. Maybe you need this tool for your own book. It is never too late to write it and get it out into the marketplace.

Do you have a project that you can reboot? Tell me about your action steps in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Right Tools Are Critical for Every Writer

As I begin a new year (2018), I take some time to reflect on the accomplishments of last year and also look ahead to what I want to happen in the year ahead. I'm grateful for the different opportunities I've had to write and also help others. As I get into this reflective mode, I look at some of my habits. For example, over the last few years, I've focused on growing a large following on Twitter which has grown to over 220,000 last year and continues to grow. Twitter has added a graphic of twitter impressions (see this image from my twitter page)

Since 2008 when I joined Twitter, I have tweeted almost 40,000 times. In recent years, I tweet about publishing and writing almost a dozen times a day. I use a tool called Hootsuite which has a free version and also a paid version. Recently I have switched to the paid version because Hootsuite added a limit of the number of future tweets you could have on the free version. I exceeded this number.

For me, Hootsuite has been the right tool for my social media because:

--I can schedule the tweets
--I can add an image to my tweets (important for visibility)

Because of my commitment to Twitter and Hootsuite, I have developed my own system with my tweets. For example, I begin my day with an inspirational quote. As I locate these quotes in various places, I cut and paste them into my Hootsuite with a photo. I've saved many of my photos in a little folder on my desktop called Twitter photos. Rather than search each time for a photo, I often have an image saved in my folder because I've saved them and developed an easy system to keep and retrieve them.

Your writing goals will be different from mine. Maybe you want to be published in more print magazines. You will need to learn how to write a query letter and develop a pattern or habit of pitching editors on a regular basis. If they are Christian publications, I encourage you to use the Christian Writers Market Guide 2018. If they are general market publications, then use the 2018 Writers Market Guide and make sure you are contacting the right editors with your pitches. You can also find the Writers Market Guide in the reference section of most public libraries.

If you want to sell more of your books, then you will need to be reaching your audience through the radio or print or social media or your own newsletter list. Each of these venues are effective and ones where you will need to learn the right tools and develop a regular pattern or system. As I use my various regular patterns or systems, I don't have to reinvent anything but simply use what I've created earlier over and over.

What tools are you using with your writing? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Show Up In Unexpected Places

With the large number of new books releasing every day, authors need to show up in unexpected places with their books. While I acquire books for Morgan James Publishing, I also attempt to follow my own advice and model this principle of my books appearing in unexpected and new places.

In this article, I want to tell you about two places my book, Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist has shown up in recent days—yet I'm giving the details about how this happened—and you can take similar action with your books.

Five days ago, I got a random email from Jeff D'Alessio, an editor at The News-Gazette in Champaign/ Urbana. Jeff told about putting together a story on well-known people from Illinois in celebration of the 200th birthday of the state. He asked, “The question (just need a few sentences — or paragraphs, if you’re so inclined): What’s one not-so-obvious/overdone remarkable fact, figure or anecdote about Billy Graham’s brief time in Illinois that you find particularly fascinating or interesting? Take it wherever you’d like. If you can’t pick one and want to send multiples to choose from, that works, too. Details are great for this. Anything that reveals why you find it so interesting.”

Billy Graham had some significant milestones in his life in Illinois—meeting his wife, Ruth, and pastoring his first church. This request came on a very busy day for me—but I took a few minutes and pulled a brief excerpt from my book—in fact one that people normally had not seen—and sent it off to this editor—on the same day. From my years in publishing, I knew newspapers move quickly and you have to be responsive to have any possibility in this area. I received no response from D'Alessio.

Yet today, a portion of my excerpt was at the top of his article along with my name, and the title of my book. The News-Gazette has a circulation of about 25,000. Normally I would not know about this article, but months ago, I set up a TalkWalkerAlert (FREE) for anything with my name “Terry Whalin.” The alert about the article showed up in my email. From my newspaper experience, I know these articles can fade quickly. I created a PDF of the article and uploaded it to my own website where it will never disappear (yet still gives credit to the publication). When you have these types of articles, I encourage you to take similar action to preserve the article.

On Monday, December 18, Homekeepers on the Christian Television Network ran an interview about Billy Graham. You can see it here:

Yes I flew to Tampa, Florida for this 20–minute interview. I was grateful for the opportunity and show it to you here.

Here's the age-old question that every author wants to know: Will this exposure help you sell more books? My answer is yes. Buying studies have shown that someone needs to hear about your book seven or eight or ten times before they buy it. Each exposure is a part of that process to tell others about your book. I'm continuing to promote a book which has been out over two years

As I interact with people, I encourage them to write reviews and received my 66th  review yesterday. Many authors give up too soon on their book promotion then wonder why their book isn't selling.  It takes an on-going effort.

Is your book appearing in unexpected places? Give me some of the details in the comments below.


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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Make The Most of Your Writing During the Holidays

Most of publishing isn’t good at communication any time of the year. Often it takes weeks to hear from an editor or literary agent. This time of year between Thanksgiving until after New Year's Day are an even slower time of year. It is like your submissions go into a black hole with no response.

As an editor, I understand that people are focused on holiday shopping, sending greetings and other events which interrupt the typical publishing responses. At Morgan James Publishing, I'm still processing manuscripts with authors and contracts.  Our publication board meets weekly (instead of the typical once a month) and has one more meeting before the end of the month. In a long-standing tradition, Morgan James will be closed from December 22nd  until January 2nd .

How can you make your writing life productive during this period? It is possible for you to be active during this silent period of publishing. 

Last week I had the opportunity to drive to Denver and do an in-studio radio interview about my book, Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest EvangelistMost of these types of radio interviews are 20 to 30 minutes and I “thought” that was what I was doing. As I settled into my place in the studio, they thanked me for co-hosting the program (which I learned was two hours). I loved the opportunity to talk for two hours about Billy Graham—even if unexpected. Here's a little seven-minute glimpse at that session (use the link to download it and then open it on your computer). 

Here’s six different ways to make the most of your writing during the holidays:

1. Work on building your platform and presence in the marketplace. Use my ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Writer on this topic or something else for some idea starters. Can you take some actions to increase your twitter followers or add to the number of people who are reading your newsletter?

2. Rework or update your website.  I've not reworked my own website in some time and I'm going to use this time to update some of my websites.

3. Write a free ebook for a list generator. Can you take a series of blog posts or articles and turn them into a free ebook that you offer to your mailing list? Use this time to create such an ebook.

4. Create your own event in January. Your new ebook (#3) could be the ethical bribe that you use with this new event. Now is the time to be planning the details of such an event. 

5. Read a book on marketing such as 5–Minute Book Marketing for Authors or Online Marketing for Busy Authors. Follow the links of those books because I wrote in detail about each of these books. When you read the book, apply some of the lessons to your books and writing.

6. Begin a new income stream. Writing has multiple paths and income possibilities. During this quiet time, select a path that you are not currently using such as affiliate marketing, then begin to develop a new income stream. I have a list of writing possibilities in the free sample of Jumpstart Your Publishing DreamsFollow this link to get this free resource.

You may not be able to tackle all six of these ideas but hopefully several of them help you. Notice each of them are something you can do without a connection to an editor or agent.

As a seventh way,I encourage you to polish or create a book proposal. Even if you are going to self publish, you will still need a proposal. The proposal is the blueprint for your book—especially if you are writing nonfiction. If you are writing fiction, you will still need this information for the platform and marketing section. A free resource to learn more insights about proposal creation is at: AskAboutProposals.com.

You can move forward with your writing even during the holidays. I understand this time of year has many things pulling for your attention. It is a matter of commitment and focus to get these actions for your writing in motion.

What suggestions do you have for your writing life during the holidays? Tell me in the comments.


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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Insights about Writers from the Movies

Unless you study my tweets on a regular basis, you probably don't know that I love going to movies. In fact, if I'm in town, we often go almost every week to some film. If the movie is worth it, after I get home, I will often send a tweet about the movie and a rating. Just like every book, not every movie is worth telling you about so if it is a dud then I say nothing about it.

Last weekend, we saw The Man Who Invented Christmas which is currently in the theaters. If you haven't caught this film, I recommend you get there. Why? Because this film captures something unusual about the life of a writer and the writing process. The movie is set in 19th  century England and tells the story behind the writing of the Charles Dickens' classic novel, A Christmas Carol. While over 50 movies have been made from the novel, this film captures something different. It is focused on the behind-the-scenes elements of how Dickens wrote the book. Yet like any good piece of fiction, the film still takes creative license with the historical facts.

The acting from Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Scrooge is well-done and the story is a fun film. My reason for telling you about this movie is how it portrays the writing process and the pain that a writer must go through to create his work. The interaction with family members and how Dickens had to face personal nightmares from his own past to complete the work on deadline mirrors things that I've experienced in my own writing life.

The epilogue of the movie said A Christmas Carol was released in bookstores on December 19, 1843. Every copy of the book was sold by Christmas Eve on December 24th. Also charitable giving throughout London dramatically increased that Christmas season. Dickens wrote this book in a short amount of time but it has become a Christmas classic about our need to be generous and celebrate life.

This movie is one for the entire family yet it shows something important about the writing process.

Tell me if you go to movies and how this experience feeds into your writing. Tell me in the comments below. 


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