Thanks for joining the second part of my conversation with Terry Whalin as he explains conference readiness, trends in the publishing industry, and platform building. Stay with us for a wealth of information and expertise.
Terry Whalin’s Conference Advice for Writers
HC (High Cotton): I was introduced to your writing through the Heroes of the Faith series, and later we met at Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. What advice do you give attendees regarding preparation for writers conferences?
Writers Conferences have been a huge part of my writing career, and I highly recommend them. It’s why I created Right-Writing.com. I have lots of advice and resources on the site but also special pages, such as Why A Writers Conference Is Important and Which Conferences Are Worth It.
Three Pieces of Advice for Conferences
1. Do your homework. Know who will be attending and what a particular editor needs and acquires (even the Writer’s Market Guide is a good place to start). Then, craft an idea or a proposal as a conversation starter with this editor.
Give them something they need. Editors read lots they don’t need at these conferences. Why? Because they are looking for the jewel in the stack, they can publish.
It could be your writing if you do your homework.
2. Get to know different editors—even outside of your particular genre. What you write this year may change next year. Even if you’ve never written a book, get to know the book editors. Sit at their tables. Talk with them about your dreams and hopes. Throughout the week, make notes of things which strike you, then read your notes when you get home and follow through.
You would be surprised how few people execute the necessary follow through.
3. Learn your craft but also look to expand your writing horizon. This advice would be for newcomers but also for the veteran.
Take a class outside of your norm. If you don’t write for children, take a children’s workshop.
If you have never written a personal experience article, then take a one hour workshop on this topic. A new door of opportunity in your writing life may open.
I’ve made some dear friends at writers conferences, and that’s why I look forward to going
It’s my opportunity to help others and give back. I’m constantly learning new things as a writer—and a conference is a place to soak it in.
Bookstores On The Way Out?
HC: Are bookstores (brick and mortar) on the way out? What are your views on the industry today?
Bookstores are still a key market—online as well as brick and mortar.
I believe authors need to be versatile with their material. Some people only listen to audio books while others only read print books. At Morgan James, Amazon is a large customer of ours but only 24% of our overall business. That means 76% is everyone else, like the independent bookstores.
Everyone thought ebooks were going to overtake print books, but they have topped out at about 24% of the overall market.
Print is still going to be around. I believe brick and mortar bookstores are still going to be around, and we need to be supporting them.
Authors can be discouraged by the news—shrinking bookstore markets, Christian bookstores in bankruptcy, and thousands of new books entering the market every day (over 4500, according to one expert).
There is light in the midst of this dark news—books continue to sell, and people continue to read books.
It is critical that authors develop a group of readers hungry for their work. Some people call it a tribe but whatever term, every author needs a following.
Grow that following by using different online tools—but in particular you need your own email list.
Every other tool can disappear (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), but if you build your own email list, you are in control of reaching your readers and increase your value to literary agents and editors.
Building Platform and Social Presence
HC: Everyone wants to write, but few understand the demand for social presence and building platform. Describe your approach.
My wake-up call about this area came in 2007 at Mega Book Marketing University (now called Author 101 University). I was on the faculty as a literary agent but attended every session and heard each speaker.
Having written over 50 books at that point, I was depending on the publisher to sell those books—and it was not happening. I had a single website but little else—no blog, no Twitter, no Facebook, no LinkedIn.
I decided to change. And blog.
My blog on The Writing Life has over 1200 entries. I tell every author no matter who publishes your book, it is 80% up to you, the author. I take responsibility for my own marketing, but I spend less than 30 minutes a day on my social media.
I have a free ebook Platform Building Ideas For Every Author . Get my social media strategy in this free handout which lists a lot of the tools and websites I use.
One more detail people should know about all of this. I’m the ultimate do-it-yourselfer.
I do not have a webmaster or social media manager.Paying others to make minor website changes is painful. I learned to build my own and now have over 50 websites.
I’ve created a large digital footprint in the last eight years. If I can do it, you can, too.
HC: You offer free resources like Straight Talk from the Editor. What can writers learn from this resource and others you’ve provided?
Thank you for this question about Straight Talk From The Editor. I wrote it to help writers understand the perspective of the editor or agent.
Often writers will be focused on their perspective and not what the editor needs or wants. If you meet the needs of the editor or agent, then you will be giving them something for the market.
I’m focused on helping writers and would-be authors gain the proper perspective. It’s why I created a 91-page free ebook about Book Proposals The Sell, Extra Special Report
I also have a 27-page resource called Get More Mileage From Your Content. I’m focused on helping authors succeed in the marketplace.
HC: You are known as someone who has a plan. A long term and a daily plan. What will Terry Whalin be doing in five years?
My focus has changed in recent years from writing book after book to working with other authors. I help them get their books published and into the market through my work at Morgan James Publishing.
I’ve been with Morgan James over three years and see myself continuing this work. Our publishing model is unique, and we are making some amazing books with great authors.
I hope to continue speaking at conferences to find new authors and help others improve their craft.
This year I’m traveling less and am content to work with authors on the phone and by email. Through Skype, I speak with authors all over the world and that has been fulfilling. I’d love to meet you at any of the events on my speaking schedule.
In Five Years . . .
In five years, I will still be reading and growing in my knowledge of the market and publishing. I’ll be trying new things because I’ve watched authors stagnate, and their books drop off public radar.
I will be using tools like Twitter and Facebook. If you read my twitter feed, you’ll see what I’m reading and learning because I pass content forward.
It’s almost like looking over my shoulder as I continue to grow in the world of publishing.
Thanks, Terry, for sharing your knowledge of the writing world.
Until next time,