W. Terry Whalin is a former literary agent and currently an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. Author of over 60 books, Terry Whalin speaks to audiences eager to learn the writing craft as well as the business side of the industry. Whalin is best known for his networking skills in the writing world; he cultivates relationships and spurs others to do the same. He joins us today to tell us about his biography on Billy Graham and give insight to the publishing industry.
Terry Whalin Writes a Billy Graham biography . . .Twice!
HC (High Cotton): Terry, what instigated the Billy Graham biography? What has to happen to get a book like this sanctioned by someone so famous?
I appreciate the opportunity to be with you and answer these questions. I’ve worked in publishing many years and early in my career, I worked for Billy Graham as the Associate Editor at Decision magazine. It was back when the office was in Minneapolis and the circulation of Decision was 1.8 million copies. Those were great days in my life, and I loved the opportunity todo things like cover Franklin Graham’s first overseas crusade in Managua, Nicaragua and many other stories. I learned a great deal, but I wasn’t a good fit for that job and moved to Colorado Springs where I began freelancing. During this period of time Bethany House Publishers asked me to write a biography of Billy Graham which was published as a part of their Men of Faith series in 2002.
To answer your second question, you don’t need special permission to write about someone like Mr. Graham. Anyone can write such a book. My biography was unauthorized, but because I had worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in the process of writing that book, I checked every detail with Dr. John Akers, a long-time member of BGEA. He fixed a few details that were corrected before Bethany House published my book. Unfortunately, this biography is long out of print.
About a year and a half ago when Mr. Graham’s health was not good, National Public Radio and the Fox News Channel contacted me, but they contacted me because of my out-of-print book. I selfishly thought, “When Mr. Graham passes, it is going to be a bad deal for me to do all this national press and not have a book about him in the bookstore.” Yet I work for a New York publisher, Morgan James, and about 30% of our books are Christian. I was able to completely update my original book, add new stories and interviews in the process, and get the book back into the market. In 2002, I didn’t include a foreword or endorsements or even build a website for the book. With this new book, I have endorsements from Joni Eareckson Tada, Jerry B. Jenkins, Philip Yancey and many others. Luis Palau wrote the foreword for the new book, and I built a website: http://BillyGrahambio.com.
I’ve received a lot of great feedback about the new book and continue to tell people about it. There are over 40 reviews on Amazon. The distinction of this biography is the small size and that children and adults enjoy reading the book. In a couple of evenings, they gain an overview of the phenomenal life of Billy Graham.
Faith Impacts Whalin’s Work
HC: In “Two Words That Changed My Life” you introduce visitors to your initial faith walk. How has faith impacted your job in the publishing world?
Thank you for calling your readers’ attention to the story of my personal testimony. I wrote it years ago as a magazine article, and it is at: Two Words . When you read this story, you will see one of the pivotal points in my life was through reading a book called Jesus the Revolutionary. I know books and the power of the printed page change lives—because my own life was changed through that same power.
My work in the publishing world is continually guided through my faith. Yes, you have to have writing talent to get published, but a great deal of it is being in the right place at the right time with the right material in front of the right person. I understand a lot of “rights” have to line up for that to happen. As Paul Little said years ago, “God can’t steer a parked car.” I believe we have to be knocking on doors with our writing through magazine articles or book proposals or query letters so we connect with the right people. It’s that walk of faith which guided the different publishers and authors that I have been honored to work with. In fact, I’ve interviewed more than 150 bestselling authors and written their stories for magazines. These people remain my friends and colleagues. I do not reach out to them often, but when I do they are eager to help me with things like endorsements or reviews to succeed in this business.
My faith continues to impact what books I write, the magazine articles I write, and also the authors that I connect with for my work as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James. Many of our books are not Christian or faith-related, but a number of them are. Your readers can learn more about Morgan James in this new brochure: MJP One Sheet (Notice my work contact information is at the bottom of the second page.)
Networking and Educating Writers
HC: Was there anything in your writing career that gave you a heart for championing new writers?
There are thousands of submissions on editors’ and agents’ desks at any giving point in time. I love helping new writers get their first or second or third book published. I work in publishing, which is a communication business, but many editors and agents do not communicate. They take months to read a submission and make a decision. Often, they never respond to unsolicited proposals or manuscripts—never. To me that seems a shame, and I try hard to be over on the other side of this equation as someone who reads and answers their email and returns phone calls—even if I don’t have a decision for them yet—at least I can be working toward that decision. I try to be one of the most accessible people in publishing—as you can even see my personal email in my twitter profile: https://twitter.com/terrywhalin, and I have over 152,000 followers on twitter.
About ten years ago, I became an acquisitions editor at Cook, and that was eye-opening to me. I had written many books as an outsider, but it was my first opportunity to see how a publication board meeting works and how books are contracted and published. I was not receiving what I needed as an acquisitions editor. Out of my own frustration, I wrote Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success, which has over 130 five-star Amazon reviews. I also hold the exclusive electronic rights and the Ebook is updated (Book Proposals That Sell).
I didn’t stop there, but I have a free tele seminar —Ask About Proposals
Writers can find a free book proposal check list and a 12-week online course to teach authors step-by-step how to create an excellent proposal (Write A Book Proposal )
I’m eager for every author—new or old—to succeed with approaching an editor or literary agent.
Join me next time for the second part of this conversation with Terry Whalin . . .