Terry, Give us a short description of your resume in writing and publishing.
I’ve been in publishing over 25 years and worked as a magazine editor, a book acquisitions editor (three publishers) and a former literary agent. I’ve written for more than 50 print publications and I’ve written more than 60 books for traditional publishers. I regularly speak at writer's conferences and my blog on the Writing Life has over 1200 searchable entries (http://www.thewritinglife.ws). Also I’m the creator of Right-Writing which has a lot of free information for writers at: http://www.right-writing.com In addition, I have a number of free teleseminars online to help writers such as: http://askterrywhalin.com or http://www.askjerryjenkins.com.
The climate is really changing in publishing and there are many avenues available for writers to become authors (self-publishing, e-books, etc.). What would be your advice to an unpublished writer wanting to get his work in print?
1. Look carefully before you leap. You are right there are many different ways a writer can get published. First a caution, many unpublished authors jump too quickly without understanding what they are doing. For example, I’ve seen many unpublished authors jump into book writing too soon. They turn to Create Space or WestBow or CrossBooks thinking they are getting the attention of a traditional publisher like Thomas Nelson or Lifeway. In reality they could be spending money (on average $8,000) for a poorly produced book. Just look at the numbers for self-published books in 2011: http://terrylinks.com/bpn2011 People fall for a “sales pitch” and persistent calls from companies, without understanding the personal and financial cost. Use Google and ask questions on writer’s forums before you make such a leap of faith. Horror stories abound in publishing and the new writer needs to move cautiously. That’s my first bit of advice.
2. Learn the craft of writing. There is a skill to crafting a good story and telling it well. You can learn this skill but it comes through practice. Most writers want to publish a book yet don’t understand that a good sales number for a book is about 5,000 in the life of the book. You will reach many more people and be able to practice your craft on a shorter form if you are writing for print magazines. Print magazines have a higher standard than online publications and are more respected by other publishing professionals. The magazine world is a great place to learn how to write for a specific reader and tell good stories. It’s much better to learn on a 1,000 to 2,000 word article than to write a 80,000 novel that doesn’t get published. Here’s an article that I wrote to help you get started: http://terrylinks.com/basics
3. Join a critique group to get unbiased feedback on your writing. Your friends or relatives will almost always spare your feelings and love your writing but a group of trusted writer friends will give you the straight story. Whether you meet in person or online, you need this feedback. I’ve got an article about critique groups at: http://www.right-writing.com/critique.html
4. Invest in a good writer’s conference. Attending one of these events will help you meet other writers and editors and can cut years off your learning curve. You can see more of my reasons at: http://www.right-writing.com/conference.html I also have a list of conferences at: http://www.right-writing.com/conferences.html. Getting to these events involve an investment of time and money but will be well worth it to your desire to get published.
5. Read how-to write books on a regular basis. There are many excellent books. I blog about some of these books but I also have written a couple including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams or Book Proposals That Sell. Check the books out of your library or buy them and mark them up but take consistent action from what you learn in these books. I read a writing how-to book at least once a month and have done this for years.
Tell us about Morgan James Publishing where you currently serve as Acquisitions Editor.
Morgan James Publishing is a New York based publishing house. I work remote and live in Southern California. We publish about 150 books a year (nonfiction, fiction and a small number of children’s books). About 30% of our books are Christian and our books have been on the New York Times list 20 different times (five different books). The only way I know to get on the New York Times list is to sell many books inside the brick and mortar bookstores—which is a key part of our publishing program. We receive about 5,000 submissions a year so if I manage to get you a book contract, I believe it is a huge hurdle that you’ve crossed. As an acquisitions editor, I’m actively looking for great books to champion to my publication board. If you have something you want me to consider, I encourage you to email me at email@example.com I gave a lot more detail and a short audio on my blog (follow this link).
A key part of the way I operate in the marketplace is to help other writers. If I can help you, then follow me on twitter and reach out to me. I look forward to helping you.
How many of you read a how-to write book per month? Or how many attend a conference each year?