Author Interview with Terry Whalin

Put the kettle on or add some ice to that lemonade.  Now’s your chance to get to know linguist, multi-published author and editor extraordinaire W. Terry Whalin, author of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and over 60 other titles.  Put your feet up and enjoy this an engaging, informative glance “behind the scenes” with this talented writer:

Author and Editor W. Terry Whalin.

Where do you live? Irvine, California

Tell us something about yourself.

In high school, I was introduced to writing. It’s a story I tell in the opening chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams (available free here.)  I wrote throughout high school and college. While studying journalism at Indiana University, halfway through my sophomore year, I had a life changing experience with a book. The full story is captured in a brief article called Two Words That Changed My Life. The direction of my life changed from journalism to linguistics. I spent 10 years in linguistics and 17 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I returned to my writing over 20 years ago and began to write for different print publications. I learned to write a query letter and I’ve written on assignment for over 50 magazines. In 1992, my first book was published—a little children’s book called When I Grow Up, I Can Go Anywhere for Jesus (David C. Cook). It is long out of print but launched my writing life into books. I’ve written more than 60 books for traditional publishers.

What inspired you to write Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams?

For many years, I’ve been teaching and attending various writers’ conferences. I meet writers who have huge ambitions with their writing yet no idea how to achieve those writing desires. In today’s competitive marketplace to get published, you need three elements. First, you need the insider knowledge about how book editors, magazine editors and literary agents work. If you don’t understand their needs, then you will never be able to meet their expectations. Second, you need the skills to provide those publishing professionals with what they need. Finally you need to bring strong storytelling skills to your writing. You will find a mixture of story combined with practical skills and how-to information inside the pages of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams.

How did you choose the title?

I tested my title and subtitle in the marketplace. Many people guard their title as secret when I believe they need to test it and see if it resonates with their audience. I love the word Jumpstart because that’s what writers need to move forward with their writing. I used Publishing Dreams because many people have these sorts of ambitions but don’t even understand how the nitty-gritty of publishing works. I use the word publishing in the broadest use of the word inside my book. Finally I included a subtitle which emphasized a key benefit for my book: Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success.

Do you have any writing rituals?

What a good question. In the computer world, I strongly dislike staring at a blank page. To solve this matter and simply get started, I’ve created a simple file that I call an “article header.” It contains all of the information at the top of a typical magazine article: name, address, word count, rights, and about halfway down the page: the title and my name. I pull this information into my file—and start revising it and almost instantly typing. It works for me and keeps me from getting stalled.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book?  What?

With each of my books, I have learned a great deal. For Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, much of the basic material began with a set of random blog entries at my blog, The Writing Life.  I have over 1,000 entries in this blog. I grouped the contents together into different sections. It required drastic rewriting to take the random material from a blog and turn it into chapters in a book.

Also with this book, I learned to include cartoons throughout the book to lighten the contents and also break up the print. Finally with each chapter, I made a point to give the reader even more information than was in each chapter. The final pages of each chapter include a section called “Dig Deeper” which leads the reader to resources outside of the book on the same topic of the chapter. Also I included a section called “Awaken Your Dreams” which asks the reader several pointed questions so they can apply the contents of the chapter to their own writing life.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Instead of working on another book, I’m helping others get their books published through my role as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. Known as The Entrepreneurial Publisher, Morgan James is actively publishing nonfiction and has recently launched a fiction line. Learn more about the company here.

I’m actively looking for great pitches and proposals which writers can send to me directly at my work email: terry@morganjamespublishing.com. If you don’t know what is a good pitch or proposal, I recommend you learn before pitching and I have some resources for this as well at Ask About Proposals. Also I have an online course on the topic at, Write A Book Proposal.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

The majority of writers approach their craft backwards. They believe the best way to make an impact on their world is through a printed book—which from a traditional publisher who pays an advance and royalties—is one of the most difficult to attempt. Books take a long time to get into print. Even after you get a contract (which can take years), most publishers take 18 to 24 months to bring that book into the market. Writers labor over the long form without thinking about shorter writing.

My best advice is to write for printed magazines. These publications have a higher standard than online magazines for quality and good storytelling. Magazines have a much quicker turnaround of three to six months from when accepted. Plus you can reach many more people with your magazine work than you can with a book. A good selling book may sell 5,000 copies during the life of the book. You can easily reach 100,000 or 200,000 people with a short magazine article. Book editors and literary agents are looking for writers with experience—and one of the best ways to get publishing experience is in the magazine world. I continue to write for different magazines. You can learn my basics for this type of writing at Terry’s Basics.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

My perfect reader is any writer who feels stuck in a place with their writing and wants to move to a new level of excellence. Or maybe they have been in the writing world for some time and want some fresh ideas. Check out this review: http://bit.ly/AiF0QF and it will show you that experienced and new writers alike gain valuable insight from my book.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams is available in bookstores all over the country. Check with your local bookstore to see if they have it. Or you can order it directly from me and get it autographed at Jumpstart Dreams.  To learn more about me, I recommend you check out my personal website, or subscribe to my blog on The Writing Life.  I have a lot of free resources and helps online for anyone who wants to learn more about writing and publishing. For example, check out Ask Terry Whalin.

Follow Terry on Twitter.

Download Terry’s free ebook, Straight Talk from the Editor.

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