Saturday, April 22, 2017

To Find Opportunity, You Must Knock on Doors


By W. Terry Whalin

From my years in publishing, I've discovered a basic principle: If you want something to happen, you have to be knocking on doors to find that opportunity. For example, as an acquisitions editor, I've found some of my best projects meeting with authors face to face at a writers' conference. I understand the value of this personal contact with writers. While I've been speaking at different events for many years, the invitations to speak at these events does not happen organically (without any action on my part). From my experience, the directors of conferences are pitched many times from many more qualified people than they could possibly use at an event.

What is the difference maker so one editor is picked to be invited and another is not? I believe it is a combination of things—a personal relationship with the director or decisionmaker at these events. Also it is necessary to be knocking on the doors in a gentle way but letting them know of your availability and willingness to speak at their event. In the last few days, I've pulled out some resources on my bookshelf that list forthcoming conferences, then I've sent emails to these leaders. In a few cases where I know the people but haven't been to their event in several years, I've picked up the phone and called them. Will my actions pay off? I know many will fall flat and never garner a response.  I'm a realist with my expectations—yet I also know that some of them will succeed and garner an invitation to their event—maybe not this year but next year.

While I've been writing about getting speaking opportunities, the actions for a writer are exactly the same if you are looking for writing opportunities. What types of writing opportunities are you looking for? 

In recent days, I've been working on some book proposals and writing projects. Yes I've written a number of books over the years but most of my efforts have been in my work as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. I've been knocking on some doors of opportunities with agents and editors to find some writing projects. Like my knocking on doors for speaking opportunities, many of my emails and calls have not been returned and feel like they are going into a black hole. Yet I persist and continue to pitch and look for new opportunities. Why? From my experience, I know some of these pitches will actually turn into writing assignments and future work.

Here's several actions for every writer:

1.Learn how to write an attention-getting query letter. Every writer can learn this important skill of writing a one page pitch letter. It will be a valuable lesson for writing for magazines or getting the attention of literary agents or editors.

2. Learn how to write an excellent book proposal. Get my free book proposal checklist or my Book Proposals That Sell or take my Write A Book Proposal course. It will take effort but it will pay off in getting more attention from literary agents and book publishers.

3. Continually work at fostering and strengthening your relationships with others in the community. Help them in any way that you can—and you never know where that help will lead to future opportunities.

In general, the world of publishing is busy with lots of activity, emails, manuscripts, proposals and pitches. If you wait passively for someone to reach out to you, then most likely little will happen. Instead I encourage you to be proactive in your approach and be knocking on different doors to find the right opportunity. I believe these opportunities are out there—but you have to be knocking to find them.

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W. Terry Whalin has written more than 60 books for traditional publishers including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. He is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, a New York publisher. Terry has an active twitter following (over 200,000) and lives in Colorado.

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5 comments:

  1. Terry, I'm a firm believer in making your own opportunities. Thanks for reminding us writers that being ready for those opportunities is what will make them successful.

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    1. Karen,

      Thank you for this comment and the affirmation.

      Terry

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  2. Interesting to know how you're still hard at work making your own opportunities, Terry. Internet marketers make us think that successful people like you and Karen spend lots of time sipping iced drinks through a straw while sunning yourselves in the Bahamas and watching the passive income roll in. :-)

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    1. Anne,

      I agree that it is great to have passive income--and I have a little of that but the bulk of my writing opportunities have come from actively working at assignments. If I think about many of my successful writer friends, they continue to write proposals, pitch ideas and look for opportunities. It's part of the journey for us.

      Terry

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    2. LOL Anne that's so true - those marketers. I actually stopped opening most of their emails because they're always trying to sell something with the pie-in-the-sky garbage. It's SOOOOO not true!

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