What Drives Your Publishing?

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin

Few people talk about this truth of publishing: it is hard. I’ve been doing it for decades and it is still hard. There is a reason it is called work. Yet thousands of new books are published every day. These books join the millions of books which are already in print. Yes the field involves lot of competition yet there are also huge opportunities for writers.

Since I was a small child, I have always loved and appreciated many different types of books. As I wrote about in the first chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, a high school English teacher pushed me toward joining my high school newspaper and beginning to write stories. It is a path I’ve walked for decades. I have spent (and continue to spend hours) learning the craft of storytelling. I study publications, publishers and agents to learn what they need then deliver it. I continue to build reader and audience connections. I care about the details of editing and understand the need to rewrite (especially if the editor needs something else). I’ve only given a few items in a lengthy list related to publishing. The reality is publishing is a complex business with many twists and turns. I’ve been continually studying it for decades.

As I’ve traveled the publishing journey, I’ve met incredible people and had remarkable experiences. For example, twice I’ve received six-figure advances from traditional publishers. I’ve also been fired and had book contracts cancelled.  I’ve experienced the thrill of success and the dismal feelings of rejection.  I’ve stayed at my computer sometimes all night to keep my fingers on the keyboard and meet a deadline.

Why do it? Why invest such effort into this challenging work which is filled with many “no thank yous” and rejection? My motivation is rooted in my personal experience from years ago. Books change lives and I know this fact firsthand because a book changed my life.  

For the first year and a half I attended Indiana University to study journalism, I rebelled from my Christian upbringing. You can read the details in this magazine article, Two Words ThatChanged My Life. During this period, I wandered in a Christian bookstore two blocks off the campus to look at their cards and posters. I found a book called Jesus the Revolutionary by H.S. Vigeveno (Regal Books). The title and cover caught my attention. This book changed my life and I saw a different side of Jesus than I had ever seen in church. I began a personal relationship with Jesus and changed the direction of my life. Instead of journalism, I spent ten years in linguistics and missionary work before eventually I returned to my writing and my first book was published in 1992. The printed page has the power to change lives and I know it from personal experience. These memories motivate me every day to be involved in some aspect of publishing.

Now that you know my motivation, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about your motivation. Can you capture it in sentence or two? Or maybe like my story, you have an experience about a changed life. Publishing is complicated and full of hard days as well as good one. My motivation to change lives is foundational as to why I fight through the hard experiences and keep on going. What motivates you? Let me know in the comments below.


What drives you to publish? According to this prolific writer and editor,books change lives. Learn the details here: https://bit.ly/3sLhuEH #writinglife #pubtip (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s recent book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets ToSpeed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, what an inspirational article. The writing world is a tough one as you say and strong motivation is needed to keep at it. I love that I can create something that didn't exist before. It can be anything my imagination can come up with. And I love to subtly teach children through fiction stories.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for the feedback and telling me about your own motivation to teach children through fiction stories.


Heidiwriter said...

Terry, this is great! It's affirming to know that others struggle too! Thanks for sharing your journey. Perseverance is key!

Linda Wilson said...

Terry, I too enjoyed your article very much. So many times I've almost quit writing and self-publishing books. What keeps me going is said best by Karen: teaching children subtly through fiction stories. All my stories take place outdoors. This is my subtle way of showing children the many activities they can do in nature and outdoor activities. Also, in fiction I want to help children find positive ways to deal with common issues, issues that I faced as a child, such as being overweight and feeling unpopular. Adding humor makes it fun for me to write and I hope fun for children to read.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for your feedback and also this insight about what drives you to publish. It is different for each of us.


Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for your feedback and yes perserverance is one of the key characteristics for every writer that wants to succeed.


deborah lyn said...

Thank you Terry for this insightful and helpful article.
Great question: What's my motivation? What keeps me going? ...I have something to say, to encourage and give.
I love your story: "My motivation to change lives is foundational as to why I fight through the hard experiences and keep on going."

Terry Whalin said...

Deborah Lyn,

Thank you for this feedback. Each of us have a different motivation but this reason keeps us moving forward even during the hard times--and each of us face those challenges.


Honoring Your Voice

As a writer, your voice is one of your most powerful assets. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, novels, screenplays, marketing copy, y...