Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Use the Power of Asking

By Terry Whalin 

As a writer, there is a great deal which is outside of our control. Publishers, editors, booksellers, agents and others in the industry appear to have much more control and power than writers. I want to give you some action-oriented ideas how you can use the power of asking in your writing life.  I wrote about this topic on this blog in 2008 but this article has completely different content and ideas. 

James, the Apostle and brother of Jesus, wrote, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3, NIV)

Before You Ask

To be successful in your asking, there are several steps to take before you ask. As I’ve said before in these articles, who you know in publishing is almost as important as what you know. As a writer, each of us needs to be consistently building and maintaining relationships with others. There are many ways to build these relationships such as connecting on LinkedIn, joining their email lists, reading their newsletters, commenting on their blog, reviewing their books, and many other ways to catch their attention and help them—before you ask for anything. As you do these additional steps, you will position yourself in a different way and hopefully help the asking process to go smoother and much more positive (getting a yes answer rather than silence or no).

Ask In the Right Way

Whenever you ask someone for something, you want to follow several key principles. First, create a short, personal email. If you are asking for an endorsement or a foreword, offer to draft the material (write it) for the other person. In general, an endorsement is a couple of sentences while a foreword is 1000 to 1500 words and more like a short magazine article. In your pitch, you can include a draft of this material to make it easier for the person to say yes. I suggest including a deadline so the other person understands the timeframe. If you ask in a thoughtful and careful manner, you give yourself the best opportunity to get a yes response. 

When you launch a book or new product, many people gather a launch team. Create unique benefits and gifts for people who agree to be a part of your launch team. Take the time to learn some of the tools and techniques for creating a launch team such as a private Facebook group, then build and encourage this group and ask for their help to spread the news about your new book. Remember there are thousands of new books entering the marketplace every day. What steps are you doing to make your book memorable and standout? Use the power of asking others for this process.

Whenever you pitch a magazine editor, a book editor or a literary agent, you are asking for their assistance. Before you send them anything, make sure that you are asking the right person in the right way. It’s important to personalize your pitch and make it targeted to whoever is receiving it. Your extra effort will give you the best possible opportunity to get a positive response. These professionals receive thousands of pitches and can quickly tell whether the writer has done their homework or not.

When you pitch the media (and every author needs to learn to pitch the media—journalists, podcast hosts, radio hosts and many others), learn to craft a short, attractive and targeted pitch. These professionals receive thousands of submissions and can quickly tell which authors have done their homework before asking.

No matter who you are asking, understand and use the power of asking in this process. It is something every writer can learn and do—whether you have been in this business for decades or are only beginning. My hope is that your using this power will open new opportunities for your writing.


Every writer needs to use the power of asking in their writing life. This prolific writer and editor provides a series of insights to help you get a positive response. Learn the details here. (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 newest 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 To Speed Your Success.  Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, this is an important article. Writers should be aware that before asking someone for something, there should be some sort of relationship, even if it's that you comment on their site, or reviewed their book. I get authors contact me on social media who ask me to help share their book or review a book. These are authors I don't know at all. It's important to have some kind of prior contact.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for making this important point about having a relationship before asking. I have the same issue with people asking me to promote or market their book that I have never met or had any previous interaction. As writers wee need to build the relationship first, then ask.


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