Want to write a book and get published? Here’s what you need to know

Terry Whalin of Morgan James Publishing explains why the author is so important to the marketing process and why e-commerce alone won't get the job done

Terry Whalin is acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing.

Terry Whalin

Tell me what you do with Morgan James Publishing?

Whalin: For over six years, I’ve worked as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. An acquisitions editor is the first person to see the submission and evaluate whether it’s appropriate for the company. We receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 books.

Morgan James is my third company where I’ve worked in this role. Our model is very different from other publishers. We’re one of the top independent publishers in the country (U.S)  and our books have been on the New York Times bestseller list 29 times over the last 16 years.

Your readers can get more details at: http://terrylinks.com/mjponesheet. My email and phone information (one of the best ways to reach me) is on the bottom of the second page.

As an editor, I find the books, champion them to my colleagues, then negotiate the contracts with the authors or literary agent.

How do you help authors grow their business?

Whalin: At Morgan James, our primary market is selling books inside bookstores – online or brick and mortar. We sell our books into 98 per cent of the bookstores in North America, including the brick and mortar bookstores.

Every bookstore buys books based on what the author is doing to promote the book. We encourage our authors to tell us whenever they do any sort of promotion. Then on the phone and email, we’re feeding this information about our authors every week to our sales team, the sales team in turn tells it to the bookstore. This communication is what keeps the book in the stores and selling rather than getting returned.

Also as a publisher, we’re coaching and training our authors for the long haul – still coaching authors who came to us in 2005.

Each of these aspects help the author be more effective with their book. I tell every author it will be 80 per cent up to them to sell books. As a publisher, we do more than most publishers. As I’ve heard our founder David Hancock say repeatedly, no publisher does enough but we do more than most.

What’s the publishing business like these days in North America?

Whalin: Publishing is continuing to grow in terms of the number of books published. There are about 4,500 new books published every day – and this includes the self-published books.

While self-publishing continues to grow, the average self-published book sells between 100 and 200 copies during the lifetime of the book – and many of them are still poorly designed, poorly edited and not carried in any brick and mortar bookstores.

Ebooks are declining in sales while print continues to be a strong part of publishing and audiobooks are a growing area of the market.

One of the keys from my view is to publish your book in multiple formats and have broad distribution for your book, including brick and mortar bookstores.

The author’s connections and involvement in the process of selling their book is critical – no matter whether you work with a major well-known publisher or self-publish.

What trends are you seeing in the industry?

Whalin: Brick and mortar bookstores still exist but are struggling (like a great deal of the retail segment). Maybe you saw the news that 140 Lifeway Christian bookstores are closing by the end of this year. Yet our books at Morgan James are distributed to these brick and mortar stores as well as online.

We distribute to Chapters/ Indigo as well as in the U.K. and throughout the world. In fact, we’re in 1,800 online bookstores.

Amazon continues to be a major customer of Morgan James but they’re only 24 per cent of our overall business so if you self-publish through Amazon, I believe you’re missing 76 per cent of what Morgan James does for the book.

Audiobooks is a growing trend and I love listening to audiobooks.

Authors need to take responsibility for their own success and market and sell their books – no matter how they publish. There are many innovative ways to accomplish this, with book clubs, Goodreads (87 million registered readers www.goodreads.com), radio interviews, email marketing and many other possibilities.

What are book readers tending to buy these days?

Whalin: Every type of book is selling – but consumers are looking for quality writing. For example, Morgan James has a children’s book that has sold 400,000 copies. It’s a book about being a team player but this author is selling copies in bulk to corporations (how it is selling). Self-help, how-to, biography, and fiction are all selling – but it depends on the author, the quality of the writing and the reach of the publisher.

I’ve been in some of the top publishers and agencies in New York City and every time, these publishing professionals are asking me where is the next bestseller? We are actively looking every day for these books.

From my many years in this business, these books (and authors) are not easy to find – but they are out there and I’m eager to help them succeed.

I encourage readers to follow me on Twitter (@terrywhalin) and learn from my blog, which has over 1,400 entries: http://thewritinglife.ws

– Mario Toneguzzi


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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