For any of those readers out there who would like to discover any more of my “juicy secrets,” pop over to children’s writer Denise Stanley’s blog. A Room to Write. She posted her interview with me this morning.
Does that sound like self-promotion? Well, I supposed it is in some respects, but it’s more to the question of where to have promotion confined for the moment. Denise does good interviews. She asks great questions and goes a bit further to get good answers. Then again, I like to talk. It worked out well for both of us.
I’ll be stopping by there off and on for the next couple of days for those who wish to comment or ask another question.
Now, back to my poetry. I’ll be posting this afternoon to the Poetry Asides prompt and here, as usual. If you get a chance and really like poetry, stop by Robert Brewer’s site on Writer’s Digest and sit back with a large cup of whatever. You’ll be there a while. Poets from around the globe congregate there every day.
Writers use forums and listings nearly every day for one purpose or another. There are community forums for those in the arts, those unique to writers and critiquing, editing and polishing, and discussions on every aspect of the writing business. Listings come in almost as many flavors and scopes as forums.
Freelancers make the rounds of both communication forms to stay tuned, toned, and in demand. Today I made forays into two separate freelance jobs listings; one within a LinkedIn group of which I’m a member, and another on Elance. I was successful in finding enticing possible job contracts.
If you’ve been around this blog often, you know that I have large projects lined up for the next several months. After the previous paragraph you’re going to ask me why I would be looking for another job of any kind. That’s fair.
I could have my eye on a lovely little boat to use during the summer on our gorgeous Flathead Lake. Or, I could want to travel in Europe next year and want to have plenty in savings to play. Then again, I could simply want a better financial cushion than I have now.
Working on only one large spec project can easily keep me occupied. Having half a dozen doesn’t give me much time to spare, though I still find time for a bit of social networking. Adding a job to the mix right now would be mental suicide, I agree.
Keeping abreast of the market, opportunities, and competition within the freelance writing world, however, is necessary. A plum could present itself at just the right moment to pave the way for bigger success and greater financial security and without stopping by such job sites on a regular basis, the writer can lose out.
Call this activity checking the pulse of the industry. Writers are entrepreneurs. They need to know what’s happening. The market can shift quietly and sneakily as smoke, leaving a writer out of the loop and as adrift as sulfur vapor puffs from a starter’s pistol.
Who could have anticipated the fiction industry shift when Stephanie Meyer’s first Twilight book, or Rowling’s Harry Potter? Those two series set the tone for a major change in the MG and YA children’s book market. Hindsight tells us that vampires come into the light every few decades, their popularity undiminished with time.
Magic and all that it entails has been around since ancient Greece. Fantasy series have been big genre business for decades. The primary component of fantasies is MAGIC. Rowling presented the concept in a slightly different manner and caught the brass ring.
Reading through job listings for writers indicates where the market is moving. Three quarters of what I found on Elance this morning were content writer contracts. The Internet is vacuuming up writers for information dis
I’ve talked these past two weeks about various aspects of writing. For those who still feel adrift because they just came into the field, I’m going to use this opportunity to provide a few paths to explore. These are ones I’ve found especially helpful over the past few years.
Wherever a writer goes or whoever she talks to in the field, she will always find help and guidance along the way. David Farland, the best-selling author and teacher, says, “Nobody makes it alone. We each build on one another.” Farland should know. He’s well-known in two genres and still teaches.
Take small opportunities to grow as a writer. If you swing it, attend a two-day event or conference in your area. You’re not any less a writer if you don’t have the cash for hotel expenses. If you can drive to the event each day and be home at night, so be it. The important thing is to meet and mingle with the writers who are there to talk about words, their use, and how you fit into that picture.
Many online opportunities recur each year.WriteOnCon is a free online writer’s conference with plenty of firepower to begin on the writing track. This year’s conference will take place on August 14 and 15, with the theme “Back to Basics.” The only thing you’ll spend on this one is your time and effort.
If you have the ability to pay a bit for instruction, but have family duties and a family; take a course, either on-line or at a local college. Many courses and workshops are available for varying costs. Currently there are a double handful of free online writing classes from major universities across the country. Their subjects range on everything from poetry reading and writing basics to academic and research writing, along with levels of editing prowess and technical work.
Several major writers offer workshops and classes as well. David Farland has several classes that will work for all levels of writing experience. He also puts out a free newsletter called “Daily Kick in the Pants” for jump starting a person’s writing day. This one is a real winner.
Learn how the business operates. For those who still think that being a writer is nothing more than putting some words on paper, handing it in to an editor, and sitting back to wait for royalty checks to roll in, get a grip on the nearest heavy support. Reality is about to slap you hard and send you reeling.
If your budget simply won’t stretch to include any kind of off-site conference or workshop, hop over to Suzanne Lieurance’s website. Suzanne knows this business inside and out and is one of the best writing coaches around. Her Working Writer’s Club was developed to help guide and encourage those who’re serious about writing. She also has a free newsletter that outlines everything that’s available for free or for members only. Check it out. You won’t regret it.
Writers and Editors Network also takes the business seriously. Check out its offerings, newsletter, and help. There are competitions and insider news as well.
Writer’s Digest also offers a free newsletter and free writing tutorials. Take the opportunity to see what’s offered and what will work for you. Julie Oblander is the Online Education Manager, who provides so much for the stu
Christina, Thank you so much for joining us today. I know you have some great advice on marketing. First, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal (Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on “Good Morning America.” Christina teaches e-courses on platform development and writing nonfiction for publication. Her students are published in national magazines and land agents and book deals. Christina has been encouraging reluctant platform builders via her e-zines for five years, has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. A popular speaker at writing conferences, writing programs, libraries, and bookstores, she hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon. She is also the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books).
I know you talk about this in your book, but can you explain in simple terms, what exactly is a platform?
Sure. Long story short: Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform.
A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Get Known explains in plain English, without buzzwords, how any writer can stand out from the crowd of other writers and get the book deal. The book clears an easy-to-follow path through a formerly confusing forest of ideas so any writer can do the necessary platform development they need to do.
Why do you think platform development is so important for writers today?
Learning about and working on a solid platform plan gives writers an edge. Agents and editors have known this for years and have been looking for platform-strong writers and getting them book deals. But from the writer’s point-of-view, there has not been enough information on platform development to help unprepared writers put their best platform forward.
Now suddenly, there is a flood of information on platform, not all necessarily comprehensive, useful or well organized for folks who don’t have a platform yet. Writers can promote themselves in a gradual, grounded manner without feeling like they are selling out. I do it, I teach other writers to do it, I write about it on an ongoing basis, and I encourage all writers to heed the trend. And hopefully, I communicate how in a practical, step-by-step manner that can serve any writer. Because ultimately, before you actively begin promoting yourself, platform development is an inside job requiring concentration, thoughtfulness and a consideration of personal values.
Why do you think a book on platform development is needed?
Writers often underestimate how important platform is and they often don’t leverage the platform they already have enough. At every conference I presented, I took polls and found that about 50 percent of attendees expressed a desire for a clearer understanding of platform. Some were completely in the dark about it, even though they were attending a conference in hopes of landing a book deal. Since book deals are granted based largely on the impressiveness of a writer’s platform, I noticed a communication gap that needed to be addressed.
My intention was that Get Known would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference, and that it would increase any writer’s chances of landing a book deal whether they pitched in-person or by query. As I wrote the book, I saw online how this type of information was being offered as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can even ask your library to order it and read it for free.
What is the key idea behind Get Known Before the Book Deal?
Getting known doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take an in-depth understanding of platform, and then the investment of time, skills and consistent effort to build one. Marketing experience and technological expertise are also not necessary. I show how to avoid the biggest time and money-waster, which is not understanding who your platform is for and why – and hopefully save writers from the confusion and inertia that can result from either information overload or not taking the big picture into account before they jump into writing for traditional publication.
Often writers with weak platforms are over-confident that they can impress agents and editors, while others with decent platforms are under-confident or aren’t stressing their platform-strength enough. Writers have to wear so many hats these days, we can use all the help we can get. Platform development is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Anyone can do it, but most don’t or won’t because they either don’t understand what is being asked for, or they haven’t overcome their own resistance to the idea. Get Known offers a concrete plan that can help any writer make gains in the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive publishing landscape.
Can you explain more about the structure of the book?
Writer Mama was written in small, easy-to-digest chunks so busy moms could stick it in a diaper bag and read it in the nooks and crannies of the day. To make platform evolution easy to comprehend, I had to dial the concepts back to the beginning and talk about what it’s like to try and find your place in the world as an author way before you’ve signed a contract, even before you’ve written a book proposal. No one had done that before in a book for writers. I felt writers needed a context in which to chart a course towards platform development that would not be completely overwhelming.
Introducing platform concepts to writers gives them the key information they need to succeed at pitching an agent either via query or in-person, making this a good book for a writer to read before writing a book proposal.
Get Known has three sections: section one is mostly stories and cautionary tales, section two has a lot of to-do lists any writer should be able to use, and section three is how to articulate your platform clearly and concisely so you won’t waste a single minute wondering if you are on the right track.
I have the book and it is definitely easy to read and really starts writers at the beginning of the process. At the front of Get Known, you discuss four phases of the authoring process. What are they?
First comes the platform development and building phase. Second comes the book proposal development phase (or if you are writing fiction, the book-writing phase). Third, comes the actual writing of the book (for fiction writers this is likely the re-writing of the book). And finally, once the book is published, comes the book marketing and promoting phase.
Many first-time authors scramble once they get a book deal if they haven’t done a thorough job on the platform development phase. Writers who already have a platform have influence with a fan base, and they can leverage that influence no matter what kind of book they write. Writing a book is a lot easier if you are not struggling to find readers for the book at the same time. Again, agents and editors have known this for a long time.
What are some common platform mistakes writers seem to make?
Here are a few:
- They don’t spend time clarifying who they are to others.
- They don’t zoom in specifically on what they offer.
- They confuse socializing with platform development.
- They think about themselves too much and their audience not enough.
- They don’t precisely articulate all they offer so others get it immediately.
- They don’t create a plan before they jump online.
- They undervalue the platform they already have.
- They are overconfident and think they have a solid platform when they have only made a beginning.
- They become exhausted from trying to figure out platform as they go.
- They pay for “insider secrets” instead of trusting their own instincts.
- They blog like crazy for six months and then look at their bank accounts and abandon the process as going nowhere.
I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say that many writers promise publishers they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver.
My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them. Get Known shows writers of every stripe how to become the writer who can not only land a book deal, but also influence future readers to plunk down ten or twenty bucks to purchase their book. It all starts with a little preparation and planning. The rest unfolds from there.
What three things can writers do today to stare building their platforms?
Don't start building your platform until you have clarity and focus. Otherwise you will likely just waste your precious time spinning your wheels. Or worse, fritter away your time with online distractions (and trust me, there are plenty!).
But once you know what your expertise is and what you are doing with it and for whom, then consider these three steps:
1. Start an e-mail list: Who are the people who like to hear about your writing success? Why not start a list in your address book with them and keep adding to it as time goes by. You can start by sending out simple regular announcements of good things that happen—just be sure to get permission. One way to get permission is to send an announcement about your work out to everyone you know and tell them that they can unsubscribe if they don’t want to be receive future messages from you on the topic. I strongly recommend that all writers read Permission Marketing by Seth Godin.
2. Create a simple website: Although social networking is fun, a proper writer’s website is not a Facebook or a Myspace page; it’s not even a blog. So save the detailed descriptions of your quirks and faves for the social networking you will do after you’ve built yourself a solid website to publicize your genuine writing credentials (creds) across the ethers while you are sleeping. And if you don’t have any genuine writing creds yet, getting some is an important first step. The step-by-step instructions are in Get Known.
3. Blog when it makes sense: Blogging can be great for writers assuming three things: 1) You have ample material to draw on and time to blog regularly. 2) You take the time to determine your appropriate audience, topic and your specific slant (or take) on your topic for your specific audience. 3) You don’t plan on starting a blog, blogging like mad for six weeks, and then disappearing from the face of the blogosphere without a trace. Preparation can prevent this common pitfall from happening to you.Don’t forget that platform development and building takes time. Once you are ready to get started, just do a little every day and you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish over time.
Thanks Christina for joining us!
In this fast-paced day and age, waiting even a day to post something as hot as the new Harry Potter covers means you're behind the times. "Go to bed, old man!," scream the masses. And so it goes.
Now every time a new Harry Potter is due out I make sure to buy a British edition because I much prefer their covers and (sorry, Cheryl) Britishisms. Well, this year it's not the clear cut choice it used to be. America's covers have gotten classier with every passing year while Britain has gotten...
I think goofier might be the only accurate word to use. Yes. Goofier. Let's play a little compare and contrast, shall we?
America's Cover:I'm fairly certain that I'm the only person who likes this. I love the new color palette with its creams and browns. I like the look of Harry, and check out the wraparound:
Nice. Of course, there is the fact that Harry and Voldemort look as if they're doing Yoga. There is that. Especially with that lovely sunrise in the background. Then again, it would be hilarious if Voldemort saw the errors of his ways all thanks to the power of the Astavakrasana position.
Britain's Cover:I got one word for you: Madcap. This looks like National Lampoon: Harry Potter Vacation. I can't tell if these kids are getting thrown out of the big golden circle into (what I'm fairly certain must be) Harry's Uncle Scrooge-like inheritance or if they're being sucked OUT of the money pile. Plus our hero has apparently been aged to approximately 37. Most odd. Even weirder is when you look on the back and get this:
Said one of my co-workers when he saw this, "Is that the Fortress of Solitude?" Yes! That's the twist none of us were seeing. Rowling has secretly paired with DC Comics and the result is a Harry Potter/Superman crossover spectacular! And finally:
Britain's ADULT Cover:Unlike the adult Half-Blood Prince cover, this puppy doesn't give anything away. We've already seen this locket before (once in flashback and once in person, if I don't miss my guess). Just lovely. And if you squint really really hard you can make out the description of the story for this last volume. It doesn't say anything you don't already know, though.