There has never been a better time to be a writer.
Sure if you are pressed for a final analysis, the original business model was and still is completely absurd. However, new technology empowers writers, helps us prosper more for our hard work, gives us more freedom and flexibility, and perhaps the biggest gain, allows us to connect with and communicate with each other.
When writers view publishers (agents, publicists, and everyone else involved) as partners and not meal tickets, then we can maintain 100% responsibility for our careers. But as soon as we start to think that a publisher is going to take care of everything (or take care of us), we are in trouble.
I asked a small Independent bookseller last week how business was going. He said September was his best month in fourteen years. A clerk at Borders told me that sales were up for the quarter this year from last year.
So, yes, it's a good idea to be informed about how the book industry works before you jump into the pool with the thousands of other authors. However, for some of us, swimming in this rather crowded pool is exactly where we can execute a perfect kick-turn and push off the wall back into the throngs.
Publishing a book is not for the feint of heart. Trust me, the weeks prior to your first book's release, every insecurity you have ever known will come roiling up. Ditto the first few times you speak, teach, or dare to do anything that moves you beyond your comfort zone.
But don't demonize the publishing industry. The folks who work in it are doing the best they can with the rather crummy legacy that they were stuck with. And typically, the folks who work in publishing are smart, articulate, book-lovers just like writers.
Whatever you think you know about the book publishing industry, it's never as black and white as some people paint it because those are people who work for those corporations. Just like people write books. Just like people read books.
So when you hear about the demise of the publishing industry and the death of reading or other doom and gloom stories, don't believe them. Don't believe them for a minute. There has never been a better time to be a writer.
Just like nonfiction writers, fiction writers need to begin working on
a platform long before the manuscript is complete. They can follow all
the same strategies I describe for nonfiction writers in Get Known.
It’s not like if you write wonderful fiction, that’s the end of the
line. Most fiction writers cross over to nonfiction writing fairly
Naturally, the quality of a fiction manuscript is paramount and most fiction writers tend to underestimate how long it will take to go from idea to finished book. But if a writer lets the writing process take as long as it takes and works on platform development in the meantime, she’ll be a lot better off.
Typically, after their book is published, fiction writers will spin off a series of topics based on their book that they can explore to help promote themes they’ve written about. Other things fiction writers often learn from their writing process include knowledge of a place, familiarity with a topic from their research, insight into a time period, a truth or phenomenon that may be mostly unknown to the general public, universal human themes, a particular time or phase every person experiences (like coming of age), or the creative process itself.
Memoirists and children's books authors can try the same strategies. Diving into these topics as writing material makes great promotional opportunities (sometimes even paying ones like article-writing) that spark book sales.
Any author who is thinking about authorhood as a multi-phase process is going to be more successful. It's not just: write a book and get famous. It's build a platform, write a book, rewrite the book ad naseum, and market the book, market the book, market the book, market the book, which requires copious amounts of sustained energy over many years.
Ask any successful fiction writer--they'll confirm everything I've said here.
The illustrious Deb Schneider was kind enough to invite me to come to Seattle to visit several branches of the King County Library System.
Deb is the Public Programming Coordinator for King County Library System. I met her at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference a few years ago. I attended one of her presentations there and that's when I decided that she rocks.
And I'm not the only one who thinks so. She's been named Romance Writer's of America's "Librarian of the Year." Go, Deb!
While in Seattle, I'll be visiting three branches of the library over three days to offer my platform development checklist, an easy, painless way to assess the state of your current platform and prioritize your best next steps!
I love chatting with readers and former students. I hope you will come and meet me!
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON SCHEDULE:
Sunday - Tuesday May 3-5, 2009 King County Libraries Tour Seattle, Washington
If you are ordering or buying my book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, there's a good chance that you might wonder what other books to get with it.
To set the record straight, I never intended to cram every possible thing on platform into one book. Instead, I intended for GKBTBD to be a helpful primer. The book you'd likely read before or with Michael Larsen's How to Write a Book Proposal (learn more) or Elizabeth Lyon's Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write (learn more).
There's a time and a place when writers tend to think about platform and that's when they are on their way to a writer's conference to meet agents and editors for the first time.
In Get Known, I'm suggesting that you think about platform as far before then as possible.
I am not sure that it would have been wise for me to cram in chapters on social networking, book promotion, and self-publishing into this book. In fact, I take that back: I am SURE cramming it all in would have been a bad idea. Get Known is a primer, not an encyclopedia.
To illustrate my point, a grateful reader recently e-mailed me and said:
"I particularly like the short chapter style [in Get Known]. I think that format makes the book "user and reader friendly" particularly for creating a writer's platform, something most writers find confusing.
You weave a seamless guide that ends with the reader saying, "I can do this!"
That was my intention. To help writers get platform and get that they can build theirs over time.
Also, let's get real. Social media books will likely fare much better as e-publications and Get Known was written for traditional print publication. What I had in mind was that like Larsen's and Lyon's books, the book would become a reliable book in its field. A great starting point with many books in many forms to come before and after.
Get Known covers the basics of platform development. If you read it and start to brainstorm ideas, as many readers say they do, then your platform will be off to a great start. Then, when you approach an agent with a book idea and that agent says, "So tell me about your platform," you won't be standing there with your mouth hanging open wondering what she means.
As I wrote in my last post on the definition of platform, the primary objective of Get Known is to help writers understand platform, so they can get theirs in gear.
So will there be more to do after the steps in Get Known?
Yes, there is always more to do. There's writing the book. There's marketing the book. There are all the breakthroughs in technology that are going to happen during the lifetime of your book (you hope). In these times that includes social media and reviewing other people's books in a variety of formats.
But the stage covered in my book is clearly described on page two. It's the preparation stage before writing a book proposal and pitching a book. Or, perhaps, you can develop your platform and your book concept simultaneously. I've seen people do it.
But whatever you do, don't try to throw the whole deal up overnight because it just doesn't work. And if you project an unholy urgency, that's just going to turn people, agents and editors included, off.
If I know one thing about writers after working closely with them for the past eight years, it's this: we get easily overwhelmed. We don't always need or want an encyclopedic approach. Sometimes a primer is all we need to get the idea and get going in our own way. And I hope you will actually be in the process of your platform and not just trying to use my book to wrangle a buck.
Because if you are a writer just starting to think about platform development for the very first time, you really don't have to think about social networking, book promotion, and self-publishing all at the same time...unless you are ready for all that.
I suspect, if I had tried to throw everything that's hot now into the mix of Get Known a lot of writers would have walked away completely overwhelmed.
What do you think? Should I have taken an encyclopedic approach and tried to cover everybody's everything and kept the whole thing up to date for traditional publication? (Would that even have been possible or would the book have already been outdated by now? I think so.)
Or do you find what's in Get Known to be enough? I'd like to hear what you think.
Have you seen my definition of platform coming out of someone else's mouth or pen or keyboard lately?
I sure have.
At first I think, Wow this person is really bright.
And then I think, Hey! Wait a minute. I wrote that!
To set the record straight, here's my definition of platform. I spent a year developing it while writing my book and I've been building on it in continuing conversations with others since my book came out.
In blogs and websites that have interviewed me, clear credit is always given to me. These are my words. They are portrayed as my words.
A platform communicates your expertise to others. It 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.
Basically, your platform is everything you do with your expertise. A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Once you establish a platform, it can work for you 24/7, reaching readers even as you sleep. Of course, this kind of reach takes time. If many others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then you likely have an active platform.
I find it helpful to define a platform as a promise writers make to not only create something to sell (like a book), but also to promote it to the specific readers who will want to purchase it. This takes both time and effort, not to mention considerable focus.
~ Christina Katz Author of Get Known Before the Book Deal & Writer Mama (both from Writer's Digest Books)
I do not believe that I have "cornered the market" on platform development or anything like that. I am absolutely not trying to do that.
I would just like to be given credit for my words when folks quote me. That's all.
Alan Rinzler has a helpful article in his blog, The Book Deal, called "Build Your Author Platform, 10 Tips from a Pro.
Hang on a sec! Platforms aren't important? I don't think so, Michael Hyatt. His blog post won't have a negative impact on a superstar, brand-name author. But certainly hurts a writer like this one, who is happy to have one less list of items to add to her to-do list.
Most of the ideas of the best ways to sell more books and build a platform in this survey by Mosquito Marketing Blog are covered in step-by-step depth in my book, Get Known Before the Book Deal. (Sound of me patting myself on the back.)
Have a great week balancing platform development with writing, selling, and professional development, writers! And don't forget to subscribe to Writer's Digest magazine so you won't miss the forthcoming 20-page section on standing out to agents and editors.
I am now holding the forthcoming issue of Writer's Digest magazine in my hands and it's a doozey.
First of all, whose fabulous idea was it to have a dialogue between Stephen King and Jerry B. Jenkins?
Whoever thought of that, please tell them I think they are brilliant.
Secondly, this is the PLATFORM ISSUE that I've been talking about for the past few months featuring a Spotlight section -- we're talking 20 pages -- on how to stand out to agents and editors by developing a power platform.
Articles are by Christina Katz (hey, that's me!), MJ Rose, the Writer's Digest Staff, Jeff Yeager , and Jessica Strawser (the fabulous editor of WD).
Writers, I don't care what you write, I don't care when you plan on writing a book, if you are an aspiring author, you don't want to miss this issue.
And I noticed over at Writersdigest.com that there is a special on magazine subscriptions right now, so you can pick up a whole year's worth of this fantastic magazine for $19.96. That's a great deal. (And it's tax deductible!)