Tag Archives: book proposals

Why You Need to Build a Platform — NOW

As I prepare to return to the Southern California Writers Conference this weekend to teach writing workshops and offer read & critique sessions to writers of all genres, I can’t help but think about what has kept me very busy for the past six months with clients and businesses alike: building platforms.

Until about 10 years ago, the word “platform” was unknown to most people outside the public relations and marketing world. Now, every publisher and most literary agents are requiring that anyone trying to sell a book — writers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, celebrities, athletes — enter the publishing arena with a strong existing platform before they bother to pitch their book or message with a book proposal and sample chapters.

This scares 90% of working writers to death — with good reason. Most writers don’t consider themselves strong self-promoters, let alone experts on social media, social networking, traditional media, promotions or marketing. Yet, in today’s world, you need to know how to factor all of these tools into your ability to sell your book — even if you’ve signed with a publisher. And you also need to know where to turn for help. I’ve been fortunate in this respect, since I owned a public relations agency for seven years and now have migrated those skills to book and brand promotion — and offered those services to authors.

Which begs the million-dollar question: What is a platform?

Quite simply, a platform is the way in which you build public awareness in yourself and your company or message — or, in the case of an author, your book. The greater the public awareness, the greater number of potential readers or customers — and the greater your platform. The bigger and more expansive your platform, the closer you are to becoming a household name, at least among the target audience of your book or business initiative.

That’s what book publishers are looking for, because it guarantees a core group of people likely to buy your book. No matter how wonderful your relationship is with your agent, or the acquisition editor of a publisher, it all comes down to one thing with virtually all publishers, from the biggest New York houses to your own self-publishing initiative: SALES.

This leads to the next question: How do I build a platform that expands awareness in my book and myself, and attracts these very discerning publishers?

The quick answer: One plank at a time — starting RIGHT NOW, no matter where you are in the writing process of your book or the process of converting your message and practices to published form.

We’re going to spend the next four blog posts focusing on the following four essential elements of building platforms:

1) Strong Traditional Media Presence — Print, Online, Consumer and Trade

2) Strong Online Presence — Websites and ACTIVE Blogs are a must

3) Strong Social Media/Networking Presence — If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, sign up NOW

4) Outside Activities Related to Your Book Subject — This includes participation in workshops, conferences, teaching, speaking engagements, seminars and the like.

We’ll address each of these elements in future blog posts. Also know that we offer top-of-the-line platform building services and consultation to authors of all genres. Our goal is the same as yours: to see you in lights, and to see your book published.

Visit us on Facebook:

Word Journeys — Resources for Writers

Millennium Media Masters

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‘Meet Me In The Bar’: Working A Writer’s Conference (III)

(Blogger’s note: Summer is on its way — which means, for many, the season of writer’s conferences and retreats. In this three-part series, I share the many things I’ve learned during 20 years of attending writer’s conferences and 10 years of teaching and presenting at them.)

For information on the Society of Southwestern Authors’ Wrangling With Writing Conference, which takes place Sept. 27-28 in Tucson, Ariz.

Part Three: Back to the Bar

I met with the agent in the bar. After a relaxed two-hour conversation that bore no resemblance to the 15 minutes of speed-talking in the pit, she invited me to send sample chapters and a proposal. Three months later, I received a contract.

From this, I learned two vital unwritten rules about writer’s conferences:

1)   Make your interview count. You’ve got one minute to seize the agent or editor’s initial interest, and five to seven minutes to develop your initial pitch and describe your project while the agent/editor sprints through your material. This is marketing, not creative brainstorming. You’re in the meeting to sell. The remaining half of the interview works best if you answer questions, produce additional material requested, and absorb the input you’re given; and

2)   Much conference dealing takes place away from the interview area, in the bar, hallways, hotel rooms, Jacuzzi, or across the dinner table.

In my years of presenting, I’ve seen countless arrangements develop after conference hours end, when agents and editors can relax and think through a promising prospect while getting to know the potential author. It is a good conference indeed when you’re “invited to the bar.” As a magazine editor who has purchased pieces or assigned articles to authors in that literal and metaphorical bar, and as a proposal consultant and freelance book editor who has connected authors and agents in the bar, I can assure you that the side meetings produce new author-agent or author-editor relationships.

Which leads to the next unwritten rule about writer’s conferences:

3)   Do not leave the building the second your appointment or workshop is finished.  Stick around. Rub elbows.

Chat with fellow authors, agents, publishers, editors and consultants on the premises. You never know who will like your idea or see the marketing potential of your hard work—or your potential in the writing business. You might have a book idea you didn’t originally pitch that they like. Or, they might have a lucrative ghostwriting project involving a well-known client who doesn’t write. You don’t know—nor will you, if you don’t ask and remain open to new possibility.

Let me give you two examples. An editor from a major publishing house saw the sample chapter for a book I was pitching years ago. “Who book doctored this for you?” he asked.

“I did.”

“This is clean. You should think about becoming a book editor when you’re between books.”

Ten years and more than 80 edited books later, I thank him for opening an avenue of vast enjoyment and revenue I never saw myself traveling.

Let’s revisit the agent in the bar. She asked for a book proposal.  I’d never written a full book proposal, but I’d read a few articles, including the invaluable front end of Writer’s Market (these 60 to 80 pages are required reading for all working writers, in my opinion.) As a former public relations executive with marketing experience, I already knew how to write sponsorship proposals. I also asked a couple of agents at the conference what they liked to see in proposals.

Within three days of receiving my proposal, the agent called. “Where did you learn to write this? This is excellent!”

Another light bulb flashed in my head. Out of nowhere came another service that keeps me out of the 9-to-5 punch-the-clock work cycle (every writer’s dream): consulting with authors on their book proposals, or completely writing them to be pitch- and sales-ready. Agents love it, because they’re getting market-ready proposals. Authors love it, because who really wants to write a book proposal, which is a business plan for the book, after months writing a whole or partial book? 

It all started at a writer’s conference, which brings me to the next unwritten (until now) rule:

 4)   Be sociable, conversational, and mindful of why you’re here—to learn, to network, and/or to sell your work. Use the salesman’s credo: If someone is within three feet of you, introduce yourself and shake his/her hand. Your future might be shaking back.

Sometimes, we feel intimidated or insecure around attending agents, authors, editors, keynote speakers and publishers—the faculty. That’s natural: They are living the dream we’ve carried for years or decades. They’ve made it, or so we think. We tend to be sheepish around the conference faculty, withholding questions “because they’re stupid,” refraining from sharing our wildest book ideas “because they’re too ‘out there’ for the mainstream” (as if we really know), pulling back sample pages we prepared for the editor interviews “because they’re not polished enough.”

For this, I offer two tips:

a)    Conference faculty has been urged by event organizers to be available. The faculty is there to impart knowledge and wisdom, engage in conversation, and expend energy for your benefit. They are at your service—not the other way around. Take advantage of this opportunity to visit with 35 or 40 knowledgeable professionals whose answers to your questions might ignite or even define your future; and

b)   Ask the “stupid” question. Show the sample pages. Share other book ideas if asked. Case in point: An agent told me about an author whose prepared material was well written, but the potential audience was too narrow. However, when the agent asked about the author’s other ideas, a dialogue began that, six months later, resulted in the author selling a trilogy.

Finally, think about this: You’re investing several hundred dollars to be at the conference. You’ve spent months, or even years, developing the material you plan to present. This could be your first best chance—or your last. No one knows. For a weekend, you will occupy the same space as several dozen respected book publishing professionals. To equal that experience, you’d have to fly to New York and stay for two weeks—if they took meetings with you. Not likely.

Work the conference and absorb the presentations as though your future and career are the prizes for your efforts. They often are.

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