5 tips to building an author platform—without being an author

authorz-platform.jpgIn our experience, there are two words that strike the most fear into the heart of any aspiring author: AUTHOR PLATFORM. [Cue creepy organ music.] Our clients know they need to sell themselves when they sell their book. They know that it’s not just their craft being evaluated by an agent or publisher, but their personal story, credentials, and potential reach to the book’s target market. All of this is rolled up into an individual writer’s author platform, and it must be highlighted persuasively in the proposal and query letter. After all, it’s a job application: When you think about it, every writer is applying for the job of author at that particular house. You have to show why you’re worth their investment.

“But I’ve never been published before!” our clients moan. “How can I build my author platform when I’m not even an author yet?”

Good question. We’ll tell you how. (And by the way, whether you have a glimmer of a book idea or a polished draft, the time to start bulking up your author platform is now.)

  1. Begin offering your services. If you have a kids book, offer to read it at schools, libraries, or kids bookstores. Could you do a demo at a cooking store, or offer to help party-plan a high-profile charity event? Could you get on a local radio show or panel during a discussion that your book might pertain to? Does your expertise lend itself to a conference, charity organization, or event, where you could speak and get publicity in return? All this shows you are making a name for yourself on your topic. (If you have great ideas of things you could do, but haven’t yet, include those in your proposal, too.)
  1. Start a blog. If it makes sense for your book, start an on-point and well-crafted blog, and start subscribing and commenting on other, more high-profile blogs on the same subject. You don’t need a giant audience here. A simple, nicely written blog and/or author website shows you’re committed to your topic and showcases your writing. (Because trust us, the first thing an agent or publisher will do is Google you.
  1. Tweet. Especially for nonfiction writers, start following folks in your field or subject area, and they’ll follow you back. And try to tweet, respond, and retweet a couple of times a day.
  1. Reach out to the writing community. Jump into the writer’s community, both where you live and online. Not only will you find your tribe, but those same people can be really supportive when it comes time to promote your book.
  1. Be a media whore. Yep, we said it. Get your name out there, any way you can. Who is covering a subject that you can speak to? (Ideally this is also your books’ subject, but not necessarily.) When you’re positioning yourself as an author, it’s no time to be shy. Contact local radio stations and print media to offer yourself as an expert. Register for HARO (Help a Reporter Out), where reporters contact experts on a wide variety subjects. A few minutes of your time could mean you’re quoted in a national publication and will come up in searches on that topic.

Now, once you start making inroads, use that info for your book proposal or query letter. It’s a huge selling point of your book these days. Incorporate all of this into a compelling picture of you as an author, someone who can both deliver the goods and be comfortable telling their story to the media.

(photo: authorblogchallenge.wordpress.com)

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New Services to Help YOU Get Published

publishSpring is in the air, new ideas are blooming, and business is booming here at Business of Books headquarters. Due to popular demand, we’re rolling out some exciting new individual offerings for our clients. As always, our mission is to help you put your best foot forward with agents and publishers—and get the book deal you deserve. We encourage you to check out our services to make sure your proposal, query/cover letter, and submission list are spot on and have the absolute best chance for representation and/or a publishing deal.

NEW! Comprehensive Proposal Development & Consult Package
This new service takes you step-by-step through the proposal process, including a personalized kickoff meeting to set a schedule and parameters for your project, regular check-ins to review progress and keep you on track, and guidance throughout your proposal’s development. It culminates with our 2-on-1 proposal review for a perfectly on-point proposal, as well as a review of your query letter, cover letter, and submission list. $2,000.

NEW! Query Letter, Cover Letter & Submission List Review
Even if your proposal is good to go, you still need a compelling and salable query and cover letter—not to mention the right people to pitch it to. This service entails a comprehensive electronic review and detailed feedback on your cover letter, query letter, and agent/publisher submission list. $499

2-on-1 Proposal Review
This popular service provides our professional advice and concrete revisions to ensure your proposal rises out of the slush pile. You send us your draft proposal electronically; we add our comments and suggestions right into the file. We also provide a detailed overall assessment that covers every section of the proposal. $599

Publishing Toolkit
Are you a DIY type? Do you wish you had Jen & Kerry around as a desktop reference? Then our Publishing Toolkit is for you. This invaluable resource, available as a binder or PDF, will walk you through the proposal process and beyond, including insider tips on submissions, contracts, publisher relations, and more. With 100-plus pages of publishing intel plus exercises, worksheets, and two sample nonfiction proposals, it’s a steal at $99.

Looking for something other than what you see here? We’re happy to discuss the unique needs of your project. Email us for rates and details.

(Photo: adirondackcenterforwriting.com)

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Finding inspiration in Mexico

20160212_134710_001-1“That was the best presentation I’ve ever seen at a writers’ conference!”

“You guys are like Siskel & Ebert.”

“Thank you so much for this information. I came in confused and left confident!”

“Hey, it’s Bonnie & Clyde!”

These are just a few of the comments we received during our workshops and our magical week at the San Miguel Writers Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

We were heartened by all the savvy writers who attended our workshops, realizing the importance of a strong author platform and marketing plan. It’s inspiring for us to be surrounded by so many motivated writers committed to bringing their books into the world.

We were also inspired by the other 70-some instructors who offered great takeaways for our own writing projects and process.

And it was a deeply satisfying moment to realize that great minds think alike, as when Joyce Carol Oates emphasized the importance of a strong title (something we advocate for relentlessly in our proposal workshops), calling out the horrible Trimalchio in West Egg, a book that we now know as The Great Gatsby.

We are looking forwarding to continuing to help the writers we met in Mexico develop and submit their book proposals. In the meantime, we encourage all of you to keep writing, keep educating yourself on the business of books, and to keep looking for writers’ conferences, workshops, and residencies to attend. Hope we’ll see you at one soon!

Sma

Literary papier mache in San Miguel

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Get Published! A look back at our Willows Lodge retreat

Willows 2016They came, they learned, they polished their already strong book ideas.

Fresh off our Get Published! Writers Retreat at the luxe Willows Lodge, we are in awe and inspired by each and every one of our attendees.

From children’s picture books to memoir to alternative history, these aspiring authors dove in from the get-go, developing book proposals and query letters, and in the process strengthening their projects.

Based on the feedback and the energy in the room, we helped each and every one of them.

In return, they inspired us. Every single time we teach a class or host a retreat, we get invested in helping our clients’ and students’ books be all they can be. Some folks come in with a polished, “finished” manuscript and yet we help them step away and look at their project with fresh eyes, which inevitably leads to a more thought-out and creative submission. Other writers are still kicking around several ideas but almost immediately, they focus in on the one that feels right for them and the marketplace. Regardless of where they were starting from, all left with a proposal-in-progress and the beginnings of a compelling query or cover letter.

As for the two of us, we left more committed than ever to helping writers realize their publishing dreams. To that end, we’ll be scheduling more workshops in the coming months and expanding our offerings to include individual consultations, proposal writing, and more!

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5 Things You Need to Know to Get a Book Deal

During our six years of publishing consulting and 40-plus years of combined publishing experience, we’ve culled some tips that might seem obvious at first blush but are often overlooked in the rush to submit what you are sure is a guaranteed best seller.

Slow down there, boss, and take a breath.

Review our tips and strengthen your submission and chances of a book deal.

1.      Do your homework.
Research other books that could be considered competion, become an expert in your genre and on your topic, visit bookstores or libraries (yes, in person!), and learn which publishing houses and agents specialize in your particular genre or subject matter.

2.      Do think of publishing as a business.
Your book is your baby, yes, but it’s also a product to be bought and sold in a marketplace filled not only with books but other forms of entertainment (apps, movies, music, etc.). It’s critical to be business savvy and approach a publisher with a compelling pitch and attitude that conveys that you are ready to partner with them on a lucrative business venture (i.e. your book).

3.      Do have confidence.
You have got to believe in your idea and your vision! Don’t be shy. Sell it. If you are not absolutely committed to your book project, why would anyone else be? But a note of caution: being confident is terrific, being cocky is not. Don’t claim it’s a “guaranteed best-seller that will outsell The Lord of the Rings Trilogy/50 Shades of Grey/The DaVinci Code;” rather, explain with specifics why your book will perform well for a particular publisher. Is it similar to another book on their list that has done well? Will it appeal to a demographic that the publisher already dominates? The more specific you can get about why you are approaching them in particular, the better.

4.      Do persevere!
Every famous author from Dr. Seuss to J.K. Rowling to F. Scott Fitzgerald has had multiple rejections. Keep going. This is where that confidence and unwavering belief in your project comes into play. We always remind writers that publishers and agents are looking for you, too, and first-time authors get book deals every single day. We have the success stories to prove it—our clients have killer book deals in a variety of genres, ranging from children’s picture books to memoir to fiction to coffee table books to nonfiction.
 
5.      Do write a killer book proposal.
Your proposal is your business plan. Creating a great one is vital to selling your book in today’s market. Contact us at jenandkerry@gmail.com to learn about upcoming events, 2-on-1 proposal reviews, our Publishing Toolkit, and other services we offer to help you write the best possible proposal. We’re here to help your publishing dreams become a reality!

 

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How to Get Seattle’s Talent into Print

Nicole Brodeur 122015We are thrilled that Nicole Brodeur mentioned The Business of Books and our upcoming retreat in her Sunday column. If you have a book idea but don’t know how to get published, come to our January publishing retreat at Willows Lodge. Read the article here.

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6 Ways You Should Be Stealing from Your Favorite Author

Chris Madden illustration of a burglar stealing a book on ethicsIf you want to get published, look to those writers who have come before you. In other words, be a book thief.

While we would never, ever suggest you plagiarize other authors, there are other ways to steal from them—and feel good doing it. The writers you admire have a lot of wisdom to impart, both directly and indirectly. Here’s how to leverage the career, advice, and published works of your favorite authors to get a publishing deal of your own.

  1. Check their acknowledgments.
    Doing your research is key to getting a sweet book deal. By checking the acknowledgments pages of your favorite authors, you will quickly compile a list of editors and agents to whom you might want to submit your project. In our Business of Books classes, we always recommend this bit of old-school sleuthing because it’s a much easier way to get a targeted submission list together than slogging through lists of agents and editors.
  1. Reach out and touch them.
    There are more avenues than ever to engage your favorite author, and we’ve seen more than one client make a personal connection with a writer. Follow and converse with writers you admire on social media; Susan Orlean, for example, is very active on Twitter, as is Judy Blume. You can also seek out writers who teach and take a class from them. Pam Houston, Andre Dubus III, and Maria Semple, for example, all teach at writers’ conferences and retreats. Many workshops allow serious interaction and review of your work. What better way to have your work noticed than to workshop it with a writer/teacher you admire? Who knows? They might even blurb your book when it goes to print!
  1. Learn from their successes and mistakes.
    Don’t reinvent the publishing wheel. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge out there already about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to writing and publishing a book successfully. In print interviews, podcasts, and TED Talks, authors impart lots of useful insider information about both their experiences. They also often write books about writing. Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Elizabeth George, and now Mary Karr, among others, have all written books that share their insight into the writing process. Sherman Alexie and Jess Walters teamed up to host a weekly podcast, A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment, where they share new work and talk about the bumps in the literary road. We’re personally excited to hear from some of our favorite authors—Joyce Carol Oates, come on!—at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference in February 2016, where we’ll also be teaching a workshop. NPR’s Scott Simon is giving a keynote, called “Napping, Drinking, and Other Writing Tips I’ve Learned From Great Authors from Phillip Roth to Judith Krantz to Mickey Mantle.” Great minds think alike, or so we’d like to believe. Glean all you can. And there’s almost nothing more encouraging than hearing how many times a wildly successful author has been rejected. 2015 Man Booker Award winner Marlon James persevered after his first novel was rejected 78 times by various publishers.
  1. Compare yourself to the authors you love.
    When you think about pitching your book (and yourself) to an agent or publisher, what authors might you compare yourself to? Give this question some thought. In your book proposal, it’s always a smart idea to align your writing with another writer or two. It helps agents immediately get a fix on your writing and an idea of how to position you and your project in the marketplace. This is not to say that your voice and writing isn’t completely original, it’s more that you are directing the conversation and putting yourself in the literary company you want to keep. As a case in point, Jen’s agent will always respond to an author who indicates why they reached out to her, which usually is because they believe their writing to be similar in some way to one of the authors in her stable. So, who is your literary dopplegänger?
  1. Study their writing practices.
    At events and in interviews, authors are always asked if they have any rituals or routines. When, where, and how do they write, and can you apply these tips to move your own project forward? Kerry just went to a reading where National Book Award Finalist Lauren Groff discussed how she needs the physicality of writing longhand for her creative process. If you feel stuck in front of a blank computer screen, this might be just the thing to get your creative juices flowing again, in the direction of a publishing deal.
  1. Find out who they admire.
    What and who do your favorite authors read? To be a good writer, you have to be a good reader as well. Finding out who an author reaches for or is influenced by might expose you to a whole new world. If you are experiencing writer’s block in some form, don’t fret. Consider it as a fallow period and use it as a time to read something great that a respected author recommended. It will make you a better writer and might offer up some additional comparisons when pitching your book.

To move your project forward in just two days, join us for Get Published!: A Writers Retreat at Willows Lodge on January 23–24, 2016.

(illustration: miloandalice.wordpress.com)

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Got a book idea but short on time? Our publishing retreat is just the thing

Are you full of big ideas but have a busy schedule? We feel your pain and have the cure for what ails you. Join us for Get Published!, an intensive and results-oriented weekend workshop for aspiring authors on January 23 & 24, 2016. In just 36 hours, writers will leave with all the tools they need to craft a successful proposal and pitch their book to agents and publishers with confidence.

Writers of all genres and levels are welcome. Whether attendees have a glimmer of an idea or a polished draft, this immersive workshop will push you to move your book project forward in a significant way—and enlighten you on how the business of publishing really works.

Click here for more information, or contact Shaina Phillips at 425-424-2965 or Shaina.phillips@willowslodge.com to reserve your spot.

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Get Published! The lowdown on our writers retreat at Willows Lodge

Willows3We’re thrilled at the early interest in Get Published!, the Business of Books 2nd annual publishing retreat, and we hope you and your book project can join us January 23–24, 2016. The overnight retreat will take place at the beautiful and serene Willows Lodge in Woodinville and features in-depth seminars on specific topics relating to the book business and developing a book proposal. Because of the intimate size, all attendees receive personal attention and direct feedback on their individual projects. The two-day event will cover:

  • All nine elements of a successful book proposal, with hands-on exercises and workshopping that result in a working proposal document by the close of the retreat
  • How to create a targeted book marketing plan and build an author platform
  • Insider intel on the publishing business, including critical do’s and don’ts
  • How to craft an impactful cover letter and develop a targeted submission list

Writers of all genres and levels are welcome. Whether attendees have a glimmer of an idea or a polished draft, our one-of-a-kind immersive workshop will push you to move your book project forward in a significant way—and enlighten you on how the business of publishing really works.

“This retreat gave me exactly what I needed to start getting my writing out into the world,” says 2015 attendee Heather LeRoss. “The combination of insider insights, step-by-step how-to’s and the belief from Jen and Kerry that I could do it, gave me the confidence to put my writing out there and think of myself as an author. Since attending, I’ve had more than 10 articles published and my children’s book is out to publishers for review. Thank you, Jen and Kerry.”

In addition to luxurious accommodations, guests will receive a welcome amenity, meals courtesy of the renowned Barking Frog, and all workshops, as well as our exclusive Publishing Toolkit (a $99 value) to take home.

Book early! Through December 15, earlybird pricing for “Get Published!” starts at $870 per person including tax and is based on double occupancy. Complete details can be viewed on the Willows Lodge website here. After December 15, prices increase $100 per person. To make reservations, please contact Shaina Phillips at 425-424-2965 or shaina.phillips@willowslodge.com.  

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5 Things You Need to Know to Score a Book Deal

During our years of publishing experience, both as acquisitions editors and authors, we’ve culled some key tips for those looking to get published. While these may seem simple at first glance, we find time and again that they are overlooked in the rush to submit what you are sure is a guaranteed best seller.

Slow down there, boss, and take a breath.

Review our tips and strengthen your submission and chances of a book deal.

1.      Do your homework.
Research other books that could be considered competion, become an expert in your genre and on your topic, visit bookstores or libraries (yes, in person!), and learn which publishing houses and agents specializing in your particular genre or subject matter.

2.      Do think of publishing as a business.
Your book is your baby, yes, but it’s also a product to be bought and sold in a marketplace filled not only with books but other forms of entertainment (apps, movies, music, etc.). It’s critical to be business savvy and approach a publisher with a compelling pitch and attitude that conveys that you are ready to partner with them on a lucrative business venture (i.e. your book).

3.      Do have confidence.
You have got to believe in your idea and your vision! Don’t be shy. Sell it. If you are not absolutely committed to your book project, why would anyone else be? But a note of caution: being confident is terrific, being cocky is not. Don’t claim it’s a “guaranteed best-seller that will outsell The Lord of the Rings Trilogy/50 Shades of Grey/The DaVinci Code;” rather, explain with specifics why your book will perform well for a particular publisher. Is it similar to another book on their list that has done well? Will it appeal to a demographic that the publisher already dominates? The more specific you can get about why you are approaching them in particular, the better.

4.      Do persevere!
Every famous author from Dr. Seuss to J.K. Rowling to F. Scott Fitzgerald has had multiple rejections. Keep going. This is where that confidence and unwavering belief in your project comes into play. We always remind writers that publishers and agents are looking for you, too, and first-time authors get book deals every single day. We have the success stories to prove it—our clients have killer book deals in a variety of genres, ranging from children’s picture books to memoir to fiction to coffee table books to nonfiction.
 
5.      Do write a killer book proposal.
Your proposal is your business plan. Creating a great one is vital to selling your book in today’s market. Need help? Contact us or register for our second annual overnight intensive retreat, Get Published: A Writer’s Retreat at Willows Lodge, January 23–24. Hopeful authors spend so much time on the craft of writing, but almost zero on the business. That doesn’t work anymore. And that’s where we come in.

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