Tag Archives: author platform

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 Author Success Story: Judith Gille, The View from Casa Chepito

JudithWe are pleased as punch that in 2013, several Business of Books clients realized their dreams of getting their books finished—and published! To celebrate those accomplishments, we’re launching a series of success stories. We’ll profile these first-time authors, tell you about their projects, and share the ups and downs they experienced on their path to publication. We hope you’ll find inspiration and motivation in their stories. (In 2014, we’d like to profile you and your book! Let us know how we can help you get the job done.)

Our first profile is Judith Gille, who recently published The View from Casa Chepitos. This memoir, set in Mexico, puts a human face on the immigration debate and explores issues faced by women of all cultures and ages. The elevator pitch? Think Eat, Pray, Love on Mexican Time. It’s a formula that’s resonated with readers, garnering Judith gratifying reviews and a #9 spot on the Elliott Bay Books’ best-seller list, as well as the Grand Prize in Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published e-Book Awards. You can meet Judith in person at her reading this Sunday, January 12, at 5:30pm at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park.

Here’s what Judith has to say about the process and her book.

Casa Cover jpg imgTell us about your path to publication and the reasons behind it.
I wrote a lot when I was younger. I had essays and articles appear in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, the Florida Sun-Sentinel, in magazines, online literary journals and anthologies. But after I started City People’s [the beloved Seattle mercantile and garden stores] and having kids, I no longer found time to write. But the urge to express myself through words was always there. Then, in 2006, I attended a reading by Tony Cohan (On Mexican Time and Mexican Days) in San Miguel. Afterwards I asked if he ever taught classes and he told me about Book Passage’s Travel Writer’s Conference in Corte Madera, CA. I signed up for the conference. I met a bunch of travel editors there, and was soon writing articles about Mexico. I came to realize that writing longer narratives was more interesting than how-to travel pieces for a newspaper industry that was on life support. So I began writing sketches about the people who live on callejón de Chepito, the Mexican alleyway where I live part-time.

Why were you inspired to write this book?
I’ve heard a number of writers say that they experienced an “Aha!” moment that prompted them to write their books. It was like that for me, too. On a train trip into Mexico’s Copper Canyon, I contracted salmonella poisoning and became extremely ill. One night, in a semi-hallucinatory, feverish state, it suddenly dawned on me that the essays I’d been writing about my neighbors on the alley were meant to be a book. I just needed to learn how to write it…

What professional services did you seek out in the process?
Originally I’d hoped to publish the book through a traditional publisher. I honed my first 50 pages, worked hard on my book proposal and hired Jen and Kerry (who did a terrific job) to edit it. I then submitted it to a dozen agents. I got lots of positive feedback about the themes, the quality of the writing, and the story, but they were uniformly dismayed that I didn’t have a well-developed platform. Without it, they said it would be a hard sell to a publishing house.  I decided to form my own small press and publish the book independently. Self-publishing, at least in part, has gotten a bad rap because many books are not well-edited or designed and the product values are poor. I was determined to create a top-quality product that readers and book buyers would have a hard time distinguishing from a more traditionally published book.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
My husband was in the printing and publishing industry for 20-some years, so there wasn’t much that surprised us about the process. We decided to produce the book through Lightning Source and ordered 1,500 copies (which they had to print twice because during the first run, the press operator fell asleep and the books were all misaligned). The challenging part, however, has been distribution. Currently the books are only in a dozen bookstores in Western Washington and San Miguel de Allende, but they’re selling so fast that I need to restock the stores frequently. Bookstores don’t always pay attention to whether your book has sold down or is out of stock, so you have to keep track yourself. Ideally, we hope to partner with a larger distributor or publishing house for fulfillment.

What’s been the best moment or aspect about getting published?
The overwhelmingly positive response to the book has been astonishing. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an email or a hit on FB, or someone comes into the store to tell me how much they loved it. In only five weeks, it jumped to the #9 spot on Elliott Bay’s best-seller list.

I’ve been surprised by how many readers tell me they couldn’t put it down, or who read it in one or two days (it’s 310 pages, for god’s sake!), or how sad they were when it ended. A few people even said they immediately started reading it all over again! I’m just so grateful that the story resonates with readers and that people are rooting for Lupe and Juan’s success in life because achieving a fair immigration policy toward migrant workers is so important right now.

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Be a stickler for quality. Write the best book you possibly can, then find a good editor to help you fine tune it. Hire an experienced book designer (unless you have those skills yourself), insist that the printer does a top-notch job. If you want to pitch to an agent or publisher, use Jen and Kerry to help you produce a professional pitch and book proposal. And as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” The best advice I can offer is to be persistent. Even when it seemed hopeless, and the horrible nagging voice in my head kept telling me that my story sucked and nobody would want to read it, I kept plugging away because I believed in the importance of my story.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently visiting with a lot of women’s book groups and before the evening ends, I inevitably get asked when my next book is coming out and what it’s about. I’ve got at least two more books I want to write. The first follows the story of a young Mexican woman named Vicky. It continues with life on callejón de Chepito, but deals with the changing role of women in Mexico, and Mexico’s burgeoning feminist movement. The second book is a novel that takes place in a remote part of Lake Huron and is based on a true story that my grandmother was fond of recounting, about a young woman who was ostensibly kidnapped by a hermit.

Any upcoming book events?
My next reading is on Sunday, January 12th at 5:30pm at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Seattle photographer Lesley Burvill-Holmes will be joining me to show her lovely photographs of sunny San Miguel de Miguel and my neighbors from callejón de Chepito.

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5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Author Platform

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Are you ready to put yourself in the spotlight? In today’s competitive publishing climate, editors and agents are looking for authors who can sell not only their book idea, but themselves. So when you pitch your book proposal, you want to highlight your terrific writing plus the connections you have to personally help sell and promote the book. Here are some simple ways to start beefing up your author platform.

1. Have a blog—but don’t give away the farm.

If you can maintain a blog, do so. Think about showcasing your writing style and themes related to your book, without quoting it verbatim. Remember, one of the first things an agent does—like it or not—is Google a potential author to check his or her web presence.

2. Offer your services.

Does your book topic lend itself to lectures to nonprofit groups or other outreach into your community? Could you volunteer for an organization that relates to your topic? Might you read your children’s book at libraries or schools, or do a demo of your cookbook recipes for a charity event? All of these simple efforts increase your exposure.

3. Become an expert in your field.

You should know your book topic better than anyone. Sign up for a Google Alert on keywords related to your topic, and stay apprised of any mentions in the media. This works for fiction as well. Does your novel involve performance art, adventure travel, birdwatching, or the Korean music scene? Make sure you’re keeping up with what people are saying on your subject, and you’ll know where to find those folks when your book comes out.

4. Seek out publicity opportunities.

If you’re positioning yourself as an expert on a subject, offer to act like one. Offer to write guest posts on blogs where your future book-buying audience may hang out. Sign up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out), and answer the call when someone needs a quote on your subject. Pitch yourself to local media when you hear they’re doing a story that relates to your book.

5. Dig deep into your background.

Sometimes, we forget how many skills we have or people we know. Spend some quality time thinking of previous job experience, personal connections, and media contacts that might be of interest to a publisher or agent. Keep notes on all this, so you can fold it into your final bio for your proposal.

For more help on your author platform, check out our webinar on the subject, or join us Feb. 9 for our all-day workshop, 30 Days to a Winning Book Proposal, where we cover all aspects of a successful book proposal.

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