“I’ve written a children’s book…now what?”

 

“I’ve written a children’s book…now what?”

As a published author, I hear this question a lot. Technology has made many things easier, but the publishing industry is still pretty standard. Sure, you could go the self-published route, which has earned a much better reputation than the past (but some small publishing houses are glorified self-publishers, so you have to be careful. Do your homework!), but you’ll still need to follow these first few steps.

  1. Don’t illustrate!

    First off, if you’ve written a picture book, and you’re not a professional artist, DON’T illustrate it unless you are self publishing. Don’t find someone to illustrate it, or take pictures to submit alongside. Let the publishing editors do that; it’s their jobs. All you’re going to be submitting are the words to the story. (That’s a relief, right?) Other beginner tips are here in a fun video worth watching: https://bitsykemper.wordpress.com/video/

  2. Be honest: is it ready?

    Really ready? I know you are excited to get your story out there–but hold on, Sally. Your first step ISN’T finding an agent. Your first step is getting your work polished and perfect. You only have one chance to make a first impression with editors and publishers. Don’t submit a manuscript that’s “almost ready.” I encourage you to take a bigger-picture look at getting not just editing help but overall writing guidance, especially if this is your first manuscript (or art/portfolio submission). Take the time to make sure it’s in the very best shape it can be. Non-fiction books, for example, need lots of research. Tips on how and where to do that research is here: http://www.darcypattison.com/picture-books/nonfiction-research-required/ Research aside, you’ve got to fix typos, ensure your story arc is strong, your main characters are likeable, and so on. How does your story compare with what’s selling today—both in topic, word count, and style? Make sure your work is in top shape.  One tip I suggest new writers do is read 100 picture books (they’re short!) before they start the editing phase of their first manuscript, because there is so much to learn by reading other works, and by understanding the general formula and format that editors are looking for. At least read 50! No, I’m not kidding. There is a reason those books are published and you’ve got to figure out why. I’ve created a checklist that details all this, plus a discussion on strong beginnings, satisfying endings, and more at: https://bitsykemper.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/is-my-picture-book-ready-a-13-point-checklist/ Read this!

  1. Get help

    So, yeah, you might NOT be finished with that book afterall. There are authors that have taken SIX YEARS perfecting their manuscript, and they don’t regret a minute. You, your manuscript, and your readers are worth taking the time to do it right. Don’t rush it. SCBWI is here to help! Learn with us! Attend a workshop, conference, webinar, meet & greet, anything to connect with this wonderful writing and illustrating community. We’re great peeps! Find a critique partner in your region (ask your RA for help in finding some). Consider a Mentorship Program (http://www.scbwi.org/scbwi-mentorship-programs/; The Carolinas, Iowa, and Minn, for example, offer programs that fit members outside their immediate region. It can get expensive, but can be worth every penny. Professionals work directly with you and your manuscript one on one, some for several months.) If you want to hire editing help, “The Book” from SCBWI lists many reputable freelance editors you might want to contact. They each have different rates and processes, but are all professionals. http://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/Paid-for help is something to consider—but not necessary! Go online and check out the TON of free resources available online—open 24/7—to members only, like training videos and “bulletin boards” at scbwi.org! You have to be logged in at SCBWI.org order to access many of the helpful pages. Other excellent resources include http://www.kidlit411.com/ (too much great content to list!),  http://www.writersdigest.com/forum/ and http://writeforkids.org/.

  1. Social Media?

    Do you need a strong social media presence—website, blog, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Facebook, blah blah? Hmm. Define “strong.” The easy answer is yes, you need to be online and searchable in someway, for no other reason than it gets you practice being social and connecting with other like-minded creators. Some editors insist a social media platform is vital while others couldn’t care less. But don’t fake 2,000 Twitter followers or suddenly force yourself to gather 500 new Facebook friends just to get in the game. Be genuine. If you’re new to social media, it’s ok. But don’t ignore it. It’s not going away. It’s better to start true relationships now than to troll for friends only when you need them later. People know when you’re using them. Find some great social media tips here: http://jennybravobooks.com/blog/social-media-for-writers, and here, https://bitsykemper.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/author-platform-maximizing-social-media/ and some Twitter-specific basics here: https://bitsykemper.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/twitter-101-the-basics-for-writers/

  1. Find an Agent, Editor

    (Either, not both) Once you’re certain your manuscript is ready (you’ve researched the industry, you’ve had a critique group look at it, it’s edited with no errors, et al), it’s time to find an editor or agent. Which one? The right one, not just any one. Spend time finding a good fit. You’ll be working with them for upwards of three years per book(!!). In this industry, you can submit directly to many editors at a publishing houses; you don’t NEED an agent. Yes, one will absolutely probably most likely help you. Get the scoop on if you should pursue an agent or if you should stick it out solo: https://bitsykemper.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/how-do-i-find-an-agent/ (FYI I’ve got 16 books in print, no agent) Whether or not you decide to get an agent or to submit directly, you’ll need to figure out who is the best person to send to. And where (which ‘house’). The BEST resource for that is SCBWI’s THE BOOK. Available to members online, you can also order a hard copy to be printed and mailed to your house for a nominal fee (I order one every year, dog ear pages and make scribble notes all over it!): http://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/ You have to be logged in at SCBWI.org order to access it.

  1. Write Query or Pitch Letter

    Now you’re ready to submit! Start writing those agent query or Dear Editor pitch letters. The difference between a query letter and a pitch letter is best described this way: A pitch letter is sent directly to an editor or agent, with your manuscript, for them to consider taking on your work for publication. A query is a letter sent to see if the editor or agent is interested in seeing your manuscript, for the ultimate goal of taking it on; it’s the pre-step of submitting. THE MANUSCRIPT IS NOT SENT with a query–just a description of it is. Typically this is sent to a closed house where you have to ask permission before submitting. A great explanation of a query letter, and how it should include a pitch and synopsis is here: http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/2015/09/the-pitch-query-and-synopsis-a-primer/. A great “how to write a query letter” is here: https://kidlit.com/2009/08/05/writing-a-simple-compelling-query/ Almost all submissions are done online now, although some houses still insist on paper subs. Find out all this detail, along with contact information and names of editors and agents at: http://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/ You have to be logged in at SCBWI.org order to access it. ALWAYS VERIFY INFO ON THE HOUSE’S OWN WEBSITE BEFORE SUBMITTING! Things change fast these days and you don’t want to submit to someone that changes houses four months ago, or waste your time submitting to a house that is now closed.

Chronicle Books has stellar advice of their own, which backs up most of the advice above: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/2014/12/17/so-youve-written-a-childrens-book-now-what/ and a self-pubbed author shares her experience/steps here: https://horkeyhandbook.com/wrote-childrens-book-idea-execution/

Hopefully this is helpful. I encourage you to take a step back, catch your breath, and make sure your story elements are perfect before you spend the time (or money) on copy editing or, of course, submitting. One of the tips I learned from Writers Ink was to set your story aside for two or three months, then come back to it with fresh eyes. Amazing how different it looks! I know 90 days seems like FOREVER but you will thank your three-month-future-self for waiting. Your story deserves the best care you can give it 🙂

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it, even if you never get published. If you love writing, you love writing! Best of luck to you and your work. I am certain you’ll find ways to make it shine, and to make yourself proud.

Go get ‘em!

-Bitsy Kemper is the proud author of 16 children’s books, including picture books, chapter books, and YA. She admits to spending too much of her early career focused on the computer industry, appearing in places like CNN and co-writing a nationally-syndicated newspaper column. She’s more recently appeared in Writing Children’s Books for Dummies (“how appropriate!” you may say) and Children’s Book Insider, and is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s CA North/Central region (covering 36 counties!). When not nose down and knee deep creating & editing, she has found time to present at author events and writers conferences from NY to CA. Bitsy enjoys yoga, dark chocolate, and church–but not all three at the same time. She is an accomplished speaker, mother of three (four if you count her husband), and according to her business card, a really nice gal. www.BitsyKemper.com.

How do I Find an Agent?

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Google “how to find a literary agent for children’s books” and you’ll get 1,580,000 hits. Over one and a half million! And that’s just in the kidlit world. There are many, many theories on how to find one, just like there are many many theories on how to write the perfect picture book. Many roads will take you there, my friend. You just need to start walking. THEY AREN’T GOING TO COME TO YOU.
First things first. You need to make sure your manuscript is print ready. Never send something that isn’t perfect/finished! Has it been copy edited? Have you had more than one other person review it–do you have a reliable/experienced critique partner/group? Have you been working on it for longer than, say, a month? The ironic thing here is that the next thing I’m going to say is be prepared to make changes if necessary which contradicts the “make sure it’s perfect/finished” statement. An agent might have suggestions on how to make your manuscript better, and you might need to make those changes before he or she agrees to represent you. (It’s ALWAYS up to you to decide if and how those changes will be implemented. It’s your manuscript, afterall. Feel free to say “No, thanks” and move on to the next agent on your list if the recommend changes don’t feel right to you.)
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Second, you need to research the right agent FOR YOU, one that will like/accept not only your genre and age range but fits your style. That means your style of writing as well as your style of a working relationship. You do that by researching reputable agencies online and reading up on every agent that reps the kind of manuscript you have–based on what they have already sold and based on what they say they are looking for. Have they represented authors that have books similar to yours? That’s what you are looking for. This may be the only time you don’t want uniqueness. You want someone with relevant experience so they can get you the best deal and offer you the best, most applicable guidance. A super YA agent, for example, might be a crappy picture book agent. It’s a different world. Maybe it’ll work out–see what else they’ve sold. The good news is they will tell you directly on their page what they are looking for and have sold but that bad news is it’s a lot of work b/c there are so many agencies and so many agents.
How to get started researching, you may ask?
  • https://janefriedman.com/find-literary-agent/ gives an excellent overview on finding agents. It’s not specific to kidlit, but is worth reading every word. This post is from 2015 but still very much valid. Jane gives tips on checking an agent’s track record, what to expect from a good agent (are they members of AAR?), and explains submission guidelines piece by piece. READ IT. I’m not kidding.
  • The very first blog page on that Writer’s Digest site that I’d recommend you read is http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/pubtips. Editor Chuck Sambuchino culled advice from real agents, who Tweeted their top tips on what to do and how to do it. For example, some advice from 2013 that still stands is from agent Jacquie Flynn’s (@BookJacquie): “Check out an agent’s website, tweets, & blog posts to get a sense of her style & taste before you query. Customize for best results.”
  • Speaking of Twitter…I’ll go ahead and quote Chuck from that same blog, who says, “Many, many agents are on Twitter. And by reading their tweets, you can get a deeper understanding of what they seek as well as what kind of writing excites them. Use an agent’s online footprint and research them. Read their blog interviews. Review their website. This helps you better target agents to query, and it also helps you learn more about each rep, giving you information you can use to begin your query letter. For example, ‘Dear Ms. Flynn, I saw your tweet about how you seek irreverently humorous young adult books such as Spanking Shakespeare. For this reason, I think you would like my YA comedy of errors, [Title].'”
Social Media

Social media is your friend when researching agents

  • And speaking of matching up agents with what they’ve already said they like…Have you heard of MSWL? If not, write it down! There is a great website/resource called MSWL — Manuscript Wish List  — where agents regularly Tweet out exactly what they are hoping to find, and the results are tallied and searchable here: http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com You can do a search for exactly what you’ve written, such as #magic #chapterbook #unicorns, and see if there are any matches. It’s worth coming back to again and again.
  • If you’re a member of SCBWI (and if you’re not, don’t be an idiot, join already!), start looking up names and agencies with “The Book” that is online to members http://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/. Go to the Agents section. It lists websites for every agency that’s worth reviewing. [“The Book” also lists all major kidlit publishing houses, and gives websites and contact information as well as if they accept unagented or “unsolicited” manuscripts (unsolicited means you need to end a query first), if you decide against pursuing an agent.] Narrow down the agencies you like, then look at their agents, and if the agent reps your age range and/or genre and you think you’d get along, then give them a whirl. There are other sources online that charge for this information and may be worth looking into if you don’t have SCBWI access. Either way, always verify your searches with the agent websites and/or agent social media accounts. Do that with a basic Google search.
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  • Wondering about warning signs, such as contests disguised as paid editing services or agents asking for a reading fee? NEVER PAY AN AGENT TO READ YOUR MANUSCRIPT! RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY! [The exception is legit conferences where you submit your work for a fee in exchange for a critique/feedback, or fundraisers like #PensforPaws where agents (or editors) donate their time to giving you feedback and the money goes to charity. These are NOT solicitations for representation so don’r count as creepy agent maneuvers.] Tally up sleeze-meter readings with help from this list created by “Writer Beware” http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/agents/
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In all honesty, you don’t NEED an agent in the children’s book industry. If you ask me (and you did) I suggest you take all that time researching agents and spend it perfecting your manuscripts. You can submit to many editors and publishing houses directly.  The key is always quality writing, not the agent that submits it. 
The bottom line is: just like when writing your manuscript, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Perfect your work. Research out a few solid agents that will work FOR YOU, submit per their exact submission guidelines, and see what they say. If they all pass b/c they say your manuscript isn’t ready, well, you know what your next steps will be.
If they like it, well, wasn’t all that work worth it?
Write on!

Shopping at IKEA

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I dreamt that I was in IKEA, looking for a replacement piece for something from my kid’s room. I look all over the warehouse, up and down every aisle. You know how big that place is! Had people helping, looking part numbers up on the computer, nothing. Two hours. I’m out of options, on the ground floor near the register, when I decide to look a little closer, turn it upside down…and… It’s a Lego piece.

Isn’t that how writing is sometimes? You exhaust every option trying to figure out a story arc or plot point or character tic, get nowhere, only to one day–usually in the middle of the night when you have no pen and paper nearby–look at it from a different angle, and realize all this time you’ve been shopping at IKEA for a Lego piece.

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Sometimes the hardest thing to do is STEP AWAY. We think we need to WORK THRU IT. We can do this. MARCH ON. We got this. MAKE IT WORK, DANG IT. We won’t be defeated!

And yet, by powering on, we might be getting in our own way. We are so focused on fixing the problem–the FIX–that we aren’t examining THE PROBLEM. We aren’t holding it in our hands, placing it up to the light, looking at it from different angles. If our eyes are only set on the finish line, we can’t see the road we’re on, or we forget WHY we’re on the road in the first place. And we’ll stumble and fall and make all kinds of messes, not to mention waste all that time (ours as well as other people’s).

So how about this: the next time you’re struggling with something, set it down. Don’t think about it.

Go for a walk. Nietzsche said “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” A Stanford University study confirmed it. Walking boosts the creative formation of ideas, both in real time and shortly after (“Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking” by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz, American Psychological Association, 2014). Neuroscientists say exercise, even mild forms like a walk around the block, releases dopamine, which helps us feel relaxed and all around in a better mood. That makes the chances of having great ideas more likely. Ditto for taking a shower, hopping on a bike, or going for a drive.

Work on something else. Set your work down for a while. Literally place it in a file and don’t plan to look at it for two months. OK, fine, six weeks. What’s the rush? Ben Baldwin, who created a company that helps predict who will succeed at which job and why, points to the benefits of freeing your mind for a bit. “The subconscious mind runs in the background, silently affecting the outcome of many thoughts. So, take a break and smell the flowers, because while you’re out doing that, your mind may very well solve the problem that you are trying to solve or spark a solution to a problem you hadn’t considered before,” he said in a WSJ article packed with advice from entrepreneurs about creating ideas.

Force connections. Just for fun, force your main character to do something, well, out of character. Place them in a situation they shouldn’t be in, in a predicament they would hate, or trapped in a room with the person they dislike the most. Writer’s Digest suggests “forcing your character into a corner,” among other creative tips. See what happens. You don’t have to keep the scene, but you may find a side of the character you didn’t notice before. Maybe there is a descriptive part of the location–a balcony or city–that you can keep and use elsewhere. Even if you use none of it, you’ve forced your own creative brain out of its comfort zone. Odds are, your brain needed that push!

The point is, when faced with a challenge, the answer isn’t always to power through. Sometime it’s better to let go, just for a little while, to get a better look at the situation. Maybe you’ve been barking up the wrong tree.

Don’t waste your time at IKEA when what you really need is a Lego piece.

What Other Great Writers Said About Writing

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Authors Debbie Ridpath Ohi (also an illustrator!), Bitsy Kemper, Ellen Hopkins, Marcie Colleen taking a conference break

Why reinvent the wheel, right? There are so many great writers with so many great thoughts on writing, that I thought I’d share some of the highlights from what they told me or what I overheard heard [read: eavesdropping] at the SCBWI conference last month in L.A.

I admit the haunted hotel creeped me out to the point I didn’t sleep for five days so some of my notes may be totally made up, I’m not 100% sure. But they’re mostly accurate.

 

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Drew Daywalt, @DrewDaywalt, author of the wonderful and incredibly creative picture book  The Day the Crayons Quit, and follow on book The Day the Crayons Came Home, said he worked in Hollywood, where it was cruel and knocked him down, and when he started working in the children’s book industry it was like “a million little hands picked him up.” [We’re like that, right? Such a wonderful tribe!] He shared how writing is so personal, that when you write something and hand it to someone to read, it’s like you’re standing there buck naked saying, “You like it?” But he challenged us to write anyway and not hold back.

The crazier they tell you you are, the more you know you are on the right track.”

-Drew Daywalt, author

and

To find your voice, find out who you are, and were.”

-Drew Daywalt, author

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Pam Munoz Ryan, author of picture books, chapter books, middle grade and YA novels but mostly known for her award-winning Esperanza Rising, talked about the importance of persistence, but not necessarily writing every day, if that doesn’t work for you. She herself needs breathing room and doesn’t like to force creativity. She published her first picture book at age 43! With over 40 books to her name now, including NYT best sellers and many award winners like a 2016 Newberry, she can take all the breathing room she needs. She just wishes writers would ask her about failures as often as they ask her how to get an agent. She points out success comes with all kinds of lessons learned.

Momentum is far more important than inspiration.”

-Pam Munoz Ryan, author

Continue reading

Conference Tips for Writers

 

Headed to a big conference? Wondering how to make the most of it? You’ve already figured out it’s worth going, otherwise you’d be at home in your pajamas saving all that money you’re about to drop. Plan ahead to maximize your precious time.

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Conference tips:

  1. Have an overall goal in mind. This might change for every conference. It could be to find an agent or simply break out of your comfort zone. But make it a little more specific. What exactly are you looking for in an agent? Figure that out before you go so you know what to look for, and what to avoid. If you want to break out of your comfort zone, list out three things-like initiate a conversation with two strangers, attend that awards banquet by yourself, refuse to sit in your room doing email every night. Center all your time/schedule decisions around that goal.
  2. Get ready to smile and say hey. I hate the slimy connotations of the word networking, but conferences are really about the people. Otherwise you’d stay at home. Don’t just focus on what the workshop topics are, look at who’s teaching them. Read their bios. When else will you have the chance to meet these people, and see what they’re really like? You can take just about any class online these days, but meeting someone in person? That’s why you’re there.
  3. Have your “elevator pitch” ready! You’ll be using it throughout the conference, that is, if you’re taking the conference seriously and are out there meeting people. (Here’s a good primer to get yours shiny.)
  4. Pack with a theme in mind. Not as in 1800s or hippy, but something that is consistent. It not only helps make packing easier, but makes it much easier for people to find and remember you every day, as well as afterwards. “I’m the one in polka dots” or “I was the one with pink striped hair.” You won’t be in the same thing everyday but people will start to figure out who you are by how you dress.
  5. Get your class act together. Speaking of clothes…at writer’s conferences you don’t have to dress to impress, but c’mon, this isn’t your mom’s basement. Make an effort. Dress like you’re going out to eat, not like you just woke up. But skip the heels, ladies, that’s one fashion item that’s just silly at a conference.
  6. A simple trick: stick business cards (people still use them!) in your badge holder, so they’re handy. Make sure your website and whatever social media handles/hashtags you use are included–if not, write them in with pen.
  7. You never know who you’ll be sitting next to so be nice to everyone you meet. Author and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi has some great conference tips including “make the first move” – suck it up and introduce yourself around! Remember the part abut people being the reason you’re there? [See more of Debbie’s advice, including charming comics about being an introvert at a conference, at her website here.] Since most of us will be attending the conference alone (even if we traveled with a friend), it can get nerve racking. Wracking even.  Take some “survive attending a conference alone” tips from themuse.com here.
  8. Be open to learning. If you’ve attended a hundred conferences before and find yourself saying “I already know this” at every session/workshop, then you’re preventing yourself from learning anything new. I mean, if you already know everything, why are you there?
  9. Prepare ahead of time. Review the schedule. Know the keynotes. Plan your day. Choose your workshops so it’s not a last-minute choice made in haste. If you’re a true beginner and are looking for basic tips on writing your first children’s book so you don’t feel out of place at your first conference with all those other writers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you towards a video I made for the beginning picture book writer.  It’s fun. Really. https://bitsykemper.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/179/

Now lotion up those hands (you don’t want to be remembered as the hand shaker with the rough skin) and get ready to smile. You’re going to have a great time!

Author Platform: Maximizing Social Media

Social Media

slick image from jsums.edu

Last post we defined Author Platforms. So tell me, what is an Author Platform, do you remember? It’s how you show your unique qualities that “brand” you as a writer or artist…with the ultimate goal of leading to book sales. It’s a long term goal, not a RIGHT NOW CLICK HERE goal. No one likes the CLICK HERE RIGHT NOW guy, amiright?

Social media is one of the main ways you create your brand. Since most of your readers will never meet you in person, it’s how most of your readers get to know you. This post is gonna look at ways to maximize social media so you can give yourself the best platform. We’ll talk through some real examples, screenshotted below.

If you need to take a step back and get a basic primer on Twitter, check out https://bitsykemper.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/twitter-101-the-basics-for-writers/

General social media tips to support your Author Platform:

  1. Be you, all the time.
  2. Have fun! Every tweet/post doesn’t have to have something to do with writing or illustrating, but each one should still reflect who you are and what you stand for. Remember the part about the real you needing to shine through?
  3. Sorry to say this, but people are people. And by that, I mean selfish. I’m not judging. It’s fact. We are always asking ourselves WIIFM? As in, What’s In It For Me? No one has time, and we make decisions in a snap. You need to do whatever you can to convince me, quickly, that what you have to say will benefit me. And then come through. So don’t just tell me your book trailer is finished and give me a link. Tell me what the trailer is about, what I’ll see, why it’s worth watching. I need to know WIIFM or I’m not going to click. Even if I like you. I just don’t have time.
  4. Other people are selfish–but you need to be giving. Stop talking about how great your product is. Let us figure that out on our own. Your book really should be able to speak for itself…or at least let others do the talking. A tweet like”Another great review, my work is profiled yet again! Click to see the latest url.2937y5/iji…” gives me no incentive to click. It’s blatant bragging. But what about “What an honor to be included in this roundup, check out the other Best 2016 Reads by Buzzfeed at url.8724r34r/…” or “Thanks for the kind review, Donna, it was nice being your guest blogger this month. I bet no one can guess how many puppies were harmed in the making of that video! [link to Donna’s website].” Do you see the difference? One is “Look at me!!” Another–the preferred method–is “There’s something in this for you, have a look.” You want to be of service. Your book or link or review just happens to be one way to help. [See #6, below.] Continue reading

Creating an Author Platform

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Quick quiz: You’re told you need to work on your “Author Platform.” You:

  1. Smile politely, then go back to searching online for cute cat outfits
  2. Nod, smile, then furiously Google “Writers’ d” hoping you’re not the last to know what the heck that is
  3. Think “Oh, yeah it really is time I update my Facebook, Twitter, blog and website,” then dig right in
  4. B or C but definitely not A (unless it was a really good sale)

Correct answer: D.

What is an Author Platform? And why do you need to care?

Let’s break it down. Author. Platform. It’s like a compound word. (Author Platforms or Writer Platforms, no matter what you call it, are the same thing, don’t get hung up on author vs writer. For the sake of ease, we’ll use the terms synonymously here. I’m also capitalizing the words here for effect, which is unnecessary elsewhere.) A writer or an author is someone who has written something. A platform is a raised surface, something you’d stand on for better visibility. Like a stage. Put the words together and you’ve got an image of a writer standing on a, well, platform, a little taller than everyone around them. They stand out; you can spot them in a crowd.

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That’s the writer you want to be.

You want to be the writer/author that people can find easily or can recognize…the one that stands out. And you’ll need a platform on order to do it.

“Author Platform: your visibility as an author, utilizing your personal ability to sell books through who you are, the connections you have, and the media outlets you use.” –Writer’s Digest

I think of the term as a less-commercial way of saying “author branding.” It means how you present yourself to the public, and how you are seen/viewed by readers, agents, editors, fellow writers/artists and anyone else paying attention. It’s a way of showing your unique qualities that “brand” you as a person, as a writer, or artist…with the ultimate goal of leading to book sales.

Don’t confuse it with image. Image implies something perceived. You’ll be putting the real, flawed you out there, just like you do for your main characters. An Author Platform should be based on truth. You’re not an actor hiring a publicity agent to get media attention. You’re you, showing who you are, with the ultimate goal that the likeable you is worthy of following or noting or reading or acknowledging, and it will at some point lead to book sales. Isn’t that why school visits, book signings, special promotions, launch parties and all that exist, to sell books? Well you’re the in-person version of that, the walking billboard, the neon sign, open 24/7. Except when you’re asleep. Or whatever. You know what I mean.

You are NOT shaking hands and asking people to buy your book all th
e time, oh no, you’re missing the point. No one is going to follow or buy the book from a guy that’s sending pestering Tweets or spamming Facebook posts or always standing up in groups asking people to buy their books after the meeting. Boy is that annoying or what? I hate that guy. What I’m saying is you are your brand. You represent you. So be respectable. Make me like you. Make me WANT to buy your book. If you do it right, you will probably never have to say the words “Buy my book.” I’ll decide I want to on my own.

 

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Note this is a Writer Platform, not a book platform. This is about you, not your book. Why?
Because you’re more than one book. If you brand yourself too closely with one title, on the next book you’ll have to do it all over again. That confuses people. They can handle lots of books, but they only want one you. Brand yourself correctly and all your books will easily fall under that one umbrella…you!

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Everything you post online becomes a part of your brand. Your Tweets, your FB posts, your blog updates. Your forwards, your shares, your likes. It all shapes the person people see. Those who have never met you can only form an opinion based on what they see. And that’s based on what you do. How you reply to comments. What you post or repost. It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Continue reading