Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let's Get Platforming!

Ok, writers, here's the deal...I had a blog nearly finished with some good platforming building tips...but my home office has suddenly become home to someone who prefers the night shift. A BAT of all things! I could handle a confused bird, but a bat?! How does that even happen? Well, it's late, the Mr. is in bed, there's no way I'll let my tween boys go near the thing...there's no way I'M going near it...I'm lucky to have made it out alive! So there it flutters around, poor thing...and there my computer sits with my original blog copy...

Fortunately, I have other options for getting this post out. I won't have the opportunity to use my original piece, because I did say I'd get this to you mid-week and I'm keeping my word. Plus, I'll be tied up tomorrow. So I changed my course and took a look at a book by Christina Katz who piped in kindly on this week's blog on Creative Platforming with Publisher Glenn Yeffeth. Katz's book, Get Known Before The Book Deal is probably one of the most comprehensive, meaty books on the subject of building your author platform. Katz, author of Writer Mama and founder of the e-course, Platform Building Basics for Writers, writes regularly on the subject for The Willamette Writer. Check out her book! Lots of great endorsements and pubbed by a venerable press. Just so we're clear, Ms. Katz is not a part of this blogshop - I just found her, but would love to have her on. I'm not highlighting copy from her book, although you'll find similar messages, I'm sure. I just wanted to take the opportunity to direct you to a great resource on platforming I just found.

Let's get to it. As I wrote in Creative Platforming, a platform is the means by which you communicate your overall's kind of who you are. For example, I'm a hybrid of publishing consultant and writing coach. My blog is the way I communicate my core coaching message to the public...hello all you writers over there in Germany and The Philippines! My Lit Coach practice is my profession. I live what I blog and inspire others toward more productive, successful and ultimately fulfilling writer's lives. Nearly ten years prior, I was a literary agent. I couldn't have moved into my Lit Coach role without first being an agent very familiar with the ins and outs of the publishing world and how writers live. This is my platform.

But what if you're starting out from scratch? It took me nearly 10 years of nitty gritty experience, research and blisters (Los Angelians don't do well without their flip flops in New York) to build my platform. So the first rule is, be prepared to put some major hours not to mention years into building your platform. When I was an agent, I was frequently approached by writers who had a great proposal for a nonfiction book with equally wonderful sample chapters, but nobody, not even their neighbor, knew they were THE EXPERT in fly fishing, let's say. Sure, the passion was there, the craft was there, but the author's visibility in the fly fishing community was not. Overall, what this writer needs to do is establish herself as a fly fishing expert. Here's how...

Start Local and Get Noticed!

I think it's safe to say nearly everyone would love to make a career out of what they love doing...and many want to write all about it with speaking opportunities to boot. Put on your volunteer fishing caps, writers, and share the love! What's interesting about the thing you want to build your platform around? How can you share your expertise with the people in your town/city for their benefit? Get ready to volunteer your craft on a regular basis until the locals start to know you as The Fly Fishing Girl or The French Pastry Guy. Reach out to your local area papers and start getting coverage. Let them know what you do, how you're educating the community and why that should matter to them. Editors need specifics - be specific.

Go National!

Now that you're close and personal with the locals, head to your local bookseller or newsstand. Seek out magazines, journals and newspapers that you'd most likely find articles centered around your gig. Invest in the reading that's most closely related to what you do. Pay close attention to the overall voice of the publication and especially, the articles you read. What sounds like you? This is key. Use your original voice, not something you feel could be published in The New Yorker or conversely, People Magazine. Editors from these magazines know a faux voice like Anna Wintour knows Chanel, l'originale. For more tips on this, read Creating Your Original Voice with Marcela Landres.

Once you're clear on which publications are distinctly you, start crafting pitches. There are loads of resources out there online and in bookstores with how to pitch to magazines, newspapers and journals. Start researching and start asking questions. Know any freelance writers, any journalists, editors? Ask them if they would mind sharing the magic formula for making a successful pitch. Most are happy to share a few tips.

Go The Distance!

Once you find the formula, keep pitching. Don't let a few NOs stand in your way; push the negativity to the side and move on to the next one. As a writer, you're going to hear NO a lot. The reality is, editors are bombarded with pitches and slush material, not to mention the day to day of their job. They're looking for a reason to turn you down - but it's nothing personal! Really. Show them the good manners you were raised with and give them a kind thank you for considering my work. Editors (and agents) remember the less than polite writers - you don't want to burn your bridges; your piece may not be right for them now, but that doesn't mean you can't pitch to them again on another piece, right?

But let's not forget about your successes! Soon, you'll have a few published articles under your belt - yea! Don't stop there! Keep going! Running a mile doesn't make you a distance runner. Keep crafting, keep connecting and keep pitching. Keep careful records and files of all your published work so you can easily pull together this impressive info for your nonfiction book proposal an agent will be sure to love.

You gotta start somewhere and sometime. How will you do it?

Have platform tips to share? Success stories? I want to hear about it. Share them with the group.

Aha! The Mr. came down for a drink of water. Who wants to play Wild Kingdom?

Have a great week, writers!


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