Platform Means Everything to a Novice Author


There may one day be a time when paper books are iconic remnants of a tree-cutting past. But that time is still far away. Trade publishers will use their professional editors to make your book better. They will hire graphic designers to make your book more attractive and appealing. And they will handle e-book sales as well. So, why would you not want to share the profits with a publisher? Read on…

Traditional publishers will make sure that your print books are sold (and are returnable) by bookstores, where more than half of all books are still sold – and where SP books rarely exist. This constitutes a huge and very valuable market for any author.

Being trade-published is not a decision. It is the result of talent, of books that appeal to large segments of the reading public, a compelling author platform and often a plucky and well-connected literary agent. An author with the determination to contact hundreds of small and medium-sized publishers is also a critical part of the equation. Your platform will sell your talent. And your talent will enhance your platform. All of this takes time and effort. In today’s culture of instant gratification, the process of gradually building a solid author platform seems archaic. Nevertheless, it is a road that we all must travel.

Like a job seeker uses a resume to obtain an employer interview, novice authors use their platform to gain a trade publisher. Major publishing houses are not interested in SP books, unless they come from a famous author or a celebrity. But if a trade publisher decides to publish your book, you are in like Flint. That’s right. Once you have a major publisher working to sell your book, you can use the added free time to write more books and become even more attractive to publishers or to promote your book much farther and deeper than you had imagined possible..

Google your name. If many pages (not items, but pages of items) appear with positive references about your talent as an author, then you have a solid author platform. But if only a few items appear, you’ll need to enhance your platform before you can entice a major publisher or a well-connected literary agent.

How do you enhance your platform? Keep writing. Read voraciously. Read the very best authors. The more books that you read from the greatest literary authors, the more you’ll begin to borrow their best techniques. Simultaneously, do everything possible to sell your books, to obtain positive reviews from the most credible sources and to get interviewed by the best Internet, blog, radio and TV personalities. Seek appearances as a guest on a major blog. Request interviews from the most famous Internet personalities. Appear on a radio or a regional TV program. Do some public speaking about your book. Consider book tours and signings. All of this will enhance your author platform. After considerable effort, something vastly different will appear when you Google your name. You will have become a popular author.

While SP authors spend most of their time on marketing, promotion, sales and stocking, the TP author spends much of that time writing their next books. It’s true that all authors must market. But the TP author has a professional team marketing for them, giving them more time for writing instead of promotion. But the SP author must devote virtually all free time to new marketing efforts, reducing the time and resources available for writing new books.

This process can take years, although it’s easier if you have a well-connected literary agent. But… it is possible. This is the game. Learn to play by the rules.

If you decide to SP an e-book, take a long look at Smashwords. They are a distributor and a sales platform. They sell on their own web site, but their real power lies in vast distribution networks. When you use Smashwords (which is FREE), they will distribute your book to every major retailer, including Apple (iTunes), Amazon, Baker & Taylor, B&N, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and Scrollmotion. This constitutes the bulk of the world’s e-book retailers. And if you join Smashwords with a premium membership, they will format all of your books for every type of e-reader, tablet, smart phone and computer.

My experience teaches me that building a considerable author platform will, over time, lead to interest from agents and publishers. And while it may seem easy and attractive to SP, there are compelling reasons to TP. Keep in mind that we live in a time where only a few terrific SP books exist, surrounded by a massive widespread morass of SP crap. You can elevate yourself above the crap by creating a viable and powerful author platform. Should you take the time and effort to accomplish this, the literary work will become yours.

You can continue to SP and spend all of your time working on marketing and promotion. Or you can fabricate a compelling author platform, attract literary agents and become a famous TP author. Instead of using your time to promote and market, you may then use the extra time to write new books and further enhance your platform. After several successful books, you will no longer need to play the author game. You will have won.

8 Unexpected Lessons From Working with a Literary Agent by Brian Klems


With self-publishing becoming more widely accepted and Amazon waging wars with publishers, more and more I get the sense from aspiring authors that they don’t think landing an agent means as much as it used to.

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Writers’ Digest Guest post by Bethany Neal, who writes young-adult novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. She graduated from Bowling Green State University and is obsessed with (but not limited to): nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, pickles, and dessert.

“My Last Kiss” is her first novel. You can connect with her online at http://www.bethanyneal.com.
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They believe “traditional” publishing is going the way of VCRs and none of the old rites of passage apply anymore. That’s fine if you think that, but, in my experience, it simply isn’t true.

I signed on with my agent, Stacey Glick of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, in September of 2010 for my first (unpublished) young adult, suspense novel and it has solidified some valuable lessons.

Guest post by Bethany Neal, who writes young-adult novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. She graduated from Bowling Green State University and is obsessed with (but not limited to): nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, pickles, and dessert.

My Last Kiss is her first novel. You can connect with her online at http://www.bethanyneal.com.
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    Searching for an Agent

The beginning of this journey started with little more than a polished draft of my manuscript. I started simply by researching agents through Literary Marketplace, which is a massive tome that sits behind the reference counter at most public libraries.

Some of this research was review because I had previously queried a paranormal YA trilogy that ended in 32 rejections.

Having revived my search, I made a shortlist of reputable agencies looking for YA. I browsed their sites and found agents within each agency looking for my specific flavor of YA. I write a little on the dark side—somebody is almost always dead—and I write a lot of kissing. Not everyone wants to represent that, and that’s fine.

I think the most important part in the agent search is reading every agent’s bio and only querying those you feel a connection with and who are interested in not just your genre but also your style. My agent, for instance, at the time was looking for darker YA projects with a strong voice. That’s my writing in a nutshell.

Landing an Agent

I had two full manuscripts and one partial out with various interested agents when I got the email.

The email that said Stacey read my manuscript and wanted to set up a time to discuss it. I’d been rejected by 14 other agents already, so I wasn’t even sure what that meant. Then I got the call.

Thus began a string of very important lessons for my writing career.

1. Look before you leap.

My agent told me what she liked about my writing and the story and answered every single one of my questions.

I was so out of my mind excited that she wanted to represent me. So I told her I didn’t need to wait to hear back from the other two agents interested and I wanted—needed her as my agent.

This is my one regret in my agent search. I should have given myself a day to regain sanity and speak with the other two agents. I don’t regret signing with my agent because she’s been an enormous support throughout the years, but it’s something I know I should’ve done for peace of mind.

Take that day to pause before you jump on the first agent who smiles at your manuscript.

2. Prepare to move.

Almost immediately, my agent was requesting more information.

Stacey asked me to send her an author bio and a synopsis for the other novel I’d written, then emailed me an agency agreement that stated DGLM exclusively had the right to sell my novel for one year.

Right out of the gate there were deadlines. This one at least was a soft deadline, but it stoked a sense of urgency.

We went back and forth on revisions for a few months and ended up pushing back the submittal date so she could feature my novel in DGLM’s Upcoming Projects newsletter to generate interest with editors.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

3. Anticipate nice, bad news.

After about a month being out on submittal, she sent me an email chocked full of the most positive, helpful, optimistic rejections I’ve ever gotten in my life. It was the best of a worst-case scenario I could have hope for.

I made revisions based on feedback and we made a round two submittal, but the basic consensus was to move on.

Luckily, I’d been writing away during all this waiting and close to finishing a draft of my new project that editors were eager to read because they remembered liking my first novel. That new project is titled MY LAST KISS and was published by FSG/Macmillan on June 10, 2014.

I didn’t expect to feel encouraged by rejections, but aligning with an agent allowed me to receive bad news in a way that turned out positive.

4. You’ll idolize your agent a bit.

It’s strange waiting with bated breath for someone’s email while also kind of loving and worshipping them even though you’ve never physically met them. I don’t think I could ever do online dating because it was weird. I’ve since met (and loved even more) Stacey in person.

I wasn’t anticipating, though, how many emotions I would wrap up in whether or not I heard from her.

5. You will hurry up and wait.

There is a lot going on, but the process from signing with an agent to publishing is a pretty drawn out experience.

I had no idea how long every step would take. It took us five months to get my first novel revised and ready to get out on submittal. It took another couple months worth of waiting to hear back from editors. And there’s more waiting once you get published. You can make good use of the time spent waiting though. For me it became an opportunity for uninterrupted writing time, which is invaluable.

[Learn important writing lessons from these first-time novelists.]

6. Expectations will drive you mad.

The biggest, dirtiest little secret about getting an agent (and being published) that no one tells you: Expectations, albeit mostly self-imposed, will drive you mad.

You start worrying about what will sell. Don’t. It will lead you down a dark, dark path—like Van Gogh, cut-your-ear-off dark.

Do yourself a favor and don’t go there because it’s extremely difficult to climb out of that pit of author-ly sorrow. You can’t predict the market and what will or won’t sell. The sooner you accept that, the saner you will be.

7. Agents breathe fresh life into your work.

An incredibly positive, unexpected bonus to finding my agent is how insightful and willing she is to collaborate on revisions.

Stacey will send me an email with literally one sentence asking something about my manuscript and it will enlighten me to the exact issue I’d been trying to fix for eight months. Having access to an expert with a keen eye is invaluable.

8. An agent is a partner in your journey.

On the warm and fuzzy side, how much she believes in me and my writing is something I couldn’t have anticipated.

Being an author still feels like this soap bubble that might burst at any moment. Even after having my first novel published, that insecurity hasn’t gone away. If I didn’t have my agent to give me pep talks and reassure me of my talent when the chips are down, I don’t know where I’d be.

Being a writer is hard work. Getting published is even harder work. Having an agent can give you a much needed hand. Just know that there are some surprising twists and turns along the way.

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Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

5 Things Writers Should Ask Potential Agents by Brian Klems


An agent has offered me representation, but I don’t know how to tell if she’s right for me. What are the most important questions a writer should ask an agent before signing? —Anonymous

There are hundreds of questions you could ask an agent, from the sensible “What attracted you to my book?” to the slightly less sensible “When will you net me my first million?” The key is to choose the ones that will get you the most important information you need to make an informed decision.

Here’s a list of the five most crucial questions you should ask any agent before agreeing to join her client list.

1. Why do you want to represent me and my work?

The agent should be able to answer this easily. Agents generally take on projects that they not only think will sell well, but that they personally admire. This question gives the agent an opportunity to express her interest to you.

[Want to land an agent? Here are 4 things to consider when researching literary agents.]

2. How did you become an agent/get your start in publishing?

You want an agent who has a history in publishing, whether as a junior associate at a well-known agency or perhaps as an editor with a small imprint. You need to be assured that the agent knows the business and has the contacts necessary to give your book its best shot. You might also want to ask if the agent could refer you to one of her clients in your genre as well; getting the perspective of a writer who is in the role you’re about to step into can be invaluable.

3. What editors do you have in mind for my book? Have you sold to them before? Will you continue to market to other editors if you can’t make a deal with your first choices?

This is more of a three-part question, but it’s the overall answer that you want. By asking these questions, you’re checking to see if this agent has connections, and you’re also clarifying her overall game plan. This is key. You want to make sure your expectations are aligned.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

4. What books have you sold recently?

This indicates whether the agent has a track record of selling books in your category or genre.

5. Why should I sign with you?

You’re about to enter into a partnership that neither party should take lightly. This is an opportunity for the agent to pitch you, just as you’ve pitched her, and convince you that she’s the right person to represent your work.

You’ll have additional questions more specific to your work, so don’t hesitate to ask them. They’ll simply show the agent that you’re savvy about your book’s target market. Agents are used to these inquiries, so they are unlikely to be surprised by any questions you may have. And if an agent refuses to answer anything on the list above, that should be a red flag that something is amiss.