Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Get Known before the Book Deal by Christina Katz

Christina Katz is the well-known author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, a book that has been the inspiration for many writers. It is primarily for those new to the craft and attempting to publish in magazines. The book is broken down into manageable chapters such as Tackle the Clips-Catch 22 or Draft Your Query. Each chapter includes tips, examples, and exercises to get you on your way to publishing an article. She does a really nice job of breaking down and explaining the different types of articles, including writing tips, list articles, fillers, and how-to articles along with personal essays and feature-type articles that require a query.

Katz’s latest book is Get Known Before the Book Deal and she graciously agreed to share some questions and answers about her latest book here.

What is a platform, and why is it so important for unpublished writers to have one?

A platform is a promise, which says you will not only create something to sell (a book), but also promote it to the specific readers who will want to purchase it. Your platform communicates your expertise to others and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. A platform isn’t what you once did. It’s what you currently do. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform. A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence.

Why is it so important to publishers that writers have a platform?

One writer can have a great book idea at the perfect time and be the absolute best person to write that book and still not land the deal if he or she doesn’t have the platform that is going to fulfill the promise to sell the book. Agents and editors have known this for years and look for platform-strong writers and get them book deals. If you want to land the book deal, today, then you need to become a platform-strong writer. You need to stand out in the crowd by the time you are ready to pitch your book.

Why did you write Get Known Before the Book Deal? What was the intention behind the book?

Most of the other self-promotion books for writers pick up with the book deal. No other book dials self-promotion all the way back to how to get started. My intention for Get Known was that it would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference. It should increase any writer’s chances of writing a saleable proposal and landing a book deal whether they pitch the book in-person or by query.

As I was writing the book, I saw how this type of information was often being offered as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can ask your library to order it and read it for free. Get Known outlines the complete platform basics step-by-step.

Can you give three specific tips to help writers launch their platform?

Sure. Here’s my top three…

1. Clarify the expertise you have to offer. If you don’t know what your expertise is, then mulling it over could take some time. And that’s okay. Consult experts you respect. Do some self-reflection. Get out and connect with others like you through associations or conferences. Write some articles on things you know how to do. Don’t be afraid to take time for platform development before you start spending a lot of time online…especially if you already are online but are not getting any closer to accomplishing your professional writing goals. When it comes to clarifying your expertise, taking a step back and looking within is a good strategy.

2. Carve out a distinct niche among others who are offering similar expertise. How are you different? Inquiring minds want to know. You’ll have to communicate who you are and what you do quickly. Attention spans are getting shorter, so writing down what you do concisely is critical. Platform isn’t the credentials or your resume; it’s what you currently do. It’s current, constantly evolving, and updated on an ongoing basis. A blog is a good example of a place where a writer can authentically share what she is learning to assist others. Any niche should always be a win-win proposition like this. But again, give your topic some forethought. Realize that a hundred people might already be blogging on the same topic.

3. Identify and respond to your audience. If you are vague about your audience, the whole writing process takes longer and typically requires more rewriting. This applies to books, blogs and everything else. But when you identify your specific audience and begin speaking to them directly, the conversation can spark all kinds of wonderful ideas, connections and opportunities. Small concrete steps build over time and create career momentum.

When you're done platform building, how do you find time to write?

My career goes in cycles. I have periods that focus on writing followed by periods that focus on self-promotion. I’m in a promo cycle right now and it’s fun! I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. And I’m still writing plenty. I have noticed that these supposed “non-writing times” often yield the next book idea, which has been the case again this time. I can’t wait to pitch it.

If a writer starts today and allows platform development to be an integrated aspect of her writing career, I’m sure she will find that the two efforts—writing and self-promotion—feed each other and help her career to grow naturally and authentically. And what writer wouldn’t want that?

You can learn more about Christina Katz and her offerings at And, I have a copy of Writer Mama to give away. Just comment and let me know how you would benefit from the book.


Melissa said...

Sounds like a great book! I think it would help me focus a bit more, get a bit more organized and take this whole writing thing a bit more seriously!

Cheryl M. said...

Alright Melissa, it's yours!