Viewing entries tagged
author platform

Write to Your Strength: An Editor's Rant with 6 Tips at the End


Write to Your Strength: An Editor's Rant with 6 Tips at the End

You have it going on over here: platform, credentials, consumer interest, consumer demand, passion, knowledge, and credibility. But you insist on writing over here in the land where nobody cares, where they have "been there done that" so many times that the books on that subject are on sale at Dollar Tree, where if this lukewarm topic of a book is somehow published the market will spew it out of its mouth, where if one more sentence is read someone is going to jump...



The New Author Platform Is About Building Community

Like everything else in the book business these days, things have changed and all bets are off.
Alan Rinzler

Every so often on my blog, I capture a bit of data about the publishing industry from secondary sources for my archives. I do this to mark things about publishing that feed my passion for the work I do, give me rare perspective or insight, highlight a significant paradigm shift, help me view the industry through someone else's eyes, or allow me to further support the authors I work with every day.

Today, I share (and archive) the following:

Veteran editor Alan Rinzler blogged about how publishing's view of author platform has changed—past tense. So if you're still operating and thinking in terms of the old model, it's time to upgrade.

The main difference between the old model platform and the new model, Alan says, is that the new author platform now focuses on "developing an unobstructed back and forth between authors and their readers, with the authors—not the publishers—controlling the flow....It's the author, not a publicist, who inspires readers to buy the book."

The new author platform is about the author personally building a community or a tribe around their books—loyal followers, raving fans, engaged evangelists. The middle man (publishers) can't create this kind of synergy on it's own on behalf of the author anymore. Technology and social media have ruined that concept—and I love that they have.

Alan says that an author who masters the following four traits can expect to be successful:

1. Personality

2. Authenticity

3. Expertise

4. Subtlety

He goes into much more detail about all four of these and even provides examples of books and authors who have effectively used them. I urge you to read and bookmark his post for your personal and professional benefit.

Studying these attributes and implementing them in your publishing strategy will keep you ahead of the game. Seeing something behaving in a way you aspire to behave, causes you to take on a portion of that behavior.

"By beholding, you become changed."

I encourage you to get into community with some authors who are doing it right. Follow their blogs, subscribe to their RSS feeds, visit their websites. Take on one new trait or best practice at a time, mastering it before moving to the next. You won't be left behind.

What new methods have you had to adapt to regarding your author platform that have shown positive results?



What the Marketing Behind JayZ's Decoded Teaches Me About Author Platform

I am a fan of hip-hop. I am influenced by hip-hop. I could totally be Sanaa Lathan in Brown Sugar. I grew up during the time when people were saying it was a fad and wouldn’t last. I recall the East Coast vs. West Coast beef. The battles. The violence. The utter shock, genius, and necessity of it all.

I wouldn’t be categorized as a hip-hop head anymore, probably because my tolerance for shock value, language, and violence has changed tremendously since my teens and twenties. Not to mention my spirituality. But I respect it as a music genre, and you will still find some of my favorite hip-hop artists on my iPod.

My point is not to argue for or against the goodness, artistry, or cultural implications of hip-hop, but to simply make a case for why it is still the top responsibility for authors to build platforms for their book projects, second only to writing an incredible manuscript.

I bring JayZ into this scenario not to make any writers irritated by his apparent global celebrity, but to point out the simple fact that even he with his insane iconic image still has to build a literary platform around his new book, Decoded.

Yes, it would seem that he could tell a million people, “Jump,” and that every one of them would ask in unison, “How high, JayZ?” But it can all change when it comes to them flocking to read a book by someone who is in an entirely different industry that is not known in the mainstream for being especially bookish.

His very actions this week prove the validity of my statements. JayZ has sought an intellectual posse and marketing strategy to wrap himself in to be positioned as a worthy member among bibliophiles. This is very smart, and I have loved following it.

He is shifting his platform so that his book will sell. So now he’s saying, “I’m not only rapper, mogul, and CEO but also thinker/writer. Here’s why you need to hear from me in this way.”

Not only did he set a new standard for engaging in social media with his websites and partnership with the search engine Bing, but he has also been on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, interviewed with Cornel West and Paul Holdengräber live from the New York Public Library, and spoke with the Associated Press about some political matters. I am not a PR person and certainly not on the inside of JayZ’s crew, but I can see his calculated effort to build a literary following.

I can predict that people who don’t necessarily listen to his music will most certainly buy his book because of this genius promotional repositioning plan.

Another thing that strikes me is that he and his team are working hard to keep the “memoir” and “autobiography” categories from pigeonholing his book even more. Personal memoirs, autobiographies, testimonies can be a hard sell, even for famous people.

So if he, with all his fame and fortune, is doing all this strategizing and working very hard to be “seen” in literary circles as an intellectual and creating innovative ways to leverage social media, why would any other author with less fame think that somehow they would not have to work to promote themselves and build an audience for their book? That the publishing company would do this for them? While his access to media and various venues is very different from the average writer, there is no reason to think that it is easy for him or that he just loves to promote himself. It’s his job to make it look that way; he’s a hustler (and I mean literally a hard worker).

What are your thoughts on the rapper-turned-author? (Only nice, objective, and observatory comments allowed, please.)



What Good Are Agents for Indie Authors?

Just the other day, I posted a comparison of what an indie author would need vs. what an indie musician would need to make their project available to a waiting audience. At the top of the list, I had “manager” for the indie musician and “agent” for the indie author. There was one comment from Vanessa O’Loughlin 
of that said:
"Your Key Player list though is pulling on both self-publishing and traditional publishing, which may be confusing for some writers. If you are self-publishing, you don’t need an agent.”
While I had to rethink what I had said and respond to her comment with what I intended to say, I have since mused over what services an agent may indeed be able to provide an indie author.

Vanessa was right in part, but in a #litchat Twitter discussion today, @JulieBritt asked a brilliant question: “What about selling movie, TV, or technology-not-yet-invented rights. How do you do that without an agent?”

One answer, of course, is simply that you can do whatever you need to do to get your book into the venues and formats you desire without having an agent, but do you want to venture into that without a professional guide?

Many writers want to be able to focus on the creative part of their work without having to focus so much on the business aspects. I understand that this is largely impossible these days, but that’s where my Heavy Hitters for Writers list really shows its value. A writer really should find ways to delegate some of the publishing responsibilities to their network. It actually takes a village to raise a good book (or music project). Publishing companies have teams of people on hand to make one book a success. How much more for the indie author?

Who would fill the top slot of managing an indie writer's career if not an agent?

This is how I understand it from a music perspective: I may not ever want a traditional recording deal, but it is wise for me to acquire an industry-savvy manager who can guide me through making the best decisions about performance contracts for live shows, TV appearances, and compilation projects; commercial endorsements or movies; merchandise, image, and branding; and what venues to perform in. And then he'll even be my muscle when it comes time to collect honorariums, royalties, and other fees. So my need for a manager goes beyond me wanting to be represented in front of record labels; he is there to support me in all my music endeavors. Of course, I am taking responsibility to educate myself and obtain the best basic information I can, however, I don't have to do it all myself.

Just the same, agents have a specialized knowledge of the book publishing industry that covers everything from pointing out content issues in a book to protecting intellectual property rights to helping a writer plan a long-term writing career. But, traditionally, agents are there to represent authors who will eventually go the mainstream publishing avenue by selling their manuscripts to publishers.

So here’s my question: as the book publishing landscape continues to evolve and the quality of self-publishing changes connotations and takes on a more credible indie feel, will agents make themselves available to indie authors to help them navigate derivative product and multimedia options for their books? Will it ever be necessary for an author who is indie by choice to acquire the services of an agent?



Who Says You Need a Publisher?

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know. I work for “the man.” But some recent happenings in my life got me thinking…

If in music, unsigned can equal indie, and, in car sales, used is now preowned, then what will happen with the term self-published?

Because of the parallel life that I lead as an “unsigned” recording artist, I often run smack dab into crossover experiences that literary writers have. I think that may also cause me to respond in a more careful way when I review their work as a book editor. I feel blessed being able to see both sides of the journey.

Sometimes I wonder why so many writers appear desperate to be published by a publishing company, when there are just so many other options to getting their message out to the world. Traditional publishing is changing in such a big way these days, and in ways so similar to how the music recording industry changed. From fixed media like tapes and CDs to digital media transferers such as Napster, Rhapsody, iTunes, and MP3s streaming from the artist’s Web sites—from print books to e-books (and just the other day I saw an author offering readers a free read of their book “streaming” on their Web site), how can we except the big frown from “them” about the validity of self-publishing?

Just as consumers think that somehow they are of a special breed when they find a new indie recording artist, readers are going to begin to find it very cool to discover a new “indie” writer. However, quality makes all the difference. Put some money, time, strategy, research, networking, and hard work behind it and who will know the difference between a self-pub and traditionally pubbed book on the shelf or on iBooks?

Come to think of it, that may be why aspiring recording artists and literary writers are looking for record companies or traditional publishers to discover them—they don’t want to put in the work. The irony of it all is that, even if you do land a recording or publishing contract, you will still have to put in the work to build your brand and build a following. The difference in the end is who earns the larger return—you, if you self-pub or go indie; or, the sponsoring company.

Making Your Way
The same way I find myself “making my way in the world today” (I used to love that show Cheers) as a singer is the same way an author can make their way—and it will take everything you’ve got. There are certain positions I need to fill (or have filled) in order to have my music reach the ears of my audience. These are the same people a writer would need to employ in order to have their book reach their intended audience. I think the only drawback to actually being a “self-published” author is the stigma. But what did it look like for unsigned recording artists a decade or more ago when they sold their music out of their car trunks? Not so hot.

But with new technological advances, digital publishing companies, iBooks and Amazon self-pub options, and the services of professional free agents such as editors, designers, Web masters, publicists, and so on, why do you really need a publishing company? You can be “hot” without them, if you work it.

I’ve figured that as a musician, I actually don’t have to sit around and wait for a record company to discover me. If it’s about the money, I’m obviously not very smart because 1) advances are not given out like candy anymore, 2) if I do get an advance everything I earn (royalties) goes first toward paying back my advance, and 3) the work that I slaved over isn’t even mine—EVER! The recording company maintains the ownership and all the rights to the music I create under contract with them. This is somewhat different in book publishing, depending on how you work your contract. Some allow you to have your rights back after so many years.

What You’ll Need
I mentioned a bit earlier that there are some key people I need in my corner to make a successful run at being an indie artist. I want to share those with you, because if you are a writer you may find that these same people could make your dreams come true faster than waiting on an “accept” letter from your dream publisher—and you may already know them.

Key Players for a Musician*
Heavy Hitters for a Writer
Manager (to represent me and help me navigate the music industry)
Literary agent (to represent you and help you navigate the book market)

Booker (for getting me shows, gigs, appearances)

Booker (for speaking events and signings)
Distributor (getting the music out in the desired channels)

Distributor (help for getting your book in stores)
Web designer (artist web page)
Web designer (author web page)

Web master (online store and other Web necessities)
Web master (online store and other Web necessities)

Graphic artist (logos, CD covers, press kit, posters, etc.)
Graphic artist (book cover design, one sheet design, press kit, brochures, business cards)

Publicist (press releases, media contacts, promotion)
Publicist (press releases, media contacts, promotion)


Recording producer (CD concept, song selection, booking musicians and studio time, song design and arrangement)

Book editor (developmental editing/outlining)
Recording engineer (to run recording studio sessions, mixing and mastering for flow and consistency of sound levels within and between songs)

Book editor (substantive, content, line editing, proofreading)
TV/film camera crew (music videos, YouTube videos, footage from live shows, interviews, or other appearances)
TV/film camera crew (book trailers, YouTube videos, promo videos, footage from speaking engagements or appearances)

TV/film editor
TV/film editor



You will also need to begin to use your network to help you connect with book reviewers and bloggers, conference coordinators for speaking engagements, bookstore owners for signings, radio station managers or BlogTalk radio hosts for interviews, and any other venue or resource that could help push your brand. Should you choose to buck the system and go all “indie writer” on us, you will have to do for yourself (with help) what a publisher would normally do for you. Are you up to the challenge? I’m going for it on my end.

I mentioned earlier that the only drawback to being self-published nowadays is the stigma. Is that true? Or do you think something else is involved? Does a writer really need to be published by a traditional publishing house?

What’s a cool new term we can use to change the negative stigma of self-published?

*List “Key Players for a Musician” is adapted from Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan’s The Indie Band Survival Guide (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008), 21.