10 QUESTIONS FOR…author platform guru Christina Katz

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10 Questions for Christina Katz, author platform gurugetknowncover1cmkheadshot08writermamacover

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on “Good Morning America.” Christina teaches e-courses on platform development and writing nonfiction for publication. Her students are published in national magazines and land agents and book deals. Christina has been encouraging reluctant platform builders via her e-zines for five years, has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. A popular speaker at writing conferences, writing programs, libraries, and bookstores, she hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon. She is also the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books).

1. Tell us about your latest book.

Becoming visible is more crucial to landing a book deal than ever, according to agents and editors in every facet of the publishing industry. Simply churning out a book isn’t enough anymore. Aspiring authors need to develop a platform in order to get noticed. Get Known Before the Book Deal empowers writers to take charge of their writing careers and partner with agents, editors and publishers instead of thinking that someone else is going to handle self-promotion for them. Most 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 pitching a book. The strategies in Get Known spark platform development ideas that will 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.

2. How did you get started as a writer?

The usual suspects…like many writers, I love books, words, and listening to stories. I had a romance with books before I was old enough to read romance, which of course I did when I was a teen. I think I just wanted to be able to be that magician…that writer conjuring worlds. When I was about eleven or twelve, I was completely hooked by that feeling of being transported by writing words on the page. Now I know that this is called “the fictional dream.” I always think of that as the beginning.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

On any given day, I am sitting at my kitchen table with my laptop working away. That’s because I’m in what I call “book-promotion mode.” For some reason, I feel more “social” sitting at the kitchen table. When I’m working on a book, I move back into my office, shut the door, and work on my desktop computer only. I start each day after my daughter is off to school, finish each day by dinner, and try not to work on the weekends. I don’t know if I have a typical daily rhythm as much as I have a typical weekly rhythm. On Monday’s I focus on marketing, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I focus on writing, on Wednesdays I teach, and on Fridays I consult and answer e-mail requests. Sometimes I even get to go out for lunch. Of course, traveling messes up my entire schedule and it usually takes me about a week to recover. I am a mom, after all, so home life pretty much revolves around me, and if I’m not here, chaos ensues.

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

Well, the kitchen table is next to sliding glass door with nice light pouring in. But I confess, the table itself is currently littered with stuff and won’t get picked up until dinnertime. (I’m sorry, did you want the truth or the rosy fantasy?) Taking the dogs out will take priority over any chores that need to be done, which can wait until after my daughter gets home from school. My office is actually clean right now but that’s primarily because I’m not in it much right now. On a more playful note, I rearrange and redecorate my office ever year or so. Otherwise, I find my old systems don’t work any more and I feel bored and restless. Someone should tell corporations that it’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to improve morale.

5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

I like my books (wink) but here’s what I typically recommend to beginning nonfiction writers, who are looking to kick off a writing career: The Elements of Style by Strunk & White Ready, Aim, Specialize by Kelly James Enger The Beginning Writer’s Answer Book edited by Jane Friedman

6. Tell us 3 interesting things about you

I was painfully shy as a child. I do just fine now but it takes work. I still get over-stimulated easily especially at a conference or a big event.

I like astrology. I am a Sagitarius with Leo rising, and a Virgo moon.

I met my husband in a break-into-freelance writing workshop taught by you! You were Wendy Burt back then.

7. Favorite quote

I have accepted fear as a part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back. ~Erica Jong

8. Best and worst part of being a writer

The best part of being a writer is being my own boss. There is no worst part because every down side I could think of had an up side. However, the down side of my best part is the 100% responsibility that comes with it. I don’t mind the responsibility but I’m not sure everyone would feel the same way.

9. Advice for other writers

Here’s my top six tips on how to have a successful writing career:

Learn nonfiction-writing basics, especially how to write short and tight. These skills come in handy no matter what genre you write. 

Learn how to sell your writing by practicing written and verbal pitching skills (or read your book, The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters from Writer’s Digest Books).

Figure out your topic, your niche within your topic, and your best audiences so you can focus your energy and save time.

Learn basic self-promotion skills for writers, including how to promote yourself online.

Get out in the world regularly and learn ways to bring your expertise to others, like teaching, speaking, and consulting.

Create community around your work. Partner with impeccable others. And don’t get sucked into other people’s agendas for your time unless it’s win-win-win.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.

I once had a student who took every class I offered over the span of a couple of years only to discover that writing nonfiction articles was really not her thing. But in the process, she discovered what her thing was (it was and is primarily poetry). She also discovered that she had already made strides in her platform development and was closer to a traditional book deal than she might have thought. True, she still had a book proposal to write and an editor to negotiate the details of the book with, but by refreshing her nonfiction writing skills, she was able to see, name, and claim the nonfiction platform she had been building all along and alchemize her thoughts on the topic into a how-to book and an e-mail class, Poetry for the People. You can now order Sage Cohen’s book, Writing the Life Poetic from Writer’s Digest Books.

Where can people buy your books?

My books, Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow Your Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids are both from Writer’s Digest and are available everywhere. You are welcome to order them through http://www.christinakatz.com, if you like. You can also view my video trailer for Get Known on my site. I especially appreciate it when folks ask their local libraries to carry my books so that they can be available to everyone everywhere. I do a lot to serve my writing community on an ongoing basis. I publish three distinct e-zines you can subscribe to: Get Known Groove, Writers on the Rise and The Writer Mama. For folks who live near Wilsonville, Oregon, you are welcome to sign up for calendar alerts for The Northwest Author Series. Or you can sign up for all of my offerings in one fell swoop at www.christinakatz.com.

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3 responses »

  1. I love the whole idea about establishing a platform as you’re writing a novel or nonfiction work. I’m wondering if the author has a first step people should take when working to establish a platform.

  2. Hi Anita,

    The first steps for platform development are always to think about your topic, your niche (your specific take on the topic that sets you apart from the crowd), and your audience before you jump in.

    I walk folks through the process of developing a platform in their mind’s and on paper before hopping online, step-by-step, in my book.

    Most readers I’ve heard from all say the same thing: They can’t finish the book because it sparks so many ideas.

    I hope you’ll take a peek. Most writers don’t realize how important this “platform development” stage is before they hop online. It’s crucial!

  3. P.S. I’m over at the Writersdigest.com forum today. I’m answering questions there about platform development all day! Find us in the Writers Block Party thread.

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