Category Archives: writers newsletter

Interview with Christina Katz, author of “Get Known Before the Book Deal”


An Interview with Christina Katzsecuredownloadsecuredownload-1

Author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform & Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids


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).securedownload-2

Q: What is a platform?

CK: Long story short: 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. 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. Get Known explains in plain English, without buzzwords, how any writer can stand out from the crowd of other writers and get the book deal. The book clears an easy-to-follow path through a formerly confusing forest of ideas so any writer can do the necessary platform development they need to do.

Q: Why is platform development important for writers today?

CK: Learning about and working on a solid platform plan gives writers an edge. Agents and editors have known this for years and have been looking for platform-strong writers and getting them book deals. But from the writer’s point-of-view, there has not been enough information on platform development to help unprepared writers put their best platform forward.

Now suddenly, there is a flood of information on platform, not all necessarily comprehensive, useful or well organized for folks who don’t have a platform yet. Writers can promote themselves in a gradual, grounded manner without feeling like they are selling out. I do it, I teach other writers to do it, I write about it on an ongoing basis, and I encourage all writers to heed the trend. And hopefully, I communicate how in a practical, step-by-step manner that can serve any writer. Because ultimately, before you actively begin promoting yourself, platform development is an inside job requiring concentration, thoughtfulness and a consideration of personal values.

Q: How did you come to write Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: I already had a lot of momentum going when I got the deal for a very specific audience. I wrote a column on the topic for the Willamette Writer’s newsletter. Then I started speaking on platform. When I gave my presentation, “Get Known Before the Book Deal,” at the Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference in May 2007, Phil Sexton, one of my publisher’s sales guys, saw it and suggested making the concept into a book. Coincidentally, I was trying to come up with an idea for my second book at that time and had just struck out with what I thought were my three best ideas. My editor, Jane Friedman agreed with Phil. That was two votes from people sitting on the pub board. They converted the others with the help of my proposal, and Get Known got the green light.

Q: Why was a book on platform development needed?

CK: Writers often underestimate how important platform is and they often don’t leverage the platform they already have enough. At every conference I presented, I took polls and found that about 50 percent of attendees expressed a desire for a clearer understanding of platform. Some were completely in the dark about it, even though they were attending a conference in hopes of landing a book deal. Since book deals are granted based largely on the impressiveness of a writer’s platform, I noticed a communication gap that needed to be addressed.

My intention was that Get Known would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference, and that it would increase any writer’s chances of landing a book deal whether they pitched in-person or by query. As I wrote the book, I saw online how this type of information was 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 even ask your library to order it and read it for free.

Q: What is the key idea behind Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: Getting known doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take an in-depth understanding of platform, and then the investment of time, skills and consistent effort to build one. Marketing experience and technological expertise are also not necessary. I show how to avoid the biggest time and money-waster, which is not understanding who your platform is for and why – and hopefully save writers from the confusion and inertia that can result from either information overload or not taking the big picture into account before they jump into writing for traditional publication.

Often writers with weak platforms are over-confident that they can impress agents and editors, while others with decent platforms are under-confident or aren’t stressing their platform-strength enough. Writers have to wear so many hats these days, we can use all the help we can get. Platform development is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Anyone can do it, but most don’t or won’t because they either don’t understand what is being asked for, or they haven’t overcome their own resistance to the idea. Get Known offers a concrete plan that can help any writer make gains in the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive publishing landscape.

Q: What is the structure of the book and why did you choose it?

CK: Writer Mama was written in small, easy-to-digest chunks so busy new moms could stick it in a diaper bag and read it in the nooks and crannies of the day. Get Known is a bit more prosaic, especially in the early chapters. Most of the platform books already out there were only for authors, not writers or aspiring authors. To make platform evolution easy to comprehend, I had to dial the concepts back to the beginning and talk about what it’s like to try and find your place in the world as an author way before you’ve signed a contract, even before you’ve written a book proposal. No one had done that before in a book for writers. I felt writers needed a context in which to chart a course towards platform development that would not be completely overwhelming.

Introducing platform concepts to writers gives them the key information they need to succeed at pitching an agent either via query or in-person, making this a good book for a writer to read before writing a book proposal. Get Known has three sections: section one is mostly stories and cautionary tales, section two has a lot of to-do lists any writer should be able to use, and section three is how to articulate your platform clearly and concisely so you won’t waste a single minute wondering if you are on the right track.

Q: At the front of Get Known, you discuss four phases of the authoring process. What are they?

CK: First comes the platform development and building phase. Second comes the book proposal development phase (or if you are writing fiction, the book-writing phase). Third, comes the actual writing of the book (for fiction writers this is likely the re-writing of the book). And finally, once the book is published, comes the book marketing and promoting phase.

Many first-time authors scramble once they get a book deal if they haven’t done a thorough job on the platform development phase. Writers who already have a platform have influence with a fan base, and they can leverage that influence no matter what kind of book they write. Writing a book is a lot easier if you are not struggling to find readers for the book at the same time. Again, agents and editors have known this for a long time.

Q: What are some common platform mistakes writers make?

CK: Here are a few: 

  • They don’t spend time clarifying who they are to others.
  • They don’t zoom in specifically on what they offer.
  • They confuse socializing with platform development.
  • They think about themselves too much and their audience not enough.
  • They don’t precisely articulate all they offer so others get it immediately.
  • They don’t create a plan before they jump online.
  • They undervalue the platform they already have.
  • They are overconfident and think they have a solid platform when they have only made a beginning.
  • They become exhausted from trying to figure out platform as they go.
  • They pay for “insider secrets” instead of trusting their own instincts.
  • They blog like crazy for six months and then look at their bank accounts and abandon the process as going nowhere.

I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say that many writers promise publishers they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver.

My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them. Get Known shows writers of every stripe how to become the writer who can not only land a book deal, but also influence future readers to plunk down ten or twenty bucks to purchase their book. It all starts with a little preparation and planning. The rest unfolds from there.

Q: What are three things our readers can do today to get started building their platforms? 

CK: Don’t start building your platform until you have clarity and focus. Otherwise you will likely just waste your precious time spinning your wheels. Or worse, fritter away your time with online distractions (and trust me, there are plenty!).

But once you know what your expertise is and what you are doing with it and for whom, then consider these three steps:

Start an e-mail list: Who are the people who like to hear about your writing success? Why not start a list in your address book with them and keep adding to it as time goes by. You can start by sending out simple regular announcements of good things that happen—just be sure to get permission. One way to get permission is to send an announcement about your work out to everyone you know and tell them that they can unsubscribe if they don’t want to be receive future messages from you on the topic. I strongly recommend that all writers read Permission Marketing by Seth Godin.

Create a simple website: Although social networking is fun, a proper writer’s website is not a Facebook or a Myspace page; it’s not even a blog. So save the detailed descriptions of your quirks and faves for the social networking you will do after you’ve built yourself a solid website to publicize your genuine writing credentials (creds) across the ethers while you are sleeping. And if you don’t have any genuine writing creds yet, getting some is an important first step. The step-by-step instructions are in Get Known.

Blog when it makes sense: Blogging can be great for writers assuming three things: 1) You have ample material to draw on and time to blog regularly. 2) You take the time to determine your appropriate audience, topic and your specific slant (or take) on your topic for your specific audience. 3) You don’t plan on starting a blog, blogging like mad for six weeks, and then disappearing from the face of the blogosphere without a trace. Preparation can prevent this common pitfall from happening to you.

Don’t forget that platform development and building takes time. Once you are ready to get started, just do a little every day and you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish over time.

10 QUESTIONS FOR…authors of “Knowing Pains: Women on Love, Sex and Work in our 40s”


Author(s) interview with Amy Kossoff Smith and Cari Shane ParvenPrint







Bio:  Amy Kossoff Smith: Amy Kossoff Smith, Founder of The Business of Motherhood, is an internationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site,, and blog,  Available 24/7, just like Moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.  Amy is a national wire columnist, with parenting articles published nationwide; a contributor to Discovery Health; a Featured Discussion Leader for Gannett’s first nationwide online Moms community (at DC Moms Like Me).  Amy has appeared on The Today Show , FOX and CBS News .  She recently published an essay in “Knowing Pains:  Women on Love, Sex and Work in our ‘40s.”

She is married to another entrepreneur in Maryland and spends a ton of time chauffeuring their 3 boys to playdates, sports practices and games…in her blue minivan.

Bio: Cari Shane Parven:

I’m a Margaret Mead wanna-be. Jane Goodall, too. I would love to sit all day and watch “my subjects,” then write about them. During the first half of my adult life, I pounded the pavement as a radio and television reporter. Now, I write for a living — essays, articles, blogs, manuscripts. I have written for The Washington Post, Cooking Light, The Washington Examiner, Fromer’s Budget Travel, and more.

My writing has caught the attention of producers on The Today Show  as well as CBS News and a variety of national radio shows. I am a contributing essayist in Knowing Pains: Women on Love, Sex and Work in Our 40s and a writer for In the blogging world, I am a lead writer for WUSA-TV’s DCMomsLikeMe where I keep the mom-conversation flowing by “Keeping It Real.”  In addition, I have my own blog, “Inside the Beltway, Under the Radar,” ( a popular resting place for those interested in the brilliant thoughts of Washington, D.C.’s powerbrokers ( I am currently working on the final stages of my first novel, A Winter’s Spring, a story about a mother’s personal struggle with her mentally ill son. 

Though I am a graduate of Vassar College (and significantly brighter than my three children), I am still trying to figure out how to remove my head from the vice turned daily by my two teenage daughters and pre-teen son.


1. Tell us about your latest book.

AMY:  Both Cari and I contributed to the recently published “Knowing Pains:  Women on Love, Sex and Work in our 40s”  (  The book’s subtitle, “Old Enough to Know Better, Young Enough to Do Something About It,” says it all – this is a collection of essays that reads like a juicy diary, but it’s the tales of the woman next door.  Topics include love, loss, accomplishment, failure, friendship, work, and everything in between.  Our essays were about friendship (“Finding Friendship at 40” by Cari – ) and the work/life balance (“Stumbling into Cyberspace by Amy – ). 

2. How did you get started as a writer?

CARI: I came into writing by way of sibling rivalry. My older brother wrote for an inter-school newspaper in NYC, a newspaper that pulled writers from eight different Manhattan high schools. Not to be outdone, and knowing it would look good on my college transcript (!), I began writing for the paper my freshman year and was elected editor in my senior year. (Funny how that still makes me feel important.) I loved interviewing people (couldn’t get enough of it actually), but I really didn’t like the writing process. In college, I worked on the newspaper, but after stumbling into radio found the format – short, succinct pieces – so much more to my liking. Worked my way into television news, again short and succinct with lots of interviewing and social interaction, but eventually found TV difficult to juggle with a new family. I left television to become a stay-at-home mom, and after eight years, when my youngest was 4, cold called the Washington Post and convinced them to let me write a perspective piece on a long-distance, open water swim in which I would be competing. The editor asked me to write two articles and I’ve been writing ever since.

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

AMY:  The only thing typical about my days is mayhem!  I juggle a PR firm (, 2 mommy websites ( and, and the incredibly busy sport-filled lives of 3 boys under the age of 11.  Typically (ok, at least 3 days a week), I wake up at 6 to exercise.  By 8:40, kids are on the bus; by 8:45 dishes thrown in the dishwasher; by 8:46, checking e-mail on my fuscia pink Blackberry at my desk, foamy homemade latte in the other hand.  I spend most of my time on my computer and phone, typing or gabbing away about PR and my latest mompreneur adventures.  I love to get out for a quick lunch, but typically slam something down at my desk.  Kids home by 4, and I shift gears to sports, carpools, and homework.  I see a lot more late nights writing at my computer than I’d care to admit, and am constantly trying to find balance.

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

CARI: I actually don’t have one. Let me reword that. I have a desk but it’s the place I pile bills, not write. So, I sort of flit around. Sometimes I write at the local coffee house, but at 9:30am, it becomes a toddler’s playground and the high pitched screaming gives me a headache. In the warm weather months, I write outside on my deck with my dog, Annabelle, who loves to bake herself in the hot sun. Mostly though it’s one of three soft chairs or the family room couch, though for some odd reason right now I’m sitting on a very hard stool in the kitchen. I love natural light, so when I sit down to write I try to follow the light. Mornings I spend on one side of the house, afternoon’s I spend on the other. What I really wish, though, is that I could hook my laptop up to a treadmill because, quite frankly, my tush gets quite sore sitting all day!

5. Favorite books

CARI: This is such an impossible question. It’s akin to picking a brides maid: you always feel like you’re leaving someone out. To make the selection process easier for myself, I need to think about books by decade. In the 70s, when I was a pre-teen/teen, I’d have to go with anything by Judy Blume, Are You There God it’s Me, Margaret was the book that turned me into a journal writer. Forever is the book that made me at once pine for a boyfriend and fear actually getting one. In late high school and college, no question (though I’ll hate myself if I’ve left one out), Invisible Man, Sister Carrie and Lolita. In my 20s I went through a Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth phase though I haven’t read any of these authors in years. In my 30s I think I was so sleep deprived and involved with my young children that my book selection became completely kid-centric. Oh The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Suess may have to top my list, though Jane Austen’s Emma somehow snuck itself in, in between bedtime stories. Now that I’m in my 40s, I’ve gotten very picky. I’m re-reading and loving a lot of the classics; I listen to lots of them on CD in the car for time-management’s sake. Getting more specific, I think I can unequivocally say that Wallace Stegner is the most beautiful writer I’ve ever read. The way he strings words together is so insanely magnificent that when I think of his books, no – his words – I think rich and creamy. It’s lovely. But the one book that stands out for sheer ingenuity has to be The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. It amazed me how she was able to make a complicated story feel so uncomplicated. Plus, the book left me shaking with tears.

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you 


1) I like to wake up at the crack of dawn to get work done. I love a quiet house and actually have no problem jumping out of bed at 4am to write. Then, four mornings a week, I leave the house at 5am to swim with a masters swim team for an hour to an hour in a half. Swimming is my morning cup of coffee.

2) I love to talk about sex. I find nothing embarrassing about the subject, though I am horrified about the sexualization of our children. What they know at 13 is frightening.

3) When I was a kid, my mother used to force me to talk to strangers. Seriously. Mostly it was on the ski slopes (“a safe crowd,” my mother calls skiers). When I skied with my mother she would hang back just as it was our turn to get on the chair lift, forcing me to go up the lift with a stranger. Then she’d yell, “find out everything about them, name, age, what they do for a living and report back to me at the top.” Oddly enough, I did what she asked. I have no doubt my mother’s wacky plan turned me into a reporter.

7. Favorite quote

AMY:  No question, the first quote that comes to mind was one that literally changed my writing life, and it didn’t come from a historian or celebrity, rather from someone much closer to home…my dad!  About two decades ago, I desperately wanted to be my own boss, to have my own business.  My dad bought me a book, “Secrets of a Freelance Writer:  How to Make $85,000 a Year” by Robert Bly. 

Book link –

In the front, he wrote, “You only need start.”  Not “to start,” but one of those “just do it ‘starts’” The book – a manual for how to freelance, become rumpled and frayed as I read how to get into the business.  And that confidence and inspiration from my dad, is a quote I’ll never forget.  It applies to so much in life, and has pushed & prodded me to “start” lots of things I might not otherwise have had the guts to do.

8. Best and worst part of being a writer


Best: I love the way writing makes me think and feel.

Worst: While I love the quiet of writing, I find the solitary nature of the job challenging because talking to people feeds me.

9. Advice for other writers 

AMY:  You only need start!  Seriously, go for it!  With the blogosphere, anyone can be a writer.  Be one, and be a really good, creative one!  The one tip I’d share about fine-tuning your writing is to read, reread, chop, edit, and then do it again.  You can read your piece in front of a mirror, which helps in the editing process.  And you should leave your piece for a day and come back to it when you’re more fresh.  Being too close to your writing can prevent you from being objective, tight, and great.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience. Can be funny, embarrassing, inspirational, etc.

AMY:  I never thought I was a good writer in journalism school.  I went to Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, where anytime you misspelled a name or got someone’s title wrong, it was an automatic “F.”  I wrote an article for my high school newspaper, “Offbeat tactics kids use to get into college.”  That one article was my lucky charm 3 times – literally!  First, when I decided I’d messed up in accepting University of Michigan’s offer and had to go to Northwestern.  That article got me past the receptionist (she remembered it), and into the school a second time.  The article juiced up an editorial meeting on my junior year internship and was re-published on the front page of The Virginian Pilot and Ledger Star.  And senior year, I entered it into the William Randolph Hearst Writing Competition (known as the college “Pulitzers”) and won the feature category.  On the finalists’ trip to San Francisco, I found myself competing with 8 other writers, who I considered much better than me (lack of confidence once again).  At the awards dinner, I still didn’t think I’d done anything special when they introduced me to Mr. Hearst.  And as they read the national winners, I voraciously clapped for #3, #2, and went numb when my name was called as #1.  It was my proudest writing moment, and gave me the confidence to pursue a writing career post-college.

Where can people buy your book?

You can find Amy online at or or

You can find Cari online at or

You can find Knowing Pains online at  Available mostly through Amazon, you can purchase Knowing Pains at

Q & A with Donna McDine, children’s author and publisher of new newsletter for writers


Note from Wendy: This is not the usual “10 Questions for…” format but rather a Q & A from Donna about her new newsletter for writers. I thought this was worthy of posting in the place of the standard author interviews.


Write What Inspires You! Newsletterwritewhatinspiresyoulogodonnamcdineblogphoto

By Donna M. McDine


Publication Frequency: Monthly

Distribution Method: Email with .PDF file attached

Length of Existence: Three months


Coming off the inspiration of The 2008 Muse Online Conference, Donna has embarked on the maiden voyage of her debut FREE newsletter, “Write What Inspires You!” published on a monthly basis.  It is the intent to deliver to the reader a combination of:


•  Author, Illustrator, and Editor Interviews

•  Book Reviews

•  An essay column entitled, Reflections or Dreams (which can be non-fiction or fiction)

•  Proclaim Your Successes! Section, so we all can cheer one another on.

•  Audience: Peers in the Children Publishing Industry

Creator Name & Bio:

Donna M. McDine is a native of Rockland County, NY and lives with her husband and two children. She writes, moms, and is the Marketing Manager for Stories for Children Magazine from her home in Tappan. Her publishing credits include 15 print and ezine publications and she placed 12th in the 77th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition in the category Children’s/Young Adult Fiction. She is also an active member of the SCBWI and Musing Our Children.

Q: What was your biggest concern about pulling it off and how did you lay that concern to bed?

Donna: My biggest concern at first was why would someone want to subscribe to my newsletter, what makes me worthy of putting out such a newsletter.  I’m a list person and immediately wrote out my pros and cons. The pros heavily outweighed the cons. My gut told me, what do you have to lose…so I went for it.  I went ahead and sent out Media Releases and posts to children writer discussion boards and my writing groups and my efforts resulted in positive responses.  Even before the debut issue in December 2008 was released my opt-in subscriber list stood at a little more than 75 subscribers.  To tell you the truth I was quite shocked and pleased.  As of this interview I’m at 120 subscribers and momentum continues to build.  Not as much at first, but steady enough.  I feel like a child receiving the perfect gift and shout out a YIPPEE every time I receive in opt-in request. 

Q: What purpose will your ezine serve your readers?

Donna: The purpose of my ezine newsletter is to provide interviews on a monthly basis from authors, editors, and illustrators, giving the reader a glimpse into the daily musings of the children publishing industry.  Also, included is a submission column entitled, Reflections or Dreams (more detail below), one book review per month usually tied in with the author or illustrator interviewed and of course a Proclaim Your Successes column for fellow writers to announce their accomplishments.  I’m currently booked through July and a sneak peak for the March 2009 issue includes interviews with author L. Diane Wolfe and Kristie Smith, editor Vivian Zabel, and illustrator Sarah Ackerley; The Circle of Friends ~ Book 1 ~ Lori book review. 

Q: How are you generating subscribers?

Donna:  I am learning the marketing techniques as I go along and to date I have been successful with Media Releases, posting announcements at children writers discussion boards, including the newsletter in my signature line of my emails, having an opt-in selection at the top of my website, and of course word of mouth.  Over the past several months I am becoming more comfortable with my abilities as a writer and have discussed my writing career and my newsletter more openly.  Networking IS key!

Q: Will you accept submissions from writers?

Donna: At this time I accept submissions for the Reflections or Dreams column. The guidelines for submission are: select to write a poem or an article (fiction or non-fiction) around the topic of “reflections of your writing” or “dreams for your writing.”  No more than 500 words.  The column will not include more than one article or a combo of one poem and one article for the Reflections or Dreams column. This is a non-paying market.

Learn more about Donna’s writing career at:, sign her guest book and receive a FREE copy of “Write What Inspires You! Author Interviews,” compiled by Donna M. McDine.


5 Q’s with Wendy on freelance life


I was just interviewed by Susan Johnston of the Urban Muse Writer. She asked me about common mistakes writers make, staying organized and motivated as a freelance writer, advice for other writers and more. Read the interview and then sign up for The Urban Museletter to get your monthly fix of writing tips and tidbits. It’s good advice; Susan has written for The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, SELF, and Yahoo! HotJobs, among other places. She also teaches and does copywriting. Here’s her other Web site: