Tag Archives: platform

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

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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…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.