Book Review: Get Known before the Book Deal by Christina Katz
Becoming an author these days is so much more than just writing. Let me rephrase that. Becoming a successful, published author these days is so much more than just writing. You need to be be better at editing than ever before because the publishing houses have so few resources available to do that for you. You need to know how to find an agent, or failing that, know how to self-publish. Writing the book is the easy part of making it big. The hard part starts when you write ‘The End’ on the book, and sign your name on an agency contract.
That hard part is going from an agented writer (Point A), to a writer with a book deal, to a writer with a successful book, to a writer with a loyal following and a successful second and third book (Point B). Getting from Point A to Point B becomes as much a story about your ability to market yourself and your writing as it is about your writing itself. How you go about doing that, is called your platform.
Get Known before the Book Deal by Christina Katz covers how to build this platform from the ground up, explaining what it is, when you should start, and a few strategies to try in order to make your platform stand out.
Your platform is more than just a web site and a Twitter account that relentlessly sends out self-promoting tweets. It about doing the little things, like adding a professional and consistent signature to all emails you send out, to finding ways to become more involved in local volunteer organizations that either promote writing or promote the subject you are an expert on. It’s about finding teaching (and learning) opportunities where ever they may be. It’s about keeping track of the places you have submitted materials to, and the places you have been published.
Katz goes into a lot of detail about all of these things and more. I should note that she approaches it from the viewpoint of a non-fiction writer, which I am not. Some of the things she suggests, would probably only apply to the non-fiction arena, unless you become well renowned for the topic / location of your fiction books, like Cherie Priest and Steampunk or Arthur Clarke and Science Fiction. I suppose any fiction author could teach about Science Fiction, but it would be difficult for them to teach about science, unless that was also their background. Non-Fiction writers have the benefit of generally being experts in their field, and can gain readers by teaching at conferences and schools.
Also, non-fiction usually involves writing a book proposal and getting a deal based on that proposal. Writing fiction involves finishing and polishing a book before you start looking a for a deal. The idea of building a platform three years before you start writing your fiction book would be a little silly.
However, I do agree that fiction writers should begin to build their platform as soon as they know they are going to write. Your platform at this stage may only be volunteering at a library or a conference, but you’d be amazed at how well those pay off. Getting your name out there and recognized, building up a mailing list, and making contacts at bookstores is invaluable.
There is great value in a book like this for writers in all genres. Some of the sections were a little bit slow and repetitive. I skimmed a few areas that went over teaching at colleges and the like, since I have no desire to teach and know for a fact that I am a horrible teacher. I don’t mind doing presentations or speeches, but I haven’t got the patience or the attitude to be a good teacher / mentor.
I consider myself very technically literate, and have already adopted a very professional, business like attitude to writing, so a lot of what she was saying was preaching to the choir. But I did extract grains of knowledge from it that I will / already have put into practice in the last few days. There were some things I just wasn’t doing yet, and I was blowing great opportunities to build my platform while at the same time doing other things. For those suggestions alone, I believe I got my money’s worth from the book.
So if you are a little tired of reading books on show versus tell, or narration, or grammar, and want to go from hoping you will be a success, to having a plan for success, this is not a bad place to start. Just remember that the publishing world is changing incredibly quickly right now, and you need to keep up with it. Reading one book isn’t enough. It’s just a beginning.