The art of risking it all! Or how to become someone worth reading
At least from a publisher’s standpoint.
I’m going to tell you a secret about publishing…. It may surprise you…
Publisher’s want their books to sell!
I know.. it sounds crazy but they are not really in it to help your writer’s soul become fulfilled. As I stated in part 2, they don’t really care about your muse or inspiration a whole lot. They like production and they like sales.
That’s good! That means that, if you are willing to work with them on selling your book, they are willing to work with you.
You Need a Platform
A platform places you above the crowd. It lets your message project further into the community. It provides you a point from which you can see more of what is going on with your topic or subject matter, hear from more people, and recognize & realize more opportunities.
If you want to get published, it helps to be published.
Everyone complains about this catch-22 when instead you really need to just recognize it and utilize it. It isn’t going away. Okay.. sure, there are artificially created platforms like when something dramatic happens in your life that puts you in the media spot-light. The runaway bride was an example. She, ditched her wedding, pretended to be kidnapped, and then when it was discovered that she lied, she was rewarded with a large book advance and media coverage.
I have told my editor that if I can figure out something illegal but pathetic, I’ll do it. Illegal but pathetic seems to be good for media. Illegal and mean and dangerous and hurtful… not so much!
Short of that happening to you, you need to create your platform, more or less, step by step.
Someone needs content! Someone needs you!
My first ever published piece was a small write up about some friends of mine, soap opera actors. I did a short piece about some event happening at Christmas. The local paper, The Warner Center News, published it. I did not get paid (we’ll talk about writing for FREE in a moment). But I still have that clip file somewhere.
Later, they published another small article about hiking.
I was a published author! I was not “professional” because no money had exchanged hands. But the confidence had been spurred and the monster had been fed. I liked seeing my name in print.
My writing was probably not that scintillating. It was filler for their paper. And guess what, there is a need for filler somewhere. Use that… find a local publisher and approach them about writing for them. Pitch a specific topic. Ask them what they are looking for.
The real deal – a featured article in your area of expertise
You have an area of interest or expertise you naturally gravitate to. Your expertise may not be based on a degree or your primary job/vocation/career. It could just be an area that you have a strong opinion and a reason for that opinion. If you can articulate that, you are as close to an expert as anyone.
This is where you begin looking for publications that might be interested in that subject. Smaller, less prime-time publications might be a bit easier than approach national publications.
I had been offering career advice to I.T. professionals for a few years on some discussion forums. My message was that I.T. professionals often did a poor job of speaking in and thinking about, their work in the context of the businesses they served.
I wrote a piece called, “Why Technologists Must Learn To Speak Business.” It was full of attitude but also had some great industry quotes and presented a solid idea to help I.T. professionals correct their perceived and real challenge with business-focused thinking.
I pitched it to a local technology publication. Two weeks later, their editor contacted me and they had bumped their feature article in 3 different magazines to publish my article.. And, they paid me!
I was a professional!
Then they asked if I could write something like it every month.. and I was suddenly a columnist… No.. I was a nationally syndicated columnist across 3 of their magazines around the country.
This emboldened me to pitch articles to several other magazines. Using the prior experience as a calling card, I was able to get published a LOT – including in the Wall Street Journal’s Career Journal. I was now in the company of Jack Welch and business luminaries.
The summary for me
In the interest of time, here were my next steps in a bulleted form.
- Take part in some discussion forums
- I put together a free PDF but when it hit 200 pages, I pitched it to a major publisher.
- They accepted but the timeline was too long, so I turned them down and self-published.
- KEY!!! I went back to my column and approached another major technology career hub and told them I would WRITE FOR FREE – if I got a banner ad and an ad in the magazine.
- I then brought up a website and sold my poorly-edited self-published book.
- I was discovered by my current editor and publisher, who purchased that book and enjoyed it enough to contact me.
Writing for free!
There are some strong opinions in this area – similar to musicians playing for free or providing free music… If you DO NOT have a major platform, writing for a large publication or are a popular radio host, you had better be putting good content out there and doing so pro bono. Hint: Pro Bono is better than free!
There are those who will disagree with me.. that’s fine.. you can choose to listen to them but they are wrong! I only ask that if they take this piece of advice away from you, that they offer you a better, more thought-through, pragmatic plan of action. If they do not, I warn you, DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM!!!
Writing for free can get you exposure, get you practice, and in the end, build your confidence.
Of course, if there is NO benefit to the exposure or practice, don’t do it. To start, you will be less discerning – you just need your name in print. Later, you can become more picky.
By the way, you will write for free when you get published anyway
Yes.. even if you get a small advance, it is not commensurate with the time you will put in. And there are NO guarantees you get enough sales to make the time worthwhile from a monetary standpoint.
Your Blog as a Platform
You do have a blog don’t you!
If not, that is Part 4. Some blog truth’s you MUST understand.
- Register your own domain: You.com is much better than you.blogspot.com or you.wordpress.com
Please don’t fight me on this point.
- Write frequently and give away the farm. Yes.. you need your content to educate or entertain – both actually!
- Blogging is better/more powerful than social media!
Okay… that’s it for today. I’m going to write the blogging piece this week.
Please submit any questions or comment here on the blog and be sure to share with your friends.