Corine La Font , Contributor
It was a humbling experience to attend an international conference of writers, publishers, literary agents, screenwriters, TV and movie producers a few weeks ago in Los Angeles, California. Three to four days of back-to-back, sometimes conflicting sessions. You had to pick the sessions or workshops or even bootcamps you felt would have given you that extra boost or knowledge to know what your next steps would be to move you closer to your publishing success.
I want to share just a few things I was told that validated what I have been saying through this column and in my workshops, and hope that you will consider these with deep thought and reflection if you are serious about writing and being an author.
1 Write a kick-ass book - yes, that's what they said at the conference. There seemed to be no other way to say it to get the point across. That means you have to write such a compelling book, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, that catches the eye of an agent who won't be able to resist, and is excited to represent your book.
2 The first gatekeeper is a literary agent in the traditional publishing world. Yes, did you think you could approach a publisher just like that? Oh no! And even if you could, you really don't stand much of a chance. You are better served going through an agent who will represent you, but there is a process. By that I mean, you need to send them a query letter which, in essence, is your one-page pitch of your book. If you are unable to tell the agent in 10 sentences why your book is the next best thing, then I suggest you either seek help in writing the letter, practice writing the letter yourself, or start re-writing that book because it may be that your book is really not the best thing out there.
3 The query letter is the written pitch but there is also the verbal pitch. You have to face the agent head-on and convince them to be so interested in what you have to offer that they request more information from you. How many of you are prepared to speak in front of an agent in less than 90 seconds, keeping in mind that at least 30 seconds should be left for feedback from the agent? I can hear a quivering 'not me' coming from you. I did the pitch for my upcoming book and I found it exhilarating and frightening at the same time, but, in the end, and with some serious belief in what I had to offer, I managed to walk away with a smile on my face as three out of the four literary agents I pitched to requested more information.
4 Besides having a kick-ass book, you need to have a kick-ass platform. By platform, that means you must already have in place a marketing foundation with a following for agents to notice that you have an audience on which to build in order to generate sales and increase promotion. Without a platform, your chance of being picked by an agent is slim to none. So, if you wrote a book that did well-like 10,000 per month - in sales, consistently over the last year or more, or you have a website or blog that brings in a significant visitor rate each month and you have a list of 25,000 or more people who follow you, then those are the types of marketing platforms that will help you get noticed and possibly land you to the next phase of sending in a book proposal. Oh wait, you thought it ended with the query? That's just the first step of many before being finally accepted by the publisher. Remember, writing is an art and publishing is a business.
5 Research, research, research. I have been saying this over and over. Agents and publishers can tell when you don't know your genre. If you are writing in a genre, find other books in that genre and read them. In that way, if you were writing a query letter or submitting your book proposal and wanted to say that your book is like this or that author, then please make sure you make reference to the right book and its genre when doing so.
While at the conference and even after it ended, I thought to myself how well positioned I was to have met all these major players in the industry with whom I interact to help publish and market my clients such as Amazon and Lulu and even others I checked out online to which I now have direct contact. It says that authors do have an opportunity if they seek it and if they are serious about writing as a career.
I met many persons in attendance who were doing extremely well and others who wished to do well. They soon realised they were in the right place learning what they needed to do to be better. While marketing still eludes most, for they are writers not marketers, we all walked away knowing we left there with more than we went in with.
Corine La Font is an author, certified author assistant and online book marketing specialist. She is also an award-winning publishing resource in the 2013 Small Business Book Awards. Get a copy of her book at http://amzn.to/TFHQka . Tune in to her radio programme at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/helpdeskja.