Which pitch has the most potential? Slush pile, in-person or online contest?

I get asked this question often. Writers want to make the most of their time and talent. Querying is a part in your writing career that is fraught with stress, expectation, and worry–oh wait, this sounds like the entire length of a writing career! Jokes aside, the decisions you make to start your career have a huge influence on the trajectory of it.

So what’s the best way to pitch an industry professional? In person at a conference? In the slush pile? Or in an online contest? 

All of these have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s go over them.

Pitching At A Conference In Person

Advantage: We get to know a slice of your personality (even if it’s only for 10 minutes) and whether we could see ourselves working together. Establishing a personal connection is beneficial for both parties.

Disadvantage: We haven’t seen your material yet! It all depends on the writing. So even if we get along well there is absolutely no guarantee anything will come of it. And if you’re nervous in those 10 minutes we might not get to see the best version of your presentation.

Slush Pile Pitching

Advantage: You can passionately explain why you think an agent is the right fit. You can get lots of advice on how to write the perfect query letter. This targeting is one of the most effective ways of hooking an agent who is right for you. I find more clients in the slush pile than anywhere else. I’d say it’s a 10:1 ratio. For every 10 clients I sign up 10 are from the slush, 1 is from elsewhere.

Disadvantage: Agents get hundreds to thousands of emails a month and you only get one chance to impress them.

Blog Contest Pitching

Advantage: You know you have 3-10 agents actively looking at your material, depending on the contest. There are many success stories floating around from these selective types of events.

Disadvantage: There might be a few agents interested, but often the speed of which the interested agent offers puts off the other agents because we don’t always have time to drop everything and read. Sometimes this speed works out in people’s favor and sometimes it doesn’t. Competition is definitely healthy, but writers have to make a tough decision without the hoopla getting in the way.

Twitter Contest Pitching

Advantage: It happens a few times a year and agents looking to build their list are actively observing it. Plus it makes you practice how to pitch and write a hook in one sentence.

Disadvantage: Agents want to work with authors who select agents for a reason. Writers pitch blindly on Twitter and sometimes the agent that wants to offer rep isn’t on that author’s “top agents” list and there can be bad blood and also a waste of time for everyone when querying would have been a must more beneficial use of time for both parties.

Q: Do you have a success story from one of these methods? (Or, more unfortunately, a horror story?)

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5 Steps to Internet (and IRL) Safety and Privacy for Writers

There are many ways to think about internet safety, but with the fall publishing season book launches coming up I wanted to take the time to share my thoughts about staying safe when you’re used to interacting on the web. I consider safety physical or intellectual.

I definitely think everyone clearly knows how dangerous the web can be, but sometimes we all think we’re immune to it and take risks when we don’t know we’re doing so. It’s the thing that happens to *someone else* not us.

5 Steps to Internet (and IRL) Safety and Privacy for Writers:

Tweet or post when you’re leaving somewhere, not when you’re getting there. DM the people you’re meeting up with at the book launch instead of broadcasting it to the world. Instead of tweeting on the way to an event, why not tweet after you’ve gathered your thoughts and maybe taken a picture or two? If you are going to post in real time, don’t take pictures from the same location all night. It seems silly, but if you’re prone to over-sharing make sure you’re keeping people on their toes.

Think twice about geo-tagging. (This is when your location is attached to your social media post.) Especially if you pair it with photos. It’s easy for anyone to connect the dots if you’re posting every day or multiple times per day. When in doubt (like me), follow tip 1: geo-tag after you’ve left. I don’t need to recount all the horror stories about geo-tagging for you to get my point. Don’t forsake safety for social currency.

Check your settings. Do you know your privacy settings on all your devices? Believe it or not uploading from your phone vs. uploading on your computer require different privacy settings on Facebook. Knowledge is power. Don’t regret things later; get ahead of your privacy issues and learn where you might have cracks.

Keep your book ideas close to your chest. One of writers’ big worry is that someone will steal their idea. Journalists know to keep their stories to themselves, so writers need to think carefully about this too. If you’re doing book research keep it to private messages and open ended social media questions. I’m not saying people will steal anything, but why give yourself the opportunity to worry? Share your ideas with people you trust: writing circles, agents, and editors. Ideas also change; slow down on blogging through the details of your latest book. Give yourself freedom to make changes and add a little bit of mystery.

Remember: the trolls only win if you feed them. The internet breeds animosity. There are many opinions out there, some of which it’s hard to agree with. It’s tempting to fight back at the trolls, but all it will do is make you mad. It’s hard to change anyone’s mind, especially when you add in limited characters and a social platform. Internet fights can follow you around for a long time. Not all of us will get our Twitter spats featured in major news outlets, but blogs live on–and bloggers don’t have to fact check. It’s best to let things breeze by. No one wants to be Googled and found that their online fight has followed them around for years.

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I love social media for the way it brings us together, but be wary about your privacy. Most book publishing people are great people! But social media is available to everyone.

Your life belongs to you, not the web. So be careful about what you decide to share. Privacy is important and you control the message. Even if you’re not thinking “privacy” at the time of posting, remember that people can connect the dots across social media platforms and days or weeks at a time. Patterns are there whether they’re intentional or not.

Lastly, if you’re into Cons, or all things amazing, grab Sam Maggs’s book FANGIRL’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY where there is information about staying safe at big fan events.

Q: What do you think about when you’re planning your internet safety as a writer?

7 Ways To Build a Platform Through Your Online Community

Social MediaI wrote a bit about platform last week. It’s not the end of the world for fiction writers if you don’t have one. (What is platform? Let Jane Friedman tell you.) However, it’s great if you do by the time your book is on the market. Not necessarily at the time of querying your book, but coming up to the publication of your book. Once you have your publication date, something you can work towards to build momentum is your platform which in turn will be your readership.

1. Be sure to follow lots of people. The chances of them following you back are high. It seems like a simple tip, but if you want to get more followers, extend a hand and follow more people. No need to be a perfectionist about being online; it’s called social media for a reason. The best way to find followers that you might like is to go to the account of a writer you enjoy, and is active online, and look at their lists.

2. Once you start following someone on Twitter or Facebook, @-reply to something they say within the first 3-5 days. It’s a simple gesture that says, “I’m not a spambot. I think we have a lot in common.” That starts the dialogue early and increases your chance of people following you back as well as recognizing your image and name.

3. Started a blog, but not sure what to write about? This is NOT to say that you must blog. It’s certainly not. But many writers start their online identity with a blog and then run out of steam. Here’s a handy guide of 52 (!!) blogging ideas based on your book’s content. Now you can’t say you don’t have things to write about. The most important thing about a blog isn’t always the content (it should be good) but the consistency. Make sure people know when they will receive things from you or can check in: weekly? bi-weekly? daily? There is no right answer. It’s about what works for you.

4. Don’t be afraid of hashtags. Yes, too many are confusing, but just one can make all the difference. Do you post to your blog on Mondays? Use #MondayBlogs. Do you engage with other writers? Use #WriterWednesdays. On Instagram they are essential so use #amreading #booksofinstagram or others that relate to your topic. That’s how people find you. You can make up your own hashtags but you have to use them frequently enough for them to gain traction. For general posts, you’re best to join in with another hashtag that already exists and people recognize. Here are 100 Twitter Hashtags Writers Should Know. And a scientific guide about when to use those hashtags.

5. When you talk about your book–leading up to publication–you must use a hashtag that captures the title. There are no excuses on this one. If you want to connect your readers to you and each other, you must be providing a link of communication. A hashtag of your title is that link. Readers want to socially engage with each other. They want to share quotes, reviews, and more. Give them that opportunity by leading with example. It’s not cocky to give your book a hashtag, it’s a reality of social media.

6. Once you have built a community, it’s not the time to spew links. You did the hardest thing, you build a nest egg following! Now, in order to keep them, you have to keep the promotional link spewing to a considerate amount. The point was to lead up to your publication date, right? Well, now that you have their trust you also have to respect their feed. Things like Goodreads copy giveaways and quote graphics are two good ways to keep things aesthetically pleasing. Think about it: what’s in it for them? Marketing is a call to action. A barrage of links isn’t what people want, but a free copy or story told in GIFs is! If you build it, they will come. i.e. If you have succeeded in creating good relationships they will support you when the book comes out because they like you not your links. Invite people to engage, don’t threaten them with spam.

7. Be memorable. What is it about your online persona that will keep people coming back? Are you an authority on something? Have a hobby other that writing? The best way to be memorable is to be you. If you feel like you’re putting on a hat when you do it then it’s not coming from an authentic place. Growing a following is a slow process, so it has to come from a place that you know. And that’s usually yourself and your writing.

Q: What are some surprising ways that you’ve connected with like-minded people online?

6 Tips for Author Self Promotion You Can Start Today

Quote3Self promotion has a sense of over-confidence about it. Only people who think super highly of themselves can promote themselves unabashedly, right?

Wrong. Self promotion has two sides to it: you and people who receive it. If you build a community online (whether it’s social media, a blog, or a website) self promotion is how to reach that audience. And if that audience is following you, they want to know what’s going on with you and celebrate with you.

6 Tips for Author Self Promotion You Can Start Today

1. Comment on blogs/websites, @-reply or ‘like’ equal to twice as much as you post original content. Shouting into the void doesn’t bring more people to your cause. If you engage with others in a way that doesn’t directly benefit you, other than that personal connection, you’ll find people will do the same for you.

2. Get visual. Have any graphic design skills? (If not, there’s an app for that.) Try putting text over images to create visual interest. Have a popular or new recipe or quote? Put it on an image. This is great for Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. See Taylor Jenkins Reid’s graphic for her novel AFTER I DO in this post. We’re a culture with short attention span. Capitalize on that.

3. Combine forces. You don’t have to do it alone! Do a Twitter chat with another author. Start a hashtag conversation. Guest post on another person’s blog. Have them guest post on yours. Bring new readership.

4. We are creatures of habit. Start a schedule. A posting or tweeting schedule is important to your sanity and creates reader expectation and anticipation.

5. Internalize a brand or message. Who do you want to be online? The informational resource people can come to? The funny, jokey person that loves to banter? The person that brings insight to causes? The person that shares their personal journey? You can be a mix, certainly, but think about the persona you are and the message you want to share. Start living that message today.

6. Collect email addresses. On your website or blog make sure there’s a place that people can subscribe. Don’t ignore this simple way to collect information for future use like an e-newsletter.

Ready to reach your audience?