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Repost: Christina Katz talks about the writer’s platform

Good morning everyone

Today I have a treat for you. I have been reading
Christina’s e-zines for a long time, and had the
honor of meeting her face-to-face on May 5th
when she held a workshop at our local library in
Bellevue, WA. When the opportunity to host an
interview with her came up, I asked her to visit
with us. If you are confused as to what a writer’s
platform is, or not sure you’ve got all your bases
covered on your platform, read this for a clear view
on the topic.

Christina Katz

Christina Katz

So to get the ball rolling I’d like to introduce Christina
Katz, 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
.
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.

It’s my pleasure and a great honor to welcome Christina Katz
to my blog, so sit back and enjoy.

GO:
Christina, welcome to Gloria’s Corner. It was great meeting you
on the 5th and I am honored to be able to have you here today
to share your knowledge on the platform issue with my readers.
So to get started can you explain what a platform is?

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.

GO: 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.

GO: How did you come to write Get Known Before the Book Deal?

Get Known Before the Book Deal

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.

GO: 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.

GO: Before I go on with the next question, let me add
that I highly recommend her book. It is fabulous. That said, Christina,
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.

GO: 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.

GO: 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.

GO: 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.

GO: Couldn’t any author have written this book? Why you?

CK: I have built a career over the past decade empowering writers.
I’ve developed and built my own platform as a writing-for-traditional-publication
specialist, and I’ve worked with others as a writing and platform-development
instructor. Many of the people I’ve been working with are landing book deals
and while the other hundred-or-so writers I work with a year are developing
their skills, I notice patterns of behavior—what leads to success, where writers
get stuck, and how I can be helpful in these rapidly changing times
in the industry.

I’ve witnessed too many writers, who were off to a great start, hopping
online and quickly becoming very lost. I started to write about platform
in Writer Mama, How To Raise A Writing Career Alongside Your
Kids
, but I quickly noticed that more details on platform
development were desperately needed. My platform is based on helping
others. I have a vested interest in seeing the people I work with—and
those who read my book—succeed. Writers are my tribe.

GO: Hmmm…I like that thought – Writer Mama, leader of the tribe.
Well, Christina, thanks for visiting with us today. If anyone has questions
for Christina she will be checking in here several times over the next 24
hours, so leave them in the comments and she’ll answer them. Don’t
forget to check back for your answers. So go ahead leave a comment,
tell us what you think about building a platform, and if you have a
question, don’t forget to leave that too. For more information from
Christina Katz visit her Web site. Have a great day!

Till next time,

Gloria

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