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Nonfiction
Part II: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
By Erika-Marie S. Geiss
November, 2007, 13:59

Professional associations, groups, and alumni can all help to launch your career.
When my publisher called to ask me to submit a proposal as an author candidate for an upcoming project, I was working on a different nonfiction project. Working on the proposal, I started studying and I mean studying how to sell it to agents and publishers. I discovered a lot of great resources, both in print and online, but among the most helpful was an article by Jenna Glatzer, founder of Absolute Write.

In the article, she outlined how to write a proposal that sells, described the essential elements of the nonfiction book proposal, and gave a concrete example. Everything in the article made complete sense. The only thing that daunted me was the platform, but as I worked on refining my proposal I realized that I did indeed have a platform and was able to include it in the proposal that my publisher requested. You too, have a platform lurking in the shadows. You just have to draw it out.
 
Platform Elements

Part I suggested that you ask yourself some preliminary questions, but there are deeper, clarifying questions to consider when drawing your platform out of hiding. Do you have a website, blog, or forum? Do you belong to any alumni groups? What other groups do you belong to such as professional organizations? If writing is not your full-time job, do your colleagues at your full-time job know that you're also a writer? Do you contribute to a print or online magazine? Have you taught classes or seminars?
 
Hang Your Shingle on the Internet

If you don't have a website yet, get one. It allows you to showcase yourself and your work including clips and excerpts. You can purchase your own name as your domain name and there are many inexpensive or free design programs and good, inexpensive hosting options available. Consider the expense and time that you will spend as an investment in your writing career.
 
The Alumni Association

You know how you get the alumni bulletins and they're full of the amazing things that your classmates and other alumni are doing? The alumni office wants to hear about alumni achievements. It's good for business. It shows current students and prospective freshmen what one can do with an education from Amazing University. Don't be shy; toot your own horn and tell them what you are doing the next time they send you that stupid reply card in the mail.

When your book is about to be released, send advance copies with a little personal note to your former academic advisor, the director of Alumni Relations and anyone else that you know and are still close to at the school. Send one to the publications department too along with a press release, and don't forget to include the year you graduated and your departments and degrees.

Consider this: all living alumni will get a copy of the alumni newsletter with information about your forthcoming or recently published book. Some may even buy it. With the alumni association trifecta of prep school, undergraduate school, and graduate school alma maters, I'm looking forward to filling out the next set of reply cards.
 
Using the alumni network does work. Here is a case-in-point. Shortly after Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie (Random House, 1997) was released, I had to get it after reading about it in the alumni magazine. Even though neither my or Mitch's years at Brandeis overlapped, nor had I taken any classes with Prof. Schwartz, I had to have a book written by a fellow Brandeisian.

A second case-in-point: I just received in the mail the alumni newsletter from my prep school alma matter. I learned of four new films and six new or recent publications by alumni that I knew. Needless to say, my library will be expanding soon. Work those alumni connections and resources.
 
Professional Groups and Associations

Like alumni groups, professional associations want to know what their members are doing even if it's unrelated to the group's theme. Also consider your 'network of colleagues. Your 'network is the writing-related Internet forums and groups that you belong to. Releasing the information once, in a format that will reach hundreds of others with whom you already have a connection can be quite effective. And you didn't have to bombard anyone with annoying self-promoting e-mail.
 
Annoying Self Promoting Email

This is the vehicle for bugging your friends and family. Tell them about your book, even if they already know about it. Encourage them to share the information with others. You can even use a press release format so that they can print it out and post it places they frequent. It certainly can't hurt, and chances are, they will be willing to do that little bit of legwork for you. If your book is on Amazon, encourage your personal fan club to post book reviews after they have read your book.
 
Use Your Website, Blog, or E-zine

Don't forget to include pre-release, release, and post-release information about your book, and where to purchase it on your website and other electronic media. If you already have book reviews, post them or links to them. Tell people about your new or forthcoming book early and with some frequency, but not so often as to become a nuisance.
 
In Part III, the final segment, you will learn how to maximize your in-person connections.

Read part I of this series

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Erika-Marie S. Geiss is a writer and editor living in Michigan. Author of The Passion Of Christ (Publications International, 2004) and another forthcoming book Fall 2008, publication credits include The News Herald, World Energy Monthly Review, IN and Speak2Me. A work-at-home mom, Geiss runs Red Pencil Editing Services and is Editor-in-Chief of the WAHMmagazine. www.erikageiss.com


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