How to Convince an Agent You’re Worth a Second Look

Posted June 19, 2009 | Laura Christianson

Rachelle Gardner

After reading literary agent, Rachelle Gardner’s post, “The Dreaded Author Platform,” I immediately tweeted her and asked permission to reprint it. Rachelle brings up some excellent points about the importance of using social media to build a readership – before you ever pitch your project to an agent or editor.

Here’s her column, in its entirety:

Last week at the Write-To-Publish conference, the one topic that kept coming up in conversations, panels, and workshops was AUTHOR PLATFORM. Yes, the hated p-word!

I explained again and again that publishing just ain’t what it used to be. Gone are the days when publishers were solely responsible for the marketing of a book.

Today’s audience is more segmented than it has ever been before. People have more options for their leisure time than ever before – 600 channels on television, movies on demand, video games and Wii, and then of course, the Internet. It’s harder than ever to attract people to books. The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.

(This discussion applies mostly to non-fiction writers, but you novelists, take note. It will help you, too, if you want strong sales on your book.)

It has never been more crucial for authors to play a major part in marketing themselves, BUT it has never been easier. Where are readers hanging out these days? The Internet. That’s the best place for you to find readers for your books.

The Internet has leveled the playing field. With a well-written and compelling blog, you have the potential to build a significant platform. If you take the time to research website optimization and do everything recommended to build traffic on your blog, you can build a sizable audience in a matter of months. Then when you begin to use Twitter and Facebook strategically, you can grow your audience exponentially.

You can, and you must.

After the conference last week, and all the conversations I had with writers, editors and agents, I almost wanted to announce that I’d no longer accept queries from anyone who doesn’t already have a good solid head start on a platform. (I won’t draw such a clear line in the sand, but consider yourself informed.)

If you have major credentials, teach at a university or pastor a large church, make a living as a public speaker to large audiences, appear on national television regularly, publish stories in the New Yorker, or you’re a regular contributor in Esquire or the Washington Post (for example), then don’t worry about what I’m saying here.

But if NOT…. then you really need to show that you are willing and able to put the time and effort into marketing yourself and building a readership online. You’re competing with so many authors who already do this.

I DON’T want to see in your proposal, “I am willing to start a blog and join social networks to market myself.”

I DO want to see:

“I’ve been blogging for a year, with my readership growing steadily. I use Facebook and Twitter to create relationships with potential future readers of my books, and to drive people back to my blog. I’m currently making contact through the blog and social networks with several hundred (or several thousand) people a day.”

You want to sell a book? Take this seriously. You don’t have to have a television show or be on the radio. You don’t have to be a celebrity. But you DO have to have a good book, AND you have to be able to sell it.

It doesn’t cost money. It doesn’t require special skills, besides the ones you already have: those of being a writer. What it DOES take is time. Marketing yourself as an author will cost you a serious investment of time.

Can you do it? Will you do it?

Is this dream worth it? You tell me.

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4 responses to “How to Convince an Agent You’re Worth a Second Look”

  1. Katherine Lakes says:

    Excellent information.

  2. Katherine Lakes says:

    Excellent information.

  3. Katherine Lakes says:

    Excellent information.

  4. Katherine Lakes says:

    Excellent information.

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