Whenever I drive through my neighborhood, I pass a farmhouse that was built in the early 20th century. The owners have been remodeling it for approximately 10 years now. It appears that they are re-siding it one board at a time, because every once in a while, a new piece of siding appears on the house.
This never-ending remodeling job is similar to the way a lot of pre-published authors write their books. They write a page here, a chapter there, late at night or on the weekend or while waiting for their kids to finish sports practice.
Many, many I writers I know spend ten years or more writing and editing one book. Often, those 10 years include the manuscript getting shoved into the dark recesses of a file cabinet for several years.
Eventually, the author decides the book is finished – or is as good as it’s going to get – and they bravely pitch their book to an editor or agent at a writers conference.
Quick Tip for Pitching Your Book to an Agent or Editor
If you are working on a book, don’t assume that you can cold contact an agent or acquisitions editor at a publishing house with your query or your book proposal or your entire manuscript. Cold calling rarely works.
Editors and agents want to meet you in person and listen to your pitch in person. So the absolute best investment you can make if you have a book to pitch is to attend a writers conference – one at which acquisitions editors and agents are present and are taking one-on-one or group pitch appointments.
Many writers conferences have converted to online conferences during the past couple of years, and they are almost always more affordable to attend than in-person conferences. Plus, editors and agents attend virtual conferences, and are available for pre-scheduled pitch sessions.
In episode 75, I chatted with the co-directors of the WCCW Conference, Sarah Sundin and Sharon Elliott, about how attending a writers conference can launch and grow your career.
You take the book you’re labored on for 10 years to a conference and pitch it. And the editor or agent says something like, “I’m intrigued. Tell me about your author platform. How many people subscribe to your email list? What kind of a following do you have for your blog (or your podcast, or your speaking engagements)? How many social media followers do you have, and how do you interact with your followers?”
GULP. You’re frantically thinking, Email subscribers? If I had an email list – which I don’t – there’d be only two subscribers: my best friend and me.
Blog? Yeah, I started a blog two years ago, but I haven’t published a new article in… 2 years.
Social media? All this hoopla over TikTok and Instagram Reels is ridiculous. There’s no way I’m gonna breakdance or Irish dance or hip-hop dance in front of the camera. And pointing at words on the screen while contorting my face or lip-synching to a rap song? Not happening in my lifetime!
Of course, you don’t admit any of those things to the agent. You just sit there, either nodding and pretending to look knowledgeable or bursting into tears while your stomach plummets to the ground.
The agent kindly advises you to contact them again when you have 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 people on your email list (pick a number, but they always seem to mention one in the 4,000-10,000 range).
I share my thoughts on vanity numbers during episode 67: The Problem with Vanity Numbers, Half-Truths, and Swollen Egos
You leave the meeting feeling absolutely crushed.
I knew I wasn’t a writer, you say to yourself. I just knew it. I wasted 10 years of my life for nothing.
At this point, a lot of writers give up altogether. They stuff their manuscript into the deepest, darkest corner of their closet and that’s it.
By that, I mean not making the book you feel compelled to write into the be-all, end-all, but viewing that book as one single project in your writing career?
Your writing career might consist of book publishing, plus blogging, article publishing, podcasting, public speaking, coaching, professional editing, attending and or volunteering and teaching at writers conferences, working for a book publisher – there are so many writerpreneurial options in addition to book publishing.
Going back to our imaginary pitch session with an agent or editor…
When pre-published authors pitch their book to an editor or agent, the first advice they’ll likely get is to test-drive the topic and develop an audience via blogging, podcasting, public speaking, writing articles for print and online publications.
While most writers who’ve slaved for years over their manuscript don’t want to hear this, it really is solid advice.
If you have a dream of getting traditionally published – working with a publisher who pays you to write a book that they publish on your behalf – one thing you can begin doing immediately to shift into writerpreneur mode is to start an email list if you don’t already have one.
If you do have a list and its growth is stagnant or non-existent, you’ll want to jump-start your list.
I’ve been talking about this during the last three episodes, and I suggest that you go back and listen to:
Episode 78 – When Should I Start Marketing My Book?
Episode 80 – Jump-Start Your Email List, an introduction to my 7-week group coaching program that starts March 15, 2022.
Unlike social media, which changes in the blink of an eye, your email list sticks with you for years and you own it and you control it.
Your email list is the central clearinghouse where you can route readers who are becoming interested in you through your blog, your podcast, your public speaking, the articles you write, and your other writerpreneurial activities.
Unlike social media, which is great for connecting and interacting with people but hasn’t been proven to work effectively, in terms of generating book sales – the people who subscribe to your email list are genuinely interested in you and what you have to offer.
As you consistently serve your people and provide transformational content that they value, they’ll stay on your list. Some of these people will become your raving fans – they’re the ones most likely to invest in your books.
Becoming a writerpreneur boils down to three things:
- Know your ideal reader.
- Find out what your reader wants.
- Give it to them.
Your 10% edge
You don’t have to be an “expert” or “guru” to do this – all you need is a 10% edge – you know 10% more than your reader or have 10% more experience than them. Take what you know and what you already do well and package it in a way that’ll appeal to your reader, and give it to them.
Yes, I said give it to them. Not sell it to them.
Being a generous giver is the first step in nurturing a relationship with your reader.
Your reader will appreciate you for giving them what they needed, when they most needed it. They may even love you for it.
That relationship is worth so much more than killing yourself in an attempt to entice 10,000 people to follow you on Instagram.
Your ideal readers – your email subscribers – know they can count on you to guide them as they seek to transform into the kind of person they long to be.
They love the way you write. They love the way you deliver information. They love the way you teach. They love the way you interact with them.
How do you figure out what this thing is that your reader needs, then create it, package it, and give it to them?
Explore my Email Marketing Starter Package, which is customized to meet your specific needs.
The Blogging Bistro team will help you get started with Mailerlite, Flodesk, MailChimp, ConvertKit, or AWeber (choose one), reliable email marketing services that equip you to you legally send e-newsletters, free downloadable resources, and blog posts to your subscribers.
Check out our additional email list-building services.
Free Email Marketing Training
I have a free gift for you, whether or not you enroll in the group coaching program. It’s called Email Marketing for Writers: 7 Days to Launch Your List.
This 7-day video training will help you understand the basics of email marketing.
- If you’re starting from zero, this training will help you avoid common mistakes and help you launch your list the right way.
- If you already have an email list but you’re not sure what to do with it or growth is stagnant, this training will get you back on track and give you fresh ideas for rejuvenating your list.
I consider this FREE course a prerequisite for the group coaching program, because, in 7 days, you’ll learn:
- How to do email marketing legally and ethically.
- Why every entrepreneur needs an email list (and why email is waaay more powerful than social media).
- How the right subscribers can translate into sales.
- How to set doable email marketing goals (not unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky goals you can never achieve).
- Top tops for getting your emails opened… and read (top tips for length, format, and frequency).
- 8 qualities of an irresistible free offer (that will skyrocket your signups).
- 20 places to put your opt-in form (for maximum visibility and explosive list growth).
The course will help you develop a solid foundation for your email marketing, so you’ll be ready to dive in to our group coaching program starting March 15.
Episodes on Becoming a Writerpreneur
Episode 3: Going ALL IN
Episode 9: Being True to Yourself
Episode 10: Moving from Self-Focused to Self-Forgetful
Episode 59: 4 Traits of a Gritty Writer
Episode 61: Intentional Business, with Britney Gardner
Episodes on Email List Building
Episode 66: Debunking 7 Myths About Email Marketing
Episode #24: List Cleaning Gets Rid of Deadbeat Subscribers
Episodes on Social Media
Episode 39: The Secret to ‘Doing’ Social Media
Episode 40: Create Winning Social Media Content
Episode 41: Efficiently Publish Social Media Content