Unpublished and hungry for a book contract? Present yourself to literary agents and book publishers so as to stick in their minds. So that they will tell you, “Send me your manuscript. I want to read it.”
1: Create and hone delivery out loud of a 3-minute pitch for your unpublished book project.
Sample fiction pitch (thanks to New York Times Book Review and author’s website): “An Afghan-American returns to Kabul to learn how his friend has fared under the Taliban” is my first novel’s story. I was an 11-year-old, thin-framed seventh-grader when I left Afghanistan with my family. I returned recently to Kabul after completing my manuscript, traveling as a 38-year-old physician residing in Northern California, a writer, a husband and father of two. My name is Khaled Hosseini. May I send you a synopsis and 50 opening pages for my manuscript titled The Kite Runner? Here is my business card.”
Sample nonfiction pitch: “I am in my 80s, an accomplished working painter with studios in Paris and New York, as well as a published writer and poet, and a feminist. From the age of 22 in the 1940s, I lived for a decade with Picasso, left him, and then raised two of his children. I have since been married to the painter Luc Simon and to Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine. My name is Françoise Gilot. May I send you a book proposal with sample chapters for my memoir? Here is my business card.”
For practice, visit online the New York Times Book Review‘s and other best-seller lists, study the one-sentence blurbs, make up one pitching your own work. Practice your pitch at home in front of a mirror, with fellow writers, with friends and family, with strangers you meet in bookstores. Practice your pitch until your delivery is confident, short, sweet, and perfect.
2: Create a do-it-yourself website and start blogging. Launch an ezine, develop a following, and capture the visitor data. Keep writing your book.
3. Design author business cards and an email signature that include your 3-minute pitch and all your contact information, your blog, your website, your ezine. Keep these cards with tape and thumbtacks on your person, at work, in your car at all times. Hand your card out to everyone everywhere. Post your cards in coffee shops, on library notice boards, online at writers’ communities.
4. Develop an author-platform database using information and cards you collect from people that you meet and who visit your website. Reach out personally and get to know the managers and buyers for your local chain and independent booksellers.
5. Contact book review editors across the country, from very local to very national, and start reviewing books for them off- and online using a byline with your “forthcoming” book’s title, your URL, ezine, and blog. Add these names to your platform database. Keep writing your book.
6. Write 250- to 500-word personal essays, short stories, articles about your book’s subject using a byline with your “forthcoming” book’s title, your URL, ezine, and blog. Send copies to agents and editors you have targeted, to fellow bloggers, eziners, webmavens, your local booksellers.
7. Join writers’ and publishers’ groups and volunteer. Write for the newsletters and insert your byline. Agree to help out at events and to escort speakers to and from lectures. Exchange business cards with everyone you meet. Add all to your platform database.
8. Research author readings and writers’ conferences within driving distance of your house and attend them. Become a regular. Go for coffee with people you meet there; exchange business cards; write print and online reviews of the published books of the authors you meet to spread your byline around. Add more entries to your database. Attend conferences and publishing trade events and shows farther and farther from home. Network. Network. Collect business cards. Add to your database. Keep writing your book.
9. Find your way online to bloggers and writers interested in book publishing. Cross-link web sites and expand your database with addresses and links to people who read, write, sell, and publish books. Keep writing your book.
10. Give a talk on your subject at local libraries, to elementary and high school Language Arts or other classes. Teach adult-ed workshops on writing, blogging, ezining, and book reviewing. Make certain your full byline appears in course catalogs and websites. Hand out your business cards to students. Collect the addresses of every attendee and add them to your database. Keep writing your book.
11. Expand your website with new pages for your bylined online or in-print pieces to download, your writer’s activities and schedule (volunteer events count!). Offer free online teleseminars and workshops. Keep writing your book.
12. Go for it, so we can buy your book when it is published and catch you on Oprah. Good luck!
Anita D. McClellan is a book doctor, a literary consultant with Anita D. McClellan Associates ( http://www.anitamcclellan.com). She works with English-language writers of book-length fiction and nonfiction across North America and overseas. Formerly, she was an editorial executive in corporate publishing houses. Find her at http://www.PublishersMarketplace.com.
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