Sunday, June 10, 2007

BEA: Platforms to Pitches

The last program I attended on May 31 was "Platforms to Pitches: The Best Way to Sell Authors or Books to Agents, Publishers, the Media, and the Consumer!" presented by Kim Dower of Kim-from-L.A. Literary & Media Services.

I met Kim and her colleague William Applebaum after I'd been blown away by their "Perfect Pitch" program at BEA in Chicago a few years ago. Now I always have them speak at my LA workshops; in fact I schedule around their availability.

Following are my impressionistic notes--my hand was getting tired after scribbling for 2+ hours at the producers' panels.

Kim proudly quoted a writer who'd dubbed her "the enemy of literature" because she'd had the temerity to say that a book is a product. [It is. Get over it.] She stressed that as an author, you are a PARTNER with your publisher. [I tell authors the same thing.]

The first step toward empowerment is to know about the publishing process and how the industry works. The publisher and author have the same goal: To make money and to sell books. [All this stuff should be a no-brainer, but oftentimes it's big news to writers.]

Ask your editor:
  1. When is the book coming out?
  2. When do I get in touch with publicity & marketing people?
  3. Is there someone assigned to my book?
  4. Most important: Have you discussed hiring someone for publicity?
You want to know what the publisher's plans are. "We only have the budget to send out review copies" is code for "Your book is dead in the water." When you know what they're going to do, you'll know what to do.

You have to look at nonfiction hooks to get your book into the "news" category. While writing--even if it's a novel--every time something happens having to do with the subject, put a news clipping in a folder.

You are part of the product. Kim hates the term "platform" [so do I], but we all need one. Ask yourself:
  • Who am I more than a writer?
  • What do I have to say?
  • Do I have a personality? If not, how do I get one? [laffs]
For nonfiction, you must be able to write in one paragraph what your book has that others don't. Think of your book as a movie--write the "coming attractions."


People like to work with people they like, so be nice. [This should be a huge no-brainer too, but alas not.] The publishing business is based on relationships. What else do we have? It's not for the money. [Big rueful laffs.] People in publishing are wonderful. But they're overworked and don't have enough help.

Don't take anything personally. Give the publicity department energy, not problems. Treat them like anyone you want to get along with. If you hate everyone at your publisher, tell someone else, don't tell them. That's what agents are for! [guffaws]

Closing points:
  1. People buy books when they connect with you. So make connections.
  2. Ask WHY before planning HOW. The heart of the "why" will get you to what you have to do
  3. Write up a PRACTICAL publicity wish list. Match it up with your budget.

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