Platform Development 101: The Village People

cmkwritermama.gifBy Christina Katz

If you have just signed a book contract or an agent agreement, congratulations! Now is the time to connect with your book’s “Village People” and start creating excitement for your book immediately inside your publishing house.

I bet you’d agree that the best books you have ever read draw on the widest number of resources. I’m talking about research, interviews with experts, polls, studies, statistics and connecting with current trends. So why wouldn’t you want as many real live supporters for your book inside your publishing house? What works on the page also works in the world.

Here’s a line-up of the people you’re likely to meet after you sign your contract as part of the Publisher’s Team:

The Acquisitions Editor
The editor who offers you a contract is your first ally inside the publishing company. No doubt this is the person who went to bat for your proposal and helped get your book concept through the approval process so you could sign a book contract in the first place. Keep in touch with your acquisitions editor, even after he’s handed you off to your book editor to go in search of other promising writers.

Tip: If you are friendly with your acquisitions editor, why not ask if he can suggest an agent whom he respects for you? With a book deal in your pocket and the recommendation of your editor, you can likely connect with agents who might not otherwise be available.

The Agent
You may have landed a book deal on your own or through an agent. If you don’t have an agent, I highly recommend that you get one. Not only can an agent negotiate a better contract for you than you can negotiate on your own, she can also advise you through the first-book process and help you envision a bright, future writing career. And remember, just like writers, agents are a pretty diverse bunch.

Tip: Just because an agent is the right agent for a writer friend, she may not be the right one for you. Be sure to interview both your friend and her agent to determine if she is a fit for your project and personality. Trust your instincts.

The Book Editor
Chances are good that your acquisitions editor will hand you off to another editor, your book editor. A book editor is likely to be the project manager of your book also. But don’t be surprised if your acquisitions editor is still involved in major decisions like cover art, formatting, and how to structure the book (at least this was my experience).

Tip: Your book editor is your friend for the long haul, so go out of your way to get to know her. I had a great experience with my book editor, even though she is quite a bit younger than I am (as is commonplace in this industry).

The Cover Designer
Cover designers may work in-house for publishers or as freelancers. The cover designer for Writer Mama was a member of the in-house team for Writer’s Digest Books. I was fortunate that my agent negotiated to include me in the cover review process. Working closely with your acquisitions editor and book editor can only help when it comes time for cover art reviews.

Tip: Be sure your agent inserts a clause in your contract that you will be “consulted” on your book’s cover. Otherwise you may find yourself unhappy and without a vote.

The Copy Editor
You will interact with your copy editor after you have completed your final manuscript. The copy editor assigned to you may work in-house or be a freelancer. You will likely receive a series of suggestions from your copy editor that further refine your manuscript and help prepare it for publication. However, you will both miss typos and that is just life. (Don’t worry. All your writer friends will let you know all about the typos that they find when they get their copies.)

Tip: Your book editor and acquisitions editor will also likely sign off on the draft of your book that goes to the printer. (If not, invite them for a final read because you won’t be able to catch anything at that point.)

The Publicity Director

Whoever manages book promotion and book events for your publisher is definitely a person you want to get to know. That is, if you want to be invited to literary conferences and get support publicizing your book. I am fortunate that the publicity and trade show manager at Writer’s Digest Book is such a charming and organized guy.

Tip: If you make an effort to get to know your publicity director, everything related to your book is bound to go better. Try to reserve judgment and be friendly and proactive. That’s a win-win-win attitude.

The Sales Team
I dropped the ball on this one. It never occurred to me that the sales team would care to meet me, so I didn’t initiate anything. When I finally met the two sales team leaders at a conference, I kicked myself for not getting to know them sooner. My bad.

Tip: Ask your acquisitions editor for a list of suggested contacts within the company whom she thinks you should meet. If you’re unsure about timing (and every company is different), just call when you get the contract to introduce yourself. No harm in that!

Lest we forget, it takes a village to write a book. Writing a book is not an event; it’s a journey, similar to ascending a mountain. (A mountain that you create as you climb!) Don’t go it alone. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t create an antagonistic dynamic with the folks who can be your allies and help you champion your book into the world.

Christina Katz is the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2007). She is a featured presenter at the Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference, The Whidbey Island Writers Association MFA Residency, and the Willamette Writers Conference. She’s been teaching writing-for-publication classes for six years and has appeared on Good Morning America. She is also publisher and editor of this e-zine and another called The Writer Mama. Christina blogs daily at http://www.thewritermama.wordpress.com/. For more about Writer Mama, visit Christina’s website at http://www.thewritermama.com/.

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