Writer to Agent Q & A: The Platform

Here is part three to the Writer to Agent Q&A with Kimberly Cameron and Associates. This section will answer questions about a writer’s platform, the things that show your face to the world. It will answer questions about social media and attending writing conferences. You can find Part One (The Query) here and Part Two (The Manuscript) here.  
Back in January 2014 I joined a Writer’s Digest Boot Camp called Agent One-on-One where the wonderful, informative agents from Kimberley Cameron and Associates critiqued our queries, synopses, and first few pages. It was an invaluable experience and I highly recommend the Boot Camps to all writers looking for help in their writing journeys. Here are *some* of the Q & As that were asked by various writers and answered by the agents during Boot Camp. Many questions were about the writer’s personal works and were not written down. Hopefully this helps some writers out there!
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Social Media: When Agents Google You:

Q: I understand social media is very important. What are agents looking for when looking up perspective clients? Is a low amount of followers going to be a red flag?

EK: Some contracts now are specifying expectations for author social media use.  Yes, 23 followers is a red flag, especially if writing nonfiction.  You really need to think of branding yourself as an author.  This shows that you believe in yourself and your work, and that you are serious about your partnership with a publisher. I won’t take on clients now who are not willing to develop their platform (both fiction and nonfiction). I tell all of my clients to “friend” my client Joe Clifford, which I suggest all of my Bootcamp people do. Joe is amazing at social media and promoting his work. He has created a great social media community that is completely supportive of him

So, yes, keep developing this.

Another reason why, if you suddently get a digital book deal, your book could be up in less than a month (as happened with four of my authors). Luckily, I had them working on their websites…before I shopped them. Everything happened so quick that some of them were a little behind. You want to be sure the lights are on and the room is warm before an editor has your work in their hands.  They will Google you, and if you are nowhere to be found, it will influence them.

Google can help here.  Google simple terms like “How to build a Twitter following.”  We also have some info on our agency blog, written by our social media intern, Kenny. www.kimberleycameron.com. But if you Google simple “how to” terms, you will find a lot of reference material.

At the very least, you need: website, facebook, twitter, goodreads, linkedin, wattpad


Fellow Writer’s Answer: 

  1. Think of Twitter as The Water Cooler, Facebook as The Barbecue and LinkedIn as The Boardroom
  2. One of the best ways of growing a Twitter following is to write great blog posts, especially posts that recognize the 10-50 of the top authors in your genre (with their Twitter handles) and then share with them that you put them on a special list as a blog post. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness and you can start to build out a strong following from there.
Do you check Author’s Websites if you’re interested in their work?
Q: Do you go to an author’s website as part of your review if you’re interested after reading the query letter? What are the three most important elements you look for?
PM: Not the query letter, but if I decide to sign up a writer or I really like her ms, I go to the website to find out more about her/him. Three most elements on the website would be:
  • How tastefully is it done and how easy is it to view.
  • How regularly does the author use her website/blog, what the traffic is like.
  • Has she/he published short stories, books, etc before. What are the other projects she’s currently on.

Just to give me an idea of the person I’m going to sign. I have to add, though, that a platform is much more important for a non-fiction author to have. When it comes to fiction, this is something that I like my authors to have but I can help the author build it up even while we’re prepping her book for submission. However, when it’s non-fiction, we need an established platform in place before I can even think of taking it to editors, and this could take anywhere between 6 months to a year if the author doesn’t have one.

Copies Sold = Success:
Q: How many copies (sold) is enough for a debut novelist to be considered a success by a publisher? I realize this is a function of the advance, but speaking in generalities?
KC: Another good question – no hard and fast rules, but if the author sells out their print run (the number of books printed), they are definitely successful!!!!! It changes and is different for every book and publisher – some print runs are as low as 1500 to 2000.
Where do I go to find out the # of books sold?

Q: Where do go to find out how many copies of a book has been sold?

PM: To be honest, this is a bit of a round about process. You can find out from Publisher’s Weekly (Wilson’s Periodicals Room), by contacting bookstores, checking bestseller lists, by visiting author websites, Neilsen Book Scan (although this is expensive), contacting book publishers…many ways to do this really.

Recommended Conferences:
Q: We, as writers, should be attending as many conferences as possible (assuming our wallets aren’t feeling particularly huffy) because it’s a very successful way to meet agents. Are there any conferences you would recommend?
MM: Off the top of my head: PNWA, SFWC, SDSUWC. There’s a list on Wikipedia.

If you’re going with the intent to meet agents, pick the ones that have the most agents going. 🙂

EK: I suggest going to the biggests writers conferences, where you have an opportunity to sit in front of many editors/agents.  PNWA is a big one (lots of agents/editors). SDSU, which I’m going to next week, has a huge list of agents/editors attending.  San Francisco Writer’s Conference is also a big one.  I do the Algonkian conference as well, but it’s smaller. I recommend the big ones, where you can sit in front of a lot of different people.  Making a personal connection with an agent can make all the difference.
PM: In addition to the above, the Atlanta Writers Conference. And about East Coast Conferences – Check out this website! http://writerunboxed.com/2012/05/28/5-28/
Writing a Conference Pitch:
Q: I’m at a writing conference and I’m ready to pitch my book to an agent. What does an agent want to hear in the first few minutes? What actions should I avoid? Any suggestions would be helpful.
PM:The agent wants to hear your pitch, short and snappy, like a movie logline- think of it, most pitches at conferences give you maybe 1 minute to 5 minutes to pitch your book. So the less roundabout it is, the more straightforward, the better. So it would be a good idea to time your pitches at home before you go in and create one that would fit a minute or two minutes or three depending on the conference you’re going to and their pitch time. To add to this, no matter the stated time limit keep your pitch a full 90 seconds less than the time allowed so that the agent, if interested, has time to ask questions
Hiring a Publicist:

HQ: It seems that no matter who publishes my book, I will have to promote the book anyway. What are your thoughts on hiring a Publist early on in the game for a new author?

EK: I think anything to maximize your book’s success is a good thing if you can afford to do so. You want your books to sell so it will be easier to sell your next book. It might be nice to make some money, too. You just want to make sure the publicist doesn’t step on toes with the publisher. Also, seems to me that after about six months, things slow down, so you may want to use a publicist as things begin to slow (though a publicist may tell you different). It’s worth consulting one.

What is the impact Self-Publishing has had on you as an agent?

Q: General question about what you think the impact of self-publishing has had on you as an agent.

PM: Not much really. This is a good question. To be honest, I get a lot of queries from self-published authors who’d like to take their book via the traditional route, or who’d like someone to help them navigate the technical business side of the job. Unfortunately, unless their self published books have done really well, the chances of an agent signing them up is rare, solely because then it becomes hard for the agent to sell that project. It’s already out there, read by people, and if it didn’t do well, then chances are editors aren’t going to be interested. However, if a book has been out there for say a month and about 10,000-30,000 copies have been sold (solid sales numbers), then that’s a healthy number for me to take to editors.
Usually my advice to someone who’s going down the self pub route is that they need to be prepared to not just put the book out there but to be aggressive about marketing and promoting it. I know there are authors who make it big and millions of copies get sold, however, such a situation is rare and there are far more people who struggle to sell that those that sell millions of copies. Think of this as a business and think of ways to make your business flourish. However, if you’re not ready for that, then self-pub is not the way to go. And once you do go down that route, then you need to stick to it and see it through until the e
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