When to Query a Book

On this long and winding road called the publishing journey there’s the question of when to query a book. The answer isn’t too mind blowing but it comes up enough that it’s worth covering.

When to query a book

The answer of when to query a book is different for fiction and non-fiction, and there are different answers within non-fiction as well. Here are the basics.

When to query a book: fiction

If you’re querying a fiction book it both needs to be 100 per cent finished and revised/edited. In other words, your book needs to be complete.

One pub tip I read from an agent read she shouldn’t be the first person to read your book. Good advice!

When to query a book: non-fiction

This is a bit trickier to answer but I’ll try. The best advice is to check out the agent or editor you’re querying and see what their requirements are—because it seems like all non-fiction agents/editors want similar yet different things.

If you’re writing memoir or narrative non-fiction then your manuscript needs to be complete before querying (same as fiction). However, if you’re writing prescriptive non-fiction then you do not need to have a finished manuscript before querying.

I’m pleased about the prescriptive non-fiction rules because it’s what I’m writing but I’ve learned you still need to have the book figured out and, like, thought through because you need an amazing book proposal should you get past the query stage.

And another hitch with prescriptive non-fiction is you need a significant platform in order to get an agent or editor. I know. But you just do.

Since learning this I can see many reasons for holding off on querying even if you’re manuscript or proposal is ready. Because getting an agent or editor isn’t the only moving target in this adventure—there is so much more to consider. So. We’re all excited and just want to query the heck out of our books. But I challenge you to ask yourself if you’re really ready. Is your manuscript ready? Is your platform ready? Are you ready? If you have considered these questions then you know when to query a book.

On this long and winding road called the publishing journey there's the question of when to query a book. The answer isn't too mind blowing but it comes up enough that it's worth covering.

More about non-fiction publishing

How to Create Better Blog Post Images with Canva

In the writing world words are the thing. So when people tell us writers we need (nay, require) better blog post images we recoil in shock. What now!? But I’m a writer! I cannot! Even!

How to create better blog post images with Canva

And a few years ago I would have commiserated with you. Because there was a learning curve if you weren’t a professional photographer—you have to learn design and of course then you had to figure out Photoshop (and pay for it). If you gave up on taking photos yourself then you entered the world of stock photography and, a few years ago, the cost was high and the competition was low.

But the story is tres different today. There are so many tools available to non-designers and non-photographers it’s time to accept your need for better blog post images and hop on the bus.

For creating better blog post images I recommend Canva to anyone who asks. It’s a free design tool for non-designers—and it’s so easy to use. It’s in the cloud so you don’t have to download anything and you can use it from anywhere, including your mobile. You can design your own graphics if you’re inclined, or you can take suggestion from their huge template library.

The first thing you should do is figure out a few image templates you’ll use over and over in your blogs. This cuts down on decision fatigue and helps keep your blog brand consistent. Don’t freak out! This is all a part of creating better blog images. Templates are your friend. And remember what I said earlier? Canva has a massive template library! You’re going to be fine!

When building your templates you may get tripped up on fonts, images and colours. Since we’re not design trained I suggest we don’t trust our instincts. At least, that’s what I suggest to myself. Here’s what I do instead.

Create Better Blog Post Images with Canva

Fonts

First, you need to choose a font, which is no easy feat. There are bajillions of fonts to choose from. In the link I dropped I’ve offered a few ways to narrow it down but here are the main points: choose something readable and stick with it. Now, when you’re creating images you may want to use a couple different fonts—risky stuff! If you want to spice things up font-wise, use Canva’s free font combinations thingy. Select your main font and let Canva show you what will pair well with it. Done.

Images

While you can create graphics without photos there is still a decision to make here—will you be an exclusive image-only blog? Or just graphics? Or a mix of both? Figure out how you want your site to look and go from there. If you’re going with photos, Canva has a large stock photo library—some of which are free to use. There are many, many options online for stock photography these days so you have options if you want to use photos but can’t/don’t want to use your own. Even if you’re not planning on using many photos I still recommend finding a photo style you resonate with (be it nature, lifestyle, flat lay, etc.) as it will help you in your ongoing branding and in colour selection.

Colours

If you’ve chosen your website or blog branding colours then this isn’t a decision you have to make—stick with your branding. However, if you haven’t done this yet it’s time to pick a palette. And, since we’re not designers, how does one know what colours go together? I use Canva’s colour palette generator every time I need one. And I don’t just use it for my blog images—it’s how I chose my living room colours and how I decide the palettes for my knitting projects!

When you find your inspiration image, one that you feel represents the essence of your blog and/or brand, upload it to the colour palette generator and watch it do its magic. Because it’s magical.

In the writing world words are the thing. So when people tell us writers we need (nay, <em>require</em> better blog post images we recoil in shock. What now!? But I'm a writer! I cannot! Even!

As a writer, the subject of website images can be overwhelming. The goal of today’s post is to help simplify it—yes you should have images on your blog and yes, I think you can create better blog post images. Here are the highlights.

  • Use a program like Canva
  • Remember, templates are your friend
  • Build a visual brand using fonts, images and colours
  • Stay on brand!

How to Promote Your Writing on Social Media

When you’re a freelance writer it might seem a bit strange to promote your writing to others on social media but it’s an important step in marketing your work and showcasing your skills.

How to promote your writing on social media

Your first thought might be that you can’t share your freelance writing either because it won’t make sense to your social media followers, you’re ghost writing and it’s not exactly OK to take credit for ghost writing or you’re under a confidentiality clause. All very possible and very important reasons why you should not be sharing your stuff! But that doesn’t get you off the hook. Maybe you can’t share your freelance work but you can promote your writing on social media.

What writing you ask? Here are a few ideas.

How to promote your writing on social media

  1. You can write a blog and share individual articles on social media as they publish

    Write and publish articles on your website or on a platform like Medium. Whatever it is, you can share articles on LinkedIn, tweet links to them on Twitter, post about them on Facebook, talk about them on Instagram…you’re creating content, putting your work out there and engaging your followers all at the same time. Blogs are brilliant.

  2. What’s your area of expertise? Create tips and tricks to help your followers improve in that area and post about them on social media

    Maybe you offer a tip per week on Instagram or perhaps it’s a Facebook Live video each month…whatever it is you’re showcasing your skills on social media and helping potential clients get to know, like and trust you.

  3. Have you written a book? Then why not talk about that on social media

    Develop a content calendar and rotate through different ways to talk about your book—talk about who it’s for, what the benefit is to the reader, publish excerpts, put it on sale, etc.

  4. Post about what you learn

    Maybe you can’t post about the exact freelance work you’re doing but maybe you can post about ways you’ve learned to make it easier, more efficient, etc. Have you learned about a new place to get great gigs? Why not share about that? How about a new hack to get your brainstorms down in a quarter of the time? I’m sure people would love learning about that! When you share about things you learn you become a resource for your followers—someone they want to hear more from.

  5. If you can post your freelance work—do it! Share them all over social media

    When you share your latest article or post try and talk about it in a way that is interesting rather than “Here’s an article I wrote, check it out!” While that works every now and then if you become someone who drops links and just expects your followers to read it because you wrote it. Try and engage them by describing what’s in it for them if they take the time to click the link.

When you're a freelance writer it might seem a bit strange to promote your writing to others on social media but it's an important step in marketing your work and showcasing your skills.

For more ideas about promoting your writing check out these articles

I’ve Self-Published a Book…Now What?

You’ve worked hard for a while writing your book and then you worked hard and self-published your book. Wow! Well done! That’s a lot of work. So…now what do you do?

Self-published now what

In an ideal world you, the author, would have worked out your marketing plan before you wrote and self-published your book but from what I see and hear from the authors I know and work with…it doesn’t happen that way. The drive to write and publish becomes a hyper-focal point and no “you should plan your marketing!” bird chirping in the background will make any difference.

And if the entire goal is to get the book done and self-published then this is an awesome accomplishment. However, if selling the book is the goal then there are a few more steps to take. Well, maybe a lot more.

Once you’ve self-published your book the next step is to market it to your ideal readers

In essence this is simple—put your book in front of the people who will love it. Except finding those people is not always easy. You have to dissect your book and figure out what type of reader would be interested in your writing style and subject matter. And then you need to find them…what stores do they shop in? Where do they hang out? What is their favourite social media platform? What are their biggest fears? What do they care most about? What type of marketing will they best respond to?

There are a lot of ways you can find your ideal reader (or book buyer, however you want to see it) so it’s important not just to parrot what you see others doing online but to find something that works for you and feels natural.


If you are stuck for ideas here are a few you can consider to help market your self-published book.

  • If you’re looking to find new readers make the e-version of your book free and find a way to add them to your email list. This way you can nurture them and (hopefully) sell them your next book
  • Need sales fast? Run ads on platforms where your ideal readers are—consider Facebook, Amazon, BookBub, KDP Countdown, etc.
    If you want to dive deeper into ads here’s a helpful post from David Gaughran
  • Set up local readings or offer to speak free at local events in order to promote your book
  • Go on an online book tour (wondering how to set it up? Here’s a guide from Book Marketing Tools

You've worked hard for a while writing your book and then you worked hard and self-published your book. Wow! Well done! That's a lot of work. So...now what do you do? #writing #selfpublish

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What is an Author Platform?

If you Google “What is an author platform?” you’ll see many, many sort-of answers. Because this isn’t a simple question. But I’m still going to try and answer it.

What is an Author Platform

In a nutshell, a platform is the sum total of ways you, the author, can sell your book.

But…what does that mean? What is an author platform? That answer doesn’t tell me anything!

Hah! I know. And people in general assume a platform is how many social media followers you have, and maybe at one point that was it, but since you can buy followers you can still have loads of followers and not sell any books. So that can’t be the only thing that makes up your platform.

I mean, it will make some of it.

But here’s a few other things that make up a well-rounded platform.

What is an author platform?

  • Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
  • Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
  • Personality and follow through—25%
  • Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

It kind of makes sense, right? When you pitch an agent or publisher they need to know you can motivate your existing readers, reach new readers and build strong relationships with your readers.

A common follow-up question to what is an author platform is: does this apply to all authors?

Hah! Kind of?

From my research I’ve learned while almost all non-fiction authors need a platform, not all fiction authors do.

Although it’s overwhelming to think about building a thriving team of superfans when it’s hard enough to getting words on the page the more I think about it the more I understand why it’s necessary. Publishing a book isn’t the hard part (although, like, that’s not simple)—selling your book is.

Think about it this way: let’s say you’re putting together a workshop and you’re partnering with a local venue as the host. Well, is it 100% up to the venue to sell the thing out? No, of course not. Sure they can help by spreading the word to their customers but it’s up to you to bring in your friends and fans. The ability to draw people in shows the strength of your platform. So make it strong.

One other thing to think about when asking what is an author platform is to consider everything you do as a contribution to your platform. In-person connections are often stronger than online ones so don’t take those for granted. Think about the associations you’re a member of, the clubs you participate in and the hobbies you have. If you think those could be channels to sell books then make sure they’re strong connections. Contribute to them and make yourself a valuable member.

Wondering how to grow your platform? Here are a few ideas from Writer’s Digest.

  • Find out what your target audience is reading and publish articles or blogs in those outlets
  • Publish a body of work on your topic in a blog, newsletter, podcast, video blog, etc. to grow organic followers and fans over time and help you build authority in your niche
  • Attending events (or speaking at these events if possible) where you can expand your network
  • Find meaningful ways to connect with your target audience—put on events, run challenges, have promotions, etc.
  • Partner with people in your niche (either peers or influencers) to grow your reach and pick up new fans

If you Google "What is an author platform?" you'll see many, <em>many</em> sort-of answers. Because this isn't a simple question. But I'm still going to try and answer it.

Other posts about platform building and non-fiction writing