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Writer Mama Success Rhythms

By Christina Katz Christina Katz and daughter

Now that all thoughts are turning towards 2010, l’d like to point out the key change I think all writers, including writer mamas, need to make. We all need to diversify our skill sets or we won’t be able to compete in the new marketplace. So as we enjoy the holiday season, think about how you will diversify your writing portfolio in 2010.
 
Craft: Try new forms. Your writing is going to be read in ways that have not even been discovered yet. How can writers prepare for this? By getting your needle unstuck and busting out beyond your most comfortable literary forms.
 
Never forget that attention spans are shrinking and that everyone is overworked and underpaid. So solemnly swear right now: I will not waste other people’ time. I will only write what is compelling, necessary and needed. Otherwise I will keep my words to myself until they are polished and targeted enough to share.
 
This, after all, is what writers do: we nurture clusters of words until they are ripe for the reading. Nurture ’em first. Share ’em only when they are ready.
 
Pitching: Diversify your income streams. You’re going to have to pitch more people more often just to earn what you were earning before or simply to generate enough leads to earn. So, don’t get your needle stuck on just this one editor or that one editor.
 
Yes, ongoing relationships are still great when the opportunity comes along, but don’t hope for that. Become gig-minded instead. Focus on landing and executing one gig at a time and then move on. Go for more gigs.
 
If an ongoing relationship with an editor yields steady results, great, but write for the sake of the writing well, not to hook your cart to one particular publisher or editor’s cart in hopes of regular assignments. And even when you get a stream of steady assignments, be sure to write for others in case that stream dries up.
 
Platform Building:
Streamline your platform-building efforts and specialize. The future of platform-building is going to involve streamlining. I’ve certainly learned this from personal experience.
 
You are going to have to keep your platforms simple, sisters. Don’t overlook specializing as a crucial preliminary step. And partner wisely with others, not just with anybody. It’s a crowded, cluttered, noisy Internet out there now. Rise to the top of the Google list by sounding one, clear, strong note, not by running bumpy scales instead. Okay? You’ll need to do your footwork to figure out your specialty.
 
Professional Development: Be choosy and select only the best. Just like you can’t be everything for everybody, you also can’t go everywhere and do everything. So, be picky. Don’t join just any associations. Join the best associations for you. Don’t attend too many conferences (or none). Attend those that will assist your career most. And don’t base your decision on price tag alone. Pay more for the right association, the right conference, etc. in order to preserve your time and energy. Above all, invest in your own career first, before assisting others.
 
Hope your Writer Mama Success Rhythms continue into 2010 and beyond, mamas.
 

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Writer Mama Success Rhythms: September 2009

By Christina Katz Christina Katz and daughter

I’ve been reflecting on some of my successful former students lately. When I say “successful,” I mean they have made major strides in advancing their writing careers over the years I have known them. Let’s take a look at how they get published, share what they have to offer, gradually build a platform, and keep on learning.

Craft: I was recently asked by a writer if she should sign up for my beginning level platform class. She hadn’t established herself as a published writer yet, so I suggested that she focus on this goal first. You can’t really establish a platform if you don’t know what your specialty is. And there is only one way to improve your writing craft — and that is repetition.

So, it won’t matter if you read books and take classes if you don’t apply what you learned and repeat it over and over again to develop the muscle memory. You’ll need that muscle memory to write a longer work, like a book. Former students I’ve taught, who have books coming out, have primarily focused on progressing their craft. Improving the quality of your writing through execution and repetition is the foundation of a solid career for any writer.

Pitching: I think the word “pitching” is intimidating. Let’s call it “sharing” instead because when it comes right down to it, selling is simply sharing what you have to offer with others. Sharing can happen verbally or in writing (aka a “query”). Now, here’s the key. When you have worked long and hard on your craft, you want to share your skills with others. Pitching is how this sharing happens.

But, contrary to popular belief, pitching is not usually innate; it’s learned. So if you think only natural salespeople can share their work effectively, think again. I can teach anybody how to query effectively, though, it’s more complicated than most writers think. When I reflect on my former students with books or book deals in the works, I can see that they worked consistently to develop pitching skills and then used them.

Platform Building: At the point where you are writing, pitching, and selling your work-congratulations! You are building your platform. Of course, there’s a lot more you need to do. I’ve outlined the process in a checklist of forms you can write to describe your writing career in Get Known Before the Book Deal. It’s your job to be your own publicist and report on your steady progress or else nobody else is going to ever hear about it.

This is just the beginning of platform development but if you start here and come back and revisit this exercise often, you will always know intuitively what the best platform directions are for you. Some great examples from my among my former students are Cindy Hudson (http://motherdaughterbookclub.wordpress.com/) and Jenny Kales (http://www.nut-freemom.blogspot.com/).

Professional Development: One part of professional growth that is key to success is networking with other professionals in your field. Cindy Hudson is a great example. Over years of platform development for her forthcoming book, Book-By-Book, The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs, Cindy has met lots of authors and mother-daughter book club leaders, who have gone on to participate in the research for her forthcoming book. You can do this online by targeting specific interest groups or you can create your own community around your book-in-progress over time. It’s the community you build before, during, and after the book-writing that is going to spread enthusiasm about your book to others.

Remember, writers, there’s truly nothing to be gained from daydreaming about overnight success. Lasting success happens slowly and steadily and builds over time in a way that amplifies the integrity you’ve established. When integrity is the focus, success in inevitable.

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Writer Mama Success Rhythms: July is for Just Walk Away

By Christina Katz

Since it’s summer, I thought it might be helpful to look at how a break can benefit just about every area of aChristina Katz and daughter writing career.

Craft
When you take a break from writing and do other things like walking or swimming or playing croquette, what you are really doing is resetting your brain for the next writing session. So if you are already a prolific writer, don’t balk when the opportunity to get out of the house and play comes along. A break might be just what your writing needs to improve on the next draft. Take a break and see if it helps, no matter what stage of the writing process you are in.

Pitching
If you pitch your work and yourself often, how might a refreshing vacation help you pitch better when you return? Walking away from your work means that when you come back you can review your pitching strategy with fresh eyes. Maybe it’s time to update your bio, or craft better leads, or include more details about what you are proposing. Try to read your last query soon after you return and I bet you will notice several ways you can improve all of your queries moving forward.

Self-promotion
Heaven forbid you should take a break from promoting yourself! Just kidding. Of course, you should. If you are going on vacation, don’t follow the advice of some and bring work with you. I’ve read plenty of advice that says to work while you are on vacation and then write off the trip as a business deduction on your taxes. But that sounds deceptive to me. Do you really want to mess with the IRS? I say work when you are working and rest when you are resting. Don’t blur the line too much or you might soon be working all the time. I try to get my self-promotion done on a regular basis so when it’s time for R&R, I don’t even think about dragging my work into my vacation time (okay, except for e-mail)…tax deduction or no tax deduction.

Professional Development
On the other hand, mamas, sometimes the only way you get an opportunity to truly relax is by leaving home to attend a professional conference or workshop. So, I’d say, if you are a mom and you haven’t had a working vacation away from your family responsibilities, why not treat yourself? Yes, it’s hectic both when you are getting ready to go and when you return. But while you are gone, your time will be 100% your own. And when the last time that happened? And as an extra bonus, in this case the trip is legitimately tax deductible.

Happy summer, mamas!

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Writer Mama Success Rhythms: June is for the Joy of a Writing Career

By Christina Katz

Will you work straight through the summer? I typically use some time in the summer to think about plans forChristina Katz and daughter the following year. I usually begin setting those plans in motion in August so they can be ready to fly by January 1st. This summer will be no exception. Even though I’m taking more time off for R&R than during previous summers, I’ll still be planning ahead. How about you?

Craft
Here’s the difference between writing for fun and writing practice, for me. Writing practice implies that…

  • you are writing for a specific audience.
  • you are writing frequently enough to see improvement in your  craft.
  • you are working with an editor or at least some kind of editorial process, even if it’s one you’ve set up for yourself.
  • you are seeing improvements in your writing as a result of your efforts, not just writing lots of words that will never see the light of publication.

Pitching
What if you are uncomfortable pitching yourself or your work? Here are some strategies to employ if pitching doesn’t come naturally:

  • Create a query form letter you can use over and over.
  • Verbally bounce your idea off someone you trust before you commit it to paper.
  • Have a set checklist you use to go over your pitches and make sure they are as thorough as they can be.
  • Writer Mama contains resources for all of these steps.

Self-promotion
Got platform? I worked my buns off for over a year to write a step-by-step guide on how to grow a platform from scratch alongside your writing career that would help every writer. I sure hope you have a copy!

A key point of the book is: we are all 100% responsible for our writing careers. Does this describe you? If not, and you’d like to work through the platform process with me step-by-step, Platform 101 starts in August.

Professional Development
A lot of mom writers are telling me that they are attending writing conferences this summer — hooray! So what can you do before the conference to get the most out of it?

  • Re-read Chapter 22, Count Down Days to a Conference, in Writer Mama for tips on conference preparation.
  • Read Mary Andonian’s “Writing Conference Success column in The Writer Mama archives.
  • Take care of all your logistical issues far in advance of the conference (i.e., babysitter, transportation, etc.) to insure that you’ll have some time before the conference to plan which sessions to attend and otherwise create a personal plan to get as much as possible out of the conference. After all, if you are going to invest your hard-earned money into your writing career, you’ll want to get as much out of it as possible.
  • Trust what happens and the people you meet. Make the most of every encounter and learning opportunity. Have a great time and you are sure not to be disappointed!

Happy summer, mamas!

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Writer Mama Success Rhythms: April 2009 Tips

Christina Katz and daughter

By Christina Katz

Never has a first quarter seemed to fly by as quickly as this one did! And though I’ve already started making adjustments to my somewhat over-ambitious goals for 2009, I could stand a more discriminating look at how I’m doing so far. How about you? Get in the habit of using April first, not to be foolish, but to assess your progress in relation to your goals so far this year.

First stop: Go back and review your written goals for the year. Then…

Craft
What steps have you taken so far this year to improve your writing craft? Possible answers might include reading books, practice forms, writing for publication, taking classes or attending workshops or lectures. Improvement in craft equals improvements in pride, if not profits. What will you do next to improve your writing craft?

Pitching
I know a group of eight women who are working really hard at it right now in my Pitching Practice class. They are expanding their base of knowledge through reading workbook chapters, exploring ideas, conducting research, and interviewing experts to write the query that will land the assignment. What do you need to do to improve your sales skills? Who can help you? What’s it worth? How much do you stand to gain from making strides in selling your work? Invest to expand your profits.

Self-promotion
What have you done to become more visible so far this year? I’ve done an anniversary blog tour for Writer Mama, scheduled and attended a conference, spoken at multiple events including my own author series, updated my online presence, started a new e-zine (the Get Known Groove), and sent out gobs of books for review and as giveaways. This is just a handful of the things I’ve done so far this year. How about you?

Professional Development
I attended the Tools of Change Conference in New York City and the Associated Writing Programs Conference. I’ll also be attending the Writer’s Digest/BEA Conference on May 27th and the Writer’s Digest Business of Publishing Conference the first weekend of September. I’ve joined several writing organizations. I’m hosting an author series. I receive three trade magazines each month. I keep up with relevant blogs and online magazines with Google Reader. And I’m having a monthly marketing group with my fellow authors once a month.

Your turn!

Quick reminder: If you are still working on getting those first few clips, stick with craft and pitching until you find your stride and then expand from there.

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Writer Mama Success Rhythms: March 2009 Tips

Christina Katz and daughter

By Christina Katz

I’ve been getting many questions lately from writer mamas about how to create a writing career. Of course, I discussed this in Writer Mama but I think I need to restate. Possibly, because I have a second book out now, it may appear that I have changed the advice I offered previously, but I have not. In fact, I am recommitted to the “baby step” approach I sketch out in Writer Mama the more I see moms getting all tangled up in the self-promotion web (pun intended).

To have a successful writing career, carefully choosing where to devote time and energy can create quicker success than not making any choices at all or trying to do everything at once. While, there is no one “right” way to build your way up to professional writer status, the following general suggestions can give you a baseline from which to find your own way:

Craft
A commitment to writing craft should come first and remain a high-priority throughout any writer’s career. I recently made The Elements of Style a required text for my Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff Class because we have been spending too much time on basic grammar issues. I feel like a bit of a broken record on this topic lately, but I feel strongly that if you wish to have a professional writing career, step number one is read Strunk & White cover to cover. After that there is still a ton to learn about writing craft. Prose forms. Specialized writing skills for different genres. Formatting. Rewriting and polishing skills. But whatever else you do, start with a solid awareness and understanding of basic grammar. From there, you can really go anywhere as a writer.

Pitching
When do you need to start learning how to sell your work? If you want to write professionally and you either don’t already know how to sell yourself or you are unsure at all about your ability to pitch your work, then this is something you need to work on from the get-go. Now, in my WPSS class, we start with the writing forms for three weeks and then start thinking about pitching after everyone has a little bit of confidence about their writing. This seems to work well. If you are reading Writer Mama, after you’ve read the first two sections, you are ready to begin writing for publication, especially if you are pitching regional parenting publications. Don’t feel like you have to try and learn/understand every single thing. Just learn the basics and begin! Small successes build the confidence required for the challenges that follow. Writing for publications is challenging! Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Self-promotion
Frankly, if you are working on writing for publication, self-promotion can wait. Freelancers, who earn gigs by submitting and pitching their work, don’t need a fancy website or blog just to write an article and send it out. Trying to build the website or blog while writing your first articles can actually be a hindrance. And hey, I wrote a whole book on this topic. So if I say don’t worry about the platform, then really, it can wait. I wouldn’t give you bad advice! Once you are writing and getting published fairly consistently, that is a good time to start thinking about self-promotion. Ditto if you have and offer other services that need to be promoted. Obviously, if this is the case, online promotion is the easiest way to get the word out. Just be sure your other offerings compliment your writing goals rather than derailing them.

Professional development
Like platform development, can professional development wait? No. It really can’t. So here’s what I suggest: as soon as you start earning money, invest a percentage of it into your professional development. I’m not talking about purchasing supplies. That’s just the cost of doing business. I’m talking about classes, joining the best associations for you, and eventually getting to a live conference to benefit from the immersive learning and networking that takes place in these brief yet intense learning experiences. You might think you should wait and only focus on professional development when “you are further along.” The irony is if you want to get further along, professional development can speed things up exponentially. So don’t rule out professional development. Prioritize it and succeed!

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Writer Mama Success Rhythms: February 2009

Christina Katz and daughterBy Christina Katz

Ultimately there’s only one person in charge of the big-picture planning of your writing career. That’s just one person who is responsible and accountable for making the “right” choices and decisions. You! You must steer your own ship into the happiest harbors for you. Here are some success rhythm tips for how to let your passions be your guide, just in time for Valentine’s month.

Craft:
I recently had a phone coaching session with a former student who was being a bit hard on herself. In my class, she’d decided to focus on a specific topic to develop her platform but was starting to feel like maybe she’d made the wrong choice. And hey, we all make the wrong choice sometimes. So, don’t waste even a second beating yourself up or belaboring the point. Just hone in on the topic or topics you want to devote your time to instead. This can apply to topics and craft. Perhaps you thought you liked writing certain forms like fillers and profiles, only to find after a time that you can whip off essays and how-tos more quickly. This is a helpful discovery, so run with it!

Pitching:
The same writer mama had experienced some success placing articles, but felt impatient with her progress, like she should be either further ahead of where she was or accomplishing something different. If you do this too, stop. Forget what you haven’t achieved and look closely at what you have accomplished and continue to accomplish. Do you enjoy striving for these goals? If yes, how can you draw on what you’ve learned and leverage it for more success in the short and long runs? Regardless of the type of success you have selling your work, if you are already somewhat successful, you have lessons that you can learn and success you can amplify.

Self-promotion
The truth is that like writing, self-promotion involves a lot of trial and error. Last month I wrote about thinking your platform through before you hop online, but this isn’t written in stone. Sometimes dabbling around online is the best way to learn. One caution, though: some choices can’t be undone–like the name of the blog you choose or the name of a group on Facebook (as I just learned). So think it through before you act. Remember the three keys: clarify your topic, niche, and audience first and try to get it right the first time. And if you make a mistake, just start over. No biggie.

Professional Development
It’s still early in the year and not too late to plan to attend a writing conference in 2009. Consider your objectives first. Will you attend primarily to learn, to network, to pitch a book, or for another reason? What do you need to learn? Whom do you want to meet? What type of book will you pitch? These are all important questions to answer before choosing the best conference for you. Visit http://writing.shawguides.com/ for a full listing of writers’ conferences and workshops.

Trust your instincts and follow your passions. One fresh choice can lead you in a happier direction. Then you’ll enjoy what you do so much more than you would if you confined yourself to uncomfortable limits.

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

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