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I hope you pardon me, but today I need to gloat just a little... I received an early birthday surprise last week. I won a contest on Pitch University/www.pitch-university.com. And the prize? A 30-minute consultation with Agent Michael Larsen, plus his book ‘How to Write A Book Proposal.’ (If you’re needing to market or write a proposal, I definitely suggest this book!)

I was truly amazed to win this contest as I’d never heard of this site before entering the contest. Lucky for me, I had been working on my writing platform on twitter and received a tweet about the contest. Intrigued, I clicked on the link. Intrigued even more after reading that post, I devoured the rest of the week’s posts and commented. And the rest was history. Plus, I’m a regular to the Pitch University web site now.

I have to admit I was really nervous about my interview with Literary Agent Mike Larsen. Now Mike handles adult nonfiction, and since I write MG and YA fiction, I knew I had nothing of interest to pitch to him. (Plus my three finished manuscripts are contracted and due to come out later this year.) But Mike did have information I desperately wanted…marketing information.

I made my phone call, and despite me being quite tongue-tied, we fell into conversation. Mike’s easy candor opened up a treasure chest of knowledge and expertise. He quoted ‘a writer needs to have two goals:

1.      First, a writer needs to know what kind of book he/she wants to write and what kind of emotions he/she wants from his/her reader.

2.      Second, a writer needs to have publishing goals.’

Most writers would love to only write, but Mike shared that the publishing goal is a most important part of the equation. He quoted Jack Canfield in saying ‘the success of a book is 90 percent promotion.’ All writers today need to do self-promotion. Mike said ‘promotion won’t sell a bad book, but promotion will make a good book a success.’

Promotion is all about building relationships, to get people to know, trust and like you; to have something of value to offer them. And the best promotion is ‘word of mouth.’

Mike then proceeded to challenge me and my writer platform. I discovered I’m on track with some of my marketing, like a web page, blog, facebook and twitter. But there is still so many avenues to tackle. Below is a list of author must-haves Mike shared with me.

*  Web Page. First and foremost, an author needs a web page. Mike confirmed the fact that an author needs that presence way before their book is sold. (And I’ve discovered there are many inexpensive ways to create your web page, even several free web site hosts.)

*  Facebook. This is an excellent social media contact for family, friends and followers. These people will follow you and learn and celebrate your good news.

*  Twitter. This social media is fast and frenzied. It’s a wonderful tool to send short quips and bursts to as many people want to follow you as possible. (And it’s a great source of information, such as contests like those on Pitch University. ;-)

*  Groups. Groups are as important as best friends. They are your NEW best friends. A writer should know who his or her reader is and go after the groups that would find their story valuable. This can be daunting as it’s virtually endless.

*  Blog. A blog is a great way to get your name out, to offer something to your readers and followers. But the writer must make sure to offer something of value in return for their visit. Know your reader and give them something to keep coming back for.   

*  Promotional sites. Just a few of the many to mention are Amazon, Good Reads, Jacket Flap, Borders and Barnes and Noble. Many, many, many!

*  Reviews. Okay, this is one area I never realized. I do read…a lot, but I’m lacking in reviews. Why? I really don’t have a reason. But it’s a bad reason, whatever it might be. By writing reviews, one is building recognition, trust, and relationships.

*  Trailers/Podcasts. Trailers are a super way to create a memorable image for your book. I seen a great trailer for a picture book today. Made me want to go right out and buy it. And pod-casts…another great way to ‘tell’ your story on the internet…literally!

*  Following blogs and websites. Mike couldn’t express this enough. This is how you make friends. Follow the people you admire most and make sure you comment on their posts.

Mike challenged me to be ‘entrepreneurial’ with my writing. With the internet, there is a wealth of opportunities available to us today. As an author, I am a business and I have to promote ‘me.’ But as I pondered this last thought, I realized there is something even more important than just ‘promoting me’…it is that I build these relationships. One can never have enough friends. And I write because I want to offer my ‘friends’ a story…a tale of entertainment, emotion, history, growth, a part of ‘me.’

So…right now I’m a small fish in a very big pond, but with my ‘friends’, I’m growing bigger each and every day. If you see me on-line, I’d love to get the opportunity to say ‘hello’ and ask you ‘to please be my friend.’ 

C.K. Volnek

P.S. Watch my blog next week for the exciting National Picture Book Writing Week Challenge (NaPiBoWriWee) 7 Picture Books in 7 Days! Please come back and cheer me on! If you want to find out more about this challenge, visit http://paulayoo.com/content/national-picture-book-writing-week-may-1-7-2011