This past weekend I attended a small writer’s conference in New York City. It was a two-day conference, but I only attended the last section, which is called Meet the Agents, and is sponsored by the International Women’s Writer’s Guild. They hold it each spring and each fall.
In this section of the conference, a half dozen or so literary agents (and sometimes a lawyer or other writer representative) sit at a table and address the crowd of enthusiastic writers. They discuss what they are looking for and how their agency works. After they have all had their say, they move off to an assigned table where the writers line up at the table of the agent they feel is appropriate and wait to pitch their book idea.
In the past, I have attended this conference several times, but it has been at least 4 years. One thing I have learned and have become increasingly aware of is the complete alteration in the process of getting published and pitching a book.
Once upon a time you pitched your book to an agent or editor and, once you wre published, you built your “platform” (your name and “brand” so to speak) around the book you had out. Today, it’s the opposite. You must build your platform first (see my article on building an author platform) and then represent yourself as an expert in the field and why you should have a book published.
This is particularly true for nonfiction writers. When I first made the decision to get a nonfiction book published, based on what I knew as a cat lover, I had little credentials other than a love of cats, a small stint in a cat shelter, and an understanding of their care. This built my platform after the book was published, when I then went on to work for more shelters and build on my knowledge of their care and a complete understanding of their behavior. Now that I have a platform, I can continue to work on different angles of cat care and behavior in books and for articles online and in magazines.