I had the pleasure of attending the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference held in New York over the weekend. The conference, for writers at every level of their career, featured more than 70 sessions covering a variety of topics, such as how to score a big book deal, how to break into women’s magazines, how to write white papers, and more. I was able to attend several of the sessions, and will recap them here over the next few days.
When Jen Singer launched the MommaSaid.net community for mothers in 2003, she was promoting a new medium with old media, so she had to think creatively to build her platform and become the go-to person for media outlets looking for a quotable source.
“I had platform envy,” she joked, referring to the impressive list of credits she would see in other writers’ bios. She knew that in order to get publishers to take a chance on the books she wanted to write, she would need to build her own platform.
First, she signed up for ProfNet and started answering leads, becoming the go-to person for last-minute quotes. “I give good quote,” she said, “and you should be able to, too.”
She also went against traditional wisdom and pitched Woman’s Day with an essay. While it wasn’t picked up, the editor told Singer she wrote “with flair,” which encouraged her to keep trying.
When her first book came out in 2004, TV outlets started calling. CBS’ “The Early Show” was looking for “desperate housewives,” and Singer’s friend suggested they contact her.
Soon after, Pull-Ups asked her to be their “potty-training partner.” They provided her with media training and sent her on a TV tour all over Canada, which was a great learning experience.
In the beginning, she did television, print and radio interviews for Pull-Ups. Now she finds herself answering potty-training questions on Facebook and Twitter, and even hosting Twitter parties.
“You have to learn how to do it,” she said. “This is where it’s headed.”
In 2007, an editor from HCI Books wanted Singer to create a book based on MommaSaid.net. Later that year, she discovered she had stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and had to finish parts of the book in a hospital oncology floor.
“I knew the promotions [of the book] would be up to me,” said Singer, who continued working on promoting and building her platform.
She was an early Twitter adopter, and had been following @todaysmom on Twitter for several months. She saw they were looking for a mother who had been bullied online. “The next day, I’m dusting off the coffee table for the ‘Today’ show,” she said.
Singer offered tips for bloggers looking to promote themselves and their blogs:
- Learn social media. “As much as you might hate it, it’s something you need to do.”
- Learn to speak in sound bites.
- Focus on the writing. “Save journalism. It’s a great time to be a writer.”
- “Co-ompetition”: “Be in cahoots with your competition. Recommend their books. Comment on their sites. Retweet their tweets.” Then, when you launch a book, blog, etc., you have a group of people who will help you promote it.
“One-way things don’t work for bloggers,” she added. “Ask questions, share stories, share feedback.