Want a book deal? Think your magnetic, compelling, ninja talent for the written word is all it takes?
Now, says author/blogger/truth-telling goddess Danielle LaPorte, “two-thirds of a publisher’s decision is based on your platform”.
In other words, your blog. How famous are you? How big does your audience and ‘platform’ need to be?
“Pretty fucking huge, apparently…” continues LaPorte, whom I interviewed in September 2009 after she returned from New York where she was shilling her latest book proposal to agents and publishers, “because I just got told I’m not famous enough.”
Hold up. Whaaaaaa? Didn’t Danielle LaPorte announce a mega-mega-mega book deal (like, a quarter of a million bucks?!) earlier this year?
So what’s this “not famous enough/no book deal” business?
The past, baby. The past. That snippet above is from an interview I did with Danielle in 2009. Then, she’d just returned from New York…and although she was already a published author of a hawt book (Style Statement) with lots of media mentions and the creatrix of the searingly smart WhiteHotTruth, she came back without a book deal.
A year and some change later, she had a 4-book, $250K book deal.
Which is why, if YOU want a book deal (and oh honey, I want a book deal, too), you NEED Danielle LaPorte’s newest book/program/detailed insider plan to change yer life/publish yer masterpieces already, dammit.
(I’m lecturing both of us, pumpkin. ‘Cuz we really need to get on this.)
Because she knows of what she speaks. Danielle’s landed literary agents. She’s written query letters and book proposals, published a book, had a book proposal rejected, self-published, wrote another book proposal…
…and that one landed her that six-figure, four-book deal.
So chicka has written books. She’s promoted books. She’s self-published. She’s published. She’s written book proposals that failed and books proposals that succeeded wildly (as in $250,000!) which means that when it comes to getting a book deal Danielle LaPorte knows – from intimate, incandescent experience – what works and what doesn’t work.
In short, Danielle LaPorte knows the book biz.
And now she’s telling you what she knows.
In a former life, Danielle LaPorte was freelance book publicist for publishing houses like Simon and Schuster and Harper Collins. Now she has a juju personal development site called White Hot Truth, a rockin’ inspirational speaking career, a published book (Style Statement with co-author Carrie McCarthy, which they sold to prestigious Little Brown and Company for a $150,000 advance), and soon-to-be published book (The Firestarter Sessions) that’s part of a whopper of a book deal with Random House (four books, a quarter of a million bucks, am I repeating myself?).
And back when she sold her very first book, she didn’t even have a blog. True story.
But she did have moxy. And a big love for Malcolm Gladwell (yes! Malcolm Gladwell! Poet-wooing, point-tipping, intellectual whodunit-spinning, best-selling, Malcolm Gladwell!), which is how she found her first agent.
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell “profusely, adoringly thanked his agent” whom, he argued, should be the “next president of the United States or at the very least the CEO of Microsoft.”
Danielle read that and thought, “she’ll do”.
And then Danielle e-mailed Malcolm Gladwell.
(Duh! Who wouldn’t?)
She put on her charming pants and danced. She wrote, “I’m Canadian. You’re Canadian. You’re from Etobicoke. I know how to pronounce Eh-toe-bih-ko. You’re half-black. I have dreadlocks. Here’s my concept. Help me get to your agent.”
Malcolm Gladwell replied within two days, writing, “You’re so charming. How could I refuse?”
To recap: kissing best-selling Gladwell ass can land you an agent. If that fails, your blog is your baseball/cornfield and if you build it they will come. If that fails, try calling around, knocking on doors, writing query letters (and maybe even reading books!) and asking for one directly.
But by all means and by whatever means necessary, get an agent, and a good one, and one you like (even love), because a good agent will help you write and sell a great proposal…and because, as Danielle explains, “it is a potentially life-changing relationship. Your agent will be your greatest advocate. They will want to get you the most money, because, you know, they’re getting 10-15% of it, so they will want to get you the exposure.” Not only that, but “the right agent will actually work with you to craft that book. They could be hugely influential in the finished product. They will go to the mat to you in the end on everything from price point to pub date to cover design. It is really important.”
And the writer/agent chemistry doesn’t have to be interpersonal-clicky-butterflies love. It can be professional luuuuv. “It may sound contradictory,” admits Danielle, “but you and your agent don’t need to see eye-to-eye on the material. You need to have free reign with your voice. An agent can be philosophical opposition and still go get you a good deal and help bolster your career.”
Did you know this? Of course you probably knew this. Every writer knows they need to get an agent to get published.
What we don’t necessarily know is how to get an agent (either through conventional or unconventional channels like the aforementioned Gladwell ass-kissing, and I WOULD TOTALLY DO THAT, no strings attached, Malcolm, CALL ME).
Or how to write a book proposal.
Or what successful book proposals – from published authors, like Tim Ferris (The 4 Hour Body), Michael Ellsberg (The Malaria Book), and Rachel Resnick (Love Junkie) – ACTUALLY look like and contain. ‘Cuz what is IN a book proposal, anyway? (And what was in theirs?)
Let me tell you (and guess where and from whom I learned this?): a book proposal contains a map of the book (the table of contents), your bio, market research (ie where does this fit? Who will read it?), marketing (how will you and the publisher sell the pants off it?) and oh yes, some sample chapters to show that you really can write more than a proposal. Also: the exact weight of your platform. Who are you? How big are you? Who is talking about you? How do you talk back? How much does the world – in the form of Alexa and Google and Facebook and Twitter and your blog traffic and your list of subscribers and e-mail open and click-thru rates – love you?
When she was writing her book proposals – including The Whopper 4-Book/Lotsa Cash Deal – Danielle LaPorte worked with proposal guru Linda Siverston (not coincidentally co-authors Big Beautiful Book Plan with her) and then “when it felt right to go out of the box, I did. I am not Times New Roman. I am not double-spaced”.
And so if you are not double-spaced Times New Roman, either, AND you want a book deal, too…
…then you know what to do.
(Same thing Imma gonna do. Follow the advice. Rrrrawk the whitehawt, Big Beautiful Book plan. And get thee – and me – a book deal in 2012.)