Writers@Work: Building an Author Platform
July 6, 2021
Note From Rochelle
On July 6, 1942, Anne Frank and her family went into hiding. Anne’s sister Margo had received a notice to report to labor camp, and the family suspected she’d be sent to a concentration camp. During Anne Frank’s time in hiding, she wrote almost daily. She wrote:
The nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings; otherwise, I’d absolutely suffocate.
If you’d love to read more about Anne Frank or other writers who changed the world, preorder my new book, Mightier Than the Sword at Bookshop, your local bookstore, or wherever you shop online.
And if you want to help me celebrate the book release, consider attending my launch. It’s an online launch—so you can attend from wherever you are. But you do need to register. Check out the event page on Facebook or Boswell Book Company for more information.
I am beyond thrilled to welcome my friend and colleague Jennifer Fink to the blog. She’s built an incredible platform around raising boys—and is here to talk about that and her first book, The First-Time Mom’s Guide to Raising Boys.
Writers@Work: Building an Author Platform
An Interview with Jennifer Fink
Welcome, Jenny. Tell us about your new book, The First-Time Mom’s Guide to Raising Boys.
The First-Time Mom’s Guide to Raising Boys is a handbook (and lifesaver!) for moms entering/going through the tween years for the first time with a son. It explains the biological, social, emotional, and cognitive changes boys experience between approximately ages 8-12 and gives solid, practical advice on common challenges, including school, hygiene, video games, dating, sex & sexuality.
When I think about people who’ve worked hard at building their platform, I think of you. I’d love to hear more about the kinds of things you have done to become the go-to person for talking about raising boys!
My first blog, circa 2009 or so, was Blogging ‘Bout Boys. I was taking a blogging class at the time had always heard, “write what you know,” so I decided to blog about life with boys. That eventually morphed into pitching & writing article about boys, including How to Help your Son Succeed in School, for Parents; Why Boys Fail (and What You Can Do), for Scholastic Teacher; and Why Schools are Failing Our Boys, for The Washington Post. I seized nearly every opportunity I could get to write about boys, including a column for Parade and an unpaid, online column for U.S. News & World Report.
In 2013, I rolled Blogging ‘Bout Boys into BuildingBoys.net. I created a BuildingBoys Facebook group in 2016 and launched a weekly subscription newsletter, Building Boys Bulletin, in late 2019.
Along the way, I encountered other “boy people” – others who were talking & writing about boys. Janet Allison of Boys Alive! Interviewed me for her website years ago; we eventually did an online webinar about boys & homework together. We worked well together – she’s less afraid of tech than I am, and we keep each other motivated & accountable – so when I got the idea to do a podcast, I asked Janet to do it with me. We launched the ON BOYS parenting podcast in 2018 and have since interviewed nearly everyone who’s come out with a book about boys in the last three years.
Can you talk about how you got this gig—and what it’s like to do a work for hire book?
The First-Time Mom’s Guide to Raising Boys is a book that was conceived by Callisto Media, a publishing company that creates books to meet consumer demand. (Basically, they look at what people are searching for online.) Callisto creates their book titles and outlines in-house, and then hires a writer to write the book. They typically look for writers or bloggers who are already writing about that topic online. I’m sure they found me via BuildingBoys.
Your next book is also about raising boys—and you wrote a book proposal for that one. Can you talk about how that came about?
I’m pretty sure I wrote the rough outline of this book on an airplane, on the way home from an ASJA conference. Writing a book has been a life goal of mine for a long time and writing a book about raising boys just made sense. I have literally devoted my life to raising boys; I’d spent more than a decade building my platform and developing expertise.
The initial, very rough outline was just a list of 10 guidelines that eventually morphed into a proposal for a book tentatively titled, “The New Rules of Raising Boys.” I pitched it to agents at the 2019 ASJA conference and was thrilled that the 1st agent I talked with was interested in it! We talked after I got home…and she eventually decided this wasn’t the right project for her. I queried more agents; racked up a bunch of rejections.
In Jan. 2020, I connected with an agent who was interested; we had a great phone call. He gave me some feedback and tips for revising the proposal and I was super excited to work on it – and then the pandemic hit & my focus shifted to survival. I pitched the proposal to a couple of editors during ASJA2020 (online) & one was interested but didn’t seem to “get” the project as well as the agent I’d connected with in Jan. I emailed him, had another phone conversation, and subsequently spent the summer of ’20 re-doing my proposal. He took me on as a client at the end of summer 2020, and I signed a contract with Rowman & Littlefield in Mar. 2021. (After rejections from several publishing houses.)
Do you have any advice for writers who want to transition into writing books?
- Be persistent. The odds of someone handing you a book contract are miniscule. Infinitesimal. Keeping working towards your goal. Build your expertise via research & writing. Build connections and an audience via social media, blogging, podcasting, newsletters and real -world relationships.
- Have a source of income. Book writing is not particularly lucrative. I’m still supporting my family by writing health articles. (If you can build up a financial cushion to “buy” yourself some time to write, great!)
What are you reading now?
You caught me between books! I’m about to dive into either Physical Disobedience: An Unruly Guide to Health and Stamina for the Modern Feminist, by Sarah Hays Coomer, or The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts & Feminism, by Dr. Jen Gunter. I also plan to read The Referable Speaker: Your Guide to Building a Sustainable Speaking Career—No Fame Required by Michael Port soon.
About the author. Jennifer L.W. Fink is the creator of BuildingBoys.net, co-host of the ON BOYS parenting podcast, and author of The First Time Mom’s Guide to Raising Sons. She is currently working on her second book about parenting boys.
NOTE: The books links lead to the Write Now! Coach bookstore on Bookshop.com. Write Now! Coach receives a small percentage of your purchase, which helps to support this blog.
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach, experienced publishing strategist, and the author of 12 books, including Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity and the forthcoming Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing She helps people write and publish books that transform lives. She’s the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop that supports children and teens in finding their voice and sharing their stories. Sign up for her Write Now! Tips Ezine at https://www.writenowcoach.com.
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