Writers conferences, agent blogs, and how-to-get-published books all say that it’s not enough to just be a good writer these days if you want to land that book deal. You have to be a demonstrated leader in your field. Some common ways to demonstrate this is through public presentations, interviews, and workshops.
Martin and Flacco’s book, Publish Your Nonfiction Book suggests that you get other people to write about you. When I read that, I wondered, “How the hell am I going to do that?”
An improv friend who is also a writer, educator, project management specialist, and businesswoman, Ramona Abbott, (yes, she’s all that and more) suggested a web site that she’s used. It worked for her, she was interviewed as a an expert source for the world-renowned Washington Post in March and in April was interviewed for a Utah-based podcast. She is getting people to write and talk about her expertise, positioning her as an expert in her field. This is exactly what agents and editors are looking for in a new author. In addition, she’s training herself to become a confident interviewee and presenter, a skill that is paramount in selling your book after you land your deal.
What is that web site you ask? HARO or Help a Reporter Out. I’d heard of this website in writing class I’d taken, as a resource for me as a reporter if I needed experts and questions answered. But it never occurred to me to monitor it as a source, until Ramona forwarded me a query from a reporter looking to write a story about assisted reproduction.
Last month I signed up at HARO to receive daily e-mails that list what reporters around the globe are looking for. I spend about 10 minutes each day looking over the reporter queries. About every three or four days, I find one that I can respond to as an expert or source. I focus on the areas where I’m trying to establish myself as a trusted contributor: environmental science, assisted reproduction, parenting, and special needs.
On Monday afternoon of this week, I responded to this query:
Summary: Getting out of the house!
Name: Melanie Parker (Women’s glossy)
Category: Lifestyle and Fitness
Media Outlet: Women’s glossy
Deadline: 07:00 PM EST – 19 April
We’re a nationwide women’s magazine (circ 3.5 million), looking
for your tried-and-true tips for how to get out of the house
efficiently in the mornings. Could be anything–how you get
yourself and others awake, fast shower and beauty tips, or
night-before strategies. Anything that works for your home. Moms
and non-moms equally appreciated. Please email them in, along
with your name, age, city, state, number of children (if
applicable) and job title and company and phone number (just for
contact purposes), and I’ll be in touch. Many thanks.
By Tuesday morning, I received an e-mail from Parents Magazine Lifestyle Editor Taryn Mohrman saying that she liked my tip so much that she plans to use it for their September issue! Of course, I’ve learned the hard way not to count my chickens before they hatch. It’s still possible that Taryn will have more than she can use for September, and my tip might still get bumped. If that happens, I’ll be disappointed, but not crushed because I’ll know it’s not about the quality of my work, it’s about a last-minute decision that editors must make every day.
However, my hopes are high, because Taryn also then asked me to make a short video of the same tip for use in their tablet/iPad version of the magazine. Once I submitted that, she asked me for a photo as well. So come September, there is a fantastic chance that my tip, video, and photo will appear in Parents Magazine.
Taryn was easy to work with and very professional. I worked hard to do the same for her.
Of course, I can’t share the tip with you now, but it focuses on a quick and easy way to herd your children out of the house on time each day. I developed the tip as part of a writing class I took with Christina Katz, called Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff. I still highly recommend this class as a way to get started publishing in the parenting field.
If you’re not familiar with parenting publications, Parents is one of the most widely read in America. The credit in Parents, although small, will be the biggest to date on my writing resume. It will help solidify my credibility as a journalist.
My tip will appear in the “It Worked for Me!” section of the magazine. How ironic that this post is all about how HARO worked for me.
I have Ramona and Christina to thank for their education and encouragement. Please help me thank them by checking out their web sites and blogs. If you’re an aspiring writer, or just want to put a little umph in your career, check out HARO and let me know how it works for you.