Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Literary Agent, Les Stobbe, Talks About Building a Platform, Article writing and More

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Guest post by Jennifer Slattery

As the writing industry continues to shift more and more toward ebooks, successful writers must wear numerous hats. Not only must they craft a great story, they also need exceptional marketing skills to sell it. If you've circled through the various writers' loops for any length of time, you've likely heard a great deal about a writer's need to develop a platform. Today, Les Stobbe, literary agent and Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Writers Guild explains why.

"Because of the dramatic shifts in distribution systems and patterns, plus the disappearance of many traditional Christian bookstores, an author’s visibility, name recognition, has moved from being a blessing to being the all-important consideration at publishers, especially in non-fiction," Mr. Stobbe says. "How to develop what publishers call a “national platform” is shifting from being a national speaker in churches, on radio or TV to the author’s presence nationally on social media."

In many ways, this is encouraging because with Blogger, Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter and the numerous other cyber-outlets, establishing a web presence is easier than ever, and it doesn't take a lot of money to do it. However, it will take more than a handful of blog subscribers to make this happen.

"A client with 20,000 blog hits over two months is starting to be recognized as having a viable platform, especially if she or he is creating a buzz," Mr. Stobbe says. "Creating a buzz on social media launched The Shack. Not all writers, of course, have the moxy to create a buzz, so they probably need a professional to help them do it."

Finding help is also easier than ever. Some authors hire PR firms, others join marketing groups like John 3:16 marketing. The extensive membership email loop available through ACFW has helped many debut authors launch best-sellers.

Article writing is another way authors can develop name-recognition and increase their reader-base. It also teaches the writer invaluable skills necessary for a successful career.

"Article writing develops a writer at several levels," Mr. Stobbe says. "You learn to think reader first—what will grab and hold the reader in seconds. You learn to research the market. You learn how to interact with editors. You learn the significance of deadlines. Most important, you are communicating the message of God’s grace and love to tens of thousands more readers, sometimes millions more, than a book. One article can at times have more impact than even a bestselling book. If your passion is to get out God’s message, write articles."

As you walk through doors God's already opened, often He'll open even more, as was the case for Mr. Stobbe. "For ten years I wrote a story-oriented Bible study column for boys. I selected 10, added Bible studies oriented to girls, and Preteen Bible Exploration was picked up by the Billy Graham people as a follow-up for preteens accepting Christ at crusades."

In my short time of writing, I've learned never to turn down an opportunity and never assume a door's shut until your head actually slams against the wood. Most often, the best place to start is with your own blog. You can set up an account with Blogger and Wordpress for free. Try to be consistent with your posts. This will accomplish two things: First, it will help you meet deadlines (even if it is self-imposed). Second, it will encourage consistent readership. If your readers never know when you're going to post, they'll be less likely to stop by.

Next, start guest blogging for others. This is a great confidence booster and an excellent way to increase your search engine ratings and your audience.

Many of your posts can be expanded into articles, and as you write articles and devotionals, often more permanent opportunities will open up. You might even discover a new passion.

Join us tomorrow as Mr. Stobbe discusses ways the importance and draw-backs of critique groups, how ebooks affect the writing industry and what writers can do to generate sales.

An active Literary Agent for 17 years and Executive Editor of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, Les Stobbe also serves as director of International Christian Writers. He’s taught journalism as Journalist in Residence at Gordon College, Wenham, MA and wrote most of the lessons for the Apprentice Course and Journeyman non-fiction course for the Christian Writers Guild. He has been denominational editor, magazine editor, newsletter editor, book editor, book club vice-president, curriculum managing editor, and president of a book publishing house. He has written 14 books and hundreds of magazine and newsletter articles. He has been married to his musician wife Rita for 54 years and is very proud the five grandchildren of their two children.

Find out more about Mr. Stobbe, his literary agency and the type of books he's looking for at StobbeLiterary.com

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