From the first sentences of What’s Your Book?, author Brooke Warner motivates aspiring writers to think big: “Allow yourself to imagine that you’re sitting there with your published book in your hands. How does it feel? You’re a published author.”
In the subsequent pages — five densely packed chapters — Warner shows writers how to nurture that vision, how to move from idea to first draft to published book. With 13 years’ experience in the publishing business, Warner is well-positioned to, as she says, “help you help yourself.” Former executive editor at Seal Press, co-founder of She Writes Press, and a certified writing coach, Warner knows what agents and editors want, and her advice to writers is straight-up: Face the hurdles and do the work to get over them.
For instance, that book you envision writing, where exactly will it be shelved in the bookstore? Under “Memoir”? What kind of memoir? What books will sit beside (and in competition with) yours on the shelf? Describe your readers, their age, their interests — right now! Warner leaves ten blank lines in her book to do so. These tasks may seem mundane, and far from the lofty life of a writer, but they’re part of what’s required to hook a publisher. As Warner advises, to land a book deal these days, you need passion and a platform. Refine your craft, tune your prose until it sings, but remember, “without readers, you’ve got nothing.”
To that end, Warner devotes 50 pages of her book to building the “almighty platform.” Blog, tweet, link, speak, pin, and video, she says, on topics consistent with your book. Build your brand so readers will recognize you anywhere — and everywhere. “I’ve rejected manuscripts,” she warns, “based on the fact that an author’s blog has nothing to do with their [book] topic.”
This section may daunt introverts, technophobes, and time-crunched mother-writers, but Warner offers ways to ease into social media and to schedule time online such that it promotes rather than preempts your book.
If you’ve followed Warner’s prompts and advice, by the final chapter of What’s Your Book? you may have a finished manuscript or proposal in hand and a solid platform underfoot. Warner then presents three avenues to publishing. Agent’s Way is a kind of Rodeo Drive: “You feel like you’re one of the chosen….” Publisher’s Row resembles Route 29 in Napa, California; some places have a better reputation than others. And Self-Publishing Boulevard? More like the Strip in Vegas. You might want a trusted friend to show you around. Yet Warner opted to self-publish What’s Your Book? and is very supportive of writers who head down this road. In fact, she believes that if you’re willing do the hard work, publishing a book is “accessible to everyone.” It’s candid but optimistic advice from a woman who knows the business.