What it Means to be an Education Author
By Starr Sackstein, Publisher of Mimi & Todd Press
It isn’t just about writing, but that, of course, is a part of it.
And writing well is another matter altogether. That is a sometimes painstaking process that asks for patience, honesty and did I mention patience?
Being an author means that you have the fortitude to set a goal, create an idea, incubate that idea and then communicate in a way that readers will understand and enjoy and when you do it well, it means you have a singular voice that resonates on the page for all the world to behold.
In today’s publishing world, however, authors play a more integral role in the entire process from start to finish. We write drafts that we submit knowing our intention as we write and who our intended audiences are. We have to know the market and understand how our book fits within it.
Perhaps once upon a time, authors just had to write, but that is no longer the expectation, especially in education publishing. Small presses like ours need the influence and reach of our authors to best situate their work in this ever-growing field.
Authors need to be all of the following:
Thought leaders - have something novel to say that is worth hearing and should be shared. Ideas must be more mature than kernels and ready for mass consumption.
Wordsmiths - have the ability to put these ideas into words on the page that educators can read, understand and put into action. Whether that action is to think deeply about how a philosophy suits their practice or how to use what you’ve written in their next class or meeting.
Experts in the field they are writing, through experience and/or research. Plus they should be able to connect their writing to professional learning. Ask yourself, how could educators of all levels use the material I have created to improve the classroom, school building, or system? How could I lead that learning? What will my role be after the book is published?
Social media influencers who understand how to use platforms like Twitter, Facebook and blogging to share ideas and spread those ideas further. They’ve participated in chats and webinars and know how to target audiences in social spaces, deftly using hashtags.
Branding experts - we are in charge of the way the world sees our work and therefore have to be mindful of what we present of ourselves in the world. What do people think of when they hear your name? Do you know and understand how to optimize the free tools that are out there to really grow your own network? Is what you’re saying in your writing, jiving congruently with your behavior? If it doesn’t, is that inconsistency intentional? You get the point.
Promotion and marketers - it is not easy to write, but for authors, it is even harder to promote our work. It feels self-aggrandizing or like bragging at times, but it isn’t. When you do great work, we need to share it. This is one of the greatest challenges to overcome. When we birth a book into this world, we must be the ambassador of our work, presenting it to the world proudly.
Publicists and networkers - When opportunities arise to do guest posts on other people’s websites, we have to jump at them. The same goes for podcasts. We can’t wait for folks to reach out to us, we must position ourselves to be found and available. We also must advocate for opportunities by actively finding them and putting ourselves out there, even at the risk of rejection. It’s a good idea to reach beyond our natural networks to expand the reach.
So how can we do all of these things, especially if we were never trained it explicitly?
We need to use those social media accounts we signed up for but then allowed to go dormant. By setting a small amount of time together each day to check-in, as we would with the news, so we can get the pulse of what is happening around us. Scheduling posts intentionally is something we can do to ensure that our work is always out there.
A Writer’s Call to Action:
Create an engaging profile on social media accounts that really speaks to who we are. It doesn’t seem like much, but those few characters say a lot. Be intentional and remember it is a professional space. Readers do look at what you have there. Make sure your picture matches as well. Whether using an avatar, a professional headshot or a selfie, ask yourself, “how does this represent me?” and make sure the answer aligns with what you’re going for. You aren’t looking for dates, so sexy or alluring may not be the best look. Depending on the platform, be as thorough as the platform allows without giving too much away.
Make sure you have a website/blog that aligns with your branding. It can be a free one or a paid depending on how far in you’re going. You are an author now, so this can be a business write off if you pay for hosting and a personalized domain. On this website, have all upcoming events that you want folks to know about… book signings, conference appearances, keynotes etc. Anything they can attend. If you don’t have a marketplace on your website, have a page that links to Amazon with an affiliate program, so you can make additional money on books sold.
Set up an author page on Amazon and do it for as many countries that you think your book will be sold in. I didn’t realize that my page didn’t necessarily link up for countries like Canada and/or Japan until it was pointed out to me. It’s easy to set them up, just go here. There is all kinds of interesting and useful information here.
In order to get folks back to your website/blog, schedule posts to go up a few times a week, it can be recycled after time, but give bits of content away to entice potential readers. It can be a short video if your writing stamina is low after finishing your book, or it can be teasers where you give a little bit of a chapter away with engaging questions. That’s up to you to decide.
Guest moderate chats both in our direct content area and others. For example, Hacking Assessment would be a natural fit for #masterychat or #formativechat, but maybe not for particular state chats or leadership chats that are more general. Here is a list of all the chats that are out there. Find days and times that work for you and reach out to the chat moderators and ask to guest host. Most of the time, they are hungry for guests. Usually, you will just need to come up with questions that align with your content and then participate for the time the chat runs. You may need to promote that you’ll be on it in advance too. Consider using branded cards for your questions and answers that you should schedule in advance through a service like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or Buffer.
Speak at conferences - it is easier to start with local conferences where you can easily go and present a session where you can share about the learning. This will help you get the word out and may springboard opportunities for consulting later. Always have promotional cards with you that have your contact info as well as your website.
When you write a book, you aren’t done when the revised draft heads off to the designer, in fact, the work is just beginning. It may be awkward at first, but it does get easier with this time.
Although these aren’t the only things you could be doing, it is a good start. Stay tuned for more suggestions and examples.
We hope this helps in your pursuit to become a published author.
If you’re ready to do all of the above, submit your ideas here.