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How Do I Build Up My Profile Enough for a Publisher to Want Me?

Nov 18, 2020


The word profile used to mean what we looked like from the side. Nowadays it means what we look like online.

And for better or worse, this has become increasingly important when it comes to selling and promoting a book. So this week I'm answering a question from a listener that's all about how to build a profile, particularly on Instagram, and why publishers may or may not care.

And don't forget: if you want me to answer your writing question on this show, DM me on Instagram at @annabdavid.


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Hi, this is Anna David. You are listening to Launch Pad podcast, where normally I talk to the world's most successful authors and entrepreneurs about how a book can change their career and how to launch a book. But today I am answering a question from a listener and she is known on Instagram as @writinginblackandwhite, please go follow her. She's pretty fabulous.

So she wrote me and asked: can you speak to the platform you need to get a book deal. When you are an unknown, she mentions not having many Instagram followers, which is another reason you need to go follow her.

Here's what I have to say about that. One of the most disgusting things that's happened to publishing over the past decade is that a total idiot—I say with love and respect—with 3 million Instagram followers will get a book deal and a brilliant person with the best story you've ever heard, who's got 106 Instagram followers may not.

And this isn't because publishers are horrible people, it's that they look at it as a business. People want to invest in something they believe will sell. It's gross, but it's true. So the problem I think is less how do you build up your Instagram and more, how do you change your perception around this? How do you build up such a great audience that you don't even need a publisher?

So there are all sorts of ways you can do that. I have a course that talks about all the different ways you can do that. But one thing you could do is subscribe to something called Help A Reporter Out, which is also called HARO. And what happens when you subscribe is you start getting three emails a day of all the stories that journalists are working on. And these are journalists from the New York Times, from Forbes, from Entrepreneur, from wherever, and they put what source they're looking for.

So if you are an expert in anything—if you are a serious runner, if you are a sober person who has gotten into recovery, if you are anything, you do not need to have a special degree or even a book yet—you just need to be a source for that. So subscribe to HARO and start responding.

When journalists put out calls to action of sources that are looking for, you can start building up a profile. I did that. There was a query about somebody who was looking for a source for a Fortune magazine story that he was writing. I wrote him a two-sentence email. He ended up quoting me and then quoting me in a series of other stories that he wrote. So that works.

Also, you can try to connect to influencers. Now here's something I did. I really wanted to connect to James Altucher. I had read his book, Choose Yourself—by the way, I did a previous podcast episode all about him. So go back and grab that. And what I did to get his attention, because he's a very busy guy with lots of people going at him, is this: I wrote a story called "My Favorite Self-help Author Isn't a Self-Help Author." And I posted that story. I messaged him on Facebook. What he then did is he put that story out to his hundreds of thousands of newsletter followers. And then we became friends. So, so I didn't do it going, "Oh, well maybe he'll promote this" but he did. Just find the people that you are fascinated by who have big followings and see how you can express that and serve them.

That being said, if you do want to focus on building up your Instagram, there are definitely ways to do that.

I would say the main thing to do is ask yourself: what is the story I'm telling? Am I telling a story about a mother giving up her child for adoption? Am I telling you a story about why you need to share your story? That's the story I'm telling on Instagram. Once you know your story, make sure everything that you post serves that story, whether that's a picture or a quote card.

I recommend if you want to make your Instagram very attractive, make it a gorgeous grid where you're alternating: one's a picture, one's a quote card. So you can go to for free, take your best quotes. Make them into quote cards and then make sure your captions serve your story. Maybe it's a picture of you drinking coffee. What does that have to do with giving up your kid for adoption?

I don't know. That's up to you to figure out. Also use hashtags. They may look cheesy. You may judge them, but I will tell you my very first client ever, who came after me to publish his book—I wasn't even a book publisher yet—found me cause he was searching hashtags and that's how he became aware of me.

So then you've got all this great stuff. So how do you get people to know about it? The smartest thing to do is start going to the leaders in your field who have big Instagram followings, start following them, start liking them, start saying, Hey, I'm here. There are services that you can use like Boostgram and other services where they go in and start madly following all these people in the hopes that those people will follow you back. And then they unfollow them. It's kind of risky. I hear that Instagram sort of shadow bans you for that. And can lock you out of your Instagram.

So you really want to do it the right way. And the right way is pretty labor-intensive. So I would only recommend doing it if that would be fun for you, because the truth of the matter is even, let's say you do all of this work and you've got 5,000 Instagram followers; a publisher isn't going to be jumping all over that. So I will constantly emphasize do what's fun for you to find your audience because the misconception is, "Oh my God, I'm going to have a publisher and they're going to find my audience." They will not. In fact, sometimes they're going to be working against you because they have other authors that are more valuable to that publishing company. So sometimes having them as worse than not having them.

So I hope this helps. Keep sending me questions at @annabdavid on Instagram. And please, please, please let's all go follow this gorgeous girl at @writinginblackand white. See you next time.