It is becoming increasingly competitive to get a book published due to shrinking budgets and risks associated with first-time authors.
For large publishing houses, like Random House and Wiley, you have to have a literary agent. He/she is the conduit who brings your work to a publisher. Real agents don’t charge money (beware of those who do), but take a percentage of your royalties if you’re published.
Smaller publishers don’t require agents. Check Writers Market and bookstore in local section to find local publishers.
Agents are gatekeepers; their job is to weed out manuscripts to find the most marketable ones. It is not uncommon for an agent to have a pile of 500 manuscripts sitting in their slush pile.
Self publishing is defined by the author paying for services
Print on demand : Can order as many or as few as you want. CreateSpace (mine), Lulu, Author House
For a cost, most will provide services such as layout, marketing and promotion assistance, distribution and more.
Network with other authors, do online research - search writing blogs, online forums to find the best one for you. I chose CreateSpace upon the recommendation of an author friend and learning they were owned by Amazon, had a wholesale distribution option, etc.
The best time to build a platform is before you publish your book.
Blog: position yourself as an expert or at least a purveyor of information that’s important to readers. It’s also a way to make readers feel a connection and relationship to you. You should blog at least once or twice a week to maintain an audience.
Networking : Face-to-face and social media is essential for developing an audience. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the basics. Linked In groups are wonderful ways to get your message across and connect with like-minded individuals. It’s also a good idea to network with other bloggers and comment on their sites.
Speaking engagements/book signings : Are there organizations that would be receptive your message?
Bookstore signings : Borders and independent bookstores are open to self-published authors.
Video trailers on You Tube (see mine on www.MiracleSurvivors.com)
Make sure your pitches are targeted. Know the medium and its audience.
Try to find a local angle and an intriguing human interest component.
Consider a visual component for TV; audio for radio.
Look for a news trend: For example, breast cancer awareness month was a big opportunity for me. A breast cancer author got a quote in a major paper when Elizabeth Edwards died because Ms. Edwards was in her book.
Make sure to follow up if you can, but don’t be a nuisance. Reporters are busy and sometimes will miss an email. But sometimes they don’t follow up because they’re not interested.
If you have a media interview, practice and be prepared beforehand. Especially for TV and radio, the news wants answers that are concise and to the point.