Fame is largely a function of who knows you. Get out and meet as many people in your profession as you can. As your network grows, you’ll discover that people know you that you don’t know and you don’t even know the people that they say they heard about you from. You don’t need to be the life of the party, but be interesting.
Don’t sit home alone watching TV. Whenever possible, go to conferences. Go to meetings. Go to lunches and picnics. Participate in group activities. You don’t need to volunteer for hard jobs–indeed, that’s the harder way to be famous; besides, you’ll be asked plenty about volunteering as time goes by and your fame increases–but do pitch in for things.
Part of your success is your online presence, which can augment your local, regional, and international standing. This includes things like having a website, writing a blog (and contributing to other blogs), and being on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites. There’s a lot to know about social media and making a splash, but the basic rules are:
- Nobody knows what’s best, so be sure to do something.
- Do a lot. Don’t try just one thing.
- Be friendly.
- Provide good content to your readers and followers.
Fame—being well-known and nothing more— opens doors. It can make networking easier and extend your own networking reach. Fortunately, it’s not hard to become famous and it’s a lot of fun. This next series of posts tells you how to become well-known in your profession.
(If you have a problem with the idea of “fame” and think it’s the same thing as “cheap celebrity,” think of this as career management. It’s all the same thing: you’re doing legitimate self-promotion to further your career and extol your many professional virtues.)
Acknowledgments and dedications are great fun. People who see their names acknowledged in a book get a real spring in their step and they tend to feel really good about themselves and you for quite some time afterward. Giving someone a copy of a book that’s been dedicated to them is a pure pleasure that generates a warm glow in the giver and receiver. Best of all, Acknowledgments and dedications are great gifts that cost you nothing and one-size-fits-all.
Acknowledgments aren’t as big as a dedication. They’re simply a way of saying “Thank you” for something specific to the book. This doesn’t have to be big; little stuff is worth acknowledging, too. I’ve acknowledged people who came up with important ideas, reviewers, agents, publishing staff, and people who made a last-minute repair to a computer monitor or sent me information about one nitty little technical point.
Here’s a short list of people you may want to acknowledge:
- your spouse/significant other
- your agent/agency
- the staff at the publisher, including the acquisitions editor, the developmental editor, the production people, the copyeditor, the proofreader, the indexer, any artists connected with book design and cover or inside illustrations, the marketing team, and so on
- your tech reviewers and researchers–they’re very important to the success of your book and deserve praise
- friends who were supportive
- company representatives who provided support, as well as the names of companies who may have been helpful
- people who inspired you to do this book in the first place
Always keep track of the acknowledgments as you go. Don’t figure you’ll remember the names of everyone who helped or the circumstances by the end of the book. Start an “acknowledgments” file when you first start trying to pitch the book and make notes as soon as they happen.
Another interesting thing to consider is that you should make sure that the people want to be acknowledged. Sure, most people respond to getting their names in print, but you might actually hurt someone if, for example, their employer doesn’t allow them to have anything to do with outside projects even if they don’t make any money. You can make sure that someone wants an acknowledgment when you check on how they want their name to appear in print and that you’ve spelled everything correctly.
A dedication is a note at the beginning saying for whom the book was written. Think of dedications as being in honor of someone (or something). The dedication doesn’t have to be specifically related to the book; think of the dedication as a gift and the book is just the means of conveying it.
Who do you dedicate the book to? Think about who inspired you, who is important in your life, or who you’d like to make happy. You can dedicate it to a single person, to several people, a group of people, an organization, or even an idea. If there are multiple authors on a book, each author gets a dedication.
Dedications can be a great way of showing that you’ve made it to a point: for example, a dear friend of mine wrote a book about something I kept trying to tell him about years before. He had a dedication to me that said “And to my old friend, John, who kept trying to tell me about this when we were in high school–I got it, John, I finally got it!”
The dedication can be something as simple as “To [name of significant other]” or something a good deal longer. I dedicated an early book to my father, the history professor, and had several sentences of text about why I am so pleased to be his son.
Dedications (and acknowledgments) can be fun. One of my favorites was a friend’s dedication to his wife: “To Jill, without whom I would still be impossible.” It should probably also be pointed out that punctuation and structure are incredibly important in dedications. The best example of this was the following nugget resulting from the omission of a serial comma: “To my parents, God and Ayn Rand.”
I’ve dedicated books for wedding gifts, to friends on the occasion of the birth of their first child, to my high school graduating class, and in honor of the retirement of someone who was instrumental in getting me started in the writing biz. I’ve dedicated two books to significant others, but, oddly enough, both relationships broke up not long after. I am very keen on the woman I’m now married to, so I’m not planning on dedicating a book to her, ever.
Writing a book is a huge undertaking that never happens on its own. However, judging by the current crop of technical books, many authors are unaware of the value of dedications and acknowledgments… which is a real shame. As writers, we have a particularly large audience, and an exceptional ability to thank people for the help they have given us. People appreciate being remembered and having their contributions acknowledged publicly. This short series of posts will describe dedications and acknowledgments and give you some tips on how to use them.
A good documentation plan actually serves two purposes:
- First, you use the documentation plan to sell your book idea to a publisher. It shows the publisher that you know what you’re doing, that you have a good understanding on what you want to write, who you’re writing it for, and how you’re going to do it. The documentation plan gives the publisher enough information about how you perceive the project that they can see how it fits with their plans and schedule.
- Second, the documentation plan is a roadmap for you during the project so you don’t wander off in the wrong direction. I can recall many cases where I would go back to my detailed outline and remind myself that I didn’t have to write something quite yet; that that was something for a later chapter.
In addition, if you’re using the documentation plan as a freelance writer, it can serve as a negotiation tool and as a contractual statement of work. Similarly, if you’re a captive writer working for a company, the documentation plan scopes what you’re doing for a project and identifies your responsibilities.
However you use a documentation plan, it’s a living document that needs to be updated regularly. Changes to the documentation plan, which are usually in the outline, should be logged and the documentation plan re-released to the people you’re working with so they know what’s going on.
The biggest underlying advantage to the documentation plan is that it will make you look like you know what you’re doing. And if you have a complete documentation plan template, you will!
Now that you’ve read my description of what goes into a documentation plan, you can download a blank version of the format I use to see one way in which you can put all of this together. Most of the comments in the individual posts are in the documentation plan. In some cases, I’ve added samples from a real book proposal. As I’ve said, this format works well for both book proposals and for technical writing projects with very minor adjustments.
Regardless of whether you use my format or build your own, I encourage you to use a standard documentation plan template. As you identify the elements you want to use in your documentation plans, you can tailor the template to your needs.
The advantages of using a standardized template are that you get used to the types of information you need to supply as well as being able to create a documentation plan quickly and easily. In addition, if you have all the topics in your template, you won’t miss anything that should be there. This template has everything I’ve been able to think of that I’d ever need. To create a complete plan, I just run down the items in the template. When everything’s filled in, the proposal’s ready to send out. (By the way, if you find that you’ve added something to this, please let me know. I’m always interested in ways to update my template.)