Saturday, October 4, 2014

Platform and Marketing

“You must learn to market without marketing. No one wants to hear, ‘Buy my book.’ Everyone wants to hear, ‘How are you today?’ ” –Gayle Carline from her lecture “Self-Publishing Savvy”

Whether or not you publish traditionally, more and more the burden of marketing is falling on the writer. It’s important to build an audience and communicate with them, in a way that feels genuine, not gimmicky.

As soon as you decide you want a career in writing, you should start working on your platform. If you (like me) you got a late start, begin work ASAP. You don't have to tackle everything at once. Just do what you can and do it with all your heart.

What is a Platform--From an Expert

A platform is one of those things authors and agents like to throw around. Since I'm not exactly sure of what it is, I'll let author Kimberley Grabas define it.

“ ‘Platform’ is used to describe the variety of ways that you use to connect to—and engage with—the ideal readership that is most receptive to your work. It’s also the amount of influence you wield, the level of visibility and authority you have gained, and the deepness of your connection with your readers.”

I like to think of it your platform as a super high tech diving board that launches your little book in the vast pool of readership. If you're lucky it lands with a splash among the perfect audience. If your launching device doesn't work properly, your book falls flat on the concrete. Lucky for you, your book isn't a person, so you can try again. Tinker with your platform until it's just right! 

That's all well and good for a general definition, but what does it look like concretely and how on earth do you attempt to build one. Kimberley Grabas breaks it down into five basic steps.

5 Steps to Building a Platform 

  1. Define and Build Your Author Brand (This is your promise to your readers of what they can expect from you.)
  2. Identify Your Target Audience (Who is most likely to buy your book?)
  3. Set up Your Author Website/ Blog (This will be your home base from which you can launch your campaign)
  4. Start Building Your Email List (Your lines of communication with your target audience)
  5. Establish a Presence on Social Media (Emphasis on social; they want to know about you, not get bombarded with ads for your novel)
She elaborates on these steps in her ebook, The Quick Guide to Building Your Writer Platform, which you can download for free by subscribing to newsletter. It costs you nothing. If, for any reason, you are uncomfortable with this, her website provides the same basic information.

Other Marketing Ideas

Build the Best Product Possible

This means taking the time to write and re-write, over and over again; paying for professional editing; commissioning a simple, elegant cover that attracts readers' attention and fits with your brand; and formatting it correctly so that the interior is easy to read.

Connect with Other Writers and Groups

Joining writer's groups or finding groups devoted to your genre is a great way to meet people who will be interested in your writing and supportive of you. You can lean on older, more experienced writers for wisdom and advice; learn about new trends in the field; network for free-to-cheap editing and critiquing; and generally benefit in many different way.

Use Metadata

Metadata refers to the tags and keywords that an audience interested in your book can use to find you. If used correctly, your audience will come to you.

Get Reviews

Positive reviews are really important to attracting new readers. 

If you want a nice blurb, you can ask an author in your genre that you know (see Writers and Groups) to write one for you, although it's common courtesy to give them a free copy of your book, six months to read it, and a warm thank you. If you're bold enough, you can build up a relationship with an author you admire and ask them to recommend your book.

At the grassroots level, you can ask your fans for reviews. You can write a review of your author friend's book in hope they review you back. (Author Sonia Marsh said she did a video review and posted it on You Tube to make herself stand out.) 

Just remember to be ethical about it.

Free Giveaways

The point of giveaways is to, hopefully, have more people read your books, review your books, and spread positive word of mouth. 

Amazon has deals where people can download free books and Goodreads have giveaways. You can also host your own contests or raffles, although you might think about including something beside your book. Maybe a small gift card. Or, if you have a crafting hobby, something you made.

Amazon also has something called the Kindle lending library, wherein readers can read for free, but you still get royalties.

Create an Event

You can host a contest, create a book launching party, or give a lecture. Nowadays, it's usually not enough to sit around and sign books. You need to create value.

Good hospitality is key to the event, so remember to bring food and drinks. Sonia Marsh told a story (which I recounted in my blog) of how she got to local businesses to donate food and prizes. If you can network your way into free stuff, go for it. Also, make sure you bring business cards, bookmarks, fliers or some other physical thing an audience can take home, in case they want to look you up later.

Videos and Podcasts

This can include everything from book trailers, to reading chapters of your book out loud, to showing off a skill you have. Heck, it might not even have to do with your book. Just give them a chance to see you.

Build up a Body of Work

It's usually not enough to write one book and stop. You usually need to build up a body of work. At Barnes and Nobles, I noticed prolific authors took up so much room on the shelf, it was impossible not to see them. It's still the same in the digital world. The more you produce, the more your name pops up.

In this way, writing series can be helpful. You can also build up a body of work by writing short stories. Short stories have a secondary bonus, in that you can write one connected to your novel, give it away for free or cheap, and hopefully intrigue readers into investing in the larger world.

Be Generous and Grateful

What goes around, comes around. If people help you, always remember to thank them and pay it forward.

Free Resources on the Web

Your Writer Platform ( Even if you don’t subscribe, this website offers lots of articles for building your platform

“9Ways to Promote Your Writing Without Being a Jerk” by Brian Hutchinson ( Easy to read article for beginners

"7 Tips for Metadata Magic for Self-Publishers” by Betty Kelly Sargent ( Thoroughly explains what metadata is

“5 Ways to Build a Powerful Email List” by Jeff Goins ( Intermediate advice, not intimidating

“MarketingYourself: Social Media Marketing and Creating an Online Presence” by Scott James ( Specific advice for serious authors

“FreebieStrategies for Indie Authors” by Sabrina Ricci ( Chock full of links, references, and personal experience

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