The Reason Your Author Platform Matters
Every day I hear prickly, sometimes even angry authors, discussing The Evils of book marketing:
“Blogging is a waste of time. I could be writing.”
“Social media doesn’t result in sales, so forget it. Not worth it.”
“Author platform is just a dumb term some bean dip in a suit made up. Next year they’ll call it something else.”
Oh, dear. Let’s deconstruct.
Many writers run kicking and screaming from the term author platform, but get over it. If you have any hope of marketing your books — er, selling your books — you need to understand that selling books is a business. Art is commerce. You are part of the machine that you are so vehemently protesting. Irony, huh?
Your platform consists of how visible you are, your authority on a particular topic(s), proven reach, and knowing your demographic (Source: Jane Friedman). Most authors I work with have or know maybe one of these. Do your homework.
According to Bowker data (2013), over 1,000 books are released every day (if you have updated data, please pass it along). That’s about 400,000 books each year. How do you plan to stand out if ‘writing is all that matters?’
Branding, platform, marketing, advertising — all those crazy ‘buzzwords’ — don’t sound so crazy when you are faced with the herculean task of trying to get someone to notice you, your book, and actually you know, sell something.
Remember when you were a kid and you and your buddy decided to sell watered-down lemonade to passers-by on the street corner for a quarter? You made signs, jumped up and down, waved like you were on acid? Maybe you even got creative and used one specific bright red marker on your signs so your lemonade stand stood out from mean ole Mary Jane’s, with her perfect Marcia hair who lived down the street, who you KNOW was handing out sneezers.
Guess what we marketing people call that? Marketing. Advertising. Dare I say, Branding?
Smart Work, Hard Work
I’ve released five books (award-winning, best-selling) in the last five years (slow by some people’s standards but hey, I’m a busy girl, what with running a business, being a single mom, and writing my next two books. I can tell you that getting all five of my books to #1 bestseller status on Amazon didn’t come from magical fairies sprinkling bestseller dust over me while I’m writing or sleeping (I miss sleep).
It happened because I made it happen. I work hard to build relationships with readers, authors, publishing and industry folks, book bloggers, and reviewers. I don’t sit back eating bonbons while the fairies dance around me, making the magic happen. How do I do it?
Write Great Books
I started writing at age ten, pursued Written Communications and Journalism in college, worked at a magazine during and after college, sold stories to publications in my twenties, actively blogged and wrote articles for years, and released my first book in my late forties. I tell you that to show that it’s a l o n g process.
Beyond writing award-winning books, I work with professionals: editors, graphic designers, formatters, etc. I write draft after draft after draft, working with trusted critique partners willing to honestly tell me when my work is shit or when it sails. If your writing needs work, working with the best pros in the world won’t help your book sales if your writing isn’t the best it can be. Learn your craft.
The Marketing Mix
Beyond writing, what’s my secret? It’s not a secret because I blather on constantly about building relationships. You’re probably sick of it by now, but it’s so true. How do I build relationships? Let’s look at Jane’s definition above and break it down.
- Demographic: I share lots of interesting content (other than ‘buy my book!’ because dear god, if that’s all I knew how to write, why on earth would anyone buy my book at all?), articles, other people’s posts and articles, quotes, pictures, videos, and yes, the occasional promotional giveaway or sale, all having to do with what my demographic is interested in because I targeted specific people with similar interests.
- Visibility: I’m very visible: I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram — social media is best used for building relationships, not for blasting ‘buy my book!’ links. I blog weekly (my author blog and my business blog), I guest blog, I write for Huffington Post, BookPromotion.com, I pay for low-cost ads, I do blog tours. If you google RachelintheOC, BadRedhead Media, or Author Rachel Thompson, you’ll find me.
I rarely discuss my books; rather I focus on sharing real-life stories, others’ stories, and meaningful articles and information. Being ‘other-focused’ and generous is like catching flies with honey.
How do I manage to be so visible? A combination of several easy to use social media management tools: Hootsuite, Buffer, Swayy, Google Alerts. Many are free or low-cost. You can use them, too. I schedule in some content and I live interact as well when I’m not writing or handling client accounts or burning dinner for my kids.
- Authority: This one seems to be trickier, but it’s really not. Everyone is good at something, knows a particular topic intimately. That’s not usually the issue. The issue is giving ourselves permission to be an expert on what we know, what we’re good at.
I was no different. Despite having 17+ years of sales and marketing behind me, it took me awhile to get my feet under me to start my own business, to ignore the people who told me I didn’t know enough about publishing to market books. Having three bestsellers under my belt helped me change my own mind! As did having many authors asking to hire me to help them. My business almost started by default, to be honest.
Share what you enjoy, what you are good at, your struggles. Be authentically you. People respond to that.
Your author platform, social media, and blogging are the best way to build a readership and fan base. It’s also how you will connect to book bloggers and reviewers, yet I read a lot of writers moaning about how they’re too busy to interact with readers online.
Um, what? Let me get this straight: you want readers to find you, but you don’t want to interact with them. You just want to write. You want a traditional contract because you think everything will be done for you (not) — I have traditionally published clients right now who hire me to do their social media because their publishing company doesn’t do any of it.
Here’s the bottom line: publishing companies will look at your manuscript to see if you can write, of course, but they will also look at your ability to bring in readers. That’s how I eventually got an agent and signed to a publishing company (and while that was great for awhile, I didn’t make much. I’m now back to self-publishing and making more!). They will check your social media numbers, website visits and comments, and how you interact with people. They want to see your brand, how well you market, and if you can prove that you have reach.
How can you have that if you don’t have that? *scratches head*
All this hard work I’ve done the last nine to ten years (since I started blogging), is starting to pay off.
Have patience, work smart, be realistic, and have a plan.
Pick up The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge now for only $4.99 (eBook) to learn how to jump-start your author platform right now!