*Note: this post isn’t focused on writing great books. The focus is on marketing great books!
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.
Author Platform Defined
Many writers run kicking and screaming from the term author platform, but they need to 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.
Simplified, think of your platform as a big wheel. To make the wheel turn, you have to place the spokes. Everything we are going to discuss today is a spoke.
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. 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 your book.
Smart Work, Hard Work
I’ve released four books (award-winning, bestselling) 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 mom, and writing my next two books). I can tell you that getting all four of my books to #1 best seller status on Amazon didn’t come from magical fairies sprinkling bestseller dust over me while I write or sleep (I miss sleep).
It happened because I made it happen. I work hard and smart 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?
Author Platform Secrets
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.
I do the same for my clients. We share their own blog posts of course, but also articles about their topics of interest, and interact/follow 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 (on both my author blog and my business blog), I guest blog, I write for Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, FeminineCollective.com, I pay for low-cost ads, I do occasional blog tours and book promos, I do two Twitter chats, have a newsletter, a street team…it goes on. If you google RachelintheOC, BadRedhead Media, or Author Rachel Thompson, you’ll find me.
I rarely discuss my books other than to share visual quotes or teasers; 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.
Social Media: At the very least, you want to be on Twitter, have a Google+ brand page, and a Facebook author page. Why Google+? While most people have written it off, Google hasn’t, and they index every update. In terms of SEO, Google+ ranks much higher than Facebook pages, hands down. (Twitter and Google have an agreement as well, so Twitter updates are also indexed.)
YouTube (note: owned by Google), Instagram, Pinterest and SnapChat are the next tier and terrific visual channels. StumbleUpon, Medium, Reddit are great aggregators as well.
Where are you spending your time? If you’re like most authors, you’re on your personal Facebook whining about book sales. I suggest rethinking that strategy.
Authority: This one seems to be trickier, but it’s really not. Everyone is good at something or 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, and share that information in a way that initiates discussion. I use my almost two decades from soul-sucking Big Pharma to help me in my current business. We all come from somewhere.
Share what you enjoy, what you are good at, even your struggles. Be authentically you. People respond to that.
Proven Reach: Your branding, author platform, social media, SEO-optimized website, and consistent blog posting is the best way to build a readership and fan base. It’s also how you will connect to book bloggers and reviewers, yet I hear from many writers how they’re too busy to interact with readers online.
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.
See, 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. Publishing is about making money. Are you a sure thing?
That’s how I eventually got an agent and signed with a publishing company. 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?
Author Platform – A Basic List
- Active and interactive social media (Twitter; Facebook — both a personal account to connect not sell, and an author page; Google+ brand page, and either Pinterest or Instagram; and, depending on your demographic, LinkedIn or Snapchat)
- StumbleUpon and Medium
- A fully SEO-optimized website and blog
- Blogging consistently (minimum once-weekly)
- Minimum 25 reviews of your book (some say this is helpful for Amazon’s internal marketing; others say, that’s total BS. I figure, it can’t hurt!)
- Blog tour (debatable, but helpful for visibility; not so much for book sales)
- Awards and/or writing contest wins
- Guest articles, interviews, blogging
- Writing for publications
- Subscriber list and email newsletters
- Promotions, contests, giveaways
- and, most importantly, building long-term relationships with influencers and readers!
Don’t forget the face-to-face interactions as well (more of a PR tactic which as a businessperson, I don’t focus on; but as a writer, I do):
- Conferences (aka, cons)
- Library events
- Bookstore events
- Speaking opportunities
Bottom line: your author platform is what it takes for you to market your books. Will it guarantee sales? No. There are so many other factors: pricing, promotions, fan base, timing, competition, reviews (we haven’t even discussed that yet!), and so much more. But it’s absolutely the foundation to get you rolling.
Have patience, be realistic, have a plan, and work that plan!
**This article first appeared on BadRedheadMedia.com and is used with permission.
Social Media Director, Authorbytes