Blogging, Book Promotion, Marketing, Networking, Publishing, Social Media

Why Bother With A Platform? Hint: It’s Not About You!

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When I first started out in 2007, many of the marketing gurus told writers that a website was optional.  Some of them were telling writers that Facebook or LinkedIn were more than enough for a web presence.  But a lot has happened since then and with social media sites charging for visibility, it’s nearly impossible to reach an audience organically.  Also, there’s the control issue, does a business owner (you) really want a middleman controlling when and if you have access to your readers?  So today the advice is to get people FROM social media on to your newsletter or website.

This doesn’t mean abandon social media completely, what they mean is have other avenues that you can rely on to get your message out there like podcasts, blogs and of course newsletters.  If you can only reach your readers via Facebook then you might want to take things to the next level and start branching out.

I can already hear you all asking: why are we doing all this work?  It’s hard and at times tedious, well I’m glad you asked…

Reason 1:  Information Gathering

I know many authors are blogging and on social media believing they’re there to build a massive platform (whatever that means to them) but that’s not exactly why.  The truth is you’re reaching out to readers because you need to learn from them.  And by the way, social media is a great place to mine data from customers (readers).  As you put your life and thoughts on display, you should be exchanging information with your readers, so try asking them questions (open ended ones) such as:

  1. What authors are you reading?
  2. Name one personal pet peeve you have about modern books?
  3. Who are the most influential authors today?
  4. What kind of stories do we need to see more of?
  5. Which book character deserves closure and why?

Author H.M. Ward once discussed meeting with a New York publisher and when she began talking about her demographic, she was astonished when one of the executives asked her, “How do you know this?”  Well duh, she monitors her social media and newsletter analytics.  By the way, she has over 50,000 subscribers on her email list and over 59,000 Facebook fans.

If you feel like you don’t know what to say, study the indie authors who are good at connecting with their readers people like; Mark Dawson, Bella Andre, Adam Croft and Marie Force.   Look at their social media accounts and subscribe to their newsletters and see what they’re doing right.

Reason 2:  Showing Your Expertise

This is particularly for nonfiction authors who need to show their knowledge of a given subject.  A platform gives you a non-censored channel that you can use to educate or inspire.  It also gives you an opportunity to connect with other thought leaders in your field.

Reason 3:  Promotion… Of Others

It goes without saying that promotion is one of the main reasons authors build a platform.  However your books aren’t the only thing you can promote, you can promote other authors, there are tons of them out there who have little to no support, and a shout-out or friendly word never hurt anyone.  Another good idea is to promote your readers, these are the people who should get regular shout-outs.  Thank them for their positive reviews and support.

Reason 4:  All The Cool Publishers Are Doing It!

Over the past few years, several major publishers like Penguin Random, Guardian Books and even Harlequin have started their own podcasts.  Those same companies also have newsletters and social media sites even though they’re already household names.  Despite what a lot of authors think, they’ve been watching indie authors closely and have been taking notes. This means we indies need to step up our game, and that requires us to learn from each other.

In closing, if you learned anything I hope it was that you can’t depend on anyone to reach and build your audience.  This is your job no matter if you’re a traditionally published author or an indie.  It’s your job to know who your readers are and what they want.  This is what a platform is really about, it’s not about stats or image, it’s about connecting and building relationships, real ones that will endure your entire career.

Book Promotion, Book Reviews, Business, Marketing, Networking, Publishing, writing

How To Find Who & What You’re Looking For


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Several years ago I wrote an article called, “How to Get Featured or Reviewed on Amazon” and it became very popular.  Recently, it was pointed out that I left out an important fact like names of various departments.  That was my mistake but later on, I encountered another author who was having trouble finding email addresses at a popular P.O.D. company.  It was then I realized there was a much deeper problem and that is, many indie authors can’t do deep research.  Now I come from a freelancing background where finding people who don’t want to be found is just part of the job.  However, we all come from different backgrounds and this kind of stuff isn’t taught in school, even though it really should.  Today, I’m going to help you find people who are hard to track online also, I’m going to go over the fundamentals of sending out an ARC or pitch. So buckle up, because we’re going sleuthing.

Tip #1: Before You Start You Need To Look The Part

When approaching a person like a book reviewer or editor, you must present yourself like a professional.  That means using a professional email address with your domain’s .com such as:  Most authors have a domain for their pen names but not many have one for their publishing company.  I bring this up because there are still book reviewers and editors who exclusively review trad pub books.  That means no indies allowed.  So like it or not, we need to create a company for our publishing business and that entails building a website and having a professional email address if we want to bypass the snobbery.

Here are the most popular sites for buying a domain and setting up a professional email address for your business:

Tip #2: Don’t Forget To Include A Kit With Your ARCs

Once you’ve gotten passed the gates, you need to bring the goods.  I was amazed at how little authors knew about sending out their work, none of the ones I spoke to ever included a book/press kit or formal letter with their books or ARCs.  How is someone supposed to know who you are let alone where to find you?  Authors can’t assume that a busy professional is going to bother Googling them, many of them just don’t have the time.  You need to introduce yourself and your company then give them what they need whether it be an ARC or a book.  Here’s an article you should read on the topic by Savvy Writers & E-Books Online.

Tip #3:  How to Find Names

Most companies have a corporate website or blog and there, they have listed the names of employees and the departments in which they work.  Also, most magazines and publishers have a page where they list their masthead which is really convenient but not every place is this transparent.

If you can’t find a masthead or corporate website, then you can always check out LinkedIn, there they have a search engine which can help you find your target.  Just enter the name of the company and start filtering the results to reflect certain terms like department and job position.

If that doesn’t work then you can always pick up a phone and call customer service or the information desk and ask them for the info you lack.  But if you’re feeling really bold, you can ask to be connected to the correct department and speak directly to your target.

Tip #4:  How to Find Email Addresses

Before we go any further let’s get one thing clear: You are never to email someone’s personal address.  It makes you look unprofessional not to mention desperate plus, they may report you.  The resources listed here are simply for trying to figure out work email addresses at a large corporation.  Most journalists and freelancers use the following services:

Tip #5:  Always Remember You Are Not Bothering Anyone!

People who work at a company get paid to do certain tasks and unless you’re preventing them from doing that job, you’re probably not annoying them.  If you are professional and courteous to them, then you’ve done your part.  And as an indie author it is your job to promote your books so it makes sense to leave no stone unturned.

Tip #6:  A Warm Introduction Trumps A Cold Pitch Any Day

Despite what many people think, it takes a lot of courage to become an indie author, because we constantly have to put ourselves out there.  Without a middleman, it’s up to us to reach out to the influencers in our industry.  If there is a book blogger or editor at a magazine you want to contact, do it, just be smart about it.  If they have an online community join it, if they have a social media presence, follow them.  Remember a warm email or pitch is always better than a cold one.  I talked about this in a previous article “How to Approach & Pitch Social Media Influencers” and it’s worth giving a read.  Another helpful article is “Before You Pitch a Book Reviewer: 6 Tips Most Authors Ignore” it’s filled with tips that writing professionals need to know.

I hope this helps, and if you have any questions please ask in the comments section.

Book Promotion, Marketing, Networking, writing

How to Find Interview Opportunities

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When I was marketing my novel, I would often find myself envious of all the media attention some authors received.  Little did I know the author had a team of helpers to scour the earth for interview opportunities.  Another fact I didn’t know was that sometimes these teams were hired by the author and not their publisher.  In fact, many authors spend their entire advance (if they get one) on marketing their book.

You can hire an assistant as well, so that it doesn’t feel awkward asking for an interview. Just write the pitch letter for your assistant and ask them to send it, this way you’re still in control.

Timing is Everything!

It’s been said a million times but I need to remind you, most magazines and websites publish by editorial calendar.  For example, some magazines start looking for Christmas stories in July and Halloween articles in May. This is why it’s so important to send a pitch or query many months before your promotional blitz. Consider this part of your soft launch.

Pitching the Right People

It should go without saying that you have to be careful as to who you pitch because not all media members are indie friendly. In fact, some places are downright hostile to self-published authors. I think it’s because some of them blame us for the downfall of publishing.  So save yourself the frustration and anger by learning about the publication you wish to break into. Also learn the name of the editor or assistant editor responsible for the section you’d like to appear in. They hate, Dear Editor pitches and often delete them or worse, they forward them to the interns. *gasp*

What to do if you Want to Break into a Magazine that Doesn’t Feature Indies?

If you absolutely must get your name in O Magazine, or the New York Times, then you’ll need to write an article that will captivate their audience. However, this isn’t the same as promoting your book, yes, it will give a nice byline but little else.  However think about it, when was the last time you’ve read the byline of an article?

Here are a few resources to find the right interview opportunity for your book:

Finding Opportunities on Social Media

Social media is a great place to find information for opportunities not available anywhere else. There are newspapers and magazines that update their social media accounts more often than they do their own websites. The search engines of Google+, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter should be your best friends.

Research Tips:
Try typing the words: author interviews or looking for author interviews onto the search engines and see what you find.

You can do the same thing for the Goodreads search engine, just be sure to click both the events tabs as well as the groups tabs at the top.


I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about podcasts.  This past week, Red River Radio launched its first Facebook page and the turn out was tremendous.  In less than 24 hours, they had over 270 likes, and several authors contacted us directly about wanting to be on the network.

Podcasts are a great way to land an interview as well as get a book reviewed.  Hat tip to BookBuzzr for this list of Podcasts for Authors.  Also go to and type in the search engine, books or authors and see what pops up.  The same goes for sites like Podbean and even iTunes.  Just make sure to listen to the podcast before you request an interview to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Radio Programs

Yes, it’s been said radio is dead but hey, in certain parts of the country and even the world, radio is alive and well.  Many radio programs offer interview segments and some are desperate for guests.  This is where you come in with swagging with your free books and t-shirts.  You can find thousands of stations here on, Radio-Locator and another international one called, RadioStationWorld.


Believe it or not, television is still an option for indie authors promoting a book.  Sure you may not end up on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) or the Today Show, and honestly, you don’t need to.  There are plenty of places that want to interview authors of any stripe.  Just check out a few local programs in your neck of the woods.  Here’s an online station locator and another here.

Who and How to Approach? 

Many radio and television stations have a contact us page like this one here.  Depending on what you have in mind, you can offer a contest of some kind or just request an interview.  Whatever you choose make sure to perfect your query/pitch letter before clicking send.  It would be wise to approach the producers (if you want an interview) or the marketing department (if you only want to run a contest) in order to get an actual response.  If that information isn’t easy to find on the site, Google it.  That’s how I found the producer of the local morning show in my town.  Most television stations have terrible websites so Google or Bing are a necessity.

So there you go, another hack to help you promote your book.  Stay tuned, because next week I’ll be discussing how to get featured on Kobo.

Book Promotion, Networking, Social Media

How to Approach & Pitch Social Media Influencers

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It’s a problem that many social media admins and page owners complain about all the time and that is complete strangers wanting favors. Don’t think it’s a problem? Just go to Twitter and type the words Please RT or Help Me into the search engine and you’ll find an endless feed of begging. Now, I’m not shaming anyone because I used to do it too thinking that was the way social media worked.  Unfortunately, I listened to the social media experts who told people to ask, ask, ask which got me absolutely nowhere.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I lost a few followers because of it!

The Inherent Problem With Social Media

The biggest problem most indie authors have is that their following on social media is small to nonexistent.  I mean, who follows an unknown author?  With no little or no money, we can’t buy ads or promote posts which naturally puts us in a pickle.  However what most indie authors don’t know is that they can borrow somebody else’s network.  So how do you get someone to lend you their audience?

Whatever You Do, Don’t Skip This Step!

If you really want to get on someone’s radar, you’ll need to join the community you’d like to target. And you’re going to have to be a good community member, which means sharing, and commenting on the page whenever you can.  If you’re friendly as well as helpful, you’ll get noticed in no time.  If not, you might want to consider moving on.

Now keep in mind, you’re building a relationship so this will take time.  For example, when I joined Red River Writers, I was a member of their community for nearly a year when they announced they needed a virtual assistant.  Of course I applied, and didn’t need to feel anxious about approaching them because I was already acquainted with them.

A Cautionary Tale:

In a previous post, I mentioned a viral incident where a young woman approached a job recruiter on LinkedIn who ended up berating her for her poor etiquette.  She was called, entitled and tacky by the recruiter and despite everyone’s outrage, I understand the hostility.  Now I’m not agreeing with how the recruiter behaved but I do know this could’ve been easily avoided if the young woman had simply introduced herself and expressed interest in becoming a part of the recruiter’s community.

Your Angle, You Do Have One Right?

As long as you view this as a business proposition and not a handout, then you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable pitching to a social media influencer or any influencer for that matter. However you first need to ask yourself, what do you bring to the table? Can you offer a free book, tee-shirt or a gift card? As a marketer, you’re going to need an angle.

Things You Need Before You Pitch:

  • A familiarity with the page admin and the community.
  • An appropriate book.  Don’t pitch a romance novel to a sci-fi page.
  • A bribe or special offer.

With Facebook’s Crappy Algorithm Come Many Opportunities

Since Facebook has limited the reach of most pages, page owners are scrambling to hang on to their following. It sucks for them because many of them can’t afford to advertise but you can easily bring a bit of buzz to their page with gifts and bribes.  I believe now that Facebook is an easy target for indie authors looking to promote their work.

On the Reading Between the Wines’ Facebook page (You need to be logged in to see the link) they occasionally offer author takeovers. A takeover is just like it sounds, an author takes complete control of the page in order to hold contests, answer questions and even interact with readers.  Believe it or not, these types of pages aren’t hard to find.

Tip of the day: You can find author friendly pages on Facebook, Twitter and even Google+ by typing, Author Takeover in the search engine and investigate which authors are doing takeovers and where.

Because I Care, Here Are More Resources

Here’s a Google spreadsheet listing Facebook groups that are promotional friendly.
Bloggers who Interview Authors by Lisa Kalner William (You must be logged into Google)
A list of 80 Book Reviewers on Twitter Compiled by Yours Truly @WritingPants

There you go, more tips that can help, you promote your book successfully on social media.  Next week, I’m talking about author assistants and why you’ll need one if you’re going to do a promotional blitz.

Book Promotion, Marketing, Networking

Street Teams: Reader to Reader Promoting

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Recently, an author friend brought up the subject of street teams and honestly, it was something I envisioned more established authors doing. I mean who would join the street team of an unknown? Then I started researching the origins of street teams and learned that the concept is as old as show biz itself.  Street teams usually consisted of young people who were commissioned to put up posters, fliers and even hand out buttons to their friends.  It was done to build local buzz for concerts, plays and even movies.  So what did they (the street team) get out of it?  Usually they were paid with freebies like tickets, or an autographed copy of an album.

There are no exact numbers on how well indie authors are doing with street teams but hopefully, we won’t measure this in dollars and cents but in how a street team eases the promotional burden. It’s nice to have someone out there tweeting and sharing your books on your behalf even if it’s only your mother.

Running Your Street Team Like a Boss:

A street team can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you decide to run things.  They can personally hand out your swag to their book worm friends or blog about your latest release.  Though it may not amount to much publicity wise, you have to start somewhere.  I’d rather share excerpts for free where readers are actually happy to see me, than have to pay someone to talk about my work.  The cool thing about street teams vs publicists is that they’re not on the payroll!  All the feedback and hype will be 100% organic.

Where to Begin:

• Create a page, or group where your street team can gather. Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest all allow users to create private pages/groups/boards. Trust me, you’ll want to keep things private in order to keep out the spammers, and trolls.

• To build your team, let people on your email list and social media page know that you’re looking for a street team. If you have any free books, you might want to put a request at the end of those as well.

• Contests and freebies (swag) are the basics of an effective street team.

• Book covers, trailers, banners, memes, excerpts and shareable content are a must for a social media blitz. I actually created a board for this on Pinterest.

Bestselling hybrid author Hugh Howey created his own street team by making witty Youtube videos and holding interesting giveaways.  It would be to your advantage that you study authors who have created successful street teams and no, it doesn’t matter if they’re indie authors or not.

A Fair Warning:

Be wary of the freebie fiends who only participate when there’s a giveaway but contribute nothing to your promotional efforts. This is why it’s a good idea to create a page or group you control so you can easily kick out people who are only there looking for a handout.

To prevent freeloaders from robbing you blind, make your street team earn their swag. For example, the first person to like your new book trailer gets a poster or keychain.  Keep it fun and give them a reason to want to help you.

Okay, now back to you, have you tried starting your own street team?  If so, was it effective or just a waste of time?