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.

Blogging, Marketing

When Blogging Doesn’t Work

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Authors need to blog, it’s the mantra that self-publishing gurus repeat over and over to newbies.  In fact, this myth was started by agents and editors several years back.  Mainly because most publishing companies now completely depend on their authors’ platform.

Problem is, they had no idea what the hell they were talking about.  They figured there’s nothing to building a popular blog.  In fact, one literary agent said, “Blogging is storytelling and that should come naturally to all writers.”  Sadly, he omitted a few other necessary skills like; SEO, HTML, copywriting, and marketing are also key in creating a blog that people will actually read.

Several years back, The New York Times reported, that 95% of blogs are quickly abandoned.  That doesn’t surprise me, I for one, walked away from this blog twice, my longest stint being 3 months.

Good News: You Don’t Have to Blog!

In Cheryl Tardif’s book, “How I Made Over $42,000 in one Month Selling My Kindle Ebooks” she says she doesn’t know any authors who were ever helped by blogging.  P.S. That was like a knife in the heart!

But the reason why most blogs don’t work is because it’s demoralizing to talk to nobody for months, or even years on end.  I should know, I did just that!

So what does an author do instead of blogging?  Here are just a few things some authors have done to make a splash online.

Start a Blog Co-op

If you can’t keep up with the demand for new content, then think about teaming up with other authors and share the responsibility of a blog.  Here’s how it goes, you team up to in order to help each other promote posts, and comment.  This will help propel the blog up the search engine rankings thus creating interest.   However be very careful who you ask, the authors you choose should understand what type of a responsibility they’re signing up for.

Guest Posting

Amanda Hocking was famous for her blogtours and online savviness.  She understood how hard it is to build an audience for a blog, so she got a little help.  If you find a blogger with a large following within a similar niche, there’s a huge opportunity to market your work.  Just make sure you get a byline and a link to your books in it.

Create a Short Newsletter

Instead of writing 400-1,000 word posts, why not just create a brief newsletter.  Have you signed up for some author newsletters?  J.K. Rowling for example had a newsletter called “The Prophet” and Stephen King has an archive of newsletters here you can study.  You should check them out and see what different techniques those authors used.

Use Social Media as an Alternative

Instead of building your own hub, why not go to the ones already established?  Wattpad, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Google+ and even LinkedIn all are good places to mingle and share your work.  You can also start reading clubs or community groups dedicated to your genre.

Write Articles for Pay

Both print and online media outlets are starving for content and some are willing to pay for it.  If you can find a paying freelance gig that helps you promote your book you’ve hit the jackpot.  As a part time freelancer, I highly recommend making money while you work on your book.  It not only pays the bills but it also gets your name out there.  Here are a few sites you should check out:

Places to Find Paying Writing Work:

I hope you weren’t thinking this platform building thingy was simple.  It takes more than just a posting or two to become a blogger.  It’s a commitment to research, community building, and content creation.  It’s okay, if you don’t have the stamina or desire to blog, that’s why there are alternatives.  Stop listening to the soothsayers and find out what’s right for you and your book.