Help a Good Cause and Your Author Platform

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

Last week a client received a request to do an advertisement to help promote a good cause. She wondered if it would be wise because it didn’t appear to relate to the books she writes. She was wise to discuss the opportunity with me before making a decision, because it’s an agent’s job to guard a client’s brand. It’s also important for authors to do all you can to increase your platform.

After talking it over, we decided the ad she was asked to write actually would reinforce her brand, and it would give her the potential to reach new readers. She in turn would be helping to promote the cause. A win-win.

When authors help a cause, everyone benefits.

The trick is to choose the cause that’s right for you to associate with. It all begins with knowing what your passion is. It is important to focus on what interests you most because that’s where your best writing will happen. That focus also applies to your platform growth, because it’s where you’ll find readers interested in what you write. Become an expert in your special area of interest.

Then look for an organized group with a purpose that has a direct or indirect connection to that passion. Don’t wait for a request to come to you. It might take some creative thinking and enough research to be confident of the integrity of the cause you select. Offer to be a speaker for the group.

Here are five tips to help you succeed in partnering with your chosen cause:

  • Be prepared with talking points. You never know what impromptu opportunities you might have to talk about your cause and your books. When others see your enthusiasm, they might approach you to speak to their group.
  • Don’t wait for media to come to you. Local radio and TV shows are always looking for interesting interviews. Contact the producers and share some of your expertise about what you write and the cause you are supporting. Your knowledge and the fact that you are a writer give you credibility.
  • Dedicate an area on your website to the cause you support. Update it frequently with news and your speaking engagements for the cause.
  • Talk about your cause on social media and your blog. It offers a subtle segue to talk about your books in an appealing way that doesn’t sound like a sales pitch.
  • Seek out others who blog about your cause and suggest you guest post for each other. Agree ahead of time that you can also talk about the books you write. You and your books will reach a new group of readers who might not otherwise have known about them.

Platform has been a major hurdle for nonfiction writers for a long time. Increasingly it is an obstacle for novelists as well because publishers’ sales teams have a lot of clout in pub board decisions. They want proof that an author has a solid base of book buying readers.

Today, authors must be creative about expanding your platform. One way to accelerate its growth is to help a favorite organization, and you don’t have to wait until you have a book releasing to begin. In fact, you’ll have increased authenticity if you are associated with the cause before your first, or next, book is published.

Are you already aware of a cause you could support that aligns with what you write but haven’t connected with it yet? What is stopping you? If this concept is new to you, are you interested in looking for a win-win association with a worthy cause? If you are already involved with one, in what way are you contributing and how is it helping your platform?

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27 Responses

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  1. Mary, this is the kick in the pants I need. I have long thought that Habitat for Humanity fits in well the my “Souls under Construction” theme (my hubby is very active in our local chapter). My book marketing plan includes a tie-in to Habitat and similar programs that provide safe shelter. But there’s no reason to wait . . . just do it.

  2. I have a few different causes that draw my heart. I haven’t thought about ways I can support, though. I need to think about which one would be both one I can fully get behind and that would increase my platform. I hadn’t thought about this, Mary. I’m so glad you shared on this topic!

  3. Carol Ashby says:

    Great topic, Mary, and very dear to my heart. I went indie to keep rights so we can use my novels to support mission. I’m praying that God will open the right door for us to let an organization use the first volume in the series as a free thank-you gift for its donors. We’re giving away the royalties already, but that could bring in more for the group than the $2 Kindle royalty. Added benefit: if people love the freebie, they might want a later volume, which is even more money for mission.

  4. This is a wonderful post, Mary.
    * I’ve written some guest posts for bloggers who devote part or all of their effort to caregiving, and have a guest post coming up on the grace found in hard situations.
    * It’s a bit difficult to commit a major effort except on a piecemeal basis, because the subject that qualifies me to write also makes it physically (and now mentally) hard to do the actual writing.
    * One suggestion I would make when approaching an organization that’s involved with a cause is to be both patient and persistent. it can be hard to find the exact person authorized to make a decision to formally accept your support, and the decision-makers are often swamped with work (aside from having a day job to pay the bills).

  5. I have a great connection who is linked to the cause I’d love to help. I met her when I wrote an article about her area of expertise, and she helped me then. She has already helped me so much on my first novel, and she’s about to read it for me. She told me how much it meant to her that I was trying to get the storyline correct. She keeps coming back into my life … and because she’s linked to the cause I’d want to help–children–so I’m excited to see how this plays out, what doors open. It’s a sweet thing to think God might have or might could use you to help another.

  6. Way back, before I switched from Blogger to my own website, I did an interview with an actor, and had a wee bit of a fundraiser for Adopt-A-Native-Elder to raise money for firewood, which was one of his favourite causes.
    Some silly fool (me) stated that if someone donated 100$, enough for a full load of firewood, I’d sing Suo Gan, a Welsh lullaby, for that person. Either via Skype, or over the phone.
    Seriously did not think it would happen. I mean, 100$?!!
    So, yeah, that happened.
    But due to circumstances beyond the control of me, the donor, and my pianist, it took almost a year. Which did annoy me, because I’d made a promise.
    Moral of the story? I’m not doing that again!!! Talk about nerve-wracking! Besides, Welsh is really, really hard.
    And yes, Shirlee said it perfectly. This is the kick in the pants I needed to shake things up and go outside of my comfort zone and do something for those who need help.

  7. Thank you so much for this reminder, Mary. I had been intending to put a link on my website to an organization that not only gave me a story spark for my novella set in a Russian orphanage, but helped introduce me to the plight of these forgotten children. Because of you, I got it done! Did you know that there are babies who have never learned to cry, because no one has ever picked them up when they did so? Touching upon that terrible reality in my book was important, but I wanted to also offer a link where people could help some of these forgotten kids if they wished to do so. These amazing folks send orphaned children to summer camp! What a perfect match for me, as I live and work at a summer camp in the U.S..

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Kristen, as I read your comment, I felt such a sense of urgency for those children. I’m so glad you have this great start on cause that’s obviously dear to your heart.

  8. I’ve always cared a lot about kids with Special Needs and characters with some of those have appeared in my books. But there are so many organizations to help kids like that it’s hard to find one or just a few to focus on.

  9. Thanks for your wisdom, Mary.

  10. My first published novel (a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet amputee with PTSD) was inspired by a blog series I did the year before. Among the posts in that series I interviewed someone from CRU Military. I decided to give 10% of early earnings of that book to Cru Military and talk about them in the acknowledgments and some promotional posts. I’ve also done this with Cru for my college campus books, and Capernaum (Young Life for Special Needs) for my book with a boy who has autism. I have planned to dedicate a page to these ministries on my author site, but haven’t yet. Thanks for reminding me to get this done.

  11. Jerusha Agen says:

    Great insights here, Mary. Thanks! This is an idea I haven’t thought about in so much detail before. I do have a cause that I support which is certainly in line with some of my books topically. But do you think the cause has to then be featured or touched on in every book a fiction author writes? Or is the idea just that it will intersect in only some books and be an easily related topic to the author’s other books? Thanks!

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Jerusha, the answer to your question involves your author brand, which defines the boundaries of what you write. So then, the cause you support should relate to all of your books in some major or minor way.

  12. Mary Kay Moody says:

    Mary, what an important topic and thoughtful post. And another GREAT reason to have an agent to help guide as we make these decisions. I love how you all take such a global look at an author’s branding.

    Even before I started writing with an aim toward publishing (articles, short stories and novels), I worked with such organizations. Later, when I talked with agents and editors at conferences about novels, I was warned as a new author not to write issues-oriented fiction. In novels, story has to come first. It seemed the industry was saying leave “the issues” alone. Definitely don’t be bold about one’s involvement with such things. Even keep the 2 worlds separate with 2 websites: 1 writing-oriented, the other about the work with trafficking, child safety, etc.

    I’m very glad to hear your thoughts on the intersecting of the two. I’ve explored some of this in marketing sections of proposals, but have been intimidated from being too publicly involved. But God’s world is not separated into small, tidy compartments. And light shines most brightly in the darker skies of need. I believe I’ll be less deterred in the future. Thank you.