Platform Isn’t Enough

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Most people understand that it’s difficult to promote a book without first having a platform. However…

A platform is not enough.

To sell copies of your book, you have to actually promote the book.

Shocking, huh?

You can have a huge platform — thousands of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and blog readers. Maybe you’re even a public speaker, have a popular newsletter, you’re a go-to expert on your topic, or you’re already a bestselling author.

But if you don’t actually put your latest book in front of people and make it easy and advantageous for them to immediately click-to-buy, nobody is going to buy it.

megaphoneIt seems obvious. Even bestselling authors and celebrities have major “launches” for each book—they don’t just sit back and assume people will find the book because they’re famous. But when you’ve been working hard at platform building, it can come as a surprise that once you have a book available, there is even more to be done.

So what’s the difference between platform and promotion?

Platform-building activities could include:

→ Having a blog and using proven strategies to increase your traffic.

→ Interacting effectively on Twitter and building up your follower count.

→ Having a Facebook fan page and growing your number of fans.

→ Establishing an author brand for yourself.

→ Building an email subscriber list and sending out regular newsletters

Book promotion activities could include:

→ Offering a free giveaway of something your readers would enjoy (a novella, a short non-fiction e-book, a collection of behind-the-scenes information about your book, books from your backlist, etc.) to anyone who buys your book within a specified time frame, and promoting the giveaway on all social media.

→ Creating contests on Goodreads, Pinterest, or Facebook in which readers buy your book or sign up for your newsletter for a chance to win something valuable.

→ Having a blog tour for your book, in which dozens of bloggers post about your book within a given week.

→ Running targeted advertising on Facebook

→ Reaching out to Book Clubs

→ Having a “street team” who can work social media on behalf of your book

It’s important to understand the difference between platform building and book promotion. You need both, they’re both ongoing, and they require separate activities. Don’t fall into the trap of doing only half!

Have you thought about this distinction between platform and promotion? Are you uncomfortable with either one? What are some platform or promotional activities that have worked for you? 

Tweetables:

A platform is not enough. To sell your book, you have to actually promote it. (Click to Tweet)

Put your book in front of people & make it easy for them to click-to-buy, or nobody will buy it. (Click to Tweet.)

It’s crucial to understand the difference between platform building and book promotion. (Click to Tweet.)

 

 

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28 Comments

  • Great post, Rachelle. I find book promotion so much easier than platform building. I’ve used virtual book tours to promote both my books. Since both books are set around Christmas, I tour annually in November and December. I blog or guest blog regularly at other sites during the year to keep my name out there.

    I’ve started really considering the latter this year and have made changes to my blogging activities and website as a result. One thing I decided to do this year is build on my 30 years of Sunday school teaching. I’m using my personal blog to draw attention to that experience by sharing favorite Bible verses, vacation Bible school ideas, and talk about youth ministry resources I like. Soon, I’ll be adding VBS curriculum that I’ve created over the years.

    Thanks for reminding me about the importance of balance.

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      Sounds like you’re being intentional and thoughtful about your promotion activities, Cheryl. Good work!

  • Jim Lupis says:

    Great information, Rachelle, thank you. I have a self published book out and I have an opportunity to do a book signing at the BEA. At the signing I will give away 100 – 200 books. Is this a good platform? Is it worth it?

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      I’m not sure if it will help you sell books, Jim, but I can’t see how it would hurt. If you can swing it, I think it would be fun and educational.

  • Rachelle, for my nonfiction, speaking is key. You can write a good book, but it is key for people to hear you and see your true heart. I was so blessed to speak at a ladies’ retreat this last weekend. The hotel wouldn’t allow books sold. But a few days later, I checked my sales on Amazon, and they had sky-rocketed. That blessed my heart so much. I was so disappointed I couldn’t take and sell them, and when people asked about it, I just had to say, “I wasn’t allowed to sale them here.” I thought I had missed a great opportunity to get my book in hands … but God came through. And I hope that means my heart came through, as well.

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      Shelli, what a wonderful testament to the power of speaking to people! I’m so glad you had that encouragement that your words are impacting people so much that they wanted MORE!

    • Dena Dyer says:

      I’ve had the same experience. Speaking about and from the book increases sales, whether or not you have actual books there. Congrats!

  • Promotion’s great, but there is definitely such a thing as Way Too Much.

    The danger seems to be that overdoing the promotion can damage platform; an interesting blog that suddenly turns into a string of ‘buy my book’ pitches – or reviews of other recently-released books – can be the kiss of death. When you lose blog readers, they don’t come back – and they don’t tweet or FB your blog.

    Honestly, if I want a review I usually go to Amazon.

    Blogging about the background and content of a recent (or upcoming) book works pretty well, at least for me. Jennifer Major’s posts about the Navajo, and about her recent research trip, make me want to buy her books.

    The contests are a nice thought. Those are fun.

    One thought that comes to mind is to have a local (and competent) artist execute a painting or sculpture based on one’s book, and advertise it on one’s website. It creates a visual hook, and helps another artiste at the same time. Such an artwork could also be used as a contest prize.

    • It’s really important to find that balance in promoting. I know for me, it’s so humbling and embarrassing to try to promote my own book. I love what Lindsay said … it’s nice when you have contacts and people step up willingly to help you promote. What a blessing!

      And Andrew, your last blog post on discouragement was a blessing to me. I’d already been thinking on the topic … seems like when God is impressing something on your heart, you see it mentioned every time you turn around. Thank you.

    • I know what you mean, Andrew. I used to follow a blog, then it turned into an almost daily buy-my-product pitch, and I unsubscribed. The blog just wasn’t valuable to me as a reader anymore.

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      Andrew, you’re right, Way Too Much can be a problem. I think when we are experiencing that from someone, what we’re really seeing is Doing It Wrong.

    • Thank you!!

      I’m actually am doing a photo scrapbook of the places we visited, and have some Navajo pottery for the big give away on launch day

    • Leon says:

      I agree. Overdone promotioning and platforming is the kiss of death. I have unsubscribed to many bloggers who go that direction. Quality and sincerity is the key here.

    • Nick says:

      I think the key is wanting to make a genuine connection with readers. The desire for them to buy our books must be a result of that connection, not the reason for the connection.

      I’ll be starting a new blog within the next week or so and as I’m mentally writing my blog in my head, I try to make sure it’s always about the reader, not about buying my books.

  • Angela Mills says:

    Saving this pot for the future! As a reader, blog launches seem to work for me, because I’ll see five or more bloggers I read promoting a book and all of a sudden I have to read it :) I’ve also noticed that people will send their book to bloggers with something that goes along with the book and the blogger will post a photo on Instagram. I’ve found out about books I want to read on Instagram more than once.

    I have thought a lot about platform vs promotion because I need to figure out how to promote a fiction novel to my non fiction platform readers. This gives me lots of great ideas!

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      Glad you’re getting some new ideas, Angela! And you’re right, Instagram is a way to grab people these days.

  • I think a major part of building a platform is building relationships with other people — other writers, readers in your genre, etc. It’s about connecting with others. So before you even have a book published, you’re getting to know others in the industry. That does NOT mean you get to know them in order to get something later. But I’ve found that I’m so excited when a writer friend is getting published that I want to help support him/her with the launch.

    And it’s soooo much better when you have others speaking on your behalf than doing all self-promotion. Yes, there will have to be some of that, but the more people talking about your book (your friends, street team, etc.), the more people you can potentially reach.

    You do have to be careful of your motives. But if your motives are right, then building a platform comes down to real relationships. And that will make the promotion part of your career much easier, in my opinion. Of course, I’m not there yet, so I’m speaking theoretically. I could be wrong. :P

    • I love that, Lindsay. Though other writers may not be our readers, we can certainly help each other. What a blessing to have others willingly promote your book and to be given the chance to return the favor!

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      Lindsay, I agree wholeheartedly. It’s about being real, and honest, and building relationships. It’s also about offering something of value. Thanks for the comment!

  • Doing book reviews has helped me see so much of what authors do to promote their books–and how it works to their benefit. Recently, someone asked me why a well-known author would care about reviews from people who are virtually unknown. I told him that I’ve seen firsthand how blog tours and giveaways generate a lot of publicity for authors and their books.

    • Rachelle Gardner Rachelle Gardner says:

      Exactly, Jennifer. And people pay plenty of attention to Amazon and Goodreads reviews from “virtually unknown” people — readers!

  • Great post, Rachelle. Could you explain a little about what you mean as a “street team” who can work on behalf of the book? What is a street team? Thanks for all you do!

  • Judith Robl says:

    Rachelle, thank you for an informative and thought-provoking post today – as usual.

    Vicki Lucas, you can check here for a definition of “street team.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_team

    You can probably extrapolate how that would work for you from there. I found it interesting that it was originally used by record labels. I guess it falls into the category of “whatever works.”

  • Leon says:

    I have subscribed to blogs that email regularly with informative and helpful articles. Some now even send ‘Welcome (your name here)’ emails in response to subscribing and get a bit warm and fuzzy to make me feel like I’m now part of this blog family.

    You hear from them regularly. They sometimes offer an online course that’s time sensitive, and only available if you sign up with the next… They sometimes email to inform me that they’ve now partnered up with so-and-so, and are offering a live tutorial. But wait there’s more! For the first 50 people to sign up…

    As I dive back to what I’m supposed to be doing, writing, I wonder how they find the time to do all this, and how they can switch from creative artist writer, to platform promo guru.

    I would prefer to pay a street team and allow them to do what they know best. Not only would this be a big learning curve, but it would not serve me well. I know where my place is.

  • TY for the time and energy you put into these posts, Rachelle. You do such a nice job. This was a really good one.

  • Rachelle,
    I loved this post. There is such a big difference between platform building and book promotion, although both seem important at different times. You mentioned blog tours. Are book tours themselves “old school” and no longer effective?

  • Maggie says:

    Thanks, Rachelle. Can you give examples of authors (preferably mid-list or debut) who have effective platforms and promotion? I’d like to study their techniques. Thanks.

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