Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
We know you probably get tired of talking about platform… about building those mailing lists, and engaging on social media, and connecting with your audience. But it has never been more important that you do those things. Your publisher needs your full participation in reaching your audience.
Why is this? You might think, “It’s a publisher’s job to promote my book. They have more resources than I do. Why do I have to do all this platform-building stuff?”
The publisher definitely does their part in promoting your book. After all, it’s an expensive proposition to publish a book, so they’re highly motivated to get people to buy it. But the more you can contribute to the marketing, the better chance your book will have.
Why is it so much harder for publishers to reach your audience these days, as opposed to, say, 25 years ago? There are many reasons, but you don’t need to look any further than this one major factor, which has been a total game-changer in publishing:
Too Many Books.
According to Publishers Weekly, a million new books were self-published in 2017. One. Million. Books. In one year. And those are only the self-published titles. Add to that the books published by traditional publishers, and the number of new books each year is mind-boggling. But wait. Those are just the new books, so add them to the tens of millions of individual titles already in existence.
How can any single book stand out in that large of a field? It’s very difficult. The problem is known as discoverability and it means the odds are stacked against us when we want to bring readers’ attention to our books.
This is why the publisher needs your help—it’s important to find your audience, that specific group of people who will like your book. They need you engaging with your audience, connecting with them, doing your part to make them aware of you.
Even with all this work, it’s still hard to make your book discoverable. It’s not anyone’s fault. Publishers are not conspiring to make life difficult for you. They’re not being unreasonable by requiring authors to participate in marketing. It’s simply the situation we find ourselves in—there are too many books, so we all have to work so much harder to each one stand out to its unique audience.
I hear a lot of frustration from authors about the difficulties of platform-building and marketing. I get it! But there are a lot of readers out there, and you can find yours.
What are some creative ways you’ve found to make your work “discoverable” in the crowded book marketplace?
Well, they used to say ‘build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door’.
* No, I’m not sure I want the world clamouring for space in my parlour…it’s already full up with dogs, thank you very much…but I think the adage is as true now as it was then.
* How would anyone know you had a better mousetrap? Not from your claims, certainly; anyone can claim anything.
* Not from your credentials, either. Carl Sagan may have been quite the astrophysicist, but his prognostications of a ‘nuclear winter’ that would follow a nuclear war were shown to be rubbish (so, launch away, and don’t forget the 2 million SPF sunblock!).
* The only dependable platform is something of an Arabian Nights fantasy, because it’s a magical carpet supported by the outpouring of breath called ‘word of mouth’.
* Readers aren’t a group, or a target, or a demographic; they’re individuals whom we are privileged to reach word by word, and therefore each word…every single one…has to be freighted with meaning, love, and respect.
* Suzanne Collins made a mint with ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy, and their associated product tie-ins and films, but I suspect that Katniss Everdeen will be laid in a literary grave whilst Soames Forsyte is still mousing down Cheapside, guided by the hand of John Galsworthy. Collins has the bling, Galsworthy the legacy…and which would YOU prefer?
How to find your readers?
* One at a time. One prayer at a time, one post at a time, one conversation at a time.
* You pray, and show up for the hard work.
Rachelle, I owe my international sales and probably a lot of my domestic US sales to something I learned here. Sometime before May 2016, a post or its comments about author platforms mentioned writing posts about some aspect of the history of your novels. That triggered my creating a Roman history website with content ranging from in-depth articles on serious topics like crime and punishment, slavery, and adoption to a Roman recipe for treating indigestion and how to fatten snails with milk. It gets found by search engines many times every day from all over the world. The book covers and taglines are clickable images in the sidebar, and some who first come for Roman info check out the books and buy.
*I’m not sure how easily that could be duplicated by other authors writing about different time periods, but the suggestion I found here about sharing what we learn as we research our novels has worked very well for “discoverability” for me! *
Many thanks for having this forum to plant such useful ideas in our heads!
I understand the need for platform. I appreciate what you’ve written here and also what Andrew and Shirlee wrote. What I wish is the next time I attend a writer’s conference, I find an option of a workshop on how to cut through the overwhelming voices, the multiple opinions, and all of the other things flying through the atmosphere and teach the basics of where to find those readers and how to build a solid platform.
I’ve read Michael Hyatt’s book, I’ve been part of other well-known big-wigs classes, but they’ve all seemed to begin somewhere other than the beginning.
Just my thoughts after reading another article about the need for building a platform.
I’d sign up for that workshop, too, Susan! I’ve taken a lot of free webinars that have been very helpful and I’ve figured a few things out, but I am SO far from knowing what the best way to do this might be that it’s almost laughable.
Glad to know someone else is in my mind frame, Carol. Seems at times like I think I’ve got an idea how to pursue but then it doesn’t work. I think we simply go to the Spirit, as Shirlee suggested, and ask for His help sifting through the mountains of options.
I still wish there was a simple class.
Course: Cut Through the Overwhelming Voices
Teacher: The Holy Spirit
Textbook: The Bible
Course length: Your whole life
Study at your own pace
(it’s not just about writing)
I love this Shirlee and it’s true.
I do feel in this time, it is a responsible thing to learn from those who have done this before me. I think that’s what sharing in the family and using our gifts for the edification of the body is about. When I don’t understand something Biblically, I go to the Holy Spirit first and at times He directs me to certain commentaries. It’s somewhat similar.
I do think we have to give the Spirit room to sift through all the voices and point us in a direction that will be helpful for the work He has prepared for us to do.
It’s definitely not just about the writing, but I do want to be faithful to learn what I can to put my best sacrifice forward for Him rather than something that costs me nothing.
Prior to my publisher’s catalog going out I emailed libraries across Canada with a note to watch out for my novel that included a pic of my front and back covers. In Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts under the Public Lending Right Program annually samples libraries across the country, and depending on the number of times your title is found, you receive a small stipend. To this day I receive 100% and I expect that is due, in part, to my initial mailing.
I also participated in historical author blogs and received an invitation from Michelle Moran (‘Rebel Queen’, ‘Mata Hari’s Last Dance’) to contribute to an article she wrote for The Historical Novel Society that included a plug for my book, gaining direct access to my target audience.
I contacted organizations that reviewed novels for any overlapping demographics – historical fiction, historical nonfiction, historical re-enactment societies, teen readers, etc.
As I write my current novel, set in ancient Babylon, I’ve learned that historical pieces I’ve written for my blog remain popular, even though written some time ago. I plan to write more articles when I near the finish line. Babylon is a popular subject and the opportunities to capitalize on that are many so I look forward to exploring a lot more avenues once the novel is completed.
I just read a similar post on another blog that cited this astounding number of books published last year. Discoverability feels overwhelming when I hold my small platform up against the overall number of books published in a year. But, what you said about the importance of reaching “our” readers and circle of influence resonated with me. It opened my eyes to the necessity of building our platforms. Even as a pre-published writer, we need to be working on this. I’m finding the trick is to balance the time spent platform-building with having time to write on my story. Thanks for giving practical insights into this big picture of the number of books published and discoverability.
Jeanne, your blog is so awesome…you’ve built up ripples in the Pool of Faith-Writing that will build into tsunamis, and your platform and influence will carry the fiction you write as a North Shore wave carries a rider of the most righteously rad of barrels. Your words define the Green Room.
* Sorry about the surfing slang, but what can I say?
Thank you, Andrew! I appreciate your encouragement . . . both here and on my blog. 🙂
Thanks for the post Rachelle I’m glad you posted numbers. One. Million. Last year alone of just self-published books alone. That is staggering in and of itself, but when you reminded us of the volumes of books from those that were written before last year that are still being printed, along with all the newly printed books it is to put it plainly, staggering and quite daunting to a writer working, praying, and hoping for publication. But, hey, I still believe it’s possible. Since I’m still on the never-been-published side, I am trying to learn as much as I can and not rush the process. I can say in practice and actual steps since I really began to believe I could do this, March of 2017, when I was encouraged by Bob Hostetler who was teaching a seminar in Minneapolis for the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild. The Monday after that seminar, my current writing partner, Tamara Jorell, who I had known for several years texted me and asked me if I would be willing to hold her accountable for her writing on a weekly basis. Long story short, it was fuel added to the flames that burned in both our hearts. Kaboom! An explosion as we realized we were exactly what the other needed, and weren’t afraid to challenge each other and be honest. Of course, we are both extroverts, sanguines with hearts of mercy, so we are honest but in love.
Anyway, since then, I have created my own website and blog using WIX, developed speaking topics, created two proposals of which both are awaiting review, but that doesn’t bother me. You know why? Because I am trying my hand at various things yet this year. I created a writer page for my Facebook, and just developed a topic for each day of the week to my writer page. I want to get used to having to produce or post daily even during busy times. I have yet to get all my social media up and put in an application to help me be able to set up certain posts ahead of time. I’m learning as I go. I’ve not really pushed the speaking, although I’m very comfortable with speaking, simply because I am figuring out what I can do and still have time for writing which I set aside time for on a regular basis. Since I am doing this all myself on a very limited budget it is slow going. BUT, again it’s okay. I want to count the cost first. I don’t want to be a flash in the pan. I want to be someone who is constantly producing content not just in books, but in other ways as well.
There are many ways to stick out, be remembered, or bring attention to yourself and your work. I want to take the time and effort to make wise choices, as I am stepping out into something new. So I am doing things, but many may not see them yet as I am still learning about these potential outlets.
I had 4 of those one million—a very small fish in a very large pond.
David, channel the Megalodon.
This is a much needed perspective for me. I have dreaded and resisted doing most of the things I’ve been told are a must. This article (with the overwhelming numbers you shared) explains why I must. I have started to think of it as a sifting process. At first there are so many unknowns (people and activities), but as I learn and understand my audience it will be refined in to the people who should really be there and the activities most needed to reach and enrich their lives. I still have a long way to go, but at least I’m going now LOL!