Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
Weather: 68º and partly sunny
Yesterday I set up a brand new worst case scenario. Here it is: You have an amazing book burning a hole in your life. You have the material, you have the expertise but you have no platform– no built-in audience– where you can help market the book. What do you do?
I have to say, some of your comments were brilliant. Let’s look at the options I gave.
A. Throw in the towel. It’s hard to sell a book these days even when the author has a well-established platform. If throwing in the towel seems like a good option, I suggest you do just that. It takes real perseverance to make it as a successful author these days. If you can quit at the first roadblock, do it. It will save you a lot of heartache. If not, read on.
B. You find an expert or a celebrity who has a huge platform to co-write with you. While this may seem like a frivolous option, don’t count it out. In yesterday’s comment section Sally gave some real life stories about connecting with celebs for co-authoring. It’s certainly a longshot, but don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be a celebrity. Sometimes getting a named expert might help get your foot in the door.
C. You self-publish. This is one of those cases where self-publishing probably won’t work as a viable business model. Think about it. If you don’t have enough of a platform to help sell books for a publisher, how will you move books on your own without the publisher’s sales team and marketing? Self publishing is profitable when the author has a huge platform and can move books at his speaking venues and through his organization. But, with that kind of platform traditional publishers are also interested.
D. You begin to build a platform. As Amy said in yesterday’s comments this is the non-instant-gratification answer. I recommend you go back and read Lynn Dean’s wise comment as well– it takes time to build a solid platform. But Michael pointed out that while we are becoming experts on our subject, we are also building our network. Cultivate those connections and be sure to include those in the proposal. I’m just getting ready to shop an exciting book. The author is a philanthropist and has deep connections to many of the most beloved charities. She even donated a cancer wing to a hospital. Don’t you think those charities will all want to promote her book? Those connections are actually part of her platform.
When we think of platform we often think literally– the speaker’s platform– but these days that is only a small part. As Michael pointed out in his comment, social media has leveled the playing field. We all have equal access to millions of potential readers. Jump in and learn to use the medium. Make sure you are connecting with your eventual readers. One of my pet peeves is writers who spend all their time connecting with other writers. Yes, it’s fun when we share the same interests, but you need to find your readers, not other writers. Find ways to build your audience. Collect the names and email addresses. If you come to a publisher with a reader list of say, 7500 names and a vigorous e-newsletter and blog, they’ll sit up and take notice. (Don’t forget that website visitor numbers and e-newsletter numbers can be verified relatively easily. Don’t ever pad numbers.)
It might seems like slow work but it’s just like any business, you grow your “customer base” one person at a time. That’s what your platform is– a potential customer base.
So. . . let’s look at tomorrow’s worst case scenario. Here it is:
You’ve read nothing but edgy Brit-lit* your whole life. When you began to write you were told you had the perfect voice for edgy Brit-lit. You’ve written three complete edgy Brit-lit novels and you are now ready to seek an agent and get published. As you begin to put out feelers you find that the interest in edgy Brit-lit is right below inspirational techno thrillers.
What do you do?
*apologies in advance if any of you write edgy Brit-lit.
B. You realize that story is the important thing and you test a couple of new genres to see if you can fuse your voice and story-telling style with a more recognizable genre.
C. You put your manuscripts in a drawer , do the research on what is popular and immediately begin to write the genre that has been on the bestseller lists for the last eighteen months.
D. You self-publish all three novels.
E. You wait because you know tastes are cyclical.
Which of these would you do? Please feel free to comment, choose your strategy and tell us why. Again, if you have real world experience with this, please share.