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Category : Marketing and Platforms
We’re doing an Ask the Agent series, and a few questions came in about Wattpad, the website that allows writers to upload and share their work with readers. Authors can upload entire books at once or they can upload chapters or scenes. Many use Wattpad to get feedback from readers as they write, and some have developed pretty substantial followings.
Here are the questions that our reader asked:
Does sharing your work through Wattpad count as self-publishing? Does it affect how traditional publishers see you?
Can Wattpad be a powerful marketing tool or a risky way to show unpolished work?
If you use it, would it be better to share just the first part of your book (so that you don’t give away the ending) or the whole thing?
I remember a few years ago, my friend was seeing some really great success on a HarperCollins-owned website called InkPop. The site was similar to Wattpad in that you’d upload your chapters as you wrote them and get feedback. The only difference was that InkPop promised that if you got high enough in the ranks, a literary agent would review your work. They even had an example of a young writer who had received a really nice HarperCollins book contract—all because of this website.
My friend climbed really high really fast. Within a month, she was near the top and received the coveted agent review. But in all truth, her book was hastily written. She had uploaded the first bit on a whim, not thinking it would go over. And then it did. And then she felt pressured to hit the agent review deadline. So even though I was giving her feedback as she went, she didn’t have time to polish and perfect. She put forth a manuscript that wasn’t her best.
Now, I think if any writer is on the cusp of getting a free review with an agent, he/she
We’re doing a month of “Ask the Agent” questions here on the blog. The other day, somebody asked the question, “How do you suggest an unpublished novelist get started building a platform?”
Building a platform isn’t something you do overnight, it’s something you do over time, so you have to be patient with the process. And it’s different for each author — what works for one writer won’t work nearly as effectively for another. So I think the most important first step isn’t to decide on strategies, so much as to decide on who you are and what you do best. Who are you? What’s unique about you? What marketing do you enjoy doing? Some authors will focus on speaking and appearances, others on online articles, some on media… I think you have to know yourself and your gifts, and figure out what you’re going to do to build a platform.
But in terms of the process, there are several common strategies fiction authors use:
- Create a big mouth list (who are the ten people you’re already friends with, who have a big platform and are willing to promote you and your work?)
- Develop a blog that attracts readers (you want to be participating in a discussion with them)
- Start an e-newsletter (and get readers to sign up so you interact with them regularly)
- Create a freebie (have something of value you can give away to interested readers)
- Write columns, articles, or guest posts on e-zines and other sites (so readers will start to see your name and your work)
- Engage people on social media (don’t use social media to sell your book — use FB and Twitter and Pinterest to make friends and engage in conversation)
- Participate in HARO (Help A Reporter Out is a great way to get your name out there by offering insightful quotes on the topics of the day)
- Self-publish and capture emails on your
Okay, so I just completed a ten-part series on marketing your book. I’d had a lot of folks ask about the process, so I simply went back to a recently published “Intro to Marketing” textbook, and walked through the basic information in ten steps. (You can find them by wandering back through the last two weeks of blog posts.)
Now here’s my question for you… What lessons have you learned about marketing your book? What has worked? What has not worked? What advice would you give to other authors? What parts of the process did you enjoy? Which parts did you despise? And as you approach your next book, what do you plan to do?
I hear all sorts of questions from authors about book marketing. Some love trailers, others hate them. Some love doing blog tours, others find them a waste of time. Some spend hours on social media pushing their book, others find all that effort amounts to nothing. Some love talking on the radio, others feel uncomfortable and believe they’d be better off writing something. So… give me your thoughts. I’d love to hear what lessons you can share with others about marketing your book.
And I’ll start: The single most important lesson I’ve learned when marketing my own books is to create a checklist and work through it. When I fail to do that, I skip some things or duplicate others. I also tend to push off the tasks I don’t enjoy. So make a checklist, have each task clearly written down, and assign it to a person and a date. Then work your checklist. The most helpful thing I know.
And if I can share a second thought, it would be don’t expect everything to work. It took me awhile to figure out that marketing is like baseball — if 30% of the things I do are successful, I’m going to have a hit. But
It’s been said that some people have twenty years of experience; while other people have one year of experience twenty times. The difference? The former keep track of their progress and learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. The latter keep trying something new, and have to re-learn the process every time.
When it comes to marketing, make it easy on yourself — mark your trail. The last step in creating a marketing plan is to make a point of writing down everything you do, so that you can evaluate it later. Make note of what works and what doesn’t. Which parts you enjoyed and which parts you hated. Who you liked working with, which activities seemed to be effective, and what things actually sold copies (instead of being fun, but not making you any money). As you work through your marketing plan, you want to make notes to yourself. Remind yourself of what people responded to, and what seemed like a waste of time. That will help you focus on the good ideas and eliminate the bad ones the next time you’re doing marketing for a book. Give yourself some evaluations. Figure out if you could do something better next time, or tweak an unsuccessful effort in order to make it successful.
Here’s an example: I represented an author who spent a bunch of money and time on a video book trailer. She worked on the script, shot scenes, and spent more than a thousand dollars to create an ad for her book. Um… it did nothing. Nada. It looked great, and she enjoyed it, but who chooses to look at book ads? For her, it was a waste of time. But I represent another author who really got into making a trailer that fit her book, used it as more or less an introduction to her concept, made it seem like more of a news
Now that you’ve done all your research and planning — you’ve figured out WHAT you need to do, WHERE you need to do it, WHEN you’re going to get it done, WHO you’re going to be reaching, and WHY you’re going to all this trouble — now you need to go do the work. If you created a calendar, this is easy… you simply look at the calendar, figure out what needs to be done, then go get the tasks accomplished. Instead of worrying about what steps you need to take in order to market your book, you can begin working through the plan you’ve spent weeks creating. No more seat-of-the-pants, no more guessing what activities to do. You’ve done all the background work; now you need to put it into practice.
Authors tend to come in two types when it comes to marketing… Some will want to take several weeks and just market full-time. They’ll set their current writing projects aside, and suddenly become marketers for a season. Others will want to set aside a chunk of time each day for marketing, leaving themselves with a few hours to continue writing. There’s no “right” way to plan this — it depends on what you’re comfortable doing, and what your schedule looks like. But either way, you’ve got to commit to being a marketer for a season, in order to help promote your book.
I’m frequently asked how much time an author should spend on marketing each day or each week, but of course the answer lies in what your plan calls for. If you do the things that are on your plan, the amount of time required will become clear to you. Some authors set aside an hour or two each day to do some marketing. That time can increase as you have a new book come out — so you might find yourself spending half your time on
At this point, you’re probably wondering what else there is to do with a marketing plan. Take heart — we’re almost to the end of the process…
Once you’ve written down everything you want to do, you need to tie each activity to a calendar and a budget and a person — or, as I like to say, every activity has a date and a dollar sign and a do-er. So, for example, if you are planning to send out a bunch of copies to a “big mouth” list in order to get people talking about your book, you pick a day when you’re going to write the notes, address the envelopes, and get them in the mail. Then you figure out the cost of envelopes, mailing labels, and postage. If you’re planning to write several freelance articles to support your book, you mark down the days you’re going to write them, the days you’re going to query and send them, and the days you’re going to check back on them. If you’re going to hire a freelance marketing consultant to help you schedule radio interviews, you pick the days you’re going to be available for the interviews, you mark the dates you’re going to talk with the consultant, and you write down the costs involved with hiring him or her.
Again, for EVERY activity, you choose a date and, if applicable, the dollar amount it will cost you, then figure out who is going to do it. So if you’re going to try and schedule a blog tour, you write down on your calendar the dates you plan to fill up with blogging conversations, as well as the dates you plan to contact bloggers in order to schedule those visits. If you’re hiring or getting a volunteer to do this, you make sure they have clear instructions, and a script, and a plan to follow. There may not be
Okay, you’ve come to the point in the process where you really get into the details… you’ve done a bunch of research. You know who you are, and what it is you want to say. You’ve figured out who your audience is, and done some research on how to reach them. You’ve made choices about the general strategies you’ll use to get your words in front of potential readers, and you’ve decided what your specific plans are — where you’ll go and what you’ll say. Now you’ve got to write it all down.
You probably think this is too simple, that you’re waiting for some secret to making marketing work. Well, this is it. Write it down. Put down on paper all the things you want to do. All those tools you were choosing yesterday? Write them down. All those places you want to reach? Write them down. All the audiences you want to stand in front of? Write it down. Get down on paper everything you want to do. Force yourself to get everything in one place, since it will make it much more real (and therefore more likely that you’ll actually DO it).
So if you’re going to do a blog tour, and visit 30 blogs in 30 days, here is where you write down the goal, then note the actual blogs you intend to target, and make notes on how you’re going to reach out to them and what you’re going to talk about. If you’re going to be focusing on talk radio, here’s where you right down the places you want to hit — the cities, the regions, even the shows and stations if you know what they are. Write down notes about what questions you expect to be asked, and how you plan to answer them. Prepare stories — both long and short stories, that will get your point across and entertain listeners. If you’re
We’ve been talking through the basics of marketing — what you would explore if you were taking an “introduction to marketing” class in college. Recently we covered the first five steps in the process, and over the next few days we’ll look at the next five. Now that you’ve figured out which basic strategies you’re going to use, you need to select that actual “tools” you’ll use — that is, the actual WORK you will do to help you market your book. For example, if you decided that three of the strategies you were going to use were (1) sending out review copies, (2) writing articles to support your book, and (3) doing blog tours, then in this step you will list…
1. Who you’re sending those review copies to,
2. What articles you’re going to write, and who you’re going to send them to, and
3. The blogs and groups you’re going to reach on your tour.
In other words, you start to create the details of your marketing plan. Remember, every choice you make at this stage reflects your earlier decisions. The core of marketing is to figure out where your audience is, then go stand in front of them, so you want to go back and remind yourself just where, exactly your audience is going to be. If you’re doing a nonfiction book on lowering cholesterol, you do your research to discover where those interested in the topic go to seek information, then you target those magazines, websites, blogs, e-zines, journals, associations, chat rooms, etc. If you’re writing an Amish novel, you do your research to determine where those interested in Amish culture and Amish stories go, then you make those destinations the focus of your marketing.
Fortunately, the world wide web has made this process MUCH easier than it used to be. Instead of having to snail mail things, or go to a marketing research company,
OK, nonfiction writers. You’ve heard it before. If you really want to impress an agent or a publisher, make sure you have three things: a great idea, great writing, and a great author platform.
But more and more, platform is becoming THE way to secure a book deal.
This is because while writing can be fixed or edited and the idea can be tweaked, platform has to happen organically.
It can’t happen by chance. It can’t be bought. It’s about hard work over a period of time and it’s something that only the author can bring to the table.
So what do impressive social media stats look like?
Brace yourselves. Winter is coming.
A decent nonfiction author platform has a handful of the following components:
If you have a website or blog your monthly unique visitor count should be at least 30,000
(a unique visitor number of 100,000 is likely to secure a book deal)
If you have a Twitter account your followers should be at least 10,000 (and you should have stats that show considerable growth over the past six months)
If you have a Facebook page you should have at least 8,000 likes (along with Insights that show your past and projected growth)
If you’re a public speaker you should speak at least 30 times a year and you should shoot for a newsletter list of at least 10,000
Publishing Is More Competitive Than Ever
Needless to say, these numbers aren’t easy to achieve, and I’ve seen a number of authors who HAVE these numbers come away without a book deal.
But on the flip side, I’ve seen authors with the bare minimum of the above components land a book deal because they also had great writing and a great idea.
So yes. Platform is HUGE. It’s an absolute must if you write fiction. But never underestimate the power of strong, moving writing and a great,
Now that you know what your brand is, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what goals you’re trying to reach, and who your target market is, you need to make some specific choices. What are the basic strategies you’re going to use to market your book? There are a million things you COULD do. Maybe you’ve picked up a couple of marketing books that offer “101 marketing ideas,” or you’ve attended a seminar and heard other authors talk about a bunch of ideas they’ve tried. You can’t do them all… so what steps will you choose?‘Will you focus on blog tours? Give away a lot of copies? Talk with reading groups? Redesign your website? Do some conference speaking? Distribute press kits? Try to get on a bunch of radio programs? Spend a lot of time placing articles with magazines and e-zines? Develop podcasts? Solicit dozens of reviews? Dig deep into the various Amazon tools? Network with key people? Focus on your blog readership? Use your associations or groups to get the word out? Develop a bunch of give-aways? Focus on broadcast media? Spend a lot of time at libraries? Visit targeted groups around the country? Participate in direct mail? Get involved in trade shows and conventions? Rely on key endorsements and recommendations? Do an author tour? Buy advertisements on the best websites? Try to steer sales to your website?‘You can’t do them all. In fact, you don’t want to do them all, since they wouldn’t all prove effective for your book. So as you think about your target market, what are the basic strategies that make sense? As you think about your strengths and weaknesses, what are the strategies you definitely need to consider? What are the strategies you probably need to forget about? At this step, you’re simply picking the basic areas in which you plan to work.‘And remember, most marketing gurus will