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Category : Marketing and Platforms
Jay asked, "In your view, what are the essential things a novelist has to understand about marketing?"
I talk about marketing a lot, Jay, so let me see if I can simplify it…
Author, YOU are responsible for your marketing. Not the publisher. Not the agent. You. The publisher and agent will both help, and they ought to bring something to the table or they aren't doing their jobs. But the book is yours – nobody else knows it as well as you do. Nobody else is as enthusiastic or as committed to it. Nobody else has as much riding on it. So give up any illusion that the publisher is going to take over your marketing – I'm just not seeing that very much any more. If you don't take charge of your marketing, it won't happen.
Just reading over those words, I realize that, for many authors, this is tough to hear. But I'm serious — I never hear an author say, "Gee, I'm thrilled with the marketing my publisher is doing on my book." Instead, I generally hear authors grousing about the crummy marketing or the little work being done. And my response from now on is going to be to tell the author to change his or her perspective. Start being appreciative of the few things your publicist gets right. Start saying "thanks" more for the fact that your publisher is doing ANYTHING. And then just go do the rest of it yourself.
To do that means you're going to have to educate yourself. Just as you've had to learn the ropes of how to write well, I think most of us are going to have to learn how to market well. You'll have to pick up a couple of marketing books, maybe attend a marketing class or seminar, and do some digging to figure out what makes a good marketing plan.
I've had a bunch of questions on "platforms" recently, so let me try and tackle them…
Richard wrote to ask, "What is an author platform? How would you describe it?"
An author platform is simply who you are and what you're known for. If you have expert credentials, or you speak around the country on a topic, or you're known by the media as a source of information on a specific issue, you have an obvious platform. All of that will help to create buzz for your book, and reaching readers is what good marketing is all about.
I think there are two sides to understand the notion of "platforms." First, who you are in relation to your topic. If you're a recognized expert at your topic, you've got a good platform. Let me offer an example… If Warren Buffett wanted to do a book on How to Invest in Today's Stock Market, publishers would be interested because every investor recognizes Buffett's abilty to make money buying stocks. His expertise with the topic is evident. But that's not the only thing needed — there are plenty of investors who have done well and become fabulously wealthy, even in a bad economy. They know their topic, but that's only half the equation.
The second part of understanding a platform is who you are in relation to your readers. Warren Buffett doesn't just know his material, he is known by his potential readership. Most investors recognize the name from his interviews, his letters to stockholders, his appearances in the media. He is an expert, but he's also known by potential book-buyers as an expert. Both aspects are important for an author to capture the attention of a publisher.
In a related vein, Jim wants to know, "The topic of author platforms concerns me because I don't see myself as having a great platform for launching my book. How much consideration (by agents and
I've had several people write in lately with words to the effect of, "Here's what I most want to know about publishing…"
Tammy wrote and said, "The one thing I would most like to know is how can I make a booksigning successful?"
Booksignings can be terribly depressing experiences. Let's face it — a signing is based on celebrity, not quality of craft. So even if you've written a wonderful book, if nobody knows who you are, they aren't apt to show up and try to meet you. (I once did a signing where a guy came and spent 40 minutes trying to talk me into signing up for Amway. No kidding.) But three people I represent (Ginger Garrett, Kimberly Stuart, and Chris Coppernoll) just had a great booksigning experience in Des Moines, Iowa. After watching these authors (none of whom are a household name…yet) get a hundred people into a store and sell ten or twelve cases of books, I asked them what they'd done to make it work. Here's a summary of some of their wisdom.
Remember that nobody comes to a signing for an author who is unfamiliar to them. And yet the goal is to get people in the door, meet them, and tell them about your book. So think of a signing in three stages…
First, get people in the door. Contact everyone on your mailing and email list. Do so more than once, and be very clear about date, time, and place. Go to libraries, bookstores, reading groups, coffee houses, churches, and any organization that may find your book interesting, and solicit their participation. Don't just tell them about the signing — ask them to help you make it successful. It's numbers that drive a signing more than anything else. If you can afford it, do a mailing with postcards to likely participants — expensive, but effective. Arrange for media the days prior to the signing — a local radio talk show