The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it. In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform.
Interested in learning more about platform? Greenleaf Book Group will be hosting the 2013 Author Summit, from September 25th to the 27th. At the Author Summit, attendees will learn how to develop their ideas, elevate their influence, and monetize their content. To explore more about taking a step toward developing your platform and expert presence, visit http://greenleafauthorsummit.com/registration.
Platform, Part 1: Ideas
Entrepreneur Gary Vanerchuck has appeared on everything from Ellen and CNN to NPR. He’s written two New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. And he has amassed almost one million Twitter followers. One million! He grew his family wine business from $3 million in annual revenue to more than $45 million in eight short years. At age thirty-five, Vaynerchuk operates a slew of businesses and even boasts a gaggle of fans that refer to themselves as “Vayniacks.” In short, he’s a walking billboard for what a concentrated platform can do for you.
Becoming a mega-expert like Vaynerchuk sounds incredibly appealing and, for those just getting started, equally daunting. So let’s break down where you should begin. A strong platform starts with strong ideas. Ideas—the content you create—are your foundation; they’re a major reason people will talk about you. Ideas are a form of currency that translates into value for your audience, and the beauty is that that value can translate into money for you.
Building valuable content that an audience will care about enough to use, share with others and, ideally, purchase, depends on four components: (1) finding your passion; (2) knowing your audience; (3) choosing an effective content strategy; and (4) creating solid, new content on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at these to help kick-start your content conquest.
1. Find your passion. It‘s essential that you care about your topic. If you’re not engaged, your audience certainly won’t be. So choose a meaningful topic that keeps you curious, one you spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and talking about.
Ideally, you’ll be passionate in an area where you’re already credentialed. If you’re a fashion designer or marketer who loves fashion, there’s a golden opportunity to create content on the subject of fashion. If you’re a professional magician who wants to create a platform in the world of deep sea diving, you’ll have to work a lot harder than the Jacques Cousteau types who are already in the water. Take your passion and create content around it. Keep it simple, fun, and engaging, and always look for ways to make it remarkable.
2. Know your audience. The content you create must match your audience’s needs and interests. Be sure to conduct a thorough audience analysis before you begin developing content and interacting. Create demographic and psychographic profiles. You need to know the answers to these questions:
- Who are they?
- What do they do?
- What do they struggle with?
- What do they care about?
- Who else do they admire?
Knowing what your competitors bring to the table is essential, too. Remember, you must differentiate yourself, and you should focus on filling a hole in the field.
For example, Vaynerchuk had the foresight to realize that e-commerce would grow exponentially, and he started winelibrary.com in 1997. He also quickly identified an empty spot in the wine-tasting world—non-fluffy, honest feedback. He started making video wine reviews and spoke to his audience on their level, using terms like “sniffy sniff” and “oakmonster.” His reviews were soon reaching over 100,000 viewers per day. He filled a need in the lofty world of wine collecting with excellent, informed content in a guy-next-door voice.
3. Decide on a content strategy. With your passion and audience in your pocket, now you need to decide how you will present your content. Will you do it through blogging, infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations, webinars, articles, a book, or something else entirely? A mix of these is likely the most effective way to present your content, and as you craft that mix it’s important to track what your audience responds to. How do they learn best? And what works especially well for your content? You can also look at your competitors—what content strategies are they using effectively?
You also want to figure out your short- and long-term goals and pin down who will create your content. Do you want a blog with one weekly post, or do you want multiple posts per week? What about videos? Are you planning to create your own content? Or do you have a reliable assistant or support team that is in tune with your message and can do much of the heavy lifting for you? Your answer to these questions might depend on whether you’re creating a platform for yourself or your business (or whether your “self” is your business). If you are developing your personal platform, it’s important that fans feel like they’re interacting with the real you—not your personal assistant. As literary agent Rachelle Gardner writes on her blog, “It’s harder than ever to attract people to books. The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.”
Vaynerchuk took the time each week to record himself on camera for his (now retired) video blog, “The Daily Grape.” He was being himself for his fans. And if you look at his Twitter feed, it’s a stream of responses to his followers. No wonder people feel connected to him—they are.
4. Create solid, new content on a regular basis. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. An editorial calendar is not just for newspaper editors. It helps keeps you focused and productive, and can help you envision and manage your workload. The sooner you get started, the better. The Content Marketing Institute provides a , pointing out that the calendar not only keeps you on track—it helps you think of ways to repurpose your content as well. Finally, be sure to keep up with new developments in your field. Once you’re perceived as an expert, you need to remain one. The members of your audience need to know they can depend on you, first and foremost, for new information and ideas. Make it happen through consistently great content.
When passion and good ideas connect with an audience need through a well-thought-out content strategy, great things can happen. Think of Vaynerchuk. He took what he knew and loved—wine—and spoke to his audience in a unique and casual way, through a medium they responded to—vlogging.
Vaynerchuk’s success all started with his content, and yours will too. The more content you create over time, the more your ideas become the fuel that powers your brand platform.
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Every September, the world celebrates International Literacy Day. Originally created by UNESCO, it has been celebrated for almost fifty years and is now observed by all 193 UN member states.
Here in the United States, we celebrate with workshops at community centers and schools, author readings at bookstores and libraries, and by reading in our homes, sprawled on the couch with a well-worn paperback whose pages are soft underneath our fingertips. Reading is something we do to relax, but also something we do every day as we commute to work, send emails around the office, or take notes in class. Literacy is fundamental to our ability to learn and communicate, and to find confidence, success, and fulfillment in our lives.
While reading may seem basic for many Americans, 774 million adults worldwide cannot read or write—that’s 16% of the adult population.1 Ten years ago, the United States had a similar illiteracy rate: 15% of adults were functionally illiterate, unable to perform everyday activities like reading street signs.2 The Department of Education is currently surveying adults again and we hope that the percentage of Americans who cannot read has decreased.
Being unable to read is a life-defining disadvantage. Illiteracy causes adults to rely on others to stay politically informed; renders them unable to make simple health care decisions; and drives a wedge between them and the other members of their communities. Adults who cannot read have little chance to be critical or learn beyond what they are told by others, and, as a consequence, have difficulty developing a sense of self. Illiteracy restricts a person’s abilities and limits his or her accomplishments.
Illiteracy is curable, but cannot be reversed without help. Learning to read is tough work. It requires serious brain training that, for adults, can be frustrating and embarrassing. Having people to cheer you on at the end of every page, like they would from the sidelines if you were running a marathon, is key.
Below is a list of national literacy charities. There are hundreds of charities nationwide, some which may be focused on helping areas near you! A quick Google search can help you get involved with local and national initiatives.
ProLiteracy - ProLiteracy is one of the largest adult literacy charities in the U.S. They established the National Literacy Directory, which is the go-to resource for adults looking to improve their literacy skills.
Books to Prisoners - BTP believes wholeheartedly that books have the power to radically transform the lives of those in prison. They appreciate donations of all kinds, but particularly educational materials like dictionaries, almanacs, vocational and technical manuals, and textbooks.
Reading is Fundamental - Provides free books and literacy resources to children and families who need them most. They believe that books can “launch a life” and motivate children to dream (and achieve!) big. Books are distributed through schools, homeless shelters, and community centers.
Milk and Bookies - There are hundreds of youth literacy charities, but this one is unique in that it encourages kids to give to other kids. They help your children put on “book-raising” events as part of their birthday party, class project, or scout troop meeting to start a life-long cycle of reading, giving, and growing.
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We at Greenleaf Book Group would like to take a moment to congratulate our authors who have books coming out this September.
Amaze Every Customer Every Time by Shep Hyken
Baby Santa and the Missing Reindeer by Dr. M. Maitland Deland
Noah’s Rainy Day by Sandra Brannan
POWER by Sarah Morgans and Bill Thorness
Small Change, Big Gains by Thomas H. Stoner, Jr.
The Alumni Factor by The Alumni Factor
Well done! All your hard work and dedication has paid off, and we’re honored to be partners in your latest and greatest work.
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We at Greenleaf Book Group would like to take a moment to congratulate our authors who have books coming out this July and August.
Win By Not Losing by Dean Harman
theNewerYork: Book 0 edited by Joshua S. Raab
theNewerYork: Book II edited by Joshua S. Raab
Gracianna by Trini Amador
Creative Grieving by Elizabeth Berrien
National Speakers Association: Celebrating 40 Years of Conventional Wisdom
Outside In by Doug Cooper
C.A.R.E. Leadership by Peter van Stralen
Fresh Passion Leadership by Michael D. Brown
Well done! All your hard work and dedication has paid off, and we’re honored to be partners in your latest and greatest work.
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Crowdfunding is well known as a buzzword, but many people still struggle to grasp the concept. So here’s a quick definition: crowdfunding is a means for artists, entrepreneurs, and businesses to raise funds and mitigate the financial risk of their creative projects or business ventures.
In even simpler terms, it’s a way to generate financial backing from people who believe in your project—your family, friends, peers, and audience.
If you’re a writer who’s thinking about self-publishing, crowdfunding provides an opportunity for you to diminish out-of-pocket expenses while gauging and connecting with the audience for your book. There are many steps to conducting a successful crowdfunding campaign, but if you’re a crowdfunding newbie, here are a few tips you’ll want to know before getting started.
- The most important thing to keep in mind: crowdfunding requires work. A successful campaign takes motivation and determination. A majority of supporters of a crowdfunding campaign are generated by the crowdfunder through aggressive marketing.
- Pre-campaign planning is essential. The duration of a typical crowdfunding campaign is 30–60 days, so it’s imperative that you’re 100% ready to go on day 1. Devise a detailed marketing plan before the launch of your campaign and set targets for weekly outreach. Creating weekly objectives will help you more easily manage your outreach efforts and overall goals.
- Research and know your goals. It is essential to know the costs of publishing before launching your campaign. The publishing process can be extensive and the costs can range drastically depending on your publishing goals. For example, a full-scale publishing effort (hiring an editor, hiring a cover designer, formatting the book, printing the book, securing ebook distribution . . . and the list goes on) will require much more funding than simply selling ebooks on Amazon. To determine your funding goal (the amount you hope to raise) and your reward levels (incentives you offer for various levels of financial support), you’ll need to know your overall publishing goals. Helpful hint: Keep in mind you will have to ship the rewards to your supporters, so factor in shipping costs when determining your funding goal and reward levels.
- Having a pre-existing network is key. Although marketing to your general audience is very important, a majority of the support for your campaign will come from your pre-existing network, so it’s very important to reach out to these people first. Take the time to send each person in your network a personalized email informing them of the launch of your campaign and asking them for support. Note: You have to be direct. Ask people in your network for support and provide a link to your campaign, making it as easy as possible for them to follow through.
- Keep the momentum going. If you lose interest in your campaign, what makes you think others won’t do the same? You need to have as much enthusiasm on the last day of your campaign as you did on the first day. Also, it’s very important that you continue to engage with your supporters during and after the campaign. They’ve made a financial investment in your book, so keep them updated with your progress.
If you’re seriously considering conducting a crowdfunding campaign, start building your audience now. Organically grow your social networks and make genuine connections so when it’s “go time” for your campaign, your network will already be in place.
Ask anyone who has conducted a crowdfunding campaign and they’ll tell you it’s hard work. You will have to market and promote your book, but in the end, you’ll have the funds you need to bring your book to life and a network of supporters who are interested in your upcoming publication.
These are a few basic tips that will help you conduct a successful crowdfunding campaign. There’s so much more information available, so if you’d like to learn more, visit Pubslush 101.
Written by Justine Schofield, communications coordination at Pubslush. Justine Schofield is the communications coordinator of Pubslush, a global, crowdsourcing publishing platform for authors to raise funds and gauge the initial audience for new book ideas. Pubslush also operates an independent imprint that acquires books from the platform, and for every book sold, donates a children’s book to a child in need. Justine graduated from Emerson College in Boston, MA, with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and is currently enrolled at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, earning her MFA in Creative Writing. She specializes in social media and public relations and has held various freelance editing and writing jobs, and her work has been published in many online and print publications.