Let me ask you a variation of a question first posed by Capital One: in terms of author assets, what’s in your wallet? What resources, connections, and communities do you have at your disposal? No matter what stage of the book-writing process you‘re in, this is an important question to consider.
Authors today are quickly learning that completing a book is only one step in their journey. In order to reach a wide audience, an author needs to continuously market himself and his book. According to this interview with bestselling author Rebecca Skloot’s, it’s never too early to start thinking of your platform- and audience-building efforts. “The biggest mistake writers make in terms of marketing and publicity for their book is starting too late,” Skloot says.
While PR teams and marketing initiatives can offer a huge boost to the author’s efforts, what really guarantees success is a sustained effort to make real, lasting connections with an audience that appreciates her message and expertise. Strong community is imperative to selling books and to successfully launching other initiatives that are tied to the book. Having an already engaged and excited audience will make the book-marketing process that much easier, and will allow the author to gain even more followers through word of mouth and online sharing.
So how do you begin growing your platform? Author and blogger Jenny Blake has laid out the answer to that question in a comprehensive spreadsheet that spans all avenues of outreach, from online promotions to partnerships. The thing to remember is that building a platform takes time and effort, in addition to strong content and a clear mission or message. Unfortunately, there’s not a magic switch you can flip to suddenly get your own platform. To win a dedicated audience that supports an author’s initiatives, the author needs to grow his community piece by piece, and focus on meaningful interaction with his target audience.
Some other things to keep in mind:
Define your target audience. Articulating the characteristics, likes, and motivations of your target audience will give direction to your platform strategy. It will also help you make decisions about which communities and channels to reach out to.
Make sure you enjoy the content you are sharing with your audience. Your target audience most likely has very similar tastes and preferences to you—if you are passionate and delighted by the content you’re producing, chances are that they will be too.
Don’t shy away from creativity. As with any type of outreach, a unique way of grabbing people’s attention or delivering information will always put you one step above the competition. While content is king, the way in which you reach your target audience is also important, especially given the abundance of opportunities you now have to connect with them.
Interact with your audience. As social media grew and grew, there was a surprisingly small amount of attention placed on the “social” aspect of it. Industry professionals are beginning to notice, though, that the most effective companies and thought leaders are engaging in conversations and posing questions to their followers. They are not talking at them, but rather talking with them. In doing so, they are not only sharing their message but also refining it so it better fits the wants and needs of their audience.
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Are you using LinkedIn to the best of your—and its—ability? It’s chock full of features, many of which you’re probably not using. Here are three ways to get more visitors and make yourself look more legit as you build your reputation as an expert.
Set up that vanity URL. Establishing your own special LinkedIn address (e.g., www.linkedin.com/in/joeblow) may seem pointless (after all, people are probably going to find you through a search), but it makes your profile look cleaner, more professional, and less generic. The vanity URL is also much easier to write down, so you can scribble it on a napkin after lunch with an important contact or type it into an email to a reporter who’s covering a story you’re qualified to comment on. It takes less than five minutes. Do it.
Optimize optimize optimize. Make sure that your profile is primed for search so you get the visitors you want, and keep their interest once they’re there. Stock your headline, summary, “Interests” section, and “Skills and Expertise” section with the words and phrases that define what you do. Aim for getting some specific, accurate keywords in there without making it spammy and repetitive. Don’t be afraid to throw in one or two of your personal tastes (like, say, cycling or botany) either—it’ll show people that you’re a real human being, and might even encourage people to pick you over someone else in your field.
Get social. LinkedIn is so much more than a static online resume. In recent years it’s become even more a full-fledged social platform. Join and create groups [http://learn.linkedin.com/groups/] related to your expertise. Use a social reading application (like Amazon’s ReadingList) to showcase the books you’re reading or the books that are similar to your own. Share links to pieces you’ve written, coverage you’re getting, or compelling content related to what you do. An expert becomes exponentially more credible if people see that he or she is interactive, involved, and constantly learning.
We’ve barely scratched the surface, so after you get those things done, get more LinkedIn advice here [http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/23454/The-Ultimate-Cheat-Sheet-for-Mastering-LinkedIn.aspx] and here [http://askjohnkremer.com/linkedin-marketing-quiz-do-you-need-a-linkedin-profile-makeover/] and here [http://www.greenleafbookgroup.com/blog/2011/09/16/how-to-optimize-your-companys-page-on-linkedin].
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How to Establish Yourself as an Expert to Grow Your Network and Client Base
Everyone is an expert in something, whether it’s basket weaving, social media marketing, or book editing. Consider this: being known as an expert in your field or area of interest affords you (and your business) all kinds of good stuff: credibility, a wider network, new clients or readers, and chance to cut through the noise. For all types of authors, an expert status can lend itself to getting the word out about a book and grabbing the attention of new readers. Here are three easy steps to get you started:
1. Figure out what you know.
In which fields do you have credentials, a strong knowledge base, or passion? What do people ask you about? What do you just love doing? Answer this question and—voilà—you have your specialty. Next: specify, specify, specify. Don’t be just a branding expert; be an expert on personal branding for LinkedIn. A health guru could work toward becoming a clean-eating coach, and a leadership consultant could specialize in educational or nonprofit leadership. By narrowing your area of focus, you stand out among your competitors and peers and attract the attention of the right people.
2. Do your homework and build your message.
Once you’ve identified your area of expertise, it’s time to do some research. Figure out what leaders in your field are saying about the topic at hand. To continue one of the examples above, how do other experts approach the topic of clean eating? Scour books, industry journals, and the Internet to see what’s already been said so you can position yourself in a unique way. Your message is your value proposition, and it should continue the conversation in your voice, with several clear points. For the health guru, that could look something like this:
“Providing busy families with a clean-eating plan that sticks” or
“Teaching parents how to eliminate processed foods from the kitchen.”
3. Deliver your message.
So now that you know what you’re talking about and have surveyed the landscape, how do you get the message across to your people? There are several ways:
- Write helpful articles and post them to article aggregators and industry publications, or start a blog or newsletter and post your content there. You can also check out other blogs or websites in your field to see if you can write guest posts for them.
- Look for local groups, organizations, conferences, and seminars where you might be able to teach or speak. You could host your own seminars, webinars, or Internet radio shows to educate people on your topic of expertise.
- We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—write a book! When you hand someone your book, or they see it on bookstore shelves, it’s instant credibility for you. Just make sure you do your research before you get started, as we’ve discussed many times. The book industry can be tricky, especially for newcomers.
These tips are meant to point you in the right direction, but becoming an expert is not something that happens overnight. It take quite a bit of time and hard work to amass the content you need to disseminate your message, so taking it slow and moving one step at a time is key. For more resources, check out Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Blog or one of these titles: Trust Agents by Chris Brogan, Good in a Room by Stephanie Palmer, or The Brand You 50 by Tom Peters.
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Everywhere you turn, you’re hearing about the power and influence of bloggers. They’ve taken over the Internet, and many rival traditional media as venues for authors trying to get their books in front of readers. We’ve already talked about the best way to pitch a guest post to a blog, but there is another great way to get in front of bloggers (and their readers). How? By posting insightful comments.
First, let’s address why commenting on posts is a great way to build you up as an author-expert and drive traffic back to your website:
- The blogger reads every comment. If you repeatedly show your support and provide targeted and insightful responses, the blogger will turn to you (instead of the Internet) the next time they need a guest post or an expert to interview.
- Blog followers read the comments. Popular blogs can have comment sections that go on for days. If other followers see you as a resource, they will seek you out.
- Other media professionals follow blogs too. If they like your comments, they may also book you as an expert for interviews and guest articles.
You would think that commenting would be easy, but so many people do comments all wrong. The comment section is not an opportunity to advertise. Promoting your website or book in the comments section (when not asked to) makes you as tactful as the drunk girl trying to steal the groom from the bride at their wedding. To help you avoid a similarly public and lasting fiasco, here are some tips on how to comment successfully and appropriately:
- Provide value and substance: Take the post a step further by suggesting another point of view, an additionalresource, or in some way contributing valuable insight to the conversation created by the post.
- Start with praise: Remember, you’re on someone else’s turf. Start by saying that you liked the post. Point to a specific line or phrase you liked (this shows you really read it). It only takes a little to grease the wheels. Then you can add your insightful response.
- Keep promo out: Most comment feeds let you insert a hyperlink in your name that leads back to your website or blog. If your response is helpful and insightful, people will click on that link to learn more about you. Putting a website in your post makes you look self-serving, which no one finds attractive.
- Focus on blogs on your topic: If you are trying to build yourself up as an author-expert in business, commenting on gardening won’t help build your platform. As in all your marketing efforts, stay focused.
- Be a serial commenter: Pick a few blogs to follow and comment on them consistently (only when you have value to add, of course). This will help you build a rapport with the blogger and his or her audience. Avoid one-shot commenting on a large number of posts. Also, focusing on just a few blogs is more manageable time-wise.
The blogosphere is a powerful and supportive community. If you consistently contribute to and support the success of other bloggers, they will take notice and find ways to return the favor. As always, remember to pay it forward and engage the readers who share insightful comments on your blog.
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We’ve written a great deal about building your platform and especially about the benefits of blogging and writing articles to demonstrate your expertise to your audience. Still, you’re always looking for more ways to drive traffic back to your online presence, and ultimately to the bookstore to buy your book. Another excellent way to achieve this is by serving as a guest blogger.
A guest blogger is someone who does a single post for another individual or group’s blog. This can be a one-time deal or a recurring column, but either case allows you to tap into someone else’s audience. There are many great blogs out there for you to choose from. You can locate blogs related to your platform in a number of ways:
- Go to the top magazines or associations in your topic. Chances are the editors of the magazine or leaders of the association have at least one blog (sometimes they have several—each one for a different beat).
- Ask for referrals. Find out from your network what other blogs your audience is following.
- Check out the competition. Other authors and experts in your field already have a line in with your audience. Grease the wheels by offering to swap guest posts.
- Look at the blogroll of your favorite sites. Most times bloggers feature the blogs they follow on their tool bar. This is a great (and fast) way to locate additional blogs. You can use sites like Technorati (link) and Alexa (link) to evaluate which blogs have the most traffic so you can develop your strategy and start by focusing your time on the blogs with the largest audiences.
Once you’ve identified blogs related to your topic, you will want to craft a pitch. Before you contact the blogger, check to see if they have posted writer’s guidelines. If so, follow them to the letter. If not, send them a short pitch that includes a specific idea for a post topic and identifies exactly why that post would be of interest to their audience. Close with a short paragraph about your qualifications. Here’s an example of a typical pitch letter:
The world of publishing is changing fast. Many of your readers are trying to navigate this evolving landscape, but it can be overwhelming. I propose a post that looks at the pros and cons of each book publishing option available to authors, complete with a short checklist readers can use to identify which route is best for them.
I work at an independent publisher and write articles and white papers related to publishing. You can view samples of my work at www.bigbadbookblog.com.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.
There are a few other things to consider when pitching a guest blog post:
- Research the outlet beforehand to make sure it’s appropriate. Bloggers don’t want to get pitched by writers who are outside of their subject area and who don’t have anything to offer their readers.
- Read some of the posts and make sure that you are providing something unique. If they’ve already done a post on the subject, craft a new angle or choose a different topic.
- Be considerate of the blogger’s brand. They are building their platform and readership too. Don’t try to hone in on their turf.
- Keep the self-promotion out of your post. Often you are allowed a short bio and a link back to your website or blog, so focus on creating value and leave the promotion out.
Above all, don’t be afraid to ask. Most bloggers work hard to fill their editorial calendar and are happy to have someone fill in (as long as the topic is relevant). Also, don’t be afraid to consider having someone guest post on your blog as well. They will bring their readers with them and will often add you to their own blogroll. In the realm of social media and blogging, paying it forward really does pay off.
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As an author, you’re constantly chasing down opportunities to share your book, speak to a crowd, serve as a resource, and perform other platform-building activities. People will often say no to your first request—but don’t let that discourage you or stop you from pursuing a lead after the first contact!
It takes at least six points of contact for a message to sink in—six—yet more than 75% of the time people stop pursuing leads after the first point of contact (Good Day 2009). Sometimes authors stop pursuing because they receive a no on the first try, other times it's because the number of leads to manage is overwhelming. Cultivating relationships is crucial to your career, but it doesn’t need to take up all of your time.
The first thing you need to do is gather contact information. Every time you meet a lead or come across someone in a search, collect his or her contact information or business card right away. Enter them into a simple database such as Microsoft Outlook, Plan Plus, or Salesforce. Spreadsheets and rolodexes can be hard to manage effectively, but databases like these allow you to classify your contacts, set up reminders, add notes, and keep track of all interactions.
Next, you want to categorize your leads. Not all leads are created equal, and each group requires a different type of interaction. Here is a simple way to classify your leads:
- Hot or “A” Leads: These are people interested in having you speak or scheduling you for some other event. These contacts are ready to go and need to receive frequent, personal contact in order for the relationship to develop into an event or opportunity. These contacts go to the top of your list.
- Warm or “B” Leads: These are people who showed interest, but who have not yet decided whether they want to work with you. You will need to provide them with more information and work to cultivate the relationship.
- Cold or “C” Leads: Cold leads are people with whom you have no rapport, such as those you find on the Internet or find out about through third-party sources. These contacts are usually managed through what is called “drip line marketing.” Drip line marketing consists of things like newsletters or emails you send out to a distribution list on an infrequent basis. You may need to send an introductory email and then a reminder a few months later or add them to an informational newsletter until they opt out or say they are not interested.
Sorting your leads into these categories will help you better identify and manage opportunities as they come. Don’t forget to provide value first, and remember that your leads are people. Treat them with respect, consideration, and always show your appreciation for their time.
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You’ve been blogging and interacting to build your author platform, and now it’s time to get out there and connect with your audience live and in person—but how do you get those speaking engagements? It takes a combination of three things: relevant speaking topics that can be honed to a specific audience, a speaker’s press kit, and a customized pitch.
Relevant Speaking Topics. Before approaching an organization or event coordinator for a speaking engagement, you need to know what you will be talking about. It’s best to develop several different key speaking topics that are relevant to your platform. Once you develop your presentation materials for each topic, you’ll always have them on hand. Then you only need to tweak them to meet the needs of a specific group or update them to keep them current. This keeps you from drafting a brand new presentation every time you speak. Also, it helps you develop and hone your message by consistently presenting on the same topics and lets others identify you as a potential speaker based on your topics.
A Speaker’s Press Kit. Similar to your author press kit, a speaker’s press kit should include the following:
- A professional, quality headshot
- Both a short (50–100 word) bio and a full length bio
- Credentials—education, certification, experience, track record, etc.
- Speaking history (Don’t worry if you don’t already have many engagements under your belt; you can build on publishing credits and other experience until you build your speaking history.)
- Speaking topics—the list of talking points and topics of expertise you identified above
- Menu of services—the types of speaking you do, plus your rate for each type
- Speaker’s reel—an edited, high-quality video montage of you speaking
- Contact information
Your speaker’s press kit should be both downloadable and available in print. Make sure that it is always packaged in a clean and professional manner. A bad first impression can kill your pitch, no matter how timely your topic or amazing your speaking abilities.
A Customized Pitch. Most pitches are made in writing, either through email or snail mail. You want to customize your pitch for each event or organization. Personalize the address line to the organizer or chair. Research the organization and their attendees to find out what their needs and concerns are so you can identify how your speaking topic(s) can help them. You may need to slightly alter your topic to make it pertinent or more appropriate for a specific audience—be willing and able to do so. If there are posted guidelines for speaker pitches, follow them to the letter and, above all, be respectful.
Remember, you may not be a good fit for every speaking engagement you go for. Also, don’t be quick to decline no-fee presentations or small-fee presentations, as they often lead to bigger and better opportunities.
For more information on pitching speaking engagements check out:
Speak and Grow Rich by Dottie and Lilly Walters
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As an author, you are always on the lookout for new ways to improve your marketing strategy and grow your platform. One of the best ways to do this is by developing your power team.
What’s a power team? A familiar term among business networking professionals, a power team is comprised of individuals and/or businesses with whom you share common goals or a common client base.
How can it help you as an author? The members of your power team can help you improve your strategy, connect with more readers, identify more opportunities, hone your message, and expand your reach.
Lets look at key members of an author power team and how they help you build your career:
- Publisher: Your publisher is an industry insider. If you have chosen wisely, your publisher should have a track record of producing successful books in your genre and should be able to provide you with tips and insights to help you not only get on bookshelves, but also get in front of readers. Keep your contacts at the publisher in the loop so they are aware of all of your marketing efforts and publicity. This helps them keep your book stocked when and where it needs to be available. They can also give you feedback on publishing best practices.
- Publicist: A publicist helps you develop your marketing strategy and puts you in front of big media—radio, television, print, and online. A publicist also helps you hone your message and clarify your brand so you can reach readers. They have spent years cultivating relationships with media and industry professionals and have access to contacts you may not be able to reach on your own.
- Other Authors in Your Genre: Wait—they’re your competition, right? Not necessarily. If you have differentiated yourself well, your work will stand out when compared to other authors’ work. Each author has something unique to give to the reader, but authors in the same genre share the same audience and are marketing to the same people. If you have been growing your platform and marketing your book, you should already have a following. Pull your efforts together with another author doing the same and you can double the strength of your platform and gain twice the reach. Adding another author increases your reach that much more.
- Bloggers: Bloggers who write about your topic or genre also share marketing time with your audience. They often have an open dialogue with a following that listens to their advice and trusts their recommendations. Develop relationships with bloggers in your category, offer to write guest posts, give free review copies of your book, share links, or come up with cross-promotional activities.
- Industry Gurus: No matter what topic or genre your book covers, there will be some movers and shakers already hustling and bustling about. Cultivate a relationship with these people. They’re connected and know what your readers are looking for. They can get you into events and speaking engagements that will put you directly in front of your target audience. Plus, their opinion holds weight and can carry you deep into the hearts of your audience.
These are the primary members of your power team, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box while choosing members of your team. Each book and genre has special needs and interests that are served by many people. Aligning yourself with those people will help you engage with your audience and, in turn, sell more books.
Remember, just as with your audience, be willing to provide value before you ask for anything in return. You are looking to cultivate relationships here, not just take what you can get. Here are a few key things to remember when building your power team:
- Be sincerely interested in the other person.
- Find ways to help them meet their goals.
- Be willing and able to promote and/or endorse them.
- Relationships are a series of meaningful interactions. Make time to check in and see how they are doing, without looking for something in return.
Above all, treat them how you would want to be treated. If you are truly interested, considerate, and helpful, they will reciprocate.
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Many forms of entertainment have been releasing free chunks of content for promotional use for ages. The music industry has singles. The movie industry has trailers. Publishers and authors have to figure out ways to do the same thing with the written word.
The good news is there are lots of ways to do this. As authors, you should be taking advantage of all the technology availableby uploading content to websites and social networks that allow book excerpts (FiledBy, BookBuzzr, Scribd, Redroom, SlideShare), posting samples on your website, tweeting about your samples online, etc. Do not be afraid to put your content out there. Tease the readers. Leave them wanting more.
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The beginning of the year is an exciting time for everyone—including authors. Along with your other resolutions, it’s important to remember that a new year represents a fabulous opportunity to establish, enhance, or even reinvent your author image. Marketing yourself is huge part of making any writer’s book a success. The Internet—and social media, more specifically—has increasingly become the most important aspect of a publicity campaign. If you have not already ventured onto online reading communities and other sites that can help authors spread their work, there is no better time than now! Here are a few to get you started:
- Red Room: A site dedicated to connecting authors and readers. As a Red Room author, you can create a very professional customized page that allows you to upload published works, reviews, interview transcripts, videos, podcasts, as well as blog entries.
- Goodreads: A book-sharing and reviewing site that allows you to sign up as a published author and get your own page, which will include a short biography and background information, separate pages for your books, a place to add links to reviews and interviews, friends and followers, a comments space, and other common features of a social networking site.
- Shelfari: An interactive bookshelf and community for readers, Shelfari allows to create your own profile with a list of favorite books, which you can then review, rate, and tag. A page is created for each author and book, which can be edited by you (or the public at large).
- Scribd: A document-sharing site—it's been called the "YouTube for documents"—where authors can create their own pages and profiles, and easily share a variety of documents—including book excerpts, reviews, interviews, or other book-related paraphernalia for people to view.