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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So, your book has hit the shelves and your marketing strategy is paying off in terms of interviews and appearances. You want to keep that media attention coming, but reporters and hosts have limited print space and airtime along with a vast array of topics to touch on. Remember that media professionals think and speak in terms of sound bites. To keep on their good side while still conveying the important aspects of you and your books, you need to develop your own sound bites and talking points, and have them ready long before the book hits the shelves so you can use them in your interviews.
Luckily, the questions asked by interviewers don’t vary much from media outlet to media outlet. This means you can walk into any interview prepared, but you will also have to be ready to shoot from the hip if necessary. Keep your answers short, to the point, and free of technical jargon so a broad audience can understand them.
For the most part, basic media questions include:
- What is the title of your book?
- What is your book about?
- Why did you decide to write this book?
- Who should read this book?
- Why should they read this book?
- What authority do you have to write on this topic?
- Where can people find out more about you / your book?
Even if these questions are not asked, they are points you want to work into the conversation. Most important is the title and where to buy the book. In fact, you will want to mention the title and its accompanying website several times throughout the interview or appearance. Repetition is key! An appearance in which none of this information is shared is a wasted opportunity. Don’t waste any chance to mention the book, because you might not get it again.
Once your book is ready for market, sit down with your publicist and/or your marketing team and hash out your talking points and sound bites. Learn them so well that you can easily integrate them into any conversation. Revisit them frequently to make sure they are still relevant and timely and remember: always, always, always mention the book and where to find it.
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If you have written a book, or even if you haven’t, you may have heard the term “author platform.” Many authors overlook this seemingly vague and often misunderstood term. However, it is by far the most important element of your writing career, aside from the book itself. So what is an author platform? Essentially, it’s the base of people who have a built-in interest in your book and who would regard you as an authority in your field. Your platform is your audience, your publicity plans and other promotional activities will be targeted at them.
The author platform is essential because it is what sets you apart from every other author in your genre. Publishers and media always look at author platform, sometimes even before they look to the content of the book itself. The platform is what will cut through all of the millions of advertising and media messages and carry your book to readers, and in turn drive sales. If your platform is not strong, active, and growing, publishers and media will move on to the next author who does have one.
How do you develop a platform? Before you determine that, there is an even bigger question that needs to be addressed. First, you need to start by defining your target reader. Who are you writing for? Who would be interested in the information you have to share? You need to be as specific as possible in stating your target audience. You can’t just say “anyone who reads.” Not everyone who reads is interested in every topic on the market. Instead you need to hone the target down to something like “work-from-home moms” or “twenty-something executives.” Once your audience is identified, you can start developing your platform.
Now that you have your target reader in mind, you need to define how you’ll build a group of them to serve as your platform. Using the “twenty-something executive” audience, possible outreach strategies include “tips to break the executive ceiling,” “profiles of young achievers,” “strategies for success,” etc. Whatever the focus is, it needs to relate to both your audience and your book. If your book is about underwater basket weaving, you won’t have much luck driving sales using a platform geared toward young executives.
There are many ways to connect with your potential readers so you can build a platform, including: a website (both for you and your book itself), blogs, social media, speaking, teaching, appearances, organizational involvement (e.g. writers and trade groups, charities, local organizations), book signings, articles—just about any activity you can think of. However, in order to successfully grow your platform, each of these activities needs to be cohesive and relevant to the overall topic and consistent with your message. Be sure to keep your activities manageable and linked to book sales. This mean sharing your blog posts through social media accounts, promoting events through all of your media channels, participating in organizations that cater to your audience, referring to your book frequently in interviews and conversations, and linking to the book website anywhere you have an Internet presence, among others.
If you are still unsure about the strength of your platform and how to develop it, your publicist is the best resource to help you. You might also want to look at the following resources:
Christina Katz “Get Known Before The Book Deal” (hyperlink)
Jane Freidman's Blog “There Are No Rules”
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Getting news media coverage for your book can be challenging, especially when the number of traditional media outlets (such as daily newspaper book review sections) is shrinking. However, too many of the lucky or deserving handful who are given a chance to get their message to the masses waste their opportunity.
As one who has worked in book publishing for twenty years and has been involved in arranging thousands of interviews for authors, I can say that most authors—even seminar speakers, motivational trainers, and life coaches—often don’t fully exploit their knowledge, ability, or passion. Rather than turning their radio or television interview into a memorable, experience, they simply treat it as a defensive situation with a standard approach of “I just don’t want to be embarrassed.”
Here are nine ways to be proactive and steal the show.
1. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good line. Instead of merely making a statement, say something with some colorful language. One could say, “To lose weight, drink eight to ten glasses of water a day,”or you could show some personality: “If you wanna drop those ten unwanted pounds, then drop down ten glasses of water every day. Drink up or fatten up. It’s your choice.” See the difference?
2. Give an action step, not an advertisement. Never say, “You can buy my book at www.whatever.com.” Instead, say the name of your book in a smooth sentence: “How to Lose Weight on Your Lunch Break is like having a therapist in your bed. You can access twenty-five free tips at www.whatever.com." Now you’ve provided value and stated a specific offer.
3. Make a point and provide an example. People remember a story or something they can specifically identify with rather than an abstract statement.
4. Make it relevant when possible. Tie your message into the news or to what’s on people’s minds at a given moment in time.
5. Confess or admit to something. Don’t tell us you cheated on your spouse when you’re hawking a cookbook, but do tell us how your six-year-old kid thought your cake tasted like crap. Self-deprecating humor is good. Or tell us how you made a dish twenty times until you found the missing ingredient.
6. Create an enemy. Put every conversation in the context of good versus evil, new versus old, us versus them, etc. Enemies are everywhere. If you’re talking about personal finance, vilify government bailout and corporate greed; if you discuss a disease, you want to eradicate it; if you want to help parents be better at raising kids your enemy can be a situation (kids whining while you’re driving). There’s no end to finding a villain—it can be a person, group, ideology, circumstance, fate—whatever.
7. Express emotions and play to people’s fears, desires, needs, and weaknesses. Make assumptions about the people who will buy your book and identify their concerns. Your interviews should answer these concerns. If you wrote a book on dating and you know the fear of never getting married is in the back of your potential readers' minds, address the issue and do so in a way that it gives a positive, proactive feeling. This will naturally lead them to visit your site.
8. Ask the talk show host or his or her audience for help. Tell them you’re trying to do something (i.e., get people to stop smoking if your book is about addiction). Suggest people email you their ideas on how to eradicate the problem. Not only does it unite people, it gives you a whole bunch of email contacts to follow up with.
9. Be colorful, not boring. Think of a waitress who can simply bring you a plate of food or one who can do a little dance before serving you. Who will you remember? Don’t just drone on with useful info or ideas—deliver it with style.
Brian Feinblum is the Chief Marketing Officer of Planned Television Arts, a book publicity company and leader in the media placement field since 1962. If you want to know more on how to promote your book during a media interview, please send your queries to Brian at email@example.com or call him at 212-583-2718.
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Rushing a book to market without understanding all the consequences of your decision is about as bright as marrying someone you meet in Las Vegas after a fifteen-hour drinking binge. Even if the reasons behind the rush seem legitimate, beware of the beer-goggle effect—your book won’t look nearly as attractive when it comes off the press as it does in your head when you’re deciding to skip vital steps in the publication process. There are three areas where rushing will come back to haunt you with particular vengeance:
Your content has to deliver the goods. Editing isn’t just about making sure your book is free of typos and grammatical errors—it’s the part of the process that focuses on sharpening the reading experience for your customers. If you don’t invest the time and money to have experienced book editors work with your book, success in this industry will be an uphill battle. Don’t try to justify your rush by duping yourself into believing that you can save time-consuming editorial work for the second edition or the next printing. Crappy books don’t go into multiple print runs or second editions. It’s like not showering before a first date and thinking that you can always wash up for the second date—unless you’re meeting the Vegas drunk from the scenario above, there’s no way you’re getting the second date, stinky. It’s worth the delay in your book launch to work with an editor who can help you develop a rock-solid title, unique hooks, a smart structure, and a compelling voice. If you rush the editorial process, you’ll compromise the integrity of your work for short-term gains. Is a goal like having books in time for one event really worth that?
Design and Printing
While powerful marketing, a strong author platform, and compelling content are essential for a book to succeed, production quality is equally important. And yet there are countless articles that downplay the importance of quality, often making the obtuse argument that anyone with Photoshop or InDesign can throw a book together in no time, or that the difference between top quality and bottom quality is negligible due to advances in technology. Both assertions are appalling fallacies. The quality of your design and printing determines what kind of first impression your book will make. Retail buyers, book reviewers, and consumer make gut decisions based on this first impression, so while good quality costs money and takes time, this is not an area in which it is okay to be either cheap or hasty.
Sales and Publicity
Sometimes, we’re at the mercy of others. Pitching your book to retail buyers and media outlets is one of those times. If you want to sell your books in bookstores or other trade outlets like Costco and Wal-Mart, know that it takes almost twelve months to get your books ready for distribution. This time is spent setting up the title in wholesale and retail systems, presenting to buyers, and preparing the logistics for an on-time launch. And there’s similar time sensitivity inherent in a proper publicity campaign. You only have one book launch, and if you don’t get advance review copies to reviewers at least four months prior to publication, your print campaign has virtually no shot at success.
Deciding to produce a book on an abbreviated timeframe may be possible from a purely logistical standpoint, but you shouldn’t rush your book launch unless you’re prepared to have a product that isn’t set up to reach its full potential. So take a breath and slow down. The book of your dreams will wait for you. If you follow the rules and wait too, the launch will be much more special. If you know what I mean.