Build a Platform. Then Jump Off!

young modern ballet dancer jumpingIn the olden days (maybe five years ago?) an author relied on the publisher/agent to promote and market their book. It was part of the package deal and could be hit or miss. Some books were marketed aggressively, some not. Not exactly sure why. The advent of social media has revamped the landscape and the industry is now looking not only for great projects, it’s looking to see if you already have a following.

Personally, I’m only part way through establishing an author platform and, just recently, I experienced the effects of what platform can do first hand. And it was a bizarre and weird happenstance. My ex-hubby has been dating this woman for a number of years and I’ve never met her. Since FB is always suggesting “new friends” my ex-husband’s name always shows up. His profile picture is one of him and his girlfriend, and since my son is getting married this summer and I’m going to meet the girlfriend, my curiosity got the best of me and I went to his page. Somehow, and no one can figure out how it got there since my ex is seriously tech-challenged, there was a posting titled, “Books by Caryn McGill.” It didn’t list any titles but still had a fair number of “likes.” This motivated me to put my books on my FB page. (I should probably change it over to a fan page soon.) Holee Molee! My FB page blew up! I got tons of likes, tons of comments and lots of new friend requests. And all in less than one day!

There are many avenues to publicize and brand yourself. It’s foolish not to take advantage of them; they’re free and popular marketing tools. Whereas advertising in media- print/TV, can cost upwards of $300,000 for even a short ad. No wonder publishing houses are only employing these approaches for best selling authors like James Patterson.

  • Facebook: It’s best to start a fan page. Some advise using your book title as a handle, while others say to avoid them so as not to conflict with new books. And keep your personal drama/pics off it. Leave that for your personal profile. This is a convenient place to collect “likes” and a quick and easy way for fans to leave short messages. *
  • Twitter: Tweet once a day. Use conversations from your other platform sites to spur discussion topics.*
  • Author Websites:  Creating an author website can be a bit more challenging, so if you’re not particularly computer savvy, hire a professional.
  • YouTube: Jenn just made a video for her new memoir, Tin Can Shrapnel. Check it out on YouTube. It’s time consuming and may cost a few dollars to hire a voice-over guy, but there’s nothing like seeing your book come to life on a video screen.
  • Pinterest: A perfect place to post imaginings of your characters and settings. Visuals are key here. Make your readers’ eyes pop, make them want to see (read) more.
  • Instagram: A great way to get “insta” messages and photos out to your fans. Keep them on edge with “What comes next…?”
  • Blog: Start one with friends. You only have to blog once a week, about 300-500 words. We’re writers! We can do that!

*There are also tools to save you time and effort by scheduling posts on both FB and Twitter. They provide real-time tracking, organizing and engagement. Check out Hootsuite and TweetDeck.

And that’s just as of today. Next week, well, I can’t even imagine what other sites the tech world will dream up. The more elements you use to build your platform, the stronger and larger it becomes. And don’t just promote your book, people won’t flock to a commercial for your book unless you’ve garnered their interest elsewhere. With DVR being the vehicle most of use to watch TV, society had become adverse to commercials. Instead, focus on sharing your thoughts and interacting with your followers.

This is not an easy undertaking for a writer. Most of us enjoy the solitude that comes with writing: snuggling up to our laptops, sipping a cup of hot tea or coffee, a cozy spot to write, maybe a pet curled at our feet. So stepping out into the cold, scary, and sometimes brutal world of publicly promoting ourselves, takes us out of our comfort zone. And as writers, we’re nervous about writing spontaneously. We cling to the life rafts of editing, proofreading, and beta readers, to assure that when we put our writing out for others to read they’ll be perfect in every way: spelling, grammar, verb agreement. Exposing our true feelings and emotions for all to read is downright terrifying. What if we make a rookie mistake in a blog post? A spelling error! Oh, horrors! This dread can paralyze you. Also, and particularly for writers of fiction, we tend to hide behind our characters. No one knows the real us.

It’s time to take that leap, jump into the world of social media and promote both your book and yourself. Many of you, especially young writers, are already members of these sites for personal use, but it’s time to devote those pages, or new pages, to building an audience for you book.

Designing and executing our blog has been fun, but also challenging at times. Just ask Robin! She’s our site administrator and mostly self-taught. I felt the urge to go over to her house and talk her off a virtual bridge on more than one occasion. and would have, if she didn’t live 3000 miles away from me. And don’t fret about making it perfect. It’s a place to reveal a little bit of who you are. Having a rant that day about something? Share it. People want to know you’re human, that you’re just like them. As you know, if you’re a regular follower of our blog, The Sisters have certainly taken a jaunt down Rant Road on a few occasions.

Even though building and maintaining an author platform may be a daunting task, it will help you in getting a publishing contract because many major houses would prefer not to have to build your marketing plan from scratch. Having a following makes you more marketable. Man jump

So start now! Jump!! If you need advice let us know and perhaps we can save you time by not making some of the mistakes we made. Consider blogging with a team, like we did. Getting support (and proofreaders!) with fellow writers you trust, provides a safe environment in which to launch yourself. And in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, I couldn’t be more thankful for Heather, Jenn and Robin. A gal couldn’t ask for better writing pals!

Up Next from Caryn…Reflections on becoming a writer.






Author: Caryn McGill

Caryn is a former high school science teacher, school district administrator and adjunct college professor.

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