Standing Up and Standing Out
Becoming a successful author requires more than knowing how to write a good book. The key to establishing a strong readership is developing a solid author platform before your work is published. Technology has made this task a lot easier, but the author must be prepared to invest in learning the tricks of the trade and using them appropriately.
Basically, an author platform boils down to your authority and influence with your readership. Building a strong author platform and setting yourself up as someone who can stand out from the crowd can make a difference between being published or falling into the infamous slush pile.
So how do you create this platform and how do you stand out? Obviously experience counts. It is the great catch twenty-two. You need experience to get experience. Your best bet is to start small. For example, before you try to pitch an entire series to an agent or publisher, publish short stories online first. Create a web presence and continually update it. The bottom line is that you have to create your image as an author as well as create your novels. Here are some tips to help you out.
- Create a professional looking website. Link to your other sites like blogs, fan pages, social media sites, digital publications, etc. Include a guestbook that allows your fans to interact with you and ask you questions. Make yourself available to your fans and other writers.
- Comment on other people’s work. Offer reviews. Respond to other people’s blog posts. Interact with people who contact you.
- Link yourself to a cause. If you are writing a novel about animal abuse, join or interact regularly with an animal rights group. Speak authoritatively. You will create an instant fan base.
- Join writing associations. Network with other writers in your genre. Join a local writers’ group to help you with critiques. You never know who can help spread the word about you later on.
- Mentor others. Are you particularly good at creating dynamic characters? Show others how to do it. Host workshops. Work with libraries and schools. Your reputation as a writer that is great to work with will get out there.
- Use give-aways. Provide free samples of your writing. Give away promotional items. Think big. It may be a free sample of a story today, but you might be lunch with an author (you) tomorrow. Consider joining charity auctions and provide your services for a good cause.
- Guilt by association. Be a fan. Identify people who you consider great in your genre. Associate with them by becoming a fan, corresponding with them on social media, attending the same conferences. Don’t become a leach, but find things that you have in common and treat them like real people. Tell them that you admire their work and then ask them a serious question about writing. You might be surprised by how they respond.
- Free name recognition. Make sure that you identify yourself as an author in your e-mail signature lines and on your business cards. When introducing yourself, identify yourself as an author.
- Create a blog. It could be subject specific like the wild, wild west if you write westerns or on the craft of writing in general or even a blog of your daily struggle as a writer.
- Ask for reviews. Once you have something published, even if it is a free sample online, ask for reviews. Once you have a book ready to pitch, ask a well-known author in your genre to endorse your novel by offering a blurb. Offer reviewers an ARC of your novel when it comes out.
- Create a video. Create a book trailer or videotape yourself reading and post it on YouTube and other social media sites.
- Create an online presence. Join online groups. Create a webpage. Join social media groups and then INTERACT. Joining isn’t enough. You need to contribute continually and meaningfully. You are marketing yourself. Watch what you post. Separate your personal social media accounts from your author accounts. Your best friend might really want to know more about that gorgeous med student you went out with last night, but your readers probably don’t want to know. Keep your online presence professional. Intertwine these sources by linking to each other.
- Approach others. Ask to be interviewed. Approach a reporter on a similar topic and discuss your book and what you are doing. If someone writes an article about you, immediately send it to other venues where you would like to be featured. You cannot sit around and wait to be discovered. Let people in the field know who you are and what you are doing.
Being your own publicist may seem like a full time job, but don’t forget that good writing is what matters. Successful writers are more than writers. They are publicists, editors, entrepreneurs, marketers, and sometimes publishers. You may feel like you are teetering on the edge right now, but soon you will find your footing and can stand tall.