If there is one thing that has changed with the advent of social media like Facebook and Twitter, it is the role that an author must play in the marketing of his or her own book. If you’re old school or, like me, you just assumed that the marketing aspects of your book were someone else’s job, now is the time to go ahead and come to terms with a rude awakening. Whether you’re an indie writer or the next big thing, expect to play a significant role in building your own marketing platform across the vast media spectrum that includes Internet, radio, television, and so many other promotional outlets. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, building a platform is something we all must learn to do in order to be successful and it’s a skill you should start developing right now, rather than later. For this entry, I wanted to look at a few platform-building methods that industry insiders claim are a must:
1. Start Your Own Website. Probably my single biggest regret of the last two years is that I didn’t start my own website back when I considered doing so for the first time in 2010. What ultimately made me decide against it was a combination of laziness, negligence, and the flawed idea that I couldn’t afford it. Well, explore your options. I have been amazed with the support and feedback I have gotten with my website in only a little over two weeks and now I’m beating myself up over how far I could have taken it if I had started it in 2010 when I had the time and resources to get it going. Blog template sites like WordPress offer fantastic rates as low as $50 a year (that’s just a few cents a day) that, if you’re artsy fartsy, can be customized to suit your wildest imaginations, while also remaining visually and technically accessible. At such a low rate, you won’t win any awards for your website, but you will have a basic, functional website from which to build and…your own URL, which is pretty fancy.
2. Automate Your Twitter Activity. Now, I’ve already talked about Twitter in a previous article but there are some points worth repeating here. Twitter can be obnoxious and Tweeters can be rude, annoying, and worse than telemarketers, in some ways. I also have a renowned disdain for spambots, which makes it ironic that I’m about to tell you to download a spambot. Tweet Adder is the same software that the most obnoxious users on Twitter rely upon, but it’s also a necessary evil for building your Twitter base and accruing massive numbers of followers. In a little over four months, I’ve gained 13,000+ followers and I’m now earning about 400 followers a day. It’s insane. I’m not going to divulge my strategies for getting there, but I can tell you that Twitter takes time—time a lot of us don’t have. Using a bot can help you automate Twitter promotions for your books, articles, website, etc. instead of you constantly having to sit in front of your computer being redundant and self-centered. Personally, I like to be self-centered by proxy whenever I can.
3. Write Articles and Op-Eds. Chuck Sambuchino’s most insistent piece of advice for us at the recent Lexington, Kentucky Carnegie Center’s writing conference was to start small and build. Your first book may not catch fire the way you’d hoped and this may not be a response to your writing or the quality of your book. In fact, if you believe 99% of rejection letters, your book is most certainly a masterpiece but it just isn’t “right” for them “at this time”. Whatever. The point is that you can write shorter material related to your book or your area of expertise and get that material published far and wide on blogs, in newspapers, or in magazines and gradually build your base from there. One successful article might lead to SEVERAL requests for articles, which might lead to a book deal, which might lead to SEVERAL book deals, one of which might result in a movie deal, and before you know it, you’re Stephen King! Geez, that seems awfully easy. Why aren’t more people doing that? Who doesn’t want to be Stephen King?
4. Talk About Your Book. This might sound like a no-brainer and, yet, thousands and thousands of writers do not talk about their books! Maybe they want to seem humble. That’s all well and good, but it won’t sell books and that should ultimately be the point of all this, right? Now, I’m not just talking about running up to people on the street and assaulting them with your life story and how long it took you to compose this riveting work of art. I’m talking about volunteering to give talks, teach classes, offer workshops, and offering up your experiences when and where you can. Get involved with your local library or writing center and become a visible personality in your city or region. Visibility is key here, folks. Visibility is like a radiant glow that constantly expands the more you work at it. If you want to change from a firefly into a phoenix, you have start burning brighter. At the end of the day, this is the most important morsel of advice I can give you.
Caveat: Beware of BAD visibility. Just so I don’t have someone tell me later, “I did everything you said! I painted the title of my book on my chest and ran naked through Times Square until a grizzled police officer who was two days away from retirement finally chased me down and TASERed me!” Beware of bad visibility, folks. Once you have made yourself too obnoxious or just generally disliked it, it can be really hard to shake that image. This is especially true in the realm of agencies. Once you have made yourself a pest or a diva in the eyes of the literary representation community, you might be surprised by how well they remember you and how deeply they hold a grudge. That is why my mantra is always to be professional and courteous to agents, despite the wealth of frustrations they may cause. You may keep a voodoo doll under your pillow in the likeness of some detestable agent out there, but you can’t forfeit your own reputation by becoming a nuisance. Also, don’t associate yourself with Internet garbage or scams. Always try to increase your visibility through reputable websites and publications and associate yourself with respectable types and you’ll be fine. Really, these tips apply to life in general. Let’s not overthink this.