I hope you enjoyed (and learned from) yesterday’s blog post about building your platform. Some of you will decide that this advice doesn’t apply to you and will disregard it. Others will produce their books still not understanding the concept of “platform.” A bunch of you will wake up one day with a book to promote and wonder how in the heck you’re going to entice consumers to buy it.
Like many authors starting out, you may trust that your book will sell simply because it has been published. All you have to do is get it into bookstores where readers shop; where it will be noticed, purchased and read. That’s what I expected when my first book was published in 1978. There was no mention of author promotion or platform in my first publishing contract. However, I was asked for any and all contacts I had that might lead to promotional opportunities. The staff at the publishing company took it from there.
When I decided to self-publish my next book (in 1983)—a substantial local history that I produced through my own publishing company—I also took on all of the promotional responsibility. But it was fairly simple. Despite the fact that the local newspaper refused to run an article about the book because (unbeknownst to me), they were getting ready to publish their own local history book, sales for my book were quite brisk. I promoted this book by getting coverage in the county and many other regional newspapers, speaking to various groups throughout the area, using my extensive mailing list and making the book available through many independent bookstores and museum gift shops throughout the county and beyond.
This was before the Internet, so I did a lot of library research to locate libraries and museums nationwide through which I promoted this book—also considered an excellent genealogy tool.
My platform for the local history book was the fact that I was a published author, a career writer and that I was a fifth generation resident of this community.
While some things were easier then—there was MUCH less competition, for example—today’s authors certainly have some advantages that we didn’t have when I was starting out. You have many people who can advise you with regard to publishing and promotion. You have people like me who have kept their fingers on the pulse of the industry for many years and who are willing to share benefit of our expertise. Why do we reach out like this—eager to guide fledgling authors?
I can only answer for myself. As the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) for many years and now the executive director, and as a frequent presenter/speaker at various writing/publishing conferences, I meet many, many authors. Numbers of them have come into the publishing arena ill-prepared and they fail. I spend a lot of time and money traveling all over to speak, writing a daily blog, writing articles for numerous publications, developing SPAWN’s Market Update newsletter, responding to questions via email and so forth. Most of my books for authors were inspired by the authors that I meet. I’ve written and published them in an attempt to address your publishing/book promotion issues. In order to sustain myself, I have also created a business around my expertise.
I offer online courses on 6 publishing-related topics. I work as a private consultant in the areas of editing, writing a book proposal, publishing and promotion. And I also hire out as an editor to help authors shape their manuscripts into something more publishable.
As you have probably learned, there are countless folks lined up eager to help you with your project for a fee. I’m going out on a limb when I say that most of them are legit—but I have known authors to have encounters with some Johnny-come-latelys who jumped on the bandwagon simply because they see this field as a great opportunity in which to make some quick money. While we all admire people who can establish businesses to meet a need, beware of those who’ve come into the publishing arena without the appropriate experience or credentials.
I think I promised to talk about the post-publication platform today. But I got carried away in another direction. I hope that you get something out of this post—it just spilled out this morning as if it had to be written. Tomorrow, unless the word gremlins interfere again, I will present a piece featuring how to build the post-publication platform.