July 30, 2019
A while back I sent out a one-question survey. Writers could submit any one question about author platform and marketing. I learned a ton from reading all the questions that were submitted, but there were definitely some common themes. Today, we’re diving into the most common questions writers have as they start building their platform.
So, here we go:
"What is the number one marketing tool that helped you sell more books?"
A: It wouldn't be fair to say just one thing worked all on its own. I know that's not what you want to hear, but I don't want to mislead you into thinking there is one magic solution. However, if I had a time machine, I would tell you to go back in time, and start your email list. Because it’s the most valuable thing you can do for your fans and for yourself as a writer. If I had a time machine that’s what I would do (as well as buy Apple stock).
I so wish I'd started my email list back before I first got published. Please, please, don’t make the mistake I made! Do it as you start building your author platform.
Takeaway: Start building your email list now. It's where you need to start building your author platform.
Imagine this: you’ve built your entire platform on YouTube. Google decides, “We are so over YouTube. Let’s take it down.”
Or imagine this: Your website crashes, but you’re a Facebook fiend and have a bazillion Likes. So you can contact everyone there, let them know your site is down, but your new book is for sale today! However, Mr. Zuckerberg decided at the morning meeting to monetize Likes. Not only would you have to pay Mr. Z, emptying your bank account in the process, you might decide to (GASP!) leave Facebook. Now how are you going to contact your community of Likers in that case? If you had a mailing list, you’d be good to go. Of course you’d have a backup, so you could contact them if anything happened to your site in the future.
Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about sending from your yahoo.com email––you need a service such as AWeber or MailChimp. But there are many other services to choose from, too.
The point is, an email list gives you the ability to communicate directly with your followers. You don’t have to rely on some secret algorithm to connect with your people. For example, if your site goes down, you can let your community know. Of course, on the fun side, you can let them know about book release dates, author visits, and book cover reveals, too. Your email list allows you to reach your audience and they can reply to you. You’re creating a know, like, and trust situation, which helps build a community—your community.
When your book hits, you’ll have provided so much great content and support, they’ll want to support you in return. You will also have a place from which to draw your launch team when it’s time to set that up. I never could’ve launched my book at #1 on Amazon if it weren’t for the incredible people on my list. I was able to reach them and communicate with them because of my mailing list.
“What one thing did you do each day to stay active in your platform?"
A: I stay connected. I practice LOTS of reciprocity, retweeting others, sharing their posts, offering free advice. I enjoy it, but it has broadened my platform like crazy, too! My email list hears from me every week with a newsletter and if I have a course or special announcement, I’ll send a note in between that. I share on Twitter, and I create videos that help others, and that has broadened my reach the most, since my YouTube channel now has over 178,000 views. And those videos have a long life. I’m getting new views on videos I created years ago. Talk about a good return on investment.
"How often should I be updating my blog?”
A: Update it as much as you want, understanding that you should enjoy doing it. If you hate it, you'll stop.
You don't have to update it every day. Once or twice a week is fine but do it on the same day every week because people will come to expect it.
Consistency is the key!
No matter how often you post, make it count: learn about keywords so search engines will find you. Optimize your site, and make sure your blog is on your own self-hosted Wordpress site so you have the flexibility to make it your own branded site (for example: katiedavis.com instead of blogspot.katiedavis.com).
Embed a Twitter and/or Facebook widget (as long as what you're posting there is pertinent to what you're posting on your site), so when you post on your blog it automatically goes out on your social media streams.
And remember, you can have guest posts which takes the burden off your own posting schedule!
“What should I put on blog if I don’t have a book out?”
It’s easy to think that since you don’t have a book coming out in the near future that you have nothing to blog about, but that’s not true. This is the perfect time to start building your relationship with your audience. And, since you’re not just blogging about how to buy your book, people will be interested in getting to know you. There are lots of things pre-published authors can post:
- Book recommendations (or reviews) – One of the best things you can do for your writing is to read, read, read. Why not turn that reading into Fave Books list or Must Reads for your blog? Or post your top takeaways from the books you’re reading. Check out the site of kidlit writer Darshana Khiani who wrote reviews before she got published (her first book comes out next year).
- Interviews – Don’t feel like you have the expertise to offer advice on your blog? Talk to the people who do and feature them on your site. Check out the websites of Vivian Kirkfield and Susanna Leonard Hill both of whom started successful blog series before they were published. Bonus: You’re not only learning about different aspects of the industry, you’re making connections within the industry.
- Research – Whether you’re doing research for your latest manuscript or research on agents and editors, share your process and/or your findings with your audience on your blog. If you share fascinating facts about the research for your book, you’re giving a de facto sneak peek of your book and getting people interested in the subject matter. Bonus: You’re building yourself into a subject matter expert.
- Your Writing Process – Face it, we’re all looking for ways to improve our writing and our writing habits. Talk about the processes that are working for you or even about the struggles you have and how you’re working to fix them. (See the next point for more insight on this one.)
“Should I share my book process with my audience before I have a contract or wait until the manuscript is sold and see what the publisher prefers? Should I discuss it with my agent first?”
A: It depends on what you mean by "book process," and this goes to self-published, pre-published, and oft-published writers––but I'll get to that in a sec.
If you have an agent, I would recommend you absolutely discuss your promotion strategies with them first. I view my agent as my partner in my book business and wouldn't want to step on her toes or bungle any plans she may have. She also knows things I don't. Therefore I'd absolutely consult with yours before making any major decisions on a project you're both working on.
That said, when you say "book process," if you're referring to how you write, research, or struggle, that is a fabulous thing to share, and that's your own decision, and you don't need to ask anyone's permission.
If you're self-publishing, or if your agent/publisher is cool with it, sharing your first chapter, or ugly first drafts could get your readers hooked. Consider comparing those ugly first drafts with the gorgeous final drafts.
I also see nothing but positives about sharing secrets. There is enough love and good stuff to go around. The more you give the more you get.
Reciprocity rocks: think with abundance!
If you haven’t seen the four-part series from Kristin J. Dawson on defining your author brand, be sure to read that here. It will give you even more ideas about what to include on your blog and social media posts.