My last blog post talked about making sure that you present a united front between you and your book – meaning that your platform and promo plan is consistent with the content of your book. It’s hard to make lemonade with a book about the joys of gardening if the author’s platform is that of a blood researcher, and his promo plan is to give talks to his co-workers at the hospital.
If that isn’t hard enough, I run into many cases where authors wait too long to establish their platform in the belief they can work on that after they secure a book deal. So instead of seeing a book proposal that says, “I have done/am doing…”, I see “I’m gonna…”
Après le Book Deal – Coming From Behind
First thing I gotta ask is, what’s holding you back? It takes a long time to establish a platform. If you wait for that book deal to get cracking, your book will be out long before you barely hit your stride. And the terrain is completely different because you’re constantly playing catch up. The book is out and needs to sell, yet you’re not known by many people, so everyone has to work a lot harder to propel your book out there.
The pressure is on, and you’re worried about making sales. It’s forced. What’s worse is that you’re may be facing a lot of rejection from those whom you’d hoped would interview you, book you for a speaking gig, accept your magazine article, or host your book signing. That’s a lot of pressure, and it’s all because you’re coming from behind.
Avant le Book Deal
#1 thing I see in query letters and book proposals: “I’m going to start a blog, get a FB page, start tweeting.”
Why haven’t you started working on establishing yourself before going for the book deal? If you planned on having a blog, then why didn’t you establish it eons ago? I know of a number of authors who got nice book deals based on the fact that their long-standing blogs were wildly popular. Editors knew these folks had a built-in target audience.
One blog that comes to mind is The Underwear Drawer. I’ve been reading Michele Au’s blog for years because I adore all things medical (and I write medical fiction). I used to look forward to her ScutMonkey comics, which were based when she was a resident. I used to scream with laughter at her unique analysis of residency and all the scut jobs doctors and nurses foisted upon her. Michele’s blog became insanely popular, so it was no surprise when she announced her book deal for THIS WON’T HURT A BIT.
I can’t help but wonder if Michelle would have been as attractive a target to her publisher had she not had a very well-established, active blog. After all, there are a ton of doctor memoirs already crowding the marketplace.
So you see that I’m gonna means nothing because It. Takes. Time. Lots and lots of time to become established.
Don’t wait for that book deal to begin establishing yourself because you’re already too late.
Let’s get back to my make-believe knitting friend from my previous blog post. She’s written a manuscript about how knitting is a great stress buster, so let’s consider how can she establish a platform.
Let’s say she works in a bank and decides that her fellow workmates would love to hear her talk about knitting as a great stress reliever because she knows banking is stressful. I went through college working as a teller, and it was long hours, crap pay, angry grumpy patrons…but I digress.
So she’s trying to create a target audience with her fellow workmates – possibly a tough road to hoe. But let’s say her little talk to her workmates is a rousing success because she, surprisingly enough, discovered she’s a hambone and loves talking to audiences. She’s put together a thoughtful and entertaining talk that engages both men and women…who all believed they have ten thumbs.
Let’s say she’s so successful that she ends up traveling to other bank branches after hours and teaches a rousing class that she’s titled Smokin’ Hot Knitting Needles. Let’s say word travels (as it usually does), and other groups begin asking if she’d talk to their groups. Over time, this knitter realizes she’s establishing herself among a larger populace of people. And the more talks she gives, the larger her audiences becomes, and the more groups want her to speak to their members as well, until one day, a corporation asks her to give a talk. Word spreads and other corporations want her to come speak as well. Maybe the local newspaper is intrigued and does an article on her in their Local section. And the speaking offers keep coming in.
Guess what? Now she has a platform. Now she has bragging rights that back up the premise of her book – that knitting is a stress buster. Now she has defined her audience (which is basically anyone who lives with stress) and has the ability to reach them. This is what excites editors, their sales teams, and corporate genre book buyers. This is what results in book deals and nice sales.
Don’t Rush the Process
This the one thought I wish authors would tattoo on their foreheads: You’ve worked so hard on your manuscript, doesn’t it make sense to give it and you the very best chances possible?
I realize that rushing the process normally comes from lack of knowledge about the industry, and this is why it’s so important that authors research the biz before they take their first step. The breathless gasp of “I had no idea it would be this hard,” is something I hear all the time. Believe me, it’s so much easier to book an event or interview with an author who has established their platform.
I have an acquaintance who wrote a wonderful manuscript. It’s very unique and caught my attention immediately because I could see women loving this book. But she has zero platform, so I knew that no matter how lovely her book is, it probably wouldn’t sell well because the subject matter is a bit quirky. Luckily, she’s working with a marketing/branding expert who is helping the author focus on establishing her platform, even though the manuscript is complete and ready to query out. Smart, smart, smart. Because of this specialized focus, she’ll be a much more attractive target for agents and editors, thus giving sales teams a lot more meat to work with.
Publishing isn’t a matter of “if you write it, they will come.” They won’t. You won’t even be a blip on a anyone’s radar screen. A lack of platform and thoughtful promo plan is the #1 complaint I hear from authors who self-publish. They had no idea how hard it would be, and they become defeated within a few months of their books coming out. Avoid this. If you value yourself and your writing, don’t be in a rush to get a book out to market before you’re ready to properly promote it. That is what helps get you a solid book deal and sales.
Now go out and rock the world.