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Archive for the ‘Creating a Platform’ Category

You’ve likely heard it, that you must build your platform. While a lot of us know what that is, not everyone does. In its simplest description, your platform is your (mainly digital now) imprint on the world. Don’t think of it as your ‘popularity points’. It is not you (and not literally, I hope) standing there waving your arms and shouting for attention. What it is, is what kind of a following you have.

 

Some will argue a platform simply is, but really it could also be argued that it takes multiple forms. Like weaving story threads together, all of these things and more come together to build your author platform. Each part of your author platform gives and takes support from each other.

 

When a potential agent or publisher looks at you, your platform is the likelihood of your book selling in the mass quantities that make it worth their while.

 

Your digital platform is your presence online and how likely new and existing readers are to come across your name or go out of their way to follow you. It is everything from your Facebook author page, Twitter, and Instagram, to your Amazon author page, Goodreads, your name appearing in Google searches, and your blog posts and website. Every like, share, and comment online is building your author brand.

 

Your product platform is the work itself that you do, your writing regardless of its form, or whatever services you are offering. This includes public speaking engagements.

 

Your professional platform is your level of professionalism and the quality of your work you put out there, and that doesn’t just mean your writing, editing, and book cover or the services you provide, although a high level of professionalism in those areas is a necessity. It is also the level of professionalism you show at every stage and in every face. It is how professional you come across online, in person, letters, socially, and, yes, in your actual work. This is also memberships in organizations.

 

Building a platform involves creating your author brand. It is what people think of you. Your contacts: who they are and how many. It is you connecting with your audience, both existing and building it larger.

 

Everything is an opportunity to build your brand and platform. If you are doing the circuit of craft markets and genre events (ie poetry slams, SciFi, fantasy, and other genre conventions … the list is endless), use every chance you have to schmooze. Meet people, talk business, be sociable and friendly, mention what you do, make connections both professionally and with your potential fan base. Have a stack of business cards with your social media author links that you can hand out to potential peers and fans so they can connect with and follow you. You can get cards made up for a very reasonable price with Vistaprint (they constantly have coupon codes for deals!) and other print on demand business product printers.

 

Hint: When you are making your own business cards, remember to increase the brightness and contrast if there is a picture. Like book covers, it will print darker than it shows on your computer screen.

 

 

Think before you post. One wrong rant can derail your reputation as a writer and a person. In social media groups and on your professional pages be courteous, kind, and respectful. The impression you give when you communicate in social media is your online brand.

 

 

 

Think about the ways you can build your author platform (this list is not inclusive of every means):

  • Figure out your target audience and cater to them
  • Blog
  • Build an email list and send out newsletters (but don’t SPAM them!)
  • Social networking / social media
  • Write articles or columns
  • Do guest contributions to others’ blogs and websites
  • Public speaking appearances and readings
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • Interviews
  • Podcasts
  • Visit book clubs
  • Find places to do book signings (craft markets, conventions, libraries, stores, etc)
  • Schmooze and hand out your social media links business cards
  • Book readings
  • Put out more work. This is probably the most important. Keep working and putting it out there.

 

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Photo by Raphael Rychetsky on Unsplash

As an author one of your jobs is endless self-promotion.

 

I did my first ever book bog tour. I mean a real tour, not one where your publisher sends your book to all of two fellow authors in their stable to review it and calls it a tour (yeah, this did happen). This, despite having my first short story published in an in-print anthology in 2009. (I’m not counting the multiple E-zine flash fiction and short stories), and my first book published in 2014 by that same Indy publisher, followed by another. (Wow, it feels so much longer ago than that!) And, I’ve been writing for a lot longer than that.

 

It was kind of terrifying. Okay, a lot terrifying. 62 book bloggers over 30 days received complementary copies of my 4-book series to blog and/or review at their discretion.

 

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

 

To add to the, ‘will they hate it,’ fear, I’m not entirely a conventional writer. I’m not a follow the traditional rules write to the long established scripted standards kind of author. I don’t conform to the status quo, the norms; the overall expectations of, ‘This is how it has always been done, so this is how you have to do it,’ mindset. I don’t obey the, ‘This is the currently popular style/person so you must do it too.’ Literary art, to me, is not meant to be kept in a tidy box of expectations.  (And, those expectations are expanding with the volume of Indy and self-pubbed books.)

 

 

 

 

 

Book blog tours is only one of the ways to try to get the attention of the readers at large in the hopes they will be interested enough to buy your books.

It is important to note here that people who manage book blog tours do not generally do it purely out of the generosity and kindness of their own hearts. Book blog touring is a paid service. While the bloggers and book reviewers are not paid (their only compensation is the free book), the tour manager will charge you a fee, and the rates will vary.

 

 

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

My book blog tour was a fail and I’ll tell you why. Predominantly, in going through each blog or Facebook page after their scheduled posting date, almost every one was like skimming through those Facebook groups of endless self-promotion. You know the ones, where countless authors hopeful and desperate seeming plug themselves in a never-ending stream of self-promotion posts that nobody looks at. Few of the authors posting on these groups take the time to scroll through the other advertisements, fewer still with the goal of finding something to buy. I doubt anyone else even looks at them.

 

 

The other problem was the genre. You need to sing to your target audience. Can you imagine Alice Cooper or Ozzie Osborn stepping on to the stage and belting out lyrics to a crowd who bought tickets to Michael Bublé or Beyoncé? As Alice would croon, “Welcome to my nightmare…”

 

Photo by Katie Montgomery on Unsplash

The blogs that signed up for the tour were mostly populated by streams of “book tour” advertisements for romance. Yes, romance. I write dark fiction; thrillers, dark mystery, psychological thrillers, drama with dark twists, not so cozy mystery with an underlay of you guessed it – darkness. I have not to date tried writing a dark romance. Frankly, I don’t think I could write a romance. Romance and dark fiction tend to appeal to very different kinds of readers.

 

I did get some positive comments on my book covers, even a few on the books’ write-ups. And I got one review so far from the 62 blogs. Do I expect to see any sales from it? It’s possible. Just because there was no uptick in sales during the 30-day tour, doesn’t mean no one who saw or participated will buy. Some buy later. I don’t think it’s likely, though; romance and thriller being unlikely crossover genres.

 

The comments were also generally from the bloggers themselves posting on the blog tour operator’s blog. They already got complimentary copies, so they aren’t going to buy the books. If a book farts in the woods and nobody hears it, will they buy it? There seemed to be little, if any, traffic outside those bloggers to any of the blogs.

 

 

Photo by Dorian Hurst on Unsplash

Can a book blog tour be successful?  Yes. The question is, ‘How?’ It’s about following basic rules of marketing.

 

Find your audience. If these were blogs featuring thrillers, horrors, suspense, mystery, and other related genres, odds of sales would have been driven up exponentially, assuming anyone reads the blogs.

 

Traffic is necessary. I suspect blogs that feel like Facebook groups of endless self-promotion ads with nothing else to offer probably get just as much meaningful traffic: little to none. You need blogs that pull traffic in, that have meat and potatoes and lactose free/gluten free/vegan-loving poutine (if such a thing exists). What you need are blogs the people who might read your book are interested in what they have on the blog menu.

 

 

Incentives are helpful. People love to feel like they got a deal. Thus, the giveaway. I gave away a couple of small Amazon gift cards and a few free copies of an eBook I was not trying to drive sales on in the book tour. If it was a short tour, I might have offered a discounted sale on the books.

 

Be inclusive and try to make friends. You want people to want to buy your book, and to make it as easy for them to do it as you can. Remember, everyone who might buy is your friend.

 

Personal touch is important. Self-promotion is not just about immediate book sales. It is also about building your author platform and growing your hoard of followers, some of whom will buy your books – eventually. More followers can be gained by being personable and engaging with them than standing behind a smokescreen plugging ads at them.

 

Be seen.  If nobody knows you exist, you don’t, right? Kind of like that Schrödinger-styled tree that may or may not have made a sound when it fell in the forest. Your marketing needs to hit as many eyes as you can, but not literally. This is not A Christmas Story or the Addams Family.

 

 

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

How the book blog tour works is that the tour operator puts out a call for bloggers to sign up. Once the signups are complete, the bloggers are scheduled to blog on certain dates. It could be a blog, Facebook blog page, or other online site.  The bloggers get a complimentary copy of your eBook(s).

 

You fill out an author Q&A interview and/or write up some short guest blog posts to be shared with the bloggers.

 

On their designated day, the blogger puts up the blog post. It could be a cut and paste of the book tour info (all but one did this on my tour), they could post the relevant information and pictures with their own personal narrative introducing it, or they can post a book review.

 

Ideally, you want each blog post to be unique. Pre-written author interview Q&As or guest posts from you are key here. So is regular active participation from the bloggers, rather than blogs filled with empty cut and paste advertisements.

 

You visit each blog and make comments thanking the blogger and responding to any comments left by anyone else. Again, be personable and try to make friends.

 

Sit back and hope for sales, and don’t forget to tip your waiter/waitress.

 

 

 

Other ways to self-promote your self and books include, but are not limited to:

– Book and/or author website/blog is discoverable on internet search engines

– Social media. Be social online and blog.

– Newsletter/email subscriptions (ie Mailchimp).

– Category choices and keywords for your book sales listings and Google searches.

– First appearances. Your cover needs to make them want to pick it up.

– Book promotion. Pay for some outside promotion help.

– Give it away FREE! Allow free download of the first 10%-20%, free short/flash fiction.

– Book events. Set up author signing tables and schmooze, sell, and sign.

– Have some swag. Give away business cards and bookmarks.

– Submit to eZines, magazines, and anthologies featuring short stories and flash fiction.

– Get mentioned in local newspapers and newsletters.

 

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By request, I’m talking today about Wattpad. Let’s talk about a thing called Wattpad. Wattpad was launched in December 2006, so it’s a not-new social media platform. For comparison, Facebook was launched in February 2004.

What the heck is Wattpad?

Wikipedia defines Wattpad as: “… an Internet community for readers and writers to publish new user-generated stories in different genres, including classics, general fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fan-fiction, spiritual, humor, and teen fiction. It aims to create social communities around stories for both amateur and established writers.”

Wattpad calls itself, “The world’s most-loved social storytelling platform. Wattpad connects a global community of 80 million readers and writers through the power of story.”

 

The long and short of it is that Wattpad is another means to an end for writers: building a fan following. You create a profile and publish your stories, long or short, series snippets or all at once, and hope people read them, like them, and follow you.

This means you are self-publishing those stories. Wattpad, like Smashwords, Amazon KDP, and others, lets you put your story in front of readers yourself, without the agent or publisher. The big difference here is that Wattpad does not give you the option of charging readers to download your stories. You are putting them up for free.

However, you can conceivably make money from publishing on Wattpad. How? Similar to getting paid by publishing vlogs (video blogs) on Utube. It’s about ad revenue. You monetize your Wattpad account by allowing ads to be inserted between your chapters, and if you have enough followers/readers/ad clicks, then you get paid ad revenue.

Disclaimer: Just to be clear here, once you publish on Wattpad, that story is published for all intents and purposes as far as any publisher or agent is concerned. So, if the submission guideline says, “No reprints”, your Wattpad story is off the table.

So, why the heck do you want to give away your blood, sweat, tears, and pieces of your very soul hard worked writing? Maybe you don’t, and that’s okay. If you do want to, that’s okay too.

 

It’s about marketing yourself. Being a writer means seeking ways to market yourself and that means followers on social media platforms.

Getting a following on Wattpad can be just as hard as building that following on any other media platform. People have to not just half-notice you exist, they have to be interested enough to click that little follow/like button. More, they have to be interested enough to really follow you and read what you have to say, and to go that step further and comment on your story and share and recommend it to other Wattpad users.

Talking to some fans of Wattpad, I am told the best way to develop a following is to invest yourself in them. You need to follow, like, and comment on other people’s stories and in return they may do the same for you. Visit the community section and participate in discussions. Like any media platform, the more likes and followers, the more visible you become to potential new followers.

 

Not everyone on Wattpad is a writer. There is a subset of people who are just there to read stories. But, there still is a lot of writers on Wattpad. Wattpad fans also tell me that the largest demographic on Wattpad are young readers. That’s right writers of middle grade, teen, and ya fiction, these are your people.

They are also often young fledgling writers just beginning to flex their writing wings. This would be why (I’m told) there are a very large number of poorly written stories on Wattpad that those magical gems of great stories excellently written are hidden among.

 

Wattpad is not just for the young. Older genre writers rejoice. Just because your writing is not middle grade/teen/ya, does not mean you can’t carve out your space on Wattpad. There are plenty of writers and readers of all genres and ages.

 

The beauty of Wattpad is the opportunity to be discovered. Those rarities, the writers whose stories are smash hits rising to the top of the Wattpad pile, can and have been ‘discovered’, netting them sweet publishing deals.

 

There is also a thing called the Wattys (The Watty Award). This is Wattpads own literary awards.

“The Watty Awards are Wattpad’s annual celebration of the electrifying, visionary, diverse voices that choose to share their stories on Wattpad every year. Across a decade of Wattys, we’ve celebrated the journey millions of Wattpad writers undertake to bring their stories from their dreams and into the lives of readers around the world.”

Watty Award winners get:

  • A winners’ digital kit to share your accomplishment with the world
  • Promotion on the Wattys profile on Wattpad, and other official Wattpad channels, which may include (but are not limited to) Wattpad’s official social media pages, newsletters, and other communications
  • A Wattys winner certificate signed by Wattpad co-founder and CEO Allen Lau
  • A limited-edition Wattys badge for your story cover
  • White-glove treatment from our Content and Creator Development team, including Wattpad Best Practices and Insider Tips and Tricks and priority consideration by Wattpad Studios for your story to be shown to entertainment and publishing partners
  • Consideration for Wattpad Paid Stories, our monetization program where writers earn money directly on Wattpad

 

 

 

Wattpad Links:

 

How do I Create an (Wattpad) Account

How to Publish a Story on Wattpad

Statistics and Demographics – Wattpad

The 2019 Watty Awards – Wattpad

The Wattys | Wattpad Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia

Understanding Writer Analytics – Help Center

 

 

Blogs about Wattpad Links:

 

10 Years of The Wattys — 2019 Awards offer fast track to Wattpad Paid Stories

How I Got Noticed on Wattpad (and Won the Wattys)

Wattpad’s Dark Side! – BookPromotion.com

6 Things Every Author Needs To Know About Wattpad

 

 

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