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Thursday, March 19, 2009

23 Planks to Build Your Writer’s Platform

If you want people to listen, you have to have a platform to speak from, and that is excellence in what you do.William Pollard

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

What Is a Writer's Platform?

An author platform is—

  • You—who you are
  • Your expertise and credibility
  • Your reputation and public visibility
  • Your publishing and speaking resume
  • What makes you and your expertise unique

What Does It Do?

When a publisher offers you a book contract, the deal includes a complete package—the book, you and your platform. Your platform convinces others that you are the best choice for a speaking event, a keynote address, a consulting gig, or a book contract. It assures others that you are skilled, enthusiastic, and experienced in promoting yourself in the national or international marketplace. Your writing platform—

  • Creates buzz for book sales
  • Produces a product or service to sell
  • Communicates your expertise to others
  • Promotes your book to your target audience
  • Endorses you, whether you are a writer or a speaker

Where Do I Start?

It's not all about you.

What?

Isn't my platform about me?

If it's all about you and what others can do for you, your audience will catch on fast to your motives.

Your platform begins with your God-given passion, understanding how God gifted you, and using your writing and speaking to make a difference in the lives of others. Begin by asking,

  • Who is my audience?
  • What is my distinct message, specialty, or niche?
  • How can I serve my audience?
  • What information am I offering to benefit my target audience? Or, am I just nagging them to buy what I'm selling?
  • How can I serve my audience?
  • What is my most important heart motivation? Communicating values? Making money?
  • Am I presenting myself as a caring professional or am I bragging about what I've achieved?

Read Rob Eager's sage advice "Are You a Selfish Writer or Speaker?" Annie Jennings offers questions to ask yourself when building your platform.

What Planks Support an Author Platform?

To read how-to articles, see examples and log on to websites mentioned, click on the links below.

Business Card

Design your business card, which may include the following: recent photo, real name not pen name, title, tagline, writing genre, address, fax or phone numbers least likely to change, email address, blog URL, website URL, name of your ezine. Some author business cards only communicate contact details. Others are mini-promotional brochures, listing the range of services provided. Carry your cards along with tape and thumbtacks to post in coffee shops or on library notice boards. Exchange cards at writer's gatherings and conferences. Collect business cards from potential readers to add to your marketing database. Not a designer? Try Vista Prints designs. Please note that their FREE business cards include postage, so they're not exactly "free."

Website

What are the elements of a great author website? Marketing guru, Rob Eager provides a list of the essential elements. When I wrote the copy for the website I plan to launch, I copied and pasted each page of each of Rob's clients' websites into separate documents related to each webpage. Then I evaluated the format, especially the value statements, to help me write my copy. Check out his clients' websites.

Endorsements

Consider endorsements from celebrities, well-known names or professionals, experts in a field that supports your writing topic, or authors with similar writing topics. Author and speaker Kathy Pride provides practical insights in her article "Securing Endorsements." Keep your request letter short. Ask the endorser to sign a formal release or provide written permission that doesn't have a time limit to use their name and endorsement in all of your marketing efforts. Ask how they want to be identified. Obtain a jpeg or tiff of their photo. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the endorser to return his endorsement to you. After you receive an endorsement, send a thank you. On the endorsements page of your website, copy the best reviews from Amazon.com reviews and place them under the title "What Others Are Saying on Amazon.com."

Media Kit

Develop a media kit which includes: a one-page press release bulleting strong hooks for the book's contents, a one-sheet, jpeg of a recent professional photo, jpeg of your book cover, videos of your media clips, links or PDF's of published articles on your topic, two 500-750 word articles that can be reprinted without charge based on your book or key topic, a sheet listing interview questions & answers to be used by interviewers. Here's info on a one-sheet for fiction writers. These one-sheet examples for nonfiction writers also promote your speaking to event organizers: Shannon Ethridge, Rudy Wilson Galdonik, T. Suzanne Eller, and Dr. Jada Daves.

Press Release

Stay abreast of relevant news stories. Beth Vogt's press release "Will a Late-in-life Mom be American's Next Vice President?" garnered a number of radio interviews. Every press release is based on a cookie cutter format. Keep the word count to 400–500 words max. Write a press release related to your expertise and the news event or a holiday. Start with your local news outlets. Develop an email and fax list. Send out press releases via email, fax or distribution sites such i-Newswire, Free Press Release, PR Newswire, PRWeb, Business Wire, Fast Pitch Networking, PR Compass, Free Press Release, PR Leap, 24/7 Press Release, PR Log, 1888 Press Release, Click Press, Free News Release, PR, PR 9, and Press Base. Create a holiday linked to your book topic. Submit it for publication in Chase's Calendar of Events. Promote your holiday each year with a press release announcing how you and others celebrate the occasion.

Expertise

Does your novel feature an obese child, someone with a disability, or a political topic? Think of creative ways to connect your expertise or book topic to breaking news. When interviewed discuss the hot story and direct them to your website.

Focus Groups/Surveys

Conduct focus groups or conduct surveys to convince publishers that your idea is saleable. Conduct online surveys at SurveyMonkey.

Online Communities

Build your social networking skills on Facebook, MySpace, Squidoo, Twitter, Red Room, Shelfari, Goodreads, Linkedin, and Meetup.com. Post comments on social networks, widely read blogs or online forums in your genre. Post on blogs written by agents, editors or publishing professionals. Add your URL in the comment section. The clickability of the Internet links to your website or blog. Build your Twitter following by tweeting fascinating facts from research for your book.

Blogging

Build an audience through a blog of your own or blog for an established website. Start your blog well in advance of pitching your book. A few bloggers have been discovered by book publishers, but that's not common. Update your blog often. Provide useful, practical information. Contact book review editors or join the blog reviewers for Thomas Nelson and NavPress. Review their books on your blog and also post your review on amazon.com with a link back to your blog or website. When posting comments on similar blogs with your target audience, don't pitch or sell your book. Contribute to the discussion. If appropriate, comment on something in your book that adds to the discussion. Include a link to your blog or website in the comment section. Interview famous authors. Litfuse Publicity and The Blog Tour Spot offer opportunities to participate in the blog book tours of other authors. Set up Google Alerts related to your topic to alert you when others blog about it. After your book is published setup Google Alerts with your name, book title, competitor's names, competitive or complimentary book titles so you can participate in online conversations. Create contests on your blog to win prizes. Develop a list of all the top bloggers for your niche. Interview bloggers on your blog and ask them to do a Q&A with you on their blogs.

Newsletter/Ezine

Create an ezine or email newsletter to connect with those interested in your topic. Distribute it to your regular subscriber email list. Or write a column or articles for another newsletter that targets your audience.

Media

Pitch your expertise or book topic to radio and Internet talk shows and television talk and news shows. Connect your topic or expertise to breaking news. There are 10,000 radio talk shows that need interviews. Radio-locator, a radio station search engine, links to over 10,000 radio station web pages and over 2500 audio streams from radio stations in the U.S. and around the world. Christian Radio.com links to individual radio and internet stations, radio shows and networks. Check the library reference section for Bacon's Media Directories to compile a customized media distribution list by publication, market, beat, or other criteria.

  • Bacon's Internet Media Directory includes information on more than 15,000 news sites, including the sites of daily and community newspapers, business, trade, and consumer magazines, online-only news sites, broadcast and cable network, and news service sites.
  • Bacon's Newspaper and Magazine Directory contains information on every daily newspaper in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, all community newspapers in the U.S. and Canada, over 18,000 trade and consumer magazines, newsletters, and journals.
  • Bacon's Radio/TV/Cable Directory contains detailed editorial and contact information on every U.S. and Canadian broadcast outlet – be it a national or regional network, a broadcast or cable station, a network news bureau, program syndicator, or a news, talk, entertainment, or public affairs program.

Speaking

Develop keynote speeches based upon your book or chapters in your book. Join Toastmasters and polish your speaking skills. Speak to small, medium, and large local and civic groups. Scan the calendar of events in local newspapers for groups that are appropriate for your speaking topic. Call the number listed to offer your speaking services. Keep a list of where you spoke, the target audience, and how many people attended. If you're asked to speak at retreats, conferences, seminars, or universities, check with organizer to see if you can sell your books at the event. Ask the event organizer if they will purchase a copy of your book to put in each attendees registration packet.

Podcasts/Videos/Slideshows

Create and post videos on TubeMogel, which posts them to YouTube and the other main video sites. Keep them to ten minutes or less. Janine Turner's "Holding Her Head High" is an excellent example of a video that says it all in 35 seconds. Ask bloggers to post a video or podcast interview. Pitch ideas to podcasts or Internet radio shows. Produce your own Internet, radio, or television show. Create a slide presentation to publish on SlideShare. Post images of your book cover on Flickr, PhotoBucket and other photo gallery websites. Include tags that reflect the book's topic.

Writing

Write an essay or op-ed linked to your book topic. Research five media outlets and the type of news or information they need or want. Pitch a different story idea to each. Contact book review editors across the country to review your new book. Ask if you can review books for them. Include your byline with your "forthcoming" book's title, your URL, ezine, and blog. Write articles on your topic and submit them to the appropriate publications. Submit stories to well-known series such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, A Cup of Comfort,Guideposts "The Incredible Power of Prayer Series," or the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Workshops/Webinars

Create one or more workshops around the theme of your book. Use the Internet as a teaching tool. Set up email courses or run webinars. Collect testimonials to add to your website.

Tip Sheets

Write and distribute a tip sheet, which is a news release offering tips or advice in a bulleted or numbered format. Writer, speaker, and mentor, Sandra Beckwith offers great advice in her articles "How to Write a Tip Sheet" and "Keep Your Nonfiction Book in the News."

Services

Do you offer services related to your writing niche or target audience? Do you conduct conferences or workshops? Advertise your services.

Products

Offer excerpts from your book on your website. Include a summary of your book to encourage the reader to purchase it. Create a special report, an e-book, or other products. Create products in Word or Publisher templates and then publish as a PDF using the free software, Cute PDF. Send out a news release offering a free copy of a report related to a current event.

Database

Collect email addresses on your website. To build your email database, offer a free chapter, a free e-book, free tip sheets, and discounts. Whenever you attend or speak at an event or workshop collect business cards and email addresses. Remember to ask for permission to add people to your email list. Seek out people who read, write, sell, or publish books to add to your database. Use your mailing list to publish a newsletter, ezine or notify people of speaking engagements or book releases.

Amazon.com

Use Amazon.com's promotional tools. Post author videos and special gift offers. Link to your blog. Send free copies of your book to reviewers and ask them to post their positive reviews on Amazon.com reviews. Don't have a book? Post your book reviews on Amazon.com and link back to your blog or website.

Memberships

Join writers and publishers groups. Become known by participating or volunteering. Do you know any associations, societies, or organizations whose audience relates to your writing topic? Would they commit to buy a hundred or more copies of your published book? Include their letter of commitment with your book proposal. Offer to lead workshops for them, do a book signing event, agree to a co-promotion deal, speak at one of their events, or write for their website or magazine.

Bookstores

Get to know managers and buyers for your local chain and independent booksellers. When you do a radio or TV event, direct readers to one store to purchase your book. Sign up for their email or mailing lists. What type of author events do they host in their stores? One author got to know the managers of local bookstores and then expanded her list to include all the bookstores in her state. Every time her publisher released her new book, she sent postcards to every bookstore manager.

Mentoring

Arielle Ford and her publisher, Harper One, jointly hired http://www.GlobalEventSource.com to build her book website and the promo page for The Soulmate Secret: Manifest the Love of Your Life with the Law of Attraction. Some authors hire publicists or marketing professionals to polish their presentations and introduce them to media contacts. Hiring any professional is expensive. Rob Eager of Wildfire Marketing specializes in helping authors define their platform to spread their message. He teaches you the "how" so you can repeat your success without hiring a publicist for each new book release. If you want to sell more books, land more speaking engagements, and grow your platform, check out Rob's WildFire Marketing Mentor Program. Check out all the services Rob provides for authors here.

Online Must-Read Articles

7 Ways to Build Your Author Brand Online, Michael Hyatt, CEO, Thomas Nelson Publishers

10 Tips to Creating a Powerful Platform, Annie Jennings, Publicist

Building a Platform, Chip MacGregor, Agent, MacGregor Literary

Marketing-Platform-Branding, Rachelle Gardner, Agent, WordServe Literary

Recommended Reading

Get Known Before the Book Deal, Christina Katz

The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform: Leveraging the Internet to Sell More Books, Stephanie Chandler

The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, Patricia L. Fry

Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors, Book Publicity through Social Networking, Steve Weber

Write is a Verb, Start Writing, No Excuses, Bill O'Hanlon

9 comments:

amyanne said...

Wow! Great post and info! Thanks for the Litfuse plug! So appreciated. Litfuse Publicity can also help authors create and build a brand/platform! We offer everything from Press Releases to web design to media campaigns and blog tours.
www.litfusegroup.com

Thanks Scott!

Scoti Domeij, Director, Springs Writers said...

Amy, Thank YOU for letting writers know more about your services.

Blog Tour Spot said...

Scoti - Thanks for including Blog Tour Spot in your list. Your post is a wonderful resource for writers!

Sheila Deeth said...

Wow. Lots of great information. Thanks.

Mara Mattia said...

Thank you so much, Scoti! I'm an (old)illustrator/(new)writer, and a bit overwhelmed by all that promotes the actual craft of illustrating and writing!

Scoti Domeij, Director, Springs Writers said...

Mara, Your art style is wonderful from the design to your use of colors. Faces are hard to do and your faces are incredible!

Jean said...

Wow! This contains oodles of useful information. Thanks,

Jean Hall
http://www.jeanmatthewhall.blogspot.com

Easter said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I

would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have

enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Kaylee

http://www.craigslistposter.info

Anonymous said...

Good job Scoti,

Happy New Year, a way to start out with a bang!

Oh, please add my blog to yours,I think the Springs Writers Group that you mentioned earlier. I'm still learning the connections.

Hugs,
Paulette Harris
comeandsitawhile.blogspot.com