Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Putting on Our Platform Shoes
I am the official "welcoming committee" for FaithWriters.com. Every day I send a welcome email to new members. Many of those are brand new writers who ask me what advice I would give to them as they begin their writing journey. My answer every time? Besides "apply the butt glue and write," I tell them to start building their platform now.
So I've been working on my own platform for a long time. Years. And I won't lie - it's been A LOT of work. It's taken gazillions of hours and has zapped tons of my energy. Now that I have a book contract, has all of that hard work paid off? Let's just say that I don't regret a minute of it. I am 100% convinced it's been worth it. In fact, it may be part of the reason Oak Tara Publishing decided to take a chance on me.
Of course, I'm only just beginning. Published authors will tell you that once you're contracted, the real work begins. Now you don't just want people to know your name, you want them to buy your book. So the efforts need to be doubled...trippled...quadrupled... by the way, here's something pretty cool. Hartline Literary Agency has recently hired a publicity rep. to assist newly agented and contracted authors with platform and marketing. This kind of help is priceless and in my opinion is something every literary agency should consider.
Anyway, the next couple/few blog posts will focus on a few things I've done over the years to get my name out there and connect with readers (aka: potential book buyers). I am by no means an expert, but maybe they'll give you some ideas of your own. And please. If you have advice or suggestions, feel free to share them here.
Start a blog. More than simply start a random blog, you need to find a niche - something that defines you and your blog's purpose. Many authors have blogs with ecclectic information - book reviews, interviews, and personal writing news, etc. This is actually what my own blog contains. The main thing is to make it relatable. Write about things people want to know about. Something that keeps them coming back. My critique partner, Susan Miura, has a blog called Taste the World. With a love for travel, food, and photography, her blog focuses on highlighting different countries, states, regions, and includes recipes and other fun stuff relating to travel. My friend, Diane Loew, is a farmer's wife who blogs about her crazy farm life at http://www.randomramblingsof.com. She incorporated lots of farming aspects into her book, 101 Ways to Celebrate the Ordinary.
Better yet, if you regularly write about a specific topic or theme, consider starting a blog to correspond with that. If you write stories about animals, create a blog for animal lovers. Do you write books with references to old movies or TV shows? Why not blog your movie and television reviews? Write about something that will attract the type of readers who will be interested in buying your books.
A note about blogging...you must be consistent. I blogged three times (or more) per week for a couple of years. Yes, it seems like a big commitment. Correction: It is a big commitment. But not only do readers like fresh material, the more you blog, the quicker you come up in search engines. I'm not gonna act like I know all about the technical stuff, because I totally don't. But I do know that the more I blog, the more hits I get. And that's all I need to know.
A note about blog followers...it may take a long time to build your readership. Blogging is not for the chronically impatient. There are plenty of ways to increase readership, but that's for another post. For now, just bite the bullet and start a blog. It may be scary, but after a month, you'll be a pro. You probably won't see those followers jump a dozen overnight, but if you create it and maintain it, they will come.
Create a Website. You'd do well to create a website using your own name (www.lyndaschab.com). This way, when people search for you, they'll easily find you. Your site doesn't need to be designed by a professional (although once published, it's a good idea). There are free and very cheap sites to get you started. I used Homestead for a long time, which suited its purpose, but recently hired Patty Wysong to set up my "website" to match my blog. My website is actually a blogger site, but is designed to look like a website. Patty is great to work with and her services are very reasonable. I encourage you to check out her site.
Anyway, a website should simply contain information about you. Who you are, what you do (or write) and how people can connect with you.
So that's it for today. Look for a few more easy ways to build your platform in the weeks ahead.