In a spirit of cooperation between Christian Writers Downunder and Australasian Christian Writers will be doing a series of cross-posts (posted on both blogs) on the first Monday of each month during 2015 and beyond. The posts will be teasing out different aspects of marketing and promotion, looking at author platforms, social media, blogging, launches, and other ways to bring a book to the attention of our readers.
For many, marketing is a dirty word. After all, didn’t Paul say the love money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:10)? Shouldn’t we leave it up to God to decide who our audience will be? Isn’t it selfish and prideful to want a large audience? Isn’t it enough that our writing touches the hearts of a few individuals, especially if we see our writing as ministry? (Of course, writing may be our career rather than as a calling (or as both). Christians in business, trade or professions have no problem with advertising their services).
As more and more books are published, it is hard to be noticed in the ocean of offerings. I agree that the size of our audience isn’t the most important thing. While Peter had the opportunity to preach to thousands, the Israelite slave girl, as far as we know, had an audience of two (Naaman and his wife). Yet God used her courage and willingness to speak.
So why marketing? Trusting God with the success and impact of our writing doesn’t exclude promoting our work. To use another Biblical reference, let’s not bury our ‘talent’ out of fear (Matthew 25). In today’s world, writing the book and getting it to publishable standard is only part (though a vital part) of what it means to be a writer. Whether a book is traditionally published or indie published, you will be need to be involved in promotion of your book. If the readers who would be moved by your book don’t know about it, how can they read it? To paraphrase Paul again, ‘How can they know if they do not hear?’ (cf Rom 10:14)
Most publishers, agents and pundits suggest that the sooner you begin building connections with people who would be interested in what you write (your platform) the better. And that this is a ongoing process that should start months or years before your book is first launched.
What is an author’s platform?
A platform is the sum total of the connections you have, your social imprint and reputation. A platform makes you visible to your future readers. This could consist of:
- Family, friends, colleagues, etc
- Special interest groups you are involved in that are connected to your topic or genre (e.g. clubs, societies etc)
- Public profile – as a speaker or on mass media or because of your position or credentials (politician, elite sportsperson, celebrity etc).
- Being considered an expert in a field (through media or blogging or youtube etc).
If you write non-fiction, blogging on your subject area, being a media expert or being a prominent speaker all help build a platform.
However, having a platform is also important for fiction writers, thought the nature of the platform is different.
How can you connect with readers (especially if you’re not published yet)?
Think about who you are (primarily) writing for - children, teens or adults; men or women, as well as your genre or area of interest? Consider ways of connecting with these future readers and ways you can make yourself visible/findable.
- Think about your (pen)name – is it unique or common. Have an intriguing tagline or identifiable look.
- Consider having a website as a home base
- Maybe you could write short stories, poems or reviews, and share them with your audience – on your blog, on social media or in magazines and journals. Enter competitions.
- Blog or write on areas of interest to you and your audience that are connected to your books – on your own blog, guest blogs, or media.
- Interact and support other writers, go to conferences and workshops
- Be active on at least one or two forms of social media – eg Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Youtube etc
- Start building an Email subscription list
- Join groups – writers groups but also groups that connect to your books and future readers.
- Pray for guidance about connections or the best use of your time.
Traps to avoid
- Don’t be in a rush, building a genuine platform takes time. Quality is better than quantity.
- Don’t be a pest, don’t make about you all the time. Many pundits suggest limiting direct promotion to 10% of your output (though there maybe be an increase around certain events – like book launches)
- Give your followers something of interest and value to them and encourage interaction
- Be honest and genuine – but avoid venting or bashing - and think carefully about you and your family’s privacy (you don’t need to reveal everything)
- Don’t try to do everything or you will be overwhelmed. Maybe take up one new avenue (e.g. website or Facebook) at a time and make sure you feel comfortable before moving on to the next one.
- Find what works best for you – not everything is going to be a good fit. It’s better to enjoy your involvement and make genuine connections with people.
- Don't just take, support other writers
- Don't be inpatient or discouraged, remember, it takes time.
What things have worked for you in building an audience or platform? What things didn’t work so well? If the idea of having a platform is new to you, do you have any questions you would loved answered?
Here are some links if you want to learn a bit more about platforms:
Jane Friedman ‘A Definition of Author Platform’ https://janefriedman.com/author-platform-definition/
Dan Blank ‘The Dirty Secret of Author Platform’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-blank/author-platforms_b_2900416.html
Joel Friedlander ‘Author Platform: What are you waiting for?’ http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/author-platform-what-are-you-waiting-for/
Jeanette O’Hagan Readers Welcome http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/readers-welcome.html
On March 7, Iola Goulton will be talking to about author websites. Hoping you enjoy and join in the discussion.
This post was also published on Australasian Christian Writers 1 February 2016
Images: copyright Jeanette O'Hagan 2016
Jeanette O’Hagan enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl.
Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.