Today we’re going to talk about platform for fiction writers. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, a platform isn’t necessary in order to sell your novel to a publisher (although it’s a definite plus). Publishers and agents are still looking for great stories. If you’ve written a wonderful novel, everything else is icing.
However, I think fiction platform is going to become more of an issue simply because of your competition. More and more, we’re going to see first-time novelists who already have a high-traffic blog or other means of attracting readers. So if your novel is equally as good as someone else’s in the slush pile, but you’re the one with a decent platform, you just might have a leg up.
Regardless of whether you start out with a platform, your marketing participation is crucial from the moment your book is contracted. You’ll want to find ways to attract new readers and develop a loyal following of people who will keep buying your books.
When you are initially proposing your book to a publisher, it’s a good idea to include in your proposal all the ways you’ve begun creating your platform, and what ideas you have in the works to continue participating in the marketing of your book.
Rather than give you a bunch of random examples of fiction platform, I asked a few published authors to share what they do in their ongoing efforts to help market their books, i.e. build and maintain their platform. (Many thanks to all of you for participating!)
Robin Lee Hatcher
a I try to make my web site informational and friendly
a I keep a blog that invites a reader to more-or-less share my life (it is not a teaching blog but one more like my tag line of “From her heart to yours”)
a I send out an e-newsletter to subscribers
a I was leading several women’s retreats each year, using lessons learned that became one of my books, but those are on hold as I care for my elderly mother
a Write the very best book I can so that readers want to return for the next one
I try to spin off non-fiction topics from each book and use these for speaking and media interviews. It’s easier to get media and speaking engagements this way. It helps people get to know me and then they’re more willing/interested in taking a leap of faith and trying a novel. A novel is a big commitment of time and they’re not cheap, either. Anything I can do to help establish trust helps.
I’m working with a publicist who has set up a blog tour that is creating some interest, then asked my publisher for an additional 50 books to expand the tour. They were only too willing to provide them. I called my local newspaper, which wrote a nice article on my book. I’ve set up a book signing at our local Christian bookstore, then placed an ad in the newspaper inviting people to “Meet the Author. “I then emailed and called a number of my friends in the area asking them to stop by the bookstore so I’m not sitting there all by myself. I had 1000 promotional postcards printed for my book (since my publisher didn’t plan to), and so far I’ve sent them out to more than 250 people. I’ve had contact from several of those women who are involved in a book club, and they’re interested in using my book for their clubs. I’ve invited myself to the meetings to discuss the book for the ones that are close enough. That’s just a few of the things I’m doing to help promote … but I’m definitely interested in learning more.
a I sent books to influential people.
a I speak (via speakerphone if not in my city) to book clubs.
a I have a strong web presence, along with a blog that gets good traffic. (This has taken years to build).
a I’m on Amazon Connect.
a I’ve established a relationship with CBD.com
a I have business cards that have all my books printed on the back. This is very handy when I run into someone who is interested in what I do.
a I think through issues that are related to my novels and pitch them (often through a publicist) to media outlets.
Before I was even contracted, I started blogging. While I started off doing it rather haphazardly, I quickly narrowed my focus and have kept it ever since.
My brand as a fiction author is Asian chick lit or Asian romance. So my blog is very non-serious, and I write frivolous, funny, random posts. I also try to incorporate Asiana tidbits here and
there, like the post I did about making Chinese scallion pancakes with my husband–I posted pictures and links to the recipe, which was easy enough for non-Asians, but very authentic.
I rarely post about topics not in line with my brand. When my book came out, people who had been enjoying my blog atmosphere bought my book and liked it because the atmosphere of the book was similar to my blog—chatty, funny, romantic, Asian.
I am also a voracious reader, and many of my readers are just like me. So I started giving away Christian fiction on my blog, and attracted readers like myself who might also enjoy my books.
I think a key to my blogging has been the fact that I am very consistent, even when I’m under deadline. I take a couple hours one day each week and write all five blog posts at once so that
I’m very efficient with my time. An inconsistent blog really isn’t as effective a marketing tool, I’ve discovered.
It has taken a long time to build up my readership, as I tell writers who ask me about building theirs. I’ve blogged faithfully 5 days a week for years now, and so readers come to my blog and
return because they enjoy the posts. This didn’t happen overnight.
a I blog at Forensics and Faith. This gives people a personal look at who I am on a regular basis.
a I post first chapters of all my novels on my web site. This is a great way for a potential new reader to see if my suspense novels are something they’d want to read.
a I offer freebies on my site—bookmarks and signed bookplates. The bookplates allow my readers to give my books—signed—as gifts to others.
a I teach when available at writers’ conferences. I turn down far more requests than I accept. For now I can usually only do two a year—Mount Hermon and ACFW. Writers are readers also, and each attendee has his/her own sphere of influence.
a I e-mail Sneak Pique newsletter to subscribers every other month. Sneak Pique includes short news about me, plus offers chances for readers to win free books, and features blurbs on many new releases of Christian fiction so people can keep up with the market in general.
a I have a page on ShoutLife and keep it current but otherwise don’t spend much time there. (I’m too busy writing!)
From day one I’ve tried to get my name and book title heard or read as many times as possible. This means I created a website and began a blog. I called bookstores, humbly introduced myself and set up book signings. I did oodles of signings. Every time a reader can put a real person behind the book, it’s a good thing. It makes the book more personal and, one hopes, makes the reader consider buying your next book.
I looked over my calendar for 2007 and saw I participated in over fifty events, whether holding book signings, attending conferences and festivals, meeting book clubs, speaking to civic groups, etc. For an new novelist, the word “rest” does not exist.
We shall see if my hard work has paid off when my second book comes out in March. I know many people are looking forward to it, which to me, is already a step ahead of where I was this time last year with my first book.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.