Fiction Platform

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

Ginger Garrett
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.

Sharon Souza
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.

Mary DeMuth
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.

Camy Tang
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.

Brandilyn Collins
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!)

Nicole Seitz
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 here: I hope this helps you understand what “building a fiction platform” means. These ideas can spur your thinking about what you want to do, and what you want to tell publishers you’re going to do (in your proposal). Happy platform-building!

(This is a repeat of a previously posted column.)

Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!

29 Comments

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  6. Tessa on April 7, 2009 at 9:45 PM

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  7. Anonymous on March 29, 2009 at 1:19 AM

    >Rachelle, thanks for the great suggestions from published authors. Can you expand on how an unpublished author posting an excerpt from their novel to Facebook or personal website fits in with this topic? Would that negate future contracts or spoil the “unique but not yet on the market” concept? And if not, how much text is appropriate?



  8. Bethanne on March 27, 2009 at 8:00 PM

    >I’d have to be honest and say that any marketing outside of the internet makes me bite my nails. LOL I’ve spent a year or more establishing a mark online, a look, a feel… Something that speaks to me and I think, other people will recognize *fingerscrossed* after I’m published.

    I think, until I’m agented, that ‘brand’ or ‘platform’ or whatever will evolve. As humans we are or should be always changing. So…it only stands that our websites and blogs and writing will change, too. Even after we are published…and a best seller! LOL

    Great advice, great blog.



  9. D.A. Riser on March 26, 2009 at 10:11 PM

    >I enjoyed today’s post. Many thanks! I hope you don’t mind if I expand upon the topic in my blog.



  10. Kathy on March 26, 2009 at 3:28 PM

    >I just want to add my thanks. The information on platform has been clear and helpful. Thank you for taking the time to do this blog. It is a daily dose of encouragement.



  11. Paula on March 26, 2009 at 2:23 PM

    >Thank you for validating my hunches regarding platforms for fiction writers. It seems that the entire publishing/book world is morphing, books are being created at the drop of a hat (and by the thousands daily, it seems), and why wouldn’t a platform help enhance a fiction writer’s marketing plan?

    Thank you for the confirmation!



  12. Anne L.B. on March 26, 2009 at 2:07 PM

    >Mike Hyatt blew me away with today’s post addressing non-fiction platform, How Important is an Author’s Platform?

    He by no means disregards platform, but he’s obviously challenging the emphasis put on it.



  13. Jennifer Roland on March 26, 2009 at 1:25 PM

    >Rachelle, This is a great post. I’ll be including in my Monday morning roundup of writing news and information.

    You say “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.”

    How about when you are initially pitching an agent? Should you give a description of your platform and marketing ideas? How detailed?

    Thanks!

    Jennifer



  14. ~ Brandilyn Collins on March 26, 2009 at 11:51 AM

    >Interesting to read my answer to this question, which was sometime last year. Now I’d have to add Facebook and Twitter. Social media is a major and effective avenue for a novelist’s platform, when used correctly.

    ~ Brandilyn



  15. Dara on March 26, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    >Thanks for the wealth of info! I’m going to print this off so I can refer to it later. There were so many great ideas there that I had never even considered.



  16. Lady Glamis on March 26, 2009 at 11:17 AM

    >Great information. Thank you! Glad to know all my time spent blogging isn’t in vain. 🙂



  17. Krista Phillips on March 26, 2009 at 10:22 AM

    >Thanks! I hadn’t read this post before. It’s nice to hear what other fiction author’s are doing to build/maintain their platform and marketing, and to know I’m not too far off track in my thinking:-)



  18. Deborah on March 26, 2009 at 10:20 AM

    >This is a great post, very helpful to a virtual beginner. Thank you for reposting it.



  19. Jessica on March 26, 2009 at 10:15 AM

    >Great post Rachelle! And thank you to the authors for sharing their ways of doing stuff. Very helpful.



  20. Cindy on March 26, 2009 at 9:20 AM

    >Thanks for the suggestions. It helps to know some of the things I am already doing will probably help and things I am not doing are things many other writers have to do (even if they don’t particularly want to).



  21. L.C. Gant on March 26, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    >Thank you for so much wonderful information. I’ll certainly keep all of this in mind as I prepare to query agents in the future. I think I’ll direct others to this post as well. Thanks again!



  22. Ilana on March 26, 2009 at 8:43 AM

    >If you’ve been blogging, how do you include this in your fiction query? Particularly if, like myself, you’ve been blogging under a pseudonym to keep your (hopeful) fiction career separate from your current (and possibly much different) day job
    ?



  23. lynnrush on March 26, 2009 at 8:12 AM

    >Great post. Liked it the first time, too!

    Good stuff here.



  24. Jayden Vasara on March 26, 2009 at 7:22 AM

    >Thank you as always for your helpful suggestions…this is a really relevant topic for me as I begin querying agents!



  25. Sharon A. Lavy on March 26, 2009 at 7:02 AM

    >This post was very helpful to me.



  26. Janna Qualman on March 26, 2009 at 6:58 AM

    >Very helpful. Thanks!



  27. Jody Hedlund on March 26, 2009 at 5:57 AM

    >Thank you for all of the great suggestions! Now time to get to work on them!



  28. Karen on March 26, 2009 at 5:54 AM

    >Rachelle,
    I’m curious to know what others consider a “high traffic” blog.
    Thanks!



  29. Angela Breidenbach on March 26, 2009 at 1:36 AM

    >This post is actually a relief to me. I’m doing many of the suggested things and taking notes of those I hadn’t planned yet. It’s very encouraging to be “on the right track” and still have great advice for things I can do in the future. Oh, and my future starts now 🙂

    Thank you.
    Angie
    http://GodUsesBrokenVessels.blogspot.com



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