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!

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!

11 Comments

  1. Sue Dent on February 24, 2008 at 11:35 PM

    >Myra, I feel your pain! LOL All you need is to market your book to a publisher/editor that wants your type of MS. Don’t limit yourself. Check out all Chritian publishers and agents. Writersmarket.com has an invaluable list of Christian publishers both CBA affiliated if you’re looking to write for that niche market and all other Christian publishers too. That’s where I found my first Christian publisher. Good luck! 🙂



  2. Myra Johnson on February 24, 2008 at 4:57 PM

    >Rachelle, your blog is always filled with top-notch advice. Thanks for being so willing to share your knowledge.

    As an unpublished writer of book-length fiction, I’ve found this whole platform business rather intimidating. At one of my ACFW editor appointments last fall, I was told that before this publisher could seriously consider my work, I’d need a platform with a 5,000-name mailing list. How’s an unpublished fiction writer stuck in her writing cave supposed to develop that kind of platform? I’ve had a Web site and blog for a few years now, but every hour I spend trying to create interesting content for those is an hour I’m NOT working on my novel.



  3. Melanie on February 23, 2008 at 11:51 PM

    >I’m going to throw something out there for anyone to answer.

    I’m a long way from being published, or even being ready to pursue publication. I will attend ACFW conference for the first time this year.

    I’m making my goals now, first of which is having a second-draft of my novel completed and starting a second.

    Should I have a blog by then, and if so, how closely should it be related to my book, genre?

    Should I have business cards, headshots, press kit type material?

    I’ve worked in journalism all of my adult life, so I have media friends in several states and fans of my columns in a couple of states. I’ve volunteered as a media relations contact for several nonprofits, keep a media databse and have radio and television experience. Will these things help?

    Any other goals I should have?

    Sigh. I guess I need to pay someone to tell me these things.

    Melanie Jones
    professional journalist
    hopeful novelist



  4. Anonymous on February 22, 2008 at 3:09 PM

    >Great info as always and another helpful reminder of the perspiratory component in the quest to become a published, successful author. But as sit here in my little office and prepare to add to my characters’ story, I’m going to forget all about platforms and advances and laundry lists and competition and positively unimportant rants and focus instead on the inspiratory component.

    I’m just going to write.



  5. Nicole on February 22, 2008 at 1:24 PM

    >”However, I think fiction platform is going to become more of an issue simply because of your competition.”

    The platform will probably make the difference in choosing between equally desirable manuscripts, I would assume.



  6. Emily on February 22, 2008 at 11:41 AM

    >I really appreciate the insight from all the different authors; thank you for caring enough to challenge us on a daily basis Rachelle!
    Emily.



  7. Matthew C Jones on February 22, 2008 at 10:36 AM

    >Rachelle,

    Thanks so much for the post! It’s totally got my mind going for what my next steps need to be.

    I’ve been wondering about the trend of book trailers. In your experience, are they effective? What are their merits to a publisher? Have you ever seen one? 🙂

    Thanks for your time and blog.

    Grace to you,
    Matt Jones
    Jenks, OK



  8. Kathryn Harris on February 22, 2008 at 9:45 AM

    >Rachelle,
    I had to admit I was nervous about the whole platform issue, but I’m feeling much, much better after reading this post.
    I guess sometimes a person wakes up in the morning doing much better than they thought they were.
    Thank you for offering so much awesome information.



  9. Rachelle on February 22, 2008 at 9:25 AM

    >Cyndi, I have no opinion on author trading cards. Readers?



  10. Cyndi Lewis on February 22, 2008 at 9:23 AM

    >Rachelle,
    Thank you. The things the authors listed seem very doable.

    Tell me, what do you think of author trading cards? Should they supplement a traditional business card or take the place of?



  11. Katy McKenna on February 22, 2008 at 9:21 AM

    >What I love about reading the authors’ own platform-building techniques is how tailor-made they are to that writer’s personality and strengths. Of course, each writer has to stretch to market successfully, but a lot of the recommendations seem to be almost natural outworkings of the author’s bent.

    BTW, I have just read Sharon’s debut novel, Every Good and Perfect Gift. It is WONDERFUL.

    Thanks, Rachelle, for another truly helpful post.

    Katy McKenna http://www.fallible.com



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