The day I’m posting this is officially Labor Day, which marks the unofficial last day of summer, and while I know many started drinking their Pumpkin Spice Lattes last week, some of us still cherish the few remaining days of summer. However, like it or not, people are returning from summer vacations and preparing for the season ahead.
Even though temperatures haven’t dropped yet, you can feel “Back to School” and “Back to Work” in the air. It’s similar to the feeling around January 1 with the New Year, new beginnings, starting over, and new possibilities. Fall creates the same kind of mood throughout our culture.
This time of year can be a reset for your book too, and because there is a general feeling of enthusiasm, many authors want to get busy creating demand for their books, particularly with the holiday season not too far in the future.
I’ve been hearing from a lot of people lately requesting help growing their platform numbers. It seems that in this overcrowded, noisy world, more and more people are simply ignoring requests for engagement, which means, you have to offer something that they really want. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many don’t do the obvious.
It’s all too easy for human beings to fall into what WE want, and not focus on what our target market wants. It’s understandable. We all have our own hopes and dreams, visions and goals. It’s just that when we go out to approach others, we have to remember to make it about them.
Whether you are talking directly to your potential customer, media, or another influencer, if you want to catch their attention and begin the process of collaboration, make it about them and what they want and need. We need to show how what we have to offer is of benefit to them and their audience. We have to offer something that is such a perfect fit that they feel compelled to hear more and join with us. So simple, right?
In my Media Book Camp program, I call it “thinking like an editor,” or producer, or journalist, or whoever you are approaching. Now that in our current world everyone is media, it requires customization more than ever before. You must think like each of them do, and this requires research.
Gone are the days of pitching one piece of content to multiple outlets. Everyone wants something unique to them, so knowing who their audience is and the voice they use to communicate with them gives you an edge. It’s critical, and yes, it takes time. The good news is that in this day and age, it’s not hard to do, so there is no excuse to be lazy.
But even before you go out pitching individual outlets, you have to have a solid platform in place. This is because if you do capture someone’s attention with your pitch, often before they respond to you, they’re going to do some research of their own, and that means they’ll be looking at you.
Your platform fundamentals
There once was a day when creating and launching a website was news. It was actually covered in the New York Times as a trend! But, nowadays you can’t NOT have a website. Every author needs one, and it needs to look current, not dated. If your website was built in the late 1990s (or even into the 2000s), then you’re going to need a reboot. Make sure your site is branded and highlights your book.
Too often authors with a business will simply use their business website for their book. If we see your book there, that’s fine. But if it’s not there and obvious, then when your prospect goes to look, it won’t make sense to him or her. Creating confusion in someone is the last thing you want to do, so be sure that isn’t happening by not only looking it over yourself, but asking others for their feedback. Does my website make sense? Do you know what I’m asking you to do? Is it clear I have a book and what it is about? Is there a natural next step for you to take, such as an opt in gift?” You get the idea. If you’ve answered No to any of those questions, then consider building a small site specifically for your book, or adding a new page to your website and using that URL to direct people to.
A mailing list
It’s really quite astonishing how many still do not understand the need for a mailing list. You need to have a way to capture email addresses so you can continue to market to existing and potential customers — or your tribe, your community, your people, whatever word you want to use. There may be a day when email doesn’t work, but we haven’t hit that yet. Email marketing still works, but be sure to learn the rules so you don’t unwittingly be seen as a spammer
If you’re an author, you should have a blog. You’re a writer, right? Maybe not. A lot of “authors” use ghostwriters now, but even so, a blog is a great way to share your book, write snippets on your topic, offer more about yourself, and generate search-engine hits by using your tag words in your copy. Not in a bizarre way that looks like you’re just adding words for the heck of it. They need to be well integrated into each of your posts. (This is called SEO – search engine optimization.) This is content you can share far and wide.
Social media is a great place to share your content with a link back to your blog or website. Platforms may change, but social media is never going away. I know: never say never, but the fact that groups of people can talk directly to groups of people is something the human race has never experienced before. It isn’t going away.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the social media platform for business and you need a profile there. If you’ll be doing any speaking, events, or connecting with potential niche mates or referral partners, LI is the place to do it. It’s also a great place for connecting with those who will refer your book to others, such as therapists who might refer your book to their patients, or financial advisors who may refer your book to their clients.
Facebook: Say what you will about Facebook (and lots of people do, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal: Have you seen The Great Hack yet?), they have over 1 billion people on it, so it’s a way to reach an audience. The demographic skews a little older, so keep that in mind as you’re figuring out your strategy. In other words, if you’re trying to reach a younger audience, you won’t find them on Facebook. I saw a major shift in 2016.
Instagram: Owned by Facebook, it is getting lots of attention and mileage. Instagram’s focus is on visuals and it’s a great way to get your message out with pictures. And if you’re not sure how to do that yet, take some time to figure out how you can. Most everything can be represented visually in some way. I keep reading it’s for a younger audience but I know lots of people there who are over 30.
Goodreads: Some call this the “Facebook for authors” platform. Goodreads does lots of giveaways and it’s a great way to get attention for your book, particularly fiction. If you have a publisher, ask if they will do a giveaway for you. Participants on this platform are not as interested in hearing directly from the authors as they are on some platforms. This speaks to the importance of learning what the cultural expectations are on each platform before you begin posting away. There is value in being a voyeur for a while to learn the appropriate etiquette for each platform.
Amazon: Few think of Amazon as a social network, but it really is. People can talk directly to other people on it, so be sure you fill your your profile completely and use your Author Central page. Just last week I addressed what to do if you get a negative review on Amazon. If you missed it or want a refresher, you can read it here. The point is to pay attention to what others are saying and doing so you can respond appropriately.
Tying it all together
Many who come to me wanting to build their platform numbers want to make a splash and generate a tsunami of followers right now!! This a bit like deciding to lose 15 pounds then wondering why it can’t be done by tomorrow.
Some things take time… like growing a garden. There are strategies you can incorporate to build some numbers quickly, such as a contest or some special feature that attracts people, but most likely it won’t be a tsunami. In between any special events, you still have to do the daily managing and upkeep of posting, sharing, paying attention and responding to what others are saying. Reaching out to new people and promoting them is also a good way to get them to want to do something nice for you.
Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that engagement is more important than having huge numbers. We want to see that your tribe is paying attention to you, otherwise, maybe someone went out and bought their followers. People do that, but ultimately I think it hurts them. Put another way: 50 or 100 excited and engaged people is far better than 1000 people who don’t really care.
And remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What can you do for someone else that would have them feeling so grateful they want to share you with their audience?
It’s one reason I love sharing my publicity tips. If you find value in the Savvy Sunday News, I hope you will share with others who you think would benefit from it. To make it easy, give them this link, with a great big “thank you!’ from me. https://joannemccall.com/success-stories/
To your success!
P.S. With Back to School and Back to Work upon us, a Media Strategy Session is a fantastic way to infuse life and energy into a stagnant book campaign, to generate great ideas for a new launch, or to address a problem. For example, Bonnie Vorenberg, Founder and President of Senior Theatre, came to me recently because someone else was claiming to have invented Senior Theatre, although Bonnie holds that title and has for decades! After we met and she put the suggestions into action, she saw results! It started with one article here, and notice, it’s not just a mention of Bonnie, the entire article is all about her! Thanks, Bonnie. Looking forward to seeing what’s next!