Rumor has it that Amazon is getting into the brick and mortar book business big time. Mall reps and human resources rags are talking about it and articles are popping up all over the place calling attention to it. What will it mean for indie bookstores to have the largest retail book giant in the neighborhood? Well, what did it mean for the locals when B&N moved in and eventually out? Given the diversification of the lines sold at B&N and the rebranding as stores akin to libraries sporting coffee shops and other push-in offerings that keep potential customers milling about for hours at a time, there’s still hope for an unsullied bookstore. Will Amazon fill that role thereby ousting smaller shops once and for all? Well, it remains to be seen where these shops will open. Right now, it’s Seattle, Wa. and word is hot on a new location in La Jolla, Ca. As test sites we’ll all begin to see the kind of technology that will be put in place. Lips are flapping about eliminating the checkout process with data on the book/item being transmitted alternatively. I bet there will be a 3D printing and filling stations for Kindles as well. As far as the imagination can take us, knowing Amazon is never afraid to be the trendsetter.
It's tough in the publishing world. There's so much competition and as authors, it's absolutely key that you represent your "business" — you and your work — with a solid foundation. Industry-speak for this holy grail is the author platform. This author platform (cue the angels singing) is the meat and potatoes to building awareness for your work while at the same time also creating an entree to the agents and publishers you are hoping to sign with. In part, because it means you are not only bringing a product but also a market of readers who are ready to purchase any books you write. Coming with a platform in hand (or in proposal) also shows a willingness on your end to do some of the heavy lifting of marketing. And I say heavy, because building this following is NOT an easy task.
An author used to be able to sell a great manuscript solely on the idea of great writing. The current wave of traditional and self-publishing success includes an author platform that is preferably established during the drafting stage of your book. Taking this proactive approach to your writing career will help establish a resume detailing your accomplishments in an effort toward making you and your book a success. A success because you will already have created a dynamic author-reader dialogue to build your database of readers, gain endorsements or “supported by” backing and maximized your personal brand and professional reputation in the process.
So, what exactly is this author platform thing? Your platform details who you are and what you are known for — your public face — as well as showcases your ability to promote yourself in the marketplace. Each of your marketing efforts contributes to the layers and strength of your platform, and thus the presence and power you wield in your industry. If you were a Jedi, it would be your force. Your platform is how you reach out to readers in order to build exposure, a network and name-driven notoriety.
Your author platform is a mix of marketing elements optimizing benefits from the publishing, journalism, technology and business areas in your arena. Here’s how you can get started in building your author platform.
- Create a great Web site. Freakin' Genius Marketing will design a crackerjack, customized site that you can customize to represent your public YOU. It's important to feel empowered by your content management system as you must update your content regularly. No one likes a static site. It's like the needle getting stuck on the vinyl record. Keep your site fresh and up-to-date with the changes and growth of your career and a blog jam packed with keywords to drive traffic. Include information about you and your book, pictures of your cover, reviews, a schedule of speaking events, endorsements, articles or any other press materials, video clips and anything else that may help in boosting interest to your site.
- Be prepared with a press kit. Your kit should include a one-page press release highlighting your unique direction and the benefit of your content, an author bio and perhaps a photo and a sell-sheet with book ordering information. You can even include extras, such as a jpeg file of your author photo and book cover, an article detailing the key elements of your book and storyline, a DVD containing your media clips, and a suggested interview with ten questions and answers that may be used for print media or an actual interview.
- Get endorsements or blurbs from experts within your industry or recognizable names. This association will add a boost in professionalism to your name and work.
- Connect your topic to breaking news. The media is interested in tying related topics to the news happening right now. If your writing is in relation to current news, contact the appropriate venue as an author with knowledge on the topic. Watch those RSS feeds and create sidebar article pitches.
- Speak on your topic. Develop a speech that combines your expertise and book topic that is also tied into current events/news. Keep a calendar of your speaking engagements, who your audience is and the number of attendees. Speak for free if you have to and also look into teaching adult extended learning classes in your city.
- Write a blog. Become involved in the writing community. Your blog should be less about pitching your book and more about contributing to a discussion. Start conversations, engage, have fun and write consistently. Tie it into your social media and newsletters to keep a fresh batch of eyeballs on your posts regularly.
- Utilize audio and video. You may create an author interview, discussion, or even a type of trailer for your book. Add it to your Web site, create a link within your e-mail and post it on YouTube.
- Join writing organizations. Involvement in organizations helps to build a network of professionals within your same industry. You may learn from and utilize this affiliation in building your writing career.
- Be a friend to All bookstores. Never walk by a bookstore without going in and introducing yourself. Shake the hands of managers and employees and thank them for helping in the success of your book. We all tend to recommend on experience — someone we know and like. A personal touch to those directly dealing with consumers may result in the suggestion of your book to potential readers.
- Consider a marketing professional. Hiring a marketing professional or publicist like Freakin' Genius Marketing can help polish your materials and presentation as well as introduce you to varying media contacts. You will also gain inside knowledge and techniques you can apply throughout your career.
You are not building an author platform to sell your book; you are building your career and introducing yourself to the industry. This platform is the foundation of your business and your personal brand, that, with an investment in time, will open up literary avenues and a direction of opportunity. Your platform is absolutely INTEGRAL to getting media attention and book reviews. It will become leverage to move your book through the circuit because you are much more valuable to a publisher if you bring a crowd of followers that think you are the bees knees.