Tag Archives: platforms

Know Your Platforms (The Marketing Author 001, Part 7)

Missed an article from this series? Look for it here.

“Know Your Platforms”

What is a platform? Is it something you stand on? Something you wear on your feet to look taller? Some form of plat? Well, yes, clearly.

But it’s more than that. It’s a foundation. A display. It’s something that writers are told they must have by all marketing experts the world over if they wish to ever sell anything with their name on it.

It’s something writers usually balk at, especially if that platform is fiction.

I’m one of them. Platform? Psh. My platform is that I write. Like it!

Okay, you don’t have to like it. Nor do you have to accept platform as an unobtainable force that’s always working against you. Start with the simple ideas and complicate them only as needed. Think of platform as your key to the world.

Nonfiction writers understand this better because they usually have something important to say in order to supplement something important they have to share. For example, the person who designed the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner has a platform as the person who designed the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner. If he writes a book about vacuums called This Sucks, you’ll know he speaks the truth. Likewise, if the inventor of the toilet wrote a book called This Stinks, again, you’ll agree that he knows his stuff and that any book he writes about toilets will tell you all you need to know about toilets. That’s his platform. He knows when something stinks.

Fiction writers don’t have to spend as much time building an information platform because their job is to build a fiction platform. Want people to keep coming back? Want people to take your work seriously in the first place? Write fiction they want to read. Simple!

Well, not simple, because you still have to write the stuff that builds your platform. But the concept is simple. If you’re a person who writes, then your platform is as a writer. If you’re a person who writes mysteries, then your platform is as a mystery writer. If you’re a person who says he writes even though he plays video games every free minute he gets, then your platform is as a gamer. Simple.

But that’s not all that platform entails. You also have your publishing platforms.

If you write a stellar book (or stellar proposal) and want to get it traditionally published, then you must first seek representation from a literary agent (consult the Writer’s Market, Guide to Literary Agents, or visit Agent Query for help in finding the right representative), wow him or her with your amazing idea or storytelling skills, and then do all that you can not to piss him off during the submission process, which can happen if you don’t read and follow his exact instructions for submission. Then you must follow the advice I wrote about rejection and feedback, take your knocks like a man, and then giggle like a schoolgirl when somebody actually accepts your work and agrees to terms you can both benefit from (maybe have a literary lawyer on hand, just in case). Then you must go through the process all over again when that agent (assuming you like the person who accepts you enough to keep him or her) begins the submission process to the publishers. Hopefully you’ve got that manuscript finished and polished, or that proposal fully charted and ready for manuscript development, before you get to the publisher-seeking stage. Having your synopses and other helpful supplements will also be to your advantage (you can research these other supplements—I don’t need to do all the work for you). Once the agent finds a publisher who wants your manuscript or idea for a nonfiction book, prepare for the long road of making deadlines, fighting with procrastination, lying to yourself that everything is perfect, lying to yourself that everything is good enough, rewriting, marketing, pretending you like the cover the publisher’s cover artist designed, resigning yourself to allowing the publisher to market the book a specific way, even if that way means dying an early death, and crossing your fingers that the book will even go to print much less find its way onto the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble, and all that for about a dollar a book in royalties (after the advance is paid off), assuming you’ve survived the gauntlet to the end.

Or, you can skip the agent entirely and self-publish it through Amazon (ebook), Smashwords (ebook/distributor), Draft 2 Digital (distributor), Apple (ebook), Barnes & Noble (ebook), Kobo (ebook), CreateSpace (print), or Ingram Spark (print), or do-it-yourself (electronic file or bulk printing) for higher royalties, no gatekeepers, and higher exposure due to handling marketing and distribution yourself, at the cost of being shunned at the brick and mortar stores (unless you sell a lot of copies and don’t mind adopting a refund policy (which only Ingram Spark allows for at the moment).

So, those are your platforms. I probably forgot a few. But you should honestly be researching this stuff by now. There’s no reason to read the seventh installment of The Marketing Author 001 without having researched the various methods you can get published or noticed first. No reason at all.

But thanks for reading anyway! You’re helping my platform!

Next week we’ll talk about salesmen. Whoo hoo!

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Lightstorm and Goodreads

September 24, 2015

So, I released my latest novella, Lightstorm, earlier this week, and while I’m patiently waiting for all of the distributors to get their versions of the story (Barnes & Noble is dead last as usual), I find myself obsessively checking my download stats for the e-book (when I’m not writing/updating the next story I have on my 2015 roster, The Evil Clone of Michael Keaton–more on that another time) to see if I’m pulling in any significantly weighted numbers. Every time I post a new e-book to Smashwords, which I admit is probably the best platform I have for getting obscure stories out to the public, stories I know the traditional publishers would never take a risk on (I’m pretty sure), I keep thinking, This is the one that will turn the tide. This is the one that the people will discover, share, and lead me to that coveted breakout status. And then I see the numbers on those low-count masses who actually view the book, and the much lower turnout (well, 10% isn’t that bad actually) who choose to download it, and I start wondering if my platform is just too dang small.

Note: As of now, I’ve got about 300 views and 40 downloads for Lightstorm since I released it four days ago. If you’re a stats hound like I am, this might be important info. If you just like a good story, then keep reading (or download Lightstorm from your favorite indie e-book retailer!).

This leads me to that philosophical question that has plagued man since the dawn of time, or at least since entertainment and business had first collided: How does one increase his platform when he’s just a fiction writer who’s got only characters and situations to write about, not important stuff like self-improvement and diet fads?

Well, the obvious answer is to write the kind of story that people want to share. But even that is a tricky beast because all art is subjective, right? I can write only those works that interest me as a reader. I could certainly write for an expanded audience if I wanted to, but I do so at the risk of neutering my feelings or convictions. Not always, of course. But the risk is there.

Take the Romance genre, for example. Big market! I can’t read it, much less write it. I just lost about 80% of the e-book market. Dang it.

But does this mean that readers of other genres shouldn’t find and enjoy the stuff I can read and write?

Tonight I was looking up sites like Reddit and Goodreads, and I kept thinking that these would be great platforms for finding out what people are actually interested in. I was also watching a video where the marketing expert swears by Facebook as the best social media resource that any person seeking promotion can use. I don’t know–I use Facebook, and the hardest job I have with it is convincing my friends to read something, anything. I mean, I’ve posted poems about mullets on there, and I’ve gotten mostly just the crickets chirping in response. Poetry about mullets! It doesn’t get better than that (more on that another time)! In short, I know that there are plenty of valuable resources on hand, but for the life of me I feel like a monkey when I use them. Maybe there’s a trick to it. Maybe it’s all entirely run by luck. Maybe developing a platform is nothing more than a catch-22: you need a platform to develop a platform. Actually, that sounds about right. You can’t fill your cup to the brim with coffee if you don’t have the cup or the coffee.

With that said, writing is still the greatest source of expression I have, and I get a kick out of doing it. But part of the thrill of expressing is knowing that somehow my message will get out and people will talk about it and my ideas might actually set interesting things into motion. Obviously, I haven’t done that yet, or this blog would be about something else. But I’m still hoping that one of these books (which can be explored along the right margin if you click any of their images) will find its audience, and that maybe that audience will begin exploring other books past, present, and future, and maybe that audience will even dare to sign into Goodreads and leave a review or start a discussion that would help me, as a writer, know if I should keep trying to hand these things off to the public or if I should just keep them to myself.

And a quick note to those who ever thought about writing a book but were afraid to start: Just do it anyway. I’m part of the heavy population of low sales / downloads rankings at the moment (trying hard to reverse that!), but I know that the only thing that guarantees me a dead readership is not to write anything. Seeing the numbers in my stats climb by even one download a day can be pretty exciting. Now if I can just convince the people who downloaded it to give some feedback. Ah, now that would be awesome.

P.S. I know this is kind of an introspective and whiny blog, but you know, stats! Had to write something if I’m to have more than just one post in September. Why not this?

Feel free to leave a comment if you want to discuss this topic further.