22 March 2011

Lessons from the Trenches: What the heck is a platform, anyway? Or, how to promote your book!

The first panel I attended at the Virginia Festival of the Book was on promoting your book.

The panelists were:

Jessica Francis Kane
Micah Nathan
Lori Tharps
Gene Taft

The moderator was Bella Stander.

What an awesome panel this was. I have to say my favorite was Micah Nathan. He breaks all the rules (even getting his publicists contact list and contacting people himself. But, he did it in such a way that people loved him for it and did whatever he asked them to do.

I'm going to break this up into sections to make it easier to understand.

1. What is a platform?
A platform is a built-in audience that you already have. Having a platform promises for higher sales because people who know you online are going to want to buy your reading...hypothetically. This leads to...

2. Your Writing Persona
While those of us who write love being writers, you must understand that it is a job, not necessarily your life, although we all like to think it is. You need to build a persona online that is strictly about your writing life. Use Facebook or Twitter, Blogspot or Myspace, or a combination of social media outlets. However, and here's the important part you need to do more than just say you have a book coming out or where your next reading is going to be. You need to hook your readers and make them want to come back to learn something.
However, this is where some writers fail. You want to keep your writer life and your personal life seperate. Readers don't need to know about your husband or your kids. They don't need to know what time you get up and what you eat for lunch. Unless it's related to your writing or your platform. Other than that, keep your private life private!

3. Writing to promote.
If your book is about hiking, write essays for hiking/outdoor magazines that deal with hiking, then just mention your book. If your book is about I don't know, little snowballs that run around, you might write something about snow for a science magazine or personification for a writing magazine. Get it?

4. Sponsors!

Micah Nathan is the king of promotion. I'm just throwing that out there. The guy can get sponsors anywhere. And, what a great way to get promotion for your book! You can get sponsors to donate food to events, alcohol for events--and can you think of a better way to get people to buy your drinks than if they're drunk?--, or donate locations for your event. Micah Connor had an Elvis dance-off with four cases of wine donated from a sponsor. I imagine that was a great way to kick off the publication of a book!

Here's the key, though. When you go to get sponsors for events, tell them how much the event will benefit them. They'll get their name out there. It needs to be always about them. And, here's the even better thing--your sponsors don't need to be thematically related to your book at all. Go to local businesses--they love donating goods and getting publicity!

5. Timing.

As everyone who is anyone knows, timing is everything. If you can link your upcoming book to an event--do it! Micah Nathan released his book Losing Graceland and wanted to do an Elivis-related tie-in. However, nothing was going on in the news Elvis-wise. But, when it was time for Elvis' birthday, what a great tie-in!

If you're writing about snow, don't try to tie-in during the summer, tie-in in the fall when the snow's about to come! Watch the news, find ways to tie your book into what you talk about in your blog--again, not to promote your book.

If you've written a book, you're an expert on that topic. Speak about the topic, then just mention your book. Don't go on shows/radio just to promote. Having something more to say.

6. Alerts.
Setting up Google Alerts is another way to go. Set up alerts for topics you write about. If something comes up in the news or is mentioned on the Internets, get involved in the conversation. This also helps with the whole timing thing!

So, how do you promote your books?

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