Michael Hyatt, the head of the Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson Publishing writes one of my favorite blogs. Hands down, no competition, this man is awesome. He knows his stuff—not just about publishing but all the related parts. This week, he blogged in response to a reader question. Essentially, the reader wanted to know why a publisher would ask that a person have a certain number of twitter followers, blog readers, facebook fans et cetera BEFORE getting published.
In other words, why isn’t the book the platform for fame rather than the other way around?
A few months ago, I interviewed author of “Bitch is the New Black” Helena Andrews. I will post the interview this week. The subject of the interview was all of the legwork it takes to get a book sold. No, I’m not talking about the writing and selling your book proposal, I’m talking about the legwork that goes into marketing and selling your book once it’s already published. I think a lot of you will be surprised at how much work goes into the book post-publishing.
One of the biggest things writers who wish to be authors have to realize is that even if you are published by a company and not self-published, the amount of independent public relations, marketing, etc that you will have to do will be pretty extensive on both the front end and the back end. For that reason, there is a need to market yourself in advance as way to attract publisher and public interest.
In his blog post, Hyatt explains to the reader WHY you need to build a platform (audience, credibility and the like) before being published. Please, please, please check it out. He leaves the comments section for readers to explain what they’re doing to build a platform currently.
I’ll discuss what I’m doing here.
I have two books that I’m working on. I won’t mention the topic of the first one because so far I haven’t found anything that’s been written on it and I don’t want to give it away. Although it’s a niche area, I think the book will be useful to others. To be perfectly vague—it’s about being a better employee in a particular position.
The 2nd book I’m slowly working my way up to is a book about Crucial Conversations. I’ve been teaching Crucial Conversations about 6 years now. It’s probably my favorite topic because it applies so broadly to everything we do and every interaction we have. I am a huge fan of James K Van Fleet, who wrote “Conversation Power.” I think EVERYONE should own that book. And I hope to create something just as useful for people.
I have 4 primary ways that I’m building a solid platform and audience so that when my book proposal is done, I have some additional selling points to attract a publisher.
1. Blog Readership: Yes my little dears and dumplings…it’s true: Your eyes, ears, and hearts are all a part of my master plan of being published and paid to provide my opinion. I started this blog August of last year and I average about 7K hits per month. Still a very small blog but the numbers of unique readers are growing as are the numbers of regular readers. A blog can be a very powerful reference point when selling yourself as a speaker, panelist, or author. It can also be a great way to effortlessly collect ideas and language that can be used in a book.
2. Acting as a source—I use Pitchrate.com, reporterconnection.com, and helpareporterout.com to pitch myself as a source for stories to reporters. Basically, journalists and bloggers enter requests for sources for stories, and if I see a request that meets my area of expertise I pitch myself to be the source and hopefully they choose to interview me as part of their story.
3. Published Articles – This is a slower build for me but made more effective when combined with the blog. It takes a while to be known as a writer—especially if you are a serious writer. By “serious” I mean focused on a particular area of expertise and writing for impact rather than controversy. With so many ways to get information, people’s attention is spread out. You may read some really great articles and never even look to see who the author is (this is a bad habit by the way).
I am just now beginning to aggressively pursue being published under the pseudonym I use for this blog and it has reminded me of how hard it is to get going in the beginning. Still, with all that being said, having your work appear in publications is worthy and necessary.
In a previous life, I was an assistant to a best-selling author who’d written 17 books. At least 3 of his books were regularly taught by college professors. Much of my workdays were spent managing his syndication contracts with newspapers all over the world. I learned from that that credibility is a slow build but the grind can pay off.
4. Podcast/You Tube Clips – I’ve recently started a radio/web/podcast show that will allow me to flaunt my speaking skills. As some of you may know, I have a football blog. The show that I’ve recently started is a football show at its core. But I chose a co-host with whom I could delve into any subject with. This is the newest part of my personal communications plan.
Many of you follow me on twitter and I know you were probably waiting for me to name that as a platform that I’m building. I don’t consider twitter to be a selling point for me. Twitter is where I play with different ideas, get feedback and things of that nature. My accounts are not disciplined nor are they focused. I think that a deliberate twitter account makes a better legitimate platform.
So for all of you who are dying to write to get published for the first time, remember that the book is only part of a bigger plan. Building an audience for your work is necessary in the short and long term.