Thursday, 25 June 2009

6. To Boldly Go...

OK; so you've reached the heady heights of being published... so what now? Of course, you've coerced all your friends, acquaintances and family to buy a copy of your masterpiece; you've stocked up on some copies to spread around various potential outlets as freebies.

Take heed of the following, dear, newly-published author...

As you dip your toe into the cyber-soup, you will probably encounter a term "Author platform." This is one of those really annoying Buzz-words that sounds technically erudite...
but, actually means "a ready-made audience."
Gone are the days when publishers were solely responsible for the marketing of a book.
People have more options for their leisure time than ever before - myriad channels on television, movies on demand; video games; Wii, etc, etc; and then of course, the Internet. It's harder than ever to attract people to books.
The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.

It has never been more crucial for authors to play a major part in marketing themselves, BUT it has never been easier. Where are readers hanging out these days? The Internet. That's the best place for you to find readers for your books.
With a well-written and interesting blog, you have the potential to build a significant "Platform." If you take the time to research website optimization and do everything recommended to build traffic on your blog, you can build a sizable audience in a matter of months.

Now, a Heads-up...

The paragraph that follows, is typical of the twaddle your publisher will tell to you, if they really can't be assed to promote yet another new author... whose potential for swelling the Corporate coffers is minimal...

"Good places to start promoting your book are in the local media and book stores. Local press are usually very keen to publicise interesting local news stories, and many new writers have featured in press items and achieved local book shop signings in stores such as Waterstones; Barnes & Noble, and others. Many local book stores take an interest in local author signings as it encourages readers to their stores."

Just try wandering into one of the eminent Literary Emporiums in the posher parts of my home town, Cheltenham, and trying that one on.

The most likely scenario is:
The manager will ensure that you will be intercepted by some vast, flinty-eyed, shaven-headed, security guard (Probably named Wayne)... poured into an ill-fitting uniform stretching over his beer-gut, and emblazoned with American-style shoulder patches denoting that he is a hired heavy of some insignificant local security firm with the impressive name of something like: "XXX Security Solutions"... and you will be unceremoniously frog-marched to the door.

So; you need to put yourself around. A good start is a blog. An even better start is to link your blog to a site like Zimbio.

Zimbio is an online magazine publisher that allows users to build interactive "wikizines", or web magazines, on whatever topic they choose. It is one of the fastest growing community sites on the internet and is one more easy to use tool to help bring your blog the traffic it needs!

A few pointers for a decent Blog:
1. Don't take yourself too seriously. Blogging isn't Booker Prize stuff.
2. Don't get pompous or overbearing.
3. Never lose your sense of humour.
4. Always try to develop your own style and personality online.
5. Use bold text and italics for emphasis on words and phrases.
7. Is your topic clear to someone who only reads the headline?
8. Have you sprinkled the headline and the body of your post with Keywords and Phrases that search engines will find irresistible?

Space is your friend. It makes reading from the screen easier. Nothing is harder to read than a solid block of copy on a computer screen.

To use subheadings every few paragraphs. Big, unbroken blocks of copy makes a reader glaze over and move on elsewhere.
(Imagine you are trying to attract a surfer who has the attention span of a cabbage-white butterfly.)

To liberally sprinkle your blog space with relevant graphics. (This one isn't... because, as yet, it's not that kind of blog.)

Finally: before posting the blog you must ensure that it is well written. Read it thoroughly and also check your facts, spellings, sentence structure etc.
This is important to do because once you post your blog, it is displayed globally via the internet. (and you really don't want the world and its dog to write you off as just one more thicko with an IQ marginally less than his shoe size.)

Other cunning ploys to get your baby into the spotlight...

Social Networking...
MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Look for niche sites that fit your target reader profile. There are social networking sites for almost every shape and size of reader, To find them, just Google “Social networking.”
Create an interesting profile and get active in on-line communities. The biggest cost here will be in your time so spend it wisely, and identify the best opportunities to expand your reach. Host or join groups on these sites to gain additional exposure.

Launch a Website...
to showcase your talents. Use it to build an audience, share samples of your work, and lure buyers.

Host a Blog... (See above.)
With a good one, your audience will find you.

Publish a Newsletter...
Build loyal fans for life by publishing an interesting electronic newsletter with content related to your book(s). Get started with the free program:

"Email marketing pro" at

Form Online Partnerships with like-minded souls...
Seek out people who already reach your target audience, and devise ways to promote each other. You could publish articles on each others websites or newsletters, or share a blog.

Participate in Online Forums...

Find online communities where your target audience lurks, and make a name for yourself by sharing information. If you really want to stand out; start and lead a group. A good place to start is:
(Be very selective with this ploy... there are a lot of card-carrying nuts out there who will flock to your group and contribute virtually nothing useful.)

Police Your Postings...
Everything you do on the Internet will live forever in cyberspace. Consider the image you want to portray and make sure everything you do and say reflects that.

Use a Decent Photo...
(Not one that granny took with her Kodak Pocket Instamatic... or the slightly suspect one from the last hazy, boozy night with the lads.)
Post it on all of your profiles so visitors can feel like they know you. (This actually works.)

Create a Biography...
Many sites allow you to post a bio with your public profile. Make sure you have several versions of your bio readily available in short, medium and long formats. This will not only save you time in having to rewite it each time, but it will also ensure that your message is consistent.

The goal when building a platform online is to get as much exposure as possible... for the least possible cost.

Next time...

"What's a Genre?"

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