Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 3

PART THREE: Developing Your Unique Hooks. What Makes You So Special?

We’ve all taken a stroll through Barnes & Noble and gotten that shiver of terror. Even if you’re already published and about to launch your second or tenth book, that fear trickles in and without warning you start to wonder. Who is going to buy my book when they’re bombarded with all these other books? Yes, you’re writing is wonderful and your story kicks butt, but one twirl around and you see thousands of other author’s offerings and can’t help but feel the pressure.

An already published author, no matter the publishing arena, has fans and that helps, but what can be done to keep those readers waiting with bated breath for your next book? A first time author can easily become paralyzed with the prospect of sitting along side best selling authors and hoping for a good showing.

Nope. Not if you’ve done your job right. Seriously. Building your Author’s Platform correctly is about not only knowing your prospective readers, but knowing where, how and when to reach them. AND … it’s all about doing it very early in the process. VERY EARLY. Like, yesterday.

But where ever you are in your platform building process, it’s never too late to sit still, develop your unique hooks and polish everything that makes you special.

For this exercise, I’m going to choose three different kinds of authors and genres and simply push the envelopes a little. You are the writer, you know your project and yourself better than anyone, but hopefully this will help break down a few walls and help you imagine a bigger, wider landscape for hooking your prospective readers better.

Who knows about The Six Thinking Hats? This is a management solutions process developed in Japan to help determine the practicality of a suggested business solution. Since being and author is a business, I always like to refer to this process. It’s simple and very productive. Get a piece of paper and get ready. Sometimes this process works well alone, sometimes it’s especially effective when you pull together a few more minds. Either way, you want to follow this procedure.

  • Hat number 1, White Hat. Choose an issue you wish to explore. For example, whether it might be wise to pitch your soon to be published book, Tropical Murder, to pet stores that sell tropical fish.
  • Hat number 2, Yellow Hat. This is the sunny outlook. Imagine putting a bright yellow hat on your head and only seeing the brilliance of the idea. For example, there are tropical fish in your book; you have seen books sold in the pet store; people who love fish will love your book.
  • Hat number 3, Black Hat. Now change hats. Put on the black one. This hat represents everything negative about the idea. Go on, get brutal. For example, you’ve never seen anyone buy a book at the pet store; there are no fiction books at the pet store; when someone is buying a fish, they’re not thinking about reading a book; fish people like to look at their fish, not read.
  • Hat number 4, Red Hat. Now it’s time to tap into your emotions. Thoughts may surface that say how much you love fish and how everyone should love fish. Or maybe, your emotions go the other direction and you decide that most fish lovers are boring and probably wouldn’t understand the nuance of your murder mystery. You may really like the guy who owns the pet store and want your book there, or you may have some negative emotions about the man who works the counter and never smiles.
  • Hat number 5, Green Hat. Okay, now your Thinking Hats are going to really begin working for you. You’ve explored the stupid and the sublime and now you can examine the real possibilities. The green hat is the super creative hat. All the yellow, red and black ideas have been written down and now you can turn it all into gold. For example, now you’ll recognize that just because the pet stores don’t carry or feature novels, doesn’t mean that they won’t. You may begin to develop a few fun and creative ways to present the book to the pet store owner. You can explore his possible objections and develop ways to counter that negativity. If he says he never carried fiction before, you must be armed with statistics about the number of books sold every year. Take it further, tell him how many tropical fish lovers are also avarice readers. Tell him about the common psychology between reading and watching tropical fish.
  • Hat number 6, Blue Hat. All right, now that you’ve taken creative steps to think the problem into submission, now you need to get down and dirty practical. The blue hat is a lovely blue sky that says it’s going to be a great day. You can make it possible but you can only do it with reason and logic. This is where your idea becomes something extremely possible and prospectively profitable. So, you’ve convinced a pet store to carry your novel on his shelves. Now what? Take it to the moon! Now make your proposal and plan for pet store chains. What about aquariums? They sell books there too. How about the pet stores that don’t sell fish, but they do sell fish food. And … what if your idea slides further. How about travel agents who book trips to tropical places. What a shoe-in! Travel and reading! Let this go, let the practical ideas grow and let them filter into possibilities. And remember, you also have some leverage here. Your publisher will be helping you get exposure, so perhaps you can give a little nod to the pet stores carrying your book. Maybe you can blog about each store or chain, giving a nod to not only the fish but the store owners. Everyone likes a little tit for tat. Remember your bargaining tools.

And all this came about because the main character in your mystery novel happens to love tropical fish. The story doesn’t have to be about tropical fish. The Six Hats Process is about taking standard business and pushing it further. Now you have an entire new avenue for book sales you simply didn’t have before.

THAT’S building a strong platform.

Your unique hooks can be about anything in your fiction or non-fiction book. They must relate to some passion within you. The hooks are what make you special. Let’s explore another genre.

Non fiction books are easy, or are they? Suppose you’ve written a non-fiction about the startling high growth of rat population in the inner city. Ugh, right? But, what can make people want to buy a book about rats?

  • White Hat – (fact) Author requires positive exposure for The Rat Book.
  • Yellow Hat – (sunny outlook) There’s a fear factor about rats, so there is an audience in need of this knowledge. Also, there are several historical and creative, informative segments featured in the book that make it somewhat entertaining.
  • Red Hat – (emotion) Rats are not loveable creatures, they carry disease and can be dangerous. They’re creepy and ugly.
  • Black Hat – (negative) No one but the scientific or educational community will be interested in The Rat Book. What’s the point in trying to promote it further?
  • Green Hat – (creative) If the creative elements of the book are entertaining enough, using an entertaining speaking platform could garner readers. Libraries might love to hear the author speak, as well as inner city radio or television shows. Perhaps the book can hook in with humane groups trying to evacuate rats from the inner city and they could co-promote. Maybe a few promotional items like a poster showing the noble rat in his habitat or tee shirts stating “Rat Book Rules” are a possibility.
  • Blue Hat – (practical) Begin a press campaign for effective exposure of the author as a speaker/expert on the subject. Book events at book stores, libraries, radio and television shows. See The Rat Book become a subject talked about on the daily train commute.

One more? Okay, How about the big mamajama right now – Paranormal Romance. How do you find your unique hook? A vampire? A werewolf? You have to go further than that, much further. This is where building your platform and creating your unique hooks are developed right along with the plot. Exactly what makes your supernatural (or human) character different than every other character in a paranormal romance?  Get out your hats and let’s explore.

  • White Hat – (fact) Author requires a unique hook in the paranormal romance genre.
  • Yellow Hat – (sunny outlook) Well, everyone’s reading paranormal romance right now so maybe no unique hook is required? Everyone loves vampires, the fae and shape-shifters, so you’re cool. Right? Right?
  • Red Hat – (emotion) Paranoia sets in. You love your book, really love your book and your characters but … what if your supernatural creatures aren’t as interesting as Charlaine Harris’ or Yasmine Galenorn’s? What if the readers just don’t get you? Of course, they’re all crazy if they don’t, right? Right? You love this book and so will everyone else. Who doesn’t love supernaturals?
  • Black Hat – (negative) There are a thousand paranormal romances on the shelves. What’s the point in trying?
  • Green Hat – (creative) Is there something unique about your paranormal character? Something that makes him stand out? Does your vampire love to sing opera arias or maybe your werewolf has a penchant for pasta? Is your story set in a unique town or does your protagonist love old black and white movies? Find the hook. If protagonist and werewolf, Ben Woofer, loves linguini with marinara sauce you just may have located a twist to your hook that can find you a broader readership. Ben Woofer might have a few recipes to share, he may even have a cookbook in mind. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to connect your paranormal romance with an Italian restaurant chain or play Italian folk music behind your book events? Find the hook. If pasta is the hook, make it stick and use it to the hilt.
  • Blue Hat – (practical) Take this from idea to practicality, from doing signings and speaking engagements at The Olive Garden restaurants, to chef’s hats with your book title on them. Build an entire culture around your werewolf with a pasta love to match his romance with your human character. These are the kinds of things that make your hook as strong as your competitor’s.

Okay, I’ve given you the tools, The Six Thinking Hats. You’ve written or are writing the book. NOW is the time to find and develop your unique hooks. It’s the third step in creating a great Author’s Platform!

Oh, and we can’t forget to add a little inspiration to keep you going with this construction process, right? Okay gals, is he a werewolf or isn’t he?

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 1, The Rhyme and Reason

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 2, Creating Your Book Business Plan

Lessons to come:

  • Tricks to Perk the Prospective Buyers
  • Knowing Your Market
  • Planning Effective Pre-launch Exposure
  • Understanding and Using Professionals to Help Build Your Career
  • Estimating and Limiting Expenses
  • Time is on Your Side!

About Deborah Riley-Magnus

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising, and public relations as a writer for print, television, and radio. She writes fiction and non-fiction. Since 2010, she had two novels released. In 2013 her nonfiction, Finding Author Success (Second Edition), and Cross Marketing Magic for Authors were released. Her newest book, Write Brain/Left Brain, focuses on bridging the gap between the creative writer and the marketing author. Deborah produces several pieces monthly for various websites and online publications. She writes an author industry blog and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. Deborah has lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and recently returned after living in Los Angeles, California for several years. View all posts by Deborah Riley-Magnus

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