PART NINE: Time is on Your Side!
The Winter Olympics are well under way in Vancouver and event after event, we’re seeing athletes win or lose by mere fractions of a second. Making your book a success is a little different, but the route to winning the gold is pretty much the same. You’ll need intricate strategy, intimate knowledge of the course, honed athleticism (maybe not on a snowboard but with your mind) and strength. It takes a ton of commitment and effort and like those Olympians, if you’ve prepared, focused, warmed up and run the good race, you get your shot at a medal.
No matter when you start your author platform building efforts, time really is on your side. The major difference between you and Apalo Ohno (aside from his ability to dance the Flamenco and fly on the ice), is that having a successful book is a marathon that doesn’t start or end until you say it does, and the only real competitor you have is yourself.
If you are at the end of your process, have chosen to self publish and are looking at a garage full of books to sell, the strategy is the same as it is if you’re just starting to think and plan your success while plotting your unwritten novel.
The key to this or any success of Olympian proportions is to decide to be successful, begin the process and be as tenacious as hell. So whether you already have a book or are thinking about writing a book, there are things you’ll need to know before you plan your journey toward victory. Just because time is on your side, doesn’t mean time should be wasted.
- Know Your Competition
Technically you don’t actually have a competitor, but you will be trying to sell yourself and your book in a competitive market. Your book must justify its price for a buyer, fulfill an interest they have in your genre, and be visible enough for them to know it exists.
- You Must Plan
Strategy works way better than hope and wishful thinking. Get your Book Business Plan together as soon as possible. Organize your schedules for exposure, your venues and your target audience in the social networking world (and please don’t forget that real, breathing people not on the internet are part of your social networking too). Build your Author Platform carefully and with timing that reaches a crescendo exactly when you want it to.
- Just Do It!
Implement, implement, implement. A plan is worthless if it isn’t put into action. Keep in mind, a plan can go dull if it’s not kept alive and growing. Good Book Business Plans and Author Platforms are living, breathing things that will constantly vacillate to accommodate the industry and the marketplace. The key is to keep the waggle within limitations and under control, keep your eyes on the prize and let the plan become a moving vehicle that can alter when necessary to help reach any given goal.
Be careful not to over plan. I’ve known authors who can write entire mega novels, edit smoothly and begin the next book in the saga without a hitch. Unfortunately, those same whiz kids tend to over plot their promotional strategy. If you are careful in your planning, most efforts are fairly inexpensive, so what if it doesn’t work quite right? Try again or try something else. Success can’t happen without growth. Back when I skied the black diamond slopes, I learned early (and often) that if I didn’t fall, I wasn’t improving. Take a few chances. You instinctively know which ones are too critical to screw around with and which ones are worth a shot. Follow those instincts.
- Record Your Findings
Trust me, later, after this whole experience is over, you will not remember everything about every promotional or marketing effort you made. All you’ll know is that you’ve sold your target number of books – whether that number is 100,000 or 1,000 – or didn’t. As you begin your next project, you will want to know all the details of your prior success or fall. Unlike the athletes, there is no video tape to replay, only your full or empty wallet to gauge from. Take voracious notes. Keep a running daily journal of ideas and strategies implemented, when and if they succeeded, what they cost and write your opinion of them right that moment. Time heals all wounds, and if you made an effort to, for example, plaster a monster banner of your book title across a hot air balloon and it proved to create no additional sales, it’s important to record your frustrations at the time. If you adore hot air balloons, you may be blinded by that love and try again, wasting investment dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.
- Target, Target, Target
Let’s revisit the hot air balloon fiasco above. If your novel is about a coal miner from 1800’s West Virginia, or three young men traveling to Nepal to seek the secrets of the universe, using a hot air balloon as a marketing vehicle has little relevance … except that you like them.
If your book is a non fiction about reaching for the sky to find happiness, you probably should hire an entire flock of hot air balloons (and the Goodyear blimp) to promote it. If your novel is about a woman witnessing a back yard murder as she silently passes overhead, or the story of a paraplegic who dreams of flying, the hot air balloon may just kick butt in the marketing exposure category. You can take it further; you can be visible at hot air balloon gatherings, do speaking events, sign and sell books.
Always target your strategies. Find that hook that connects you to a reader. Too many authors think that marketing their book is about using a tried and true process that can be followed by numbers and in some ways it is. Do you want to be just another author? Or do you want to stand apart? You are creative. Make connections and watch your efforts succeed.
- Time Really is on Your Side
As long as you take responsibility for pressing the envelope and making things happen for your own success, you can’t help but reach the gold. Looking at the athletes in Vancouver, some are older, some are practically children. Some made decisions to try one more time, others are so new they’re probably just feeling things out to see if they really want to give their lives to earning medals. Most are extraordinary, all are heroes.
So are you. The most courageous people I know are authors and writers who put their heart, soul and knowledge on paper for the world to see.
Timing is everything but no one can decide for you. If you didn’t realize that a strong platform would help your book rocket, I’m sure your agent or author friends will inform you quick enough. If you know that a good Book Business Plan is important but haven’t written one yet because you’ve been busy writing the book, now is the time to plan. If you haven’t strategized your success yet, it isn’t too late.
‘Now’ is when you say it is … although I can’t let the opportunity pass to remind you about the early bird and the worm. If you’re a skier with hopes of competing in the 2012 Winter Olympics downhill races and never show up to practice until a hour before the slopes close for the day, your training and input will be lacking.
Good luck. Take your time, but use that time wisely.
This concludes the series on Author Platform Building. I’ve had a blast and hope you got something out of it. The next series is in development, but next Tuesday, I will be interviewing authors and publishers regarding the subjects touched on in this series.
Platform Building, One Plank at a Time
Lesson one, The Rhyme and Reason
Lesson two, Creating Your Book Business Plan
Lesson three, Developing Your Unique Hooks
Lesson four, Getting Attention
Lesson five, Knowing Your Market
Lesson six, Planning an Effective Pre-Launch
Lesson eight, Estimating and Limiting Expenses