Tag Archives: Author Platform

5 Things I’ve Learned About Writers

For over six years now, I’ve been coaching authors and working with writers in live and online workshops. I teach them how to be more successful, how to gain more book sales and how to negotiate the world of marketing, promotions and public relations. I know, I know, the thought of marketing is like having to eat vegetable you don’t like or do 20 minutes on the treadmill – all necessary, but oh how we hate it. Unfortunately, I sometimes get the brunt of an author’s frustrations over having to do what they don’t like.

Over these years I’ve noted patterns that appear in every place I speak, in every workshop I teach and with every author I coach. I thought it might be helpful to share them with all the writers I know. Here are the 5 things I’ve learned about writers.

WRITERS WANT TO KNOW WHY – No matter where I am or what kind of writer I’m talking to, this question always comes up. Why do I need to blog? Why do I have to tweet? Why do I need a website? This list can go on forever, but only a clear understanding of how marketing works helps them understand. What I’ve come to realize, is that the question WHY is usually an umbrella covering a plethora of other things, some related to writing and being successful, some completely unrelated. We writers are a stubborn bunch. We have to be. This is a tough industry to break into, survive within and ultimately find success. When a writer desperately wants to have great book sales, it’s often time to set our stubbornness aside so we look for the solutions. As a coach and workshop instructor, it’s my job to discover what that WHY is all about. Usually the question isn’t so much WHY but more like “Why do I have to do it?” The author in question may be working two jobs, meeting publishing deadlines, dealing with kids or well, simply stubborn. The answer to the big WHY question is painfully simple – because EVERYONE has to do it. The basic techniques of marketing are tried and true and have been for centuries. They are as true for you as they were for Andrew Carnegie.

  • You have a product
  • Your are in a competitive industry
  • You must make your product stand apart from that competition
  • You must make the public aware of your product
  • You must promote your product
  • And you must grow and maintain sales for that product

No one writes a book in hopes that no one will know about it or buy it. The basics of marketing are important and everyone with a product to sell must use them.

WRITERS WANT TO KNOW IF THERE’S A SHORTCUT – Oh what a great question and I totally understand why a writer would ask. A shortcut to work gets us there faster or helps us avoid traffic jams. A shortcut at dinnertime, like prepared foods, take-out and a dishwasher, saves us valuable time in the evenings. We are programmed to look for shortcuts. Time is finite and everyone on the planet gets the same 24 hours in any given day. Looking for shortcuts is expected … but shortcuts –  like auto twitter and auto Facbook post programs, and blogs that announce themselves on every other social media you use – not so much save time as limit your capacity for creating impact. Short cuts don’t work when marketing, in fact I’d go so far as to say they never work best when marketing. So many times an author will write to me after taking a workshop and say that they’ve done all the things recommended but received little to no response. After some exploration I always unscover that they’ve taken these handy-dandy shortcuts. Yes, they’ve saved time but what they’ve unfortunately done is become so automated, their tweets, Facebook posts, and blog announcements LOOK like a machine did them. All those sparks in their social media circles are flat, without personality and unfortunately, without true marketing impact. Because marketing is a living, breathing thing, it lends itself to being brilliant … but only when backed by a human being. By all means test all the shortcuts. I suggest you test them one at a time then take a breath and do it all again without the shortcuts, using your personality and style. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes! Using shortcuts and saving time but gaining little to no sales is just … foolish.

WRITERS WANT TO KNOW HOW TO FIND THE TIME – This one too is painfully simple. There are so many things a writer does in life, everything from taking care of family to valiantly protecting their valuable writing time. Finding the time to do everything means biting the bullet and making a plan, a schedule, a check list, a reminder buzzer on your cell phone, a kitchen timer … ANYTHING IT TAKES to be efficient. This requires good time management skills and discipline, but have you ever known a successful person in any field who doesn’t have good time management skills and discipline? Everyone’s time management style is different, but only those who master it actually get everything done.

WRITERS WANT TO KNOW HOW TO STAND APART – It’s a dog-eat-dog publishing world out there, crowded with books and shouting authors and dwindling distribution points. Whether you are published by a big, small or medium publisher or self published, and even if you’re a writer just finishing your first book, the question has always been, “How do I stand apart from everyone else?” You did it with your writing and wrote a book that no one else could write because it came from your unique mind. Now it’s time to take that powerful creative gift and use it for marketing. So what happens? So many authors find themselves moving with the crowd they had hoped to stand apart from. This happens ALL THE TIME. Take a look at any author’s twitter following or Facebook friends and you’ll discover that the majority (and sometimes ALL) of them are other authors. I think this is based in fear – fear of tooting our own horn, fear that without other authors around us we’ll falter, fear of … well … success. It makes sense to have lots of authors around us, but it doesn’t make sense to completely surround ourselves with our competition. Shuck off the fear and reach out to readers. Who are the people who would buy your book? Time to make twitter followers, Facebook friends, and Goodreads friends with them. I always tell writers that the best ratio is 2 fellow authors for every 8 prospective book buyers. This is how to stand apart, take steps away from the competition and market to your fans and prospective book buyers.

WRITERS WANT TO KNOW HOW TO TAKE THIS FURTHER – Once an author strategically reaches out to prospective book buyers and creates fans and sales, something wonderful happens. It clicks. Fireworks go off. The light has come on for them. One small taste of success makes them hungry for more! They discover that this marketing thing DOES WORK and it doesn’t take all that much time, especially if it’s carefully targeted and efficiently implemented. There’s basic marketing and there’s advanced marketing. Taking an author’s marketing to the next level with cross marketing techniques and platform expansion skills becomes easy. Having reached this part of the success adventure, authors are starting to think like marketing people by revisiting their back list to build sales, creating promotions that other authors never think about, in venues other authors don’t use, and speaking to book buyer in places other authors never dreamed of. Taking it further really only take one thing … eliminating the very first WHY hurdle.

Write Brain.Left Brain

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Cross Marketing Magic for Authors available in print and ebook

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Things that Scare Writers …

It’s October and the chant “Deadlines and Edits and Bills, OH MY!” can be heard ringing from the rafters of every writer and author I know. Even a few publishers are squawking as the harvest moon rises. Why do we get this way? And more importantly, how can we manage the dreaded forth quarter scary stuff? Here are 5 Tips to help writers and authors get through to the New Year.

NaNo Only if You Can

NaNoWriMo has been a fantastic phenomenon. Many writers find it a fantastic challenge, but for as many writing a new book or finishing a work in progress who find it a successful process, there are just as many who find it to be far less productive. My theory is that timing may be the issue. To participate in NaNo, the writer must commit all their time during the month of November to reaching a word count goal. Granted, writing 50,000 words in 30 days can be a great thing, but writing the RIGHT 50,000 words is what really matters. If you’re able to do NaNo – meaning if your life allows you to block off 30 days and nights for nothing but writing – by all means, go for it. But most writers and authors I know have many, many other responsibilities in their lives, They are mothers or caregivers, hold down full time jobs, take care of the house and cook meals and they have outside commitments to their community or church or clubs and friends.

Don’t get me wrong, NaNo can be a wonderful tool, but if this is your first time on the NaNo speeding train, I have a few suggestions. Before you sign on, take an inventory of your life. Determine what’s most important to you in the month of November and carefully evaluate the stress level you’ll be adding to your load. Stressed writing is never the best, but if after thinking it through you discover that you’re the kind of writer who thrives under tight, heavy deadlines, rock and roll with it. I’ll be looking for the NaNoWriMo logo on your social media and cheering you on!

Keep a Sharp Eye on Your Platforms

Platforms are the pumping, heated life blood for your book. Your website, twitter, Facebook and blog entries are how you tell the world – prospective book buyers, fans, literary agents and publishers – that you are writing a book. It’s how you get them excited about it.

This final quarter of the year is fraught challenges, the holidays, the changing weather, and that all-important self-imposed deadline. We’ve all done it … “I’m going to finish that book before New Year’s Day!” (Never mind that we might have decided to write that book LAST New Year’s Day, LOL.) It all adds up to pressure and ignoring your platforms to carve out more writing time is simply COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. Your book may get finished, but no one will know about it. A disappearing act by any writer or author can set things back drastically.

Plan your platform activity time carefully. Twitter 2X every day for 10 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each afternoon. Facebook  once every day. Post a question or fact of the day that pertains to your book’s unique elements. Blog at most once every two weeks, and at least once every month.  Be sure to blog about your book – the story, subject and unique hooks within your book. Don’t blog about the process of writing, it gets boring and basically is nothing new. Your blog subjects should be interesting to your prospective book buyer and reader fans … not other authors. Update your Website at least once every month. These updates can be adding the newest reviews for your backlist, interesting subject explorations related to your work in progress, where you’ll be speaking or signing books. A great way to handle website updates is to embed your blog into your author website.  Every time your blog entries are made, your website is also updated. Cool, huh?

Keep your platforms alive and hopping so that readers, prospective book buyers and established fans will be excited and waiting for your next book. (Even if this is your first book, keep those platforms sparking!)

Take a Moment to Look Around

I see you there, sitting at your computer, wearing sweats and a pair of ugly fuzzy bunny slippers. Time to look around! Put on your shoes and go for a walk. Go out and do your grocery shopping. Take an hour to walk around the mall. JUST LOOK AROUND! Who knows? That old man strolling from his car to the dry cleaners just might be the basis for a great character. The colors and weather you see might play a critical role in your plot. Passing conversations may inspire dialog you didn’t expect. Go on. Get out of the house. Enjoy. It’s good for the writer’s soul, especially as we face this time of year.

Plan Your Holidays NOW

Oh the Holidays! How crazy can those get? Family, parties, gift giving, baking, cooking, entertaining – it all adds up to a stressful time of year for anyone, especially the writer working on a deadline. It’s still early enough to plan a low-stress holiday season. Take advantage of the lay away programs for your gift shopping. It gets the names on your gift-giving list checked off, keeps the gifts out of your space and gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Do a little bit every week.

Talk with your friends and family now and find out what they’re planning. Will you be going to a party or ten? Will you be responsible for bringing a part of the menu? The beer? Flowers? Keep this simple and plan ahead.

Are you a holiday card sender? Writing holiday greetings isn’t exactly writing. I honestly know people who send out hundreds of holiday cards every year, each with a sweet personal note in them. If you’re like that, get those cards early, write 10 of them every week then set them aside. This way you’ll have them all done before it’s time to drop them into the mailbox.

Above all, remember to take in and cherish the holidays. They only come once a year and we deserve a little frivolity and joy.

Sleep

Yes, sleep. If you’re like me, sleep is that elusive thing that everyone else seems to enjoy. My mind spins with what has to be done, what isn’t done yet, what I want to do and how much I don’t want to fail by not finishing something … especially my book.

There are tricks for getting sleep. Drink chamomile tea instead of coffee after 7 p.m. Avoid stimulation like exercise, computer games or reading that wonderful horror book beside the bed. Do Yoga. Relax and breathe. Yeah, right, like any of those actually work. The only real advice I can give is this … when I honestly feel that I’ve been productive that day, I can actually sleep. Sleep is replenishing. It’s healing and healthy. Anything that works for you to make sure you get the rest you need is a good thing. And remember, real, deep sleep brings fantastic dreams that can easily find their way into your book. Nothing is more important than creative ideas, right? So why risk giving up 1/3 of your creative life to stress and fretting over everything that needs to be done? Get your fair share of dreams!

There you go, 5 Tips to help writers or authors get through this scary, stressful final quarter of the year. Happy writing!

Write Brain.Left Brain

AVAILABLE NOW

 

Finding Author Success Second Edition available in print and ebook

Amazon print, Amazon Kindle and B&N

Cross Marketing Magic for Authors available in print and ebook

Amazon print, Amazon Kindle and B&N

 

 


True Marketing Power for Authors: Test Your Cross Markets for Effectiveness!

Evaluate 1

EVALUATE, EVALUATE, EVALUATE

How do you know a Cross Marketing effort is working for you? Aside from the obvious – growing book sales – there are several ways to test your efforts for effectiveness. Here are seven tried and true tools and tips for testing your Cross Marketing efforts. Sometimes one works better than another in a particular venue or with a particular target, sometimes a few of these strategies can work hand in hand for best results. Some may simply just work great for you but not at all for another author. The trick is to know and understand all seven testing strategies, make them yours and use them well.

TEST BY TIMING
I’ve mentioned before that it’s best to never reach out to more than two Cross Marketing targets at a time. There’s a very good reason for this, because the whole time you’re reaching out to new and unique markets to build a larger fan base and grow book sales, you’re must also be doing your standard marketing – social networking, speaking, book-signings, reaching out to genre book clubs and approaching genre blogs for reviews and interviews. Your Cross Marketing efforts are those magical steps in places and toward targets that your competition is not taking. It’s vital to make sure you have time to do everything … and that includes writing your next book! I strongly suggest the Test by Timing strategy. This is easy, it requires that you approach and market to ONE of your Cross Markets for three-four solid months before adding another Cross Market. With this strategy you choose carefully. If, for example, scuba diving is an element within your manuscript and you go after scuba diving online venues, you will move through those prospects until you find the one willing to work with you, one with a large web presence and following as well as a very active business. Ride with the program you and the business or blog owner have created, never drop the ball or forget to send your content for columns or articles, never forget to respond to people commenting. Three or four months later, take a serious look at your sales. Have they gone up? Can you see how it could directly relate to your efforts at the scuba websites and blogs? Or have the sales numbers stayed the same? In that case it’s time to make a choice – give it another three to four months, or move on. If sales are rising and you’ve gotten a good grip on how this works, attempt a new relationship with a second target for your Cross Marketing and roll with both. ALWAYS watch your sales numbers and make sure your efforts are creating results. If sales go down, back up and punt. Are you spending too much time on the Cross Markets? Are you forgetting to do your normal social network marketing? Have you forgotten to keep things active and alive at your own book blog and website? Testing by Timing is a strategy that gives every Cross Marketing effort its full attention before adding another. If this is all done right, it will become a system for you that can be both easy and fun … after all, what in the world is more fun that selling more books and gaining more fans?

CONTROL ACTIVITIES
This seems simple but it isn’t.  The same twenty-four hours exist in each day for everyone on the planet, so careful scheduling and time management is crucial. Some authors find so much success with Cross Marketing (one, selling a full 7,000 more books than normal!) that they go a little nuts. They add too many more of those Cross Markets and learn that:

  • They have no time to write
  • They have no time to do a good job with all the different markets
  • They are pulled in too many directions and literally forget which target they’re talking to
  • Overworked people get sloppy and the target they’re trying to interest can feel that

Don’t get greedy! Let each Cross Market find its own level. Some may do really well for a while and fall off because just about everyone in that Cross Market through that particular venue has bought your book whose going to buy your book. Add a Cross Market only when you know you can handle the added efforts, and only when you are ready to spread your wings further. Give each venue your all,  know when to step away and know when to up your activity.

CONTESTS
This one is easy! If you’re book is about, for example, organizing, once each month or two, at the end of your column, ask the readers to submit a before and after picture of an organized drawer or closet and the winner will receive a free book from you and a free tape measure from the business you’re cross marketing through. If your book is about scuba diving, run a contest at the scuba diving website for a brief story about the reader’s diving experience and the winner receives a free book from you and something small from the scuba business. If your fiction is historical, ask the host website readers to tell you something that happened somewhere else in the world during the same time frame in your book, and the most interesting piece of information wins a free book and … well, you get the point. These contests work on several levels. The number of responses tell you how many people are actually reading your column or articles, and the responses give you an opportunity to directly connect with the prospective book buyers. No response after two or three tries tells the whole story … time to move to another Cross Market and another venue.

CODE WORDS OR COMMENTS
Use a few code words in your article that should lead the readers of your articles or columns respond. For example, if your book has dogs in it and your Cross Market is dog lovers, in your article at the chosen venue (dog care blogs or doggie daycare websites) you may want to use code words that correspond somehow to the title of your book – something like “Dogs sense coming bad weather”. At the end of your article, ask the reader’s how dogs sense coming weather. The responses can range from technical, to playful or ridiculous, but they all constitute a response, and that means people are reading your articles and want to interact with you. NOTE: It is ALWAYS more effective to close any article, column or blog entry with this kind of open-ended question to encourage response.

JOURNALING
To do this correctly and give your Cross Markets a fair three to four months to prove success or failure, make sure to keep a journal of several things:

  • The topic of your blog, article of column each month on each specific target venue
  • The number of responses received with each topic at each venue
  • The activity at your own book platform website immediately after each entry at a venue
  • Any related changes to your Amazon ranking after each entry at each venue
  • The number of total sales at the end of each month

These journal entries will tell you the whole story about how your Cross Marketing efforts are doing. Over time, you will be able to clearly see which venues are working and which ones are not. This gives you the information needed to do a few things:

  • Tweak your efforts to create better response
  • Make a good decision as to whether to leave that venue and move on to a different Cross Market target
  • Or stay the course and add an additional venue to the mix

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
So many authors love the “idea” of Cross Marketing and they really want to do it well, but the truth of the matter is that many drop the ball, get bored, or simply don’t care to put in the effort. Be honest with yourself when analyzing your Cross Market efforts. Did you really approach the right Cross Market target venues? Did you faithfully do your articles on time and with strong, creative content? Or did you take every short cut you could imagine? If a Cross Marketing approach doesn’t work you need to ask yourself if you really tried, or if it just may be the wrong venue for that target. Sometimes the problem isn’t the strategy or target … it’s us. Be honest. You’d never write a book you weren’t interested in writing, so never approach or attempt Cross Marketing to a target you aren’t interested in.

AVOID THE “FUN” TRAP
Oh man, sometimes Cross Marketing is so much fun! The host venue loves you and they think you and your content are a great addition to their website. They are always in touch with you and friendly with you and even come up with great ideas for you to use in your blogs, articles or columns. You are having a blast! But … if you’ve kept a journal and watched your book sales, you may discover that sales are staying the same and not moving up at all. The whole point of Cross Marketing isn’t to make a whole batch of new friends, it’s to sell more books, so it may be time to make some hard decisions. Is it time to step away and try a different venue or Cross Market target? Is it time to ask the venue to permit you to start featuring the cover of your book at the TOP of your article instead of just a tag line with a buy link? If they really like you and want you to keep writing content for them, they might be perfectly happy to let you directly promote your book. They may even give you an ad space for your book on their website. This has to be a Win/Win situation and they understand that so you need to keep an eye on your sales and know when to ask for more from the venue … or say farewell.

Questions? Post them and I’ll be happy to answer.

Next week we’ll be talking about HOW you can keep your Cross Markets momentum alive and exciting. See you then!

FREE Ten Tools for Author Success Handbook available for download at The Author Success Coach website.

“Finding AuthorSuccess” available in print and ebook onAmazon, B&N, Appleand Sony!


Author Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 9

PART NINE: Time is on Your Side!

YES IT IS!

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 seven, Understanding and Using Professionals to Help Build Your Career

Lesson eight, Estimating and Limiting Expenses


Author Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 8

PART EIGHT: Estimating and Limiting Expenses

 

If you’re anything like most writers, when you reach into your pocket, moths flitter out. Empty, nada, poor. You have responsibilities. Perhaps you have children, maybe you’re single, between relationships or worse yet, between jobs.  You’ve figured out the time management thing so the dog is walked and the cat is fed, hell, even the laundry occasionally gets done. Your primary focus has been to get your book written. For whatever reason, it looms and demands and you follow the call of characters and plot, nuance and surprise. So here you are, finally thinking about putting together a marketing budget and you realize … there is no budget. This is especially the case if you haven’t taken a serious look at lesson 2 in this series, the one that taught you to treat your writing like a business.

Yes, a business. Writing is a business and your book is the product your business has produced. We want to sell our products and it does take investment to do that, but before you begin to hyperventilate, there’s investment, and there’s investment – investments of time and creativity as well as investments of cash.

Things to Watch Out For

If you’ve crossed into the circle of writers who’ve finished a book, fiction or non-fiction, and begun to discuss this within various universes – writing and critique groups, online author groups and social networking venues – you will notice that suddenly you’ve become very popular. You’re receiving emails from businesses and professionals you never heard of. They’re offering free workshops and seminars, as well as workshops and seminars that cost a few (or more than a few) bucks. Someone has a plan, a system that can catapult you to the top, whether it’s a self publisher with a shiny, mesmerizing website, or a person with the right contacts to get you seen. Some are selling services they themselves implement, and others are selling a package of techniques that, though not complicated, are extremely difficult for the novice to use. No, they’re not all scams and I don’t want you to think everything that pops into your email box is a scam. Just be careful of the short cuts because guess what? THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS.

Be careful to avoid the luring bells and whistles, at least at first. The key to this part of the process is to be like a choosy shopper, read every label, think about the “value” over the “cost” and be smart.

How to Avoid the Bad Juggling Act

Your book is written and you’re about to move ahead onto the next phase of the journey. Whether it’s to choose an e-publisher, a self-publisher or traditional publishing process by going the query route, you still must begin your campaign toward success NOW. Just as you wouldn’t query or submit a badly written manuscript laden with typos, you shouldn’t assume marketing solutions will magically become visible and work for you. Don’t think it’s not your responsibility to plan or implement marketing strategies until after your book is represented, printed or sold to a well known publishing house. You must think and do NOW.

Publishers want to see that you are on top of your game, that you have taken the reigns and begun the journey toward being noticed, recognized and desired as an author and for the book you wrote. This is how you get noticed in the first place. If you don’t think the first thing an agent you’ve queried does is Google, go on, send out your queries and set up Google alerts for your name. You’ll be amazed. The bottom line? Goggle only recognizes you if you’ve been active. Active represents seeds of marketing. Marketing represents visibility and voila! Now you have shown the big boys who control your destiny that you are not only ahead of your game, you’re in control of it.

Avoid juggling, it can go bad. Bad juggling is when you vacillate. When you choose one path or image for your plan then change gears halfway through. It’s like shifting lines in the grocery store because the other one seems to be moving faster and damned if it’s not going slower and slower. This is why your plan must be solid and clear. Waffling is a no-no. Be sure of your path and walk it. You can’t be dropping all your balls.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that new and exciting possibilities will never tempt you. Being tempted is okay, just remember to be careful.

How to be Tempted the Smart Way

You must set a budget for several reasons, if nothing else, to control your trajectory. At most, to control your cash flow as it goes out the door. Here are a few words that should be burned into your brain as cool, exciting and tempting promotional concepts cross your eyes.

  • Free
  • Cheap
  • Reasonable
  • Effective, High Visibility
  • Effective, Target Visibility

Free – First of all, nothing is ever really free, so always be watchful. Everyone wants something and if a professional or friend offers you something for free – time, a reading eye, suggestions or contact names – they will always want (and deserve) something in return. Field these opportunities carefully. Obviously you can’t get every service you need to market your book for free, but you can make good use of those offerings of free help, as long as you have something of value to the person doing the offering. Are they secretly writing a book too and might they want your good eye as a reader? If they’re stepping up to help with a book event, don’t forget to ask what special events they might have coming up and offer to help. There’s a mutual give-and-take that makes free services work. Never totally discount an offer of free service, but always look closely and consider the returned favor.

Cheap – Ouch, there is no uglier word in the budget language. Think about it. When something is cheap, it obviously is only a semblance of what it should be. It has holes or only works a short time, it functions only during the full moon or it only for left-handed users. When the price for a service looks too good, it usually is. Bait and switch is firmly planted into these offers too. Of course, you get what you pay for but hey, you can get so much more if you just pay so much more. If the service is significantly cheaper than the others, be a detective and find out why before you chance losing some of your precious budget.

Reasonable – Good word, reasonable. But what is a reasonable price for a promotional service? Let’s take book videos. Your genre and following have qualified this as a viable avenue for promoting your book. How do you know the best price? Think value. Look at every sight offering the service, write to the contacts at those companies, ask questions and never forget to inquire what additional services they offer that makes them better than the competition. Making a book video is cool, but what about marketing it? Does the company offer proven effective strategies for exposure of your book video? What is the added cost? How does it compare with other similar companies? Can you negotiate? Mix and match production packages? Does it fit in the budget? This takes some time but think about every element of this process the way you’d think about buying a house or a car. Reasonable is only reasonable if it has value.

 

Effective, High Visibility – Okay, this one gets a little complicated but let me simplify it for you. You have determined a budget. Let’s imagine the overall marketing and promotional budget is say, $2,000 and not a penny more. How you use and distribute that budget should depend on your strategy. A high visibility strategy is very different from a targeted strategy. It’s like shooting a bunch of pellets from a shotgun and watching them spray everywhere … or shooting an arrow aimed for the center bull’s eye target. Both approaches work for their specific goal, but what is your goal?

If you’ve chosen high visibility as your strategy, you’ll need to be very creative and careful with your pennies. Look for and at every free exposure you can get from book reviews to setting yourself up as an expert on something within your book. Connect with groups focusing on that subject of expertise, be willing to get on a plane where ever you need to go and speak to these people. Promote yourself online, use your strong platform then … and only then … start spending your budget wisely. Press campaigns can be free or they can be expensive. Release services rage from $25 to thousands. Be aware of when, how and where these services distribute your release. Choose one that allows attachments (i.e. book cover, author photo, etc.) for when you need them. Only use a service that reports that the press release did in fact go out and how many targets received them. Keep track of responses. Aside from a press campaign, budget for promo campaigns. Is your book one that should have tee shirts and mugs? What will you do with them? Will you sell them on your website? Give them away at events? Are they creative enough to be successful? Will you advertise and purchase ads?

High visibility means big exposure and while your book is waiting for publication, you need to be very vigilant about assuring that you are building a following that is waiting for the book. Keep in mind, you may need to expand your budget and hire a professional to assure your bucks get all the bang possible.

Effective, Target Visibility – Big difference here, and sometimes this is the most powerful way to build your following as it begins early and in your own back yard. You will focus your energies in your local exposure and expand it out. Speak at local book stores and libraries on your subject hook, and belong to local related groups you can easily participate in (i.e. vampire and fantasy lovers groups, foodie groups, gardening groups, whatever relates to your book will work). Create your own “completely” free press release contact list by calling local newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations and finding the correct contact. Make sure they know your name, so that when you email press releases, they recognize you. Get visible everywhere. If your book is coming out soon, announce it on a simple flyer posted at your dentist’s office, your vet’s office, your insurance man’s office, even on those local market and grocery store bulletin boards. Reach into your community and get some face time by helping with trash cleanup days or gardening days or even holiday local parades and picnics. It’s the original social marketing and it still works. Now you’re all friends and it’s no big deal to tell them you have a book coming out. Plan a big launch party and make sure you invite all your new friends in addition to the media. Celebrate the old fashioned way.

Now, combine this with online social marketing. Reach your fingers out further and further with a really powerful blog (updated at least twice a week), strong facebook and twitter presence and all along, keep building an email list. Notify all your subscribers of any news. Keep the excitement growing.

All this and you have yet to spend a penny, so plan your $2,000 strategically. Expand into purchasing broader press release services as you get closer to your book launch. Use your budget wisely. Choose the perfect professional to help you push through.

The Bottom Line and the Budget

Now, time to dust off that Excel program and get down and dirty. You have determined a realistic overall budget figure, now break it down.

Don’t forget the obvious. Your general expenses count too. Phone, postage, printer ink, internet service fees and phone expenses all count.  Next comes the professional services you are willing to contract for, this includes an attorney, editor, webmaster, publicist or assistant to help make everything happen. Now on to the PR, marketing and promotional expenses, book videos, advertising in book publications, audio books, book signing events and launch party. Also in this category would be banners and signage you may want for your book events, book plates or even posters. Next, travel expenses. Yes, travel expenses, even if you are targeting your promotions primarily to a local or statewide market, you must include travel expenses. Gas, meals, tolls, parking and the occasional hotel room. Don’t forget gifts and gratuities, for example, if someone is kind enough to reach out and invite you onto their talk show, nothing makes a better impression than a small gift. Chocolate works every time. Let’s talk about Donations. Will you be purchasing or ordering books to donate to an organization to help raise money for a charity? Remember to add the cost of those books or at least the postage into your budget. Yes, it will be tax deductible but you must pay first, right? Now we should consider education. As part of your budget and your book business plan, you should always be open to ongoing education. When there’s an author your love coming to speak at a conference, you will want to attend and learn what you can from him/her. Not only have you seen an excellent speaker, but the other attendees have seen you. Budget for it. And finally, the all important slush fund. This is a little bit of budget set aside for the absolute perfect service or promo that has tempted you and passed the “great value” tests.

Now, this obviously represents a full budget, not just your $2,000 for promotion, but do not be intimidated by all this. A well planned budget works within the parameters of reality and stretches things a bit. Naturally, you shouldn’t create a budget for $100,000 when you only have $500, but a dream budget as an addendum to the real budget is a perfect way to open your imagination to creative thinking. For example, if there’s no way you can afford a professional publicist, surely you can afford a few wonderful books to teach you. If hiring a book video company is too far out of budget, you can learn how to make a video yourself.

Be smart. Budget not only your money but your time. Create a timeline that will take you from finished book to book launch date and beyond. Know you’ll get there and just put one step in front of the other!

Last and most important, watch and monitor you budget like a hawk. Be honest, be realistic and get value from every penny.

Next week is the final in this Platform Building Series: Time is on Your Side (Go on, sing along with the Rolling Stones in your head. I know you want to.)


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 seven, Understanding and Using Professionals to Help Build Your Career


Author Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 7

PART SEVEN: Understanding and Using Professionals to Help Build Your Career

Here they come! The Professionals. You know who they are, they’re all over the place, on your Google searches, in your email inbox, in the grocery store, your church, writing class and even in your friendships, because someone always knows someone who knows someone who can – you fill in the blank. Some are pounding at you on twitter either to get your business or tell you how hard their job really is.

They’re recommended by your critique group, your writing/author group and often they pop up when you least expect it. (You mean you didn’t know that the woman who walks her dog past your house every morning is a marketing expert? The paperboy heard from the neighbor’s kid who baby-sits your niece that you’re writing a book and told his auntie, Margie Marketing.) News travels and there are days when these connections seem opportune. At times these professionals seem like gods, at other times, we imagine them to be money-sucking monsters. One thing is sure, there is a need for them. Gird your loins, here they come!

  • Literary Agents
  • Author’s Liaisons
  • Promotional Agents
  • Publicists
  • Marketing Experts
  • Consultants and Advisers
  • Editors
  • Published Authors

All experts, all professionals … and all over the place. How can you, the author who’s just about to be either published or discovered, really and truly know who to use, who not to use, who you need and how to control your project through all the craziness ahead? How much of their services are strategic enough to make or break your success? What does YOUR career require, as opposed to that other writer over there with a different book in a different genre? How much can you really do on your own and how do you know it’s time to hire a professional?

Instinct. Sorry, but it’s true. Let’s take the above list of wonderful professionals and run through their benefits or downfalls.

  • Literary Agents – if you’re seeking traditional publishing you need one, unless you’ve chosen an independent publisher. You don’t hire an agent, you sort of woo them with your query, then they woo you back with their interest and it isn’t until they say they’d like the represent you that it’s time to take a serious look at their services and success rate. Literary agents are the backbone for the traditional publishing industry as it has been for a very long time, but as you know, the industry is changing and so is this particular part of it. Be sharp, keep an eye out for scams and never pay a literary agent a dime for any service. An agent earns their payment through a percentage of your success … this is why they’re so careful about the authors and books they choose to represent. Only with success will they be financially rewarded, thus, only the cream of the crop get represented – those genres or styles the particular agent has seen success with. These professionals need to back the right horse. Don’t forget – just because you weren’t Agent X, Y or Z’s right horse doesn’t mean you can’t be represented by a literary agent. Seeking out, contacting and connecting with the perfect agent for you is a challenge and takes serious, committed effort. Do your homework, be realistic about your work, never give up. When you’ve made the perfect bond, they’re ready and you’re ready, then you’ve made a major step toward your success. Read contracts carefully and ask questions.
  • Author Liaison – This is something new and exciting for those seeking self-publishing. These professionals know the self-publishing arena and can connect you with the perfect publisher for you and your project. There are things you need to know. Author Liaisons often will charge for services, and in most cases, they will also contract for a percentage of book sales. The Hiring Professionals Strategies below is vital here.
  • Promotional Agents – Do you know what these people are? Often even I’m not sure, this kind of service often smears in with Publicists, Marketing Experts, Consultants and Advisers. You seriously need the Hiring Professionals Strategies below to field through this group of pros.
  • Editors – Don’t even think twice – you need editors. Don’t wonder, don’t look back and don’t pinch pennies. Often the editing is part of a publisher’s standard service. A good author’s liaison will recommend one or more. Many writers hire editors to do an edit on a manuscript about to go to a literary agent, and all self-published authors must have a full edit or risk looking like a fool. If you find yourself in a position where you will choose or hire an editor, the Hiring Professionals Strategies below is for you.
  • Published Authors – How wonderful is it when a successful, published author is willing to share his/her trials and tribulations with you? These are the warriors who have conquered the dragons, found their way and continue to venture onto the battlefield! It’s not easy to find, you can’t just walk up to a successful author and ask for advice, but if you find yourself in a situation that smoothes that path, don’t be shy, slip and slide along. At a writer’s conference, sitting at the bar, munching peanuts and Mr. Author is sipping a beer on the next bar stool? By all means, smile and talk. Don’t bombard him, just be friendly. Another place to learn amazing, valuable information about the process and life of an author is on twitter, by following author blogs, or friending and following authors on facebook. Don’t be a nuisance, just absorb. An author won’t be charging you for his or her advice, but you do need to take it all with a grain of salt. Be smart about your choices because your time is valuable too. Follow or chat with authors who write the same genre you’re writing or authors who have approached the market with interesting twists or bold strokes. Be inspired or seek someone else.

Now that we’ve covered the professionals, it’s time to talk about how and when to use them.

SERIOUSLY GOOD HIRING PROFESSIONALS STRATEGIES

  • The “Hope is Not a Good Strategy” Strategy – Authors are writers who love writing and in most cases, don’t want to do anything but write. Hoping the perfect champion will simply come along and stumble onto your doorstep to whisk you to success is lame. If you build your author’s platform early and reinforce it all along your journey, you have inadvertently pushed the tentacles of your project out into the world and now you have a better shot at grasping the interest of the right professionals. I have a client who caught the eye of an independent publisher simply by chattering on twitter and having his novel excerpts on his author site. The indie-publisher Googled the author, found his website, liked the concept and, voila. That’s not hope, that’s action, and a strong author’s platform is the flip side of just wishing victory into being.
  • The “Just Like Magic Doesn’t Mean Real Magic” Strategy – Wow, I’ve heard a hundred of these stories. Authors have met author liaisons in grocery stores and publicists at the dry cleaners. They’ve discovered cool promotional avenues over a glass of wine at a club or overheard an editor talking on the train and struck up a conversation. How serendipitous! Or is it? Serendipity is a twist of fate, but is it destiny? I’m not saying that the publicist you met over cocktails is a fraud or incompetent at all, what I’m suggesting is to step back, take a breath and think it through. Too many writers just finish a manuscript and suddenly have a chance meeting with a professional perfectly poised to catapult them to heaven. It could be a golden opportunity or just a red herring. Be a writer, if this plot twist came into your character’s life, what would they do? A little research at the least. Take some time and learn all you can about the professional, be sure they’re right for you. Ask to talk to their other clients. Have them do a presentation and explain what they can do for you.
  • The “Comparing Apples to Apples” Strategy – Now that you are finished with your novel or non-fic book proposal, maybe you’re ready to hire a professional to help get you to the next level. It may be an editor, it may be a marketing expert who can assist in building your platform, it might be a publicist who knows what you should be doing now to assure a serious attention later. You might be at the point where you want to hire a consultant to guide you toward which steps to take next. Be sure to look deep when hiring anyone. After all, you don’t hire a plumber who arrives without his tools, or a doctor without a diploma. Your lawyer and dentist have credentials and so should your career professionals. Compare value for your buck, and compare quality based on success rate.
  • The “Do I Really Need that?” Strategy – Oh the bells and whistles are so exciting! Everything calls to you from fancy-dancy book-videos to imprinted tee shirts. Time to be logical. 1) Do you really need it? 2) Does your budget allow for it? And 3) will it advance your visibility or make you look like a goof. Sorry, but I laughed my butt off when I saw that an author with a serious novel about addictions had his book cover printed onto a massive coffee mug. One the other side it said, “Coffee, my addiction of choice”. I am certainly not saying you should ignore all the bright sparklies out there that might get your book the attention it deserves, I’m just suggesting you think it through first.
  • The “Down and Dirty” Strategy – So maybe these magical appearances of professionals everywhere hasn’t happened to you, so you have to plan, think and choose for yourself whether you need a professional and what kind will serve best. Do your homework. Check out websites, compare expertise and price. Know what’s out there and understand what kind of professional can truly guide YOU. There are a lot of cookie-cutter plans and services available and a hundred how-to books on the subject, but remember … the industry is changing. You need to determine the kind of professional you need for this shifting landscape. Locate one who moves with the changes and sees these vacillations as opportunities. It’s a lucky time. Just because things have been done one way or another way for years does not mean it’s the only way to do it from now on. Look for professionals who are willing to break new ground and personalize their service to YOU and YOUR BOOK.
  • The “Careful, Careful, Careful” Strategy – It’s one thing to look at websites, but another thing altogether to really get a grasp on a professional. These are people. Some of them have amazing websites and work out of their small home office. Some have large staffs and corner offices in high-rise buildings. Is one better than the other? You will need to keep one thing in mind at all times. This process isn’t about getting the absolute best of the best, word renowned “name” professional to handle your progress to success … this is about getting the absolute best professional FOR YOU. After checking out all the online information you can get and asking around about a particular professional, it’s time to take the next step. Contact that person and ask for a phone chat. Yes … a phone chat. A conversation where you can hear that person’s voice and they can hear yours. A thousand things can be learned by the inflections in their voice, the passion in their words and the questions that they ask. Don’t forget to have your questions ready too, because this isn’t a one-way road, it’s a relationship where both parties will benefit. Trust your instincts and know when the discussion is over. Don’t get railroaded into agreeing to anything until you’ve had time to think. And above all … do not ignore your pocketbook. No matter how great a professional and their service sound, if you don’t have the budget for it, it’s not a good match.
  • The “Follow Your Gut” Strategy – Okay, you found the perfect pro to get you where you want to go. They have the right attitude and your instincts tell you that you can work well with this person. You like them and they like you. Now, take a day or two, set it all aside and see what happens next. If you’re still sure, explore any concerns. Is the cost a bit pricy? Perhaps you can negotiate. Is the timing perfect but the market soft for your particular book? Toss it out as a challenge for answers. Test yourself and the pro to assure everything is up front and clear. Your gut knows more than you think.
  • Avoiding The “Wannabe” Strategy – Dan Brown’s last book was released in the American and the European markets at the same time. You want that. Barbara Kingsolver was interviewed in several cities and spoke live in Los Angeles when The Lacuna was released recently. Oh, you want that too. Charlaine Harris makes appearances at many conventions that features supernatural or paranormal stories in print, television and film. Yes! You want to do that too! An aspiring author you met online has created a dynamic, powerful and exciting website with all the bells and whistles to expose her work-in-progress and … you want that too. Let’s take a moment and look in the mirror. You’re not Dan Brown or even the hopeful writer with the fancy website. You are YOU and you can’t lose track of it. How and where and when you get your exposure simply can’t be based on what another author is doing. Be sure you’ve outlined your goals and the path to attaining them is purely based on you and your book.
  • The “Back Up and Punt” Strategy – Everyone has setbacks. Not every professional we think will be perfect for us, is. Sometimes we just have to bite the bullet, say “uncle” and move on. Be careful. As you move along in this visible world, many people will come out of the woodwork to give you advice, free or for a cost, and that unsolicited advice isn’t always necessarily right for you. If a person states that your author’s liaison, agent or publicist should have done “this or that” for you, take a moment to think on it. Was “this or that” considered and determined not the correct strategy for your project? Has your pro never suggested “this or that” and why? Ask. You’ve been working with this pro for a while and should be on the same page, should have gained respect for each other and found a comfort zone for exploring things … even “this or that”. If in that exploration it’s determined that there’s no longer a good match, shake hands, share a hug and move on. Burn no bridges because now you’re back where you started and the last thing you need is a reputation for being too difficult or hardheaded to work with. Use a line I use about one of my ex-husbands (and yes, I have two, long story). Simply say that the professional was really a good publicist (or marketing expert or author’s liaison or whatever), just not good for you. This way, no one looks bad. This time you should be armed with even more important questions to ask as you search out a new professional relationship.
  • The “Track Record” Strategy – This one is just a warning, it should help raise a red flag. Keep a sharp eye on your track record for success with any professional you hire. Set up a monthly telephone conversation to discuss performance (in fact, if your pro is a good one, they may have already begun this practice as a standard performance check with you, the client). This is an honest, up front way of keeping an eye on your path toward success. Things should be moving ahead in increments acceptable to both you and your professional. Another track record to keep track of is your own. How are you doing with the professionals you’re working with? Are you meeting they’re requests for information or materials? Are you compromising their efforts by implementing suggestions some of those unsolicited experts gave you? Are you firing and hiring a new editor or marketing expert again and again? Are you imagining you are the victim? Or can you do what it takes to streamline your focus and truly move to success. What’s your track record?

Which strategy works best? Sorry … all of them. Together. Print this out and tape it on the wall. Remind yourself to seek out and hire professionals who listen to you AND who you are ready and willing to listen to in return.

But don’t forget, there are many things you can do without professional help … but that’s another blog series altogether. *wink* Stay tuned, same time, same channel.

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


Author Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 6

PART SIX: Planning an Effective Pre-launch

I once met an author whose book was coming onto the market in three short weeks, and she’d been incorrectly told not to promote it until it was out and available.

Don’t mean to sound brazen or mean but … SHHIZBUTT*HOG*WASH*ARE*YOU*CRAZY*YOU*CAN*NOT*BE*FREAKING* SERIOUS!

Okay, now I feel better and so should you. You see, there’s a certain madness that overcomes authors when they get close to seeing their book in the flesh. It makes them forget all the good sense that got them to that point in the first place. I call it The Dreaded Almost Famous Syndrome. It causes all kinds of crazy things to mix and mash in your head until it’s a pulverized tomato soup, you know the kind I mean, right out of the can and tasting like nothing … not even tomatoes.

But never fear, there is a cure for The Dreaded Almost Famous Syndrome and it’s far simpler than you think.

Ready?

Here goes.

COMMON SENSE

Told ya it was simple. Common sense. See, as the circus rings tighten around you and everything in the big top is bright and shiny and distracting, there’s a very simple way to extract yourself from those terrible “squirrel” moments and stay on track. Just use your head. All the experts in the world and all your friends and all those strangers who come out of the woodwork to give you advice (some out of caring, most for money) are going to start sounding like an off-key brass band tuning up. If you use your head and categorize all the ideas that are being lobbed your way, you will see things clearly. You are smart. And you are definitely smart enough to instinctively know when a piece of advice seems wrong.

That author I mentioned in the beginning? Well after we chatted a bit, she said the words I knew were coming. “Oh my God, I thought that might be wrong! It didn’t seem to make sense, I just didn’t know what else to do but follow the plan and wait until after the book came out. Now what do I do?”

I told her not to panic, and I suggested that from that day forward to always remember: No matter the advice, if it doesn’t smell like apple pie and it doesn’t look like apple pie … it probably isn’t apple pie. In other words, she needed to trust her instincts and promote her book.

A successful pre-launch campaign for any book hinges tightly to your platform. Who are you talking to and where are you visible? How many audiences have you created? If it’s your mom and that nice kid at the Home Depot, you don’t have a platform. If you’ve built your platform carefully and developed a visibility, your audience – all those followers who never miss your blog, chime in on twitter, support you at the critique groups and asked to be on your mailing list – has been there through it all. They’ve watched your initial struggles with writing or rewriting or editing your book. They’ve stood and cheered when you got an agent or found a publisher perfect for your book. They’ve listened to you talk about the book cover and shouted rousing congratulations when you finally showed them how it looks. They pop in at your book website often to see what’s new and get the skinny on your progress. And if you’ve done this well, that group of followers has grown and grown.

T MINUS 90 DAYS

Now, time for the countdown. Three months before your book comes out (two weeks before if e-published) you begin your hype. Using every venue you’ve cultivated with your social and professional networking, you announce when the book will be available. You begin promoting pre-sales of the book. You send out your first of six well crafted press releases, making sure to target local papers and publications, radio and television stations. Go the distance by sending that same press release to your friends, family and associates. Arrange a book Launch Party with a local independent bookstore or library and begin compiling an invitation list. Be sure to include other authors, friends, family members, business associates and local media (newspaper, television and radio) on that list.

T MINUS 60 DAYS

Two months before the launch, you strike again, but make sure your message is bigger, denser and more powerful. Now you take any early copies of the book and seek reviews. You begin booking yourself to speak and have events at libraries, coffee shops, bookstores and book clubs. Another press release, this time attaching your photo, the book cover and announcing the venues where the book will be available and where it is already available for preorder.

T MINUS 30 DAYS

Books in hands from the publisher? Get them out and visible. Carry them to the local independent bookstores and libraries and show them off. Arrange for book events. Keep your ears perked for major book events you may want to participate in.

T MINUS 20 DAYS

Get your Launch Part invitations out. Send out another press release about the Launch Party. Respond immediately to RSVPs. Hopefully you’ve already begun speaking at groups and libraries and by this point, have most likely been interviewed for a few radio shows or online shows. You’ve been invited to guest blog and have hyped the coming launch on your book website, your own blog, twitter, facebook and every email groups you belong too.

T MINUS 10 DAYS

Now you can hear harmonizing circus music, but don’t let it distract you. You’re very close, be sure to keep the momentum up. Continue to contact and schedule speaking engagements, even if it’s at a local high school writing class. You need to be as visible as your book. Continue to let everyone know where they can preorder a “signed” copy of your book, and keep telling everyone the launch date.

D-DAY

Send a press release announcing everything important, that the book launches that day, where it can be purchased, where you have been interviewed and the great reviews you’ve gotten. Get over to your blog (there’s time before the party, honest) and give your followers your heartfelt thanks for taking the journey with you. Get to your book website and splash that banner that the book is now available! Keep your site media room up to date and loaded with activity so everyone knows where they can see you or hear you speak.

Now, go to your party, have a glass or three of champagne, enjoy the crowd and pat yourself on the back for making the day what it should be. Doing an effective pre-launch you’ve accomplished several things.

  • You’ve pre-sold books
  • You’ve become visible and created a demand for your book
  • You’ve made yourself media available and created a buyer following
  • You’ve eliminated the stress of worrying about failure because you’ve done your part to assure success.

Now, of course, every book and every pre-launch will be different. Some topics may easily lend themselves to exciting, highly visible exposure. Others may take a bit more push. The level of push is all on your shoulders though. It’s you’re choice. You’re the author and it’s your baby. Up to you.

(Want to know more about press campaigns? I’m considering a series on it, so let me know)

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