I hope you will forgive me for backsliding and will enjoy today’s segment, “When do you think a writer should start working on his/her platform and marketing plan?”
If you think writing the book was difficult or that writing query letters and synopsis is a pain, you don’t know the half of it. Even pitching to publishers and agents is a breeze compared to the marketing you will need to do upon the book's release. In my opinion, a writer should start learning about marketing as soon as they are serious about publishing their work. It’s always good to know what you are getting into before you jump in.
An author must realize that a signed contract means he/she is now a small business. You will need to follow the same rules as other businesses, including registering your business according to your state/county rules and registering with your state to collect state tax, if you are in a position to sell your own books. As I said on Day Four, the U.S. for Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov is a great resource for information on starting a small business. This site can guide you to local resources where you can obtain free counseling. They also provide classes on how to create marketing plans at a minimal cost. Some locations have free marketing roundtables where small business owners can get together once a month and discuss what they are doing and ask questions about marketing.
One thing an author must understand is branding. What does it take to gain name recognition? All businesses have a brand. Something that sticks out so people will recognize the business and the product they provide. The same thing goes for an author. Even with the larger publishing houses, you will have to do a lot of this work yourself. There are ways to get started on name recognition even before the book is sold to a publisher.
Join local writers’ organizations. I am a member of several organizations. Some are genre specific, such as Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, national and local. I also found that many large cities have local writers’ associations. I am a member of Chicago Writers Association and their affiliate InPrint. These organizations support writers from all genres. All of these organizations are great educational resources. Not only do they provide educational programs at meetings and offer workshops, but the chance to network with other authors can be very beneficial.
Going to conferences is also a good way to learn about marketing. Look at displays, watch how authors handle themselves during panel discussions, and meet people who have experience in the business. Again, try to find a conference that is genre specific to your works. (See the Upcoming Events section of this website for upcoming mystery conferences.) Once you feel your manuscript is ready, choose conferences which include pitch sessions where you can meet potential agents and publishers face-to-face. I met my publisher at the Love is Murder Conference in Chicago.
When you feel you are close to submitting your work, you may want to consider starting a blog. This will give you more name recognition and will allow others to see samples of your writing. There are several websites (see the Links page of this website) that offer free website or blog pages. As you can see, I created this website and created a blog page on the site. Other authors prefer to have their blog separate from their website.
The free websites can be “played with” for a while before they are released. I worked on my website for nine months before I actually released it. I didn’t want to put it out too soon, but the time I had to “perfect”, it provided me with the learning curve I needed to understand how to use it and update it.
Social media is another tool for branding. However, it can be challenging for many, including me. It takes time to learn how to use each site and it takes a lot of time to keep up with it after the publication or your work. My advice is to learn as much as possible about it before the release of your book. There are several good resources for this. As I said before, many of the Small Business Administration locations have classes and many do have social media classes at a minimal charge. Libraries are a good source for social media classes and many times are free.
Recently, I heard that Twitter and Facebook are two of the best social media sites to use, as they are the most accepted by the public. Susan Gibberman (resource librarian at the Schaumburg Library) turned me on to www.HootSuite.com. This is a great place to manage your social media sites. I plan to learn more about this marvelous tool in hopes of saving myself a lot of time.
So be warned. The use of social media does take a big chunk of your time, so using the media that is most beneficial to you is very important. It will take discipline on your part to manage your social media. You want to get your name out there, but you also want to have time to finish that next book.
I hope sharing my experiences with you has been helpful. If you ever have a question for me, please go to the Contact ME page of this website and submit it. I’ll be more than happy to share what I know with you. Of course, this can be done in the reverse. If you have a tidbit to share with me and my readers, either add a comment to this blog or use Contact ME.
Of course, never forget that we all are learning on a daily basis. We are never too old to learn something new.
Until next time.