5 Ways To Start Building Your Platform Today

Following my last post, What Is An Author Platform?, here are some low-cost, practical tips for how you can start platform building. Map Your Network This one’s fun. Get some sticky notes, and find a big empty surface (I prefer a large whiteboard, so I can draw on it as well, but a large window works just as well, or a wall, or a big sheet of paper.) Write the names of all the people, organizations, or media outlets that might possibly help you sell your book, that you have an existing connection to—one name per sticky note. Put your own name in the middle of your wall or whiteboard and then arrange your sticky notes around, positioning them according to the closeness of the relationship. You may be amazed at how big your network is. Then identify the top 5 or 10 relationships, and ask yourself—are they healthy and current? Or have you neglected them? Think about ways to revitalize those key relationships—a simple email, a lunch invitation, a phone call. Identify Key Alliances Make a list of the people you consider to be the top 5 experts in your field. Find ways to connect to those people. Are they on Facebook? If so, “like” or “friend” them, and start commenting on and sharing their posts. Do they blog? If so, comment. Are they speaking at a conference or giving a talk that you could attend? Consider doing so, and make a point of staying to meet them afterwards. These kinds of relationships will be key when it comes to getting endorsements for your book. Pick a social media platform… That’s right, just one. If you’re already a Facebook junkie or a Twitterholic, you can skip this step, but if you’re one of the rest of us who are intimidated by the very words “social media,” it’s okay to start slow. See the Resources below for great advice on how to get started. Experiment! Get your URLs If you don’t already own the web domain names you may need in the future, now is the time to reserve them. If possible, you should own www.[yourname].com and www.[yourbook’sname].com. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you would do with them right now. Just go to www.godaddy.com and register them. It costs less than $15 to reserve a URL for a year. While you’re at it, get your Facebook page name and your Twitter handle as well. (See Mari Smith’s great Resources section for advice on how to do this and more.) Join a Conversation No matter what your topic, you can be sure there are websites or blogs dedicated to it. Get on google, find the top-rated blogs...

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What Is An Author Platform?

What Is An Author Platform?

If you’ve even dipped a toe into the waters of publishing, you’ve likely heard the word “platform” being thrown about. Publishers don’t buy books anymore, we’re told. They buy platforms. So what exactly is a platform, and how can you, an aspiring author, build a strong enough one to convince a publisher to buy your book? “Platform” is an umbrella term for all the ways in which you, as an author/expert, can directly reach your audience and intended readership. It represents your already existing ability to sell to your market. Your platform is not your plans (“I plan to get on Oprah”); it is your established channels to your audience (“I’ve been on Oprah and she invited me back,” or “My best friend is a producer on Oprah and will make a personal introduction once the book is published.”) Some examples of platform include: The size of your email list Any media exposure you have already had Public Speaking experience – especially if you have drawn sizeable audiences Existing relationships with high profile experts in your field who may endorse and promote your book Your website or blog – how much “traffic” do you get? Your existing client or customer base Social media: Blog readers/subscribers, Facebook friends/fans, Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers, podcast subscribers … Promotional partners – do you have connections with individuals or organizations in your field who might partner with you to promote your book? Why do you need an author platform? If you are seeking a publishing deal with a traditional publisher, you need a platform to convince a publisher that you are a worthwhile investment. Publishers’ marketing budgets are limited, so authors are expected to be the primary promoters of their own books. If you are planning to self-publish, you need the platform to sell your books. So whatever publishing direction you plan on taking, make platform-building a central part of your strategy. And don’t wait until your book is written to start! By the time you reach that point, you want to have your platform in place. Size matters … If you plan on approaching a traditional publisher, numbers are important. Three hundred friends on Facebook may seem like an awful lot if you’re anything like me and weren’t that popular in school. But it won’t impress anyone who is considering investing in your book. Concentrate your platform-building efforts on a few key areas in which you can reach four or five figure numbers. (See below for some resources and tips for how to do this.) But it’s not just about the numbers … If you’re willing to spend the money, you can just go out and buy a million-person mailing list, but it...

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Of Myths & Misattributions

Of Myths & Misattributions

I recently went through the rather painful process of rechecking the endnote citations for the second edition of a book I worked on many years ago—back when I was younger and more naive about the veracity of things found on the internet. As I suspected, some of the pithy little quotations scattered through the book weren’t exactly accurate—some were misquoted, some misattributed, and some just downright fake. Since I wrote that book, I’ve learned not to trust anything quoted online, no matter how many hits it gets on Google and how many authors use it to open chapters. It’s all too easy these days to just google “quotes about X” and get page after page of wise and witty one-liners attributed to people like Lincoln, Plato, and Winston Churchill. But before you cut and paste, do your homework—otherwise you’ll be cursing when your book is on the verge of publication and your editor asks you to provide citations for the endnotes. Don’t tell yourself “I’ll do it later,” or “Surely it’s real—everyone quotes that,” (If everyone quotes it, you probably should avoid it even if it is real—but that’s another discussion.) Sites like QuoteInvestigator and WikiQuote are your friends in this endeavor. It’s amazing what rabbit holes can open up when you start trying to find original sources for quotes that have become so ubiquitous they are cliches. I thought I was beyond being surprised by these kinds of discoveries by now, but it took me aback to discover that one of the most oft-quoted sayings of Einstein—a phrase that launched a thousand self-help books—actually wasn’t said by Einstein at all, as far as anyone can tell. Yes, it’s that one: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” He said something similar (but not nearly as quotable) in a New York Times article in 1946: “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels,” and it’s been suggested that this is the origin of the beloved quote. One of my clients recently gave me a favorite quote by Socrates to include in his book: “Those who are hardest to love need it the most.” This one raised my suspicions immediately—it didn’t sound like a very fifth-century-BC kind of statement. An initial google search came up with lots of people using it. On digging a little deeper I discovered that it was said by Socrates….kind of. The real source of the quote was the 2006 movie Peaceful Warrior, in which that phrase is uttered by a character called Socrates. This recent article from The Chronicle Review has a few more surprising examples, a helpful classification system, and an amusing conclusion. I could go on (that other...

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Why I Don’t Call Myself a Ghostwriter

Why I Don’t Call Myself a Ghostwriter

People often ask me: are you a ghostwriter? And I usually reply, well, not really. Not because I don’t do what ghostwriters do: write books that get published with someone else’s name on the cover. But because the idea of ghostwriting carries a connotation of secrecy and subterfuge that has nothing to do with the way I work with my clients. I love the fact that most of my clients are only too happy to tell people they’ve worked with me. They don’t feel any less of a “real” author because they’ve collaborated to give birth to their books. Writing is a specialist skill that takes some aptitude and years of practice. Oftentimes, those with the most important things to say are not those who’ve spent years in front of a computer honing their mastery of the written word. Yes, there are some people who are blessed with great writing skills and have something significant to share with the world. But there are many more people who have been far too busy doing important work to train as writers. Through collaboration, they’re able to share that work with a broader audience without having to take too much time out or learn a whole new skill-set. I see the function of collaborators like myself as a translative one. The written word is a particular language that not all of us are equally fluent in. Many of the people I work with are masters in other languages—the language of teaching, of speaking, or of action. I help them translate their amazing wisdom into the language of words on paper. When a great writer’s work is translated into another language, we don’t think of it as any less their own. I feel the same way about authors who work with collaborators. They’ve already done the hard part—shaping, refining, and testing original ideas; working to build a business, a practice, or a community; living a life worth writing about. The novelist Graham Swift wrote, “If you can’t stand your own company alone in a room for long hours, or, when it gets tough, the feeling of being in a locked cell, or, when it gets tougher still, the vague feeling of being buried alive—then don’t be a writer.” I’d offer a revised ending to that quote—“then write with a collaborator.” I think it’s time to do away with the myth that to be a “real” writer you need to spend hours locked away with your computer, staring down a blank screen. If you’ve got something important to say, find someone to help you say it!...

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