Sure, it sounds like a garage band, but it is really something that every indie author needs at the ready. It’s your platform toolbox, and it better be stocked.
The deal is, no author can breathe a sigh of relief on their publication day, anymore. Even if you have solidified a nice publishing deal with a traditional publisher, the reality is that they are not going to give you the sort of publicity that you will be happy with. In other words, we’re (almost) all in the same boat here and need to throw our energy, time, and resources into marketing our book, ourselves. This begins long before publication, in fact, and I suggest that you begin work on your platform long before you even finish your book. Like right now.
Platform, in fact, isn’t just about a certain book or project, but is about you as a brand. I won’t go into too much depth, here, because I assume that many of you already know this. If you don’t, you can keep checking out The Starving Artist or other indie publishing personalities and resources. In a nutshell, you want to build a network, relationships, and rapport so that you have people ready to become potential readers. Then, after publication, you want to continue to build the network, strengthen the relationships, and deliver on the professionalism and quality.
Ideally, you do this by covering a number of different areas. You find out what works great for you, what you are bad at, and what you have time for. As for how much you should give of your writing career to publicity, I have heard estimates range from ten per cent to one day per week. The point is, you have to write too, so you want to concentrate yourself on marketing that works for you. A good place to start is, as they say, the most return for the least amount of effort. And don’t forget to slough off things that don’t work for you, while also realizing most great things take time to build. And always, always, always put your best foot forward.
Here is what my toolbox looks like:
- ONLINE PRESENCE: I maintain the following at all times: a platform website/blog (aka. weblog, The Starving Artist. You are there. I am happy with WordPress.com.), a book website (with corresponding social media), and a company website (with corresponding social media), as well as all this social media: Goodreads (and Shelfari), Amazon Author Central, Smashwords profile, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Etsy (at times, to sell book-related art), Pinterest, YouTube (to share videos), Slideshare.net (to share slideshows), About.me (still working on it), and Instagram (to share photos). And Wattpad. But we’ll talk more about that, soon. I am much more involved in some of these media, and not so much in others. It will depend on your interests, skills, and what seems to do the most good for business. A website or blog is a must.
- PHYSICAL STOCK: I have copies of my novels, a smallish stack of author photos, business cards (which I carry everywhere), and another stack of fliers for my book. I use Vistaprint, and you can always start with the free business cards.
- ARSENAL OF LETTERS: I also have, both on my computer and physically, pre-written letters to potential reviewers, fellow bloggers (to guest, interview, or be featured), contests, and a cover letter for newspapers, PR, book stores, etc.
- CONTACT: I have an email account. Actually, I have three: one personal, one for the author, and one for my publishing company. I think Gmail is great, and since I bought the domain name for my website, I can use the domain name for email addresses (like for my author email, which is email@example.com). I also have a PO Box for my company.
- PUBLICATIONS: I subscribe to the following: Publisher’s Weekly, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest. There are others.
- MEMBERSHIPS: I belong to the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association). There are various other organizations to check out, and some even offer insurance.
- CONTEMPORARIES: I have a relationship with (could be better) my local bookstores, local libraries, writers groups, arts center or organization, and readings. You can also create a network through classes and conferences, both locally and beyond (with retreats and fellowships). Your area may even have an office space co-op, but each of these things costs money, and I like the advice that says not to spend anything on writing that you can’t afford to lose. Groceries first. I belong to online writers communities, like Scribophile, but I rarely have the time it takes to maintain these well. If you lack a local community of writers, these would be indispensable. I also do MobileRead forums, Nookboards, and Library Thing. I belong to HARO (Help a Reporter Out), in a free membership capacity, cuz you never know.
- BLOG COMMUNITY: I stay in the blog loop through WordPress Reader and email subscriptions to various blogs. I have a feeling there are better and more universal readers. At the least, this is important because commenting on other people’s blogs gets you interest in your own, and then you have people to go to when you want to do a blog tour. And you really should do a blog tour.
- GIVE-AWAYS: Beyond obvious distribution (like to Amazon and Barnes & Noble) my books are on on Scribd and Smashwords and, in the near future, I plan on exploring Free-Online-Novels.com, Online Novels, Books on the Knob, and Bookbarista as avenues for readers to get their hands on my “older” books. Again, I’ll mention Wattpad, but, again, more on that in the next couple weeks. Free books equals free publicity.
- COMPUTER TOOLS: Beyond CreateSpace and KDP and Smashwords and Vistaprint, I use the following all the time: PicFont (for quickly adding text to a photo), Fotor Editing (for quick photo editing), NaNoWriMo (and Camp NaNoWriMo), dafont (for finding and buying fonts), Bitly (for condensing website addresses), Microsoft Word, yWriter, Adobe InDesign, OneNote, Google Docs, Excel, Photo Gallery, DropBox, PowerPoint, and Firefox. I have yet to figure out a nice video editor.
- ETC. I won’t make a list, but you will of course want a laptop and all the accoutrement, a ledger, notebooks, pens, a library of helpful books, yadda, yadda. And a smiling face.
It is daunting if you are starting from ground zero, but you build your toolbox slowly. However, you have to have it, I promise, if you are going to be successful in the modern literary world, so pick something and begin. And if you already have a platform toolbox, I hope I gave you a new idea or two. You can’t do them all, but you are welcome to try.
Any tools that you use that I forgot about or never knew? Please comment! And thanks.