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I get at least two emails a week asking advice on how to get published. Yesterday, I spoke to a colleague who is a journalist, former publicist and former marketing professional and she made a mistake that I see made by at least 80% of aspiring authors.
All she’d done the past year on her book was write the book and then her book proposal.
Platform building: zilcho.
That’s actually a wonderful thing, because I know it means she poured her heart and soul into writing a great book.
But it was funny speaking with her, because she hadn’t even thought about all the PR and marketing she may need to do beforehand.
“Ha. I was thinking I’d do all those things when the book comes out, but it makes sense that publishers would want to see something more solid than a promise.”
So, my friend promised me to take all the brilliant things in her book promotion plan (from her book proposal) and implement most of it now, before approaching publishers. Then, we’ll talk!
She’s asking her son for help with Twitter, journalist friends for blurbs and commitments to spread the word and she promised me to return to her long-neglected blog.
Today, I got another email asking for help with how to get published, this time from a relative who’s an award-winning writer. She just wrote a narrative nonfiction book-length manuscript and had it professionally edited.
Knowing the topic and her writing chops, I’m sure it’s laugh-out-loud funny and brilliant.
So, why is it so hard to get it published? She’s had only one bite out of 20 queries, and so wrote me for advice. That’s when I decided it was time for a post—one for my cousin and anyone interested in how to get published by a traditional publisher—whether you are writing narrative nonfiction (memoir, creative nonfiction, biography, etc.) or a self-help or how-to book.
First, one bite out of 20 queries is not all bad. That tells me there’s interest. As they say in the industry, “The book has legs.” However, I’m fairly confident she can take several steps to improve her chances and they all have to do with platform-building.
If you read my posts regularly, I’m sure you know that platform means the ways you reach people—online and offline—with your message. And you may also know that building your platform is perhaps the most important ingredient in the “how to get published” formula.
Here are some quick and more long-term things you can do to develop the kind of following that publishers and agents are looking for, so your book can get picked up and published:
Connect on Social Media: You don’t have to be super-active on every platform. Pick one or two platforms where you’ll be most likely to find your target readers and get active there. Connect with readers but also those people who influence your readers—bloggers, other authors, tv and radio producers, journalists, etc. Share their great articles and shows, as well as your own.
Teach: Seminars, especially through organizations and companies offer a similar excellent opportunity for book sales. In fact, many author/trainers factor book sales into all their corporate trainings. This helps boost book sales and also make sure that participants have a nice takeaway they can use to remember what they learned, dive deeper and share with others. You can teach in person or remotely.
I will say, strategy 7 is one to be careful about. You want to do your due diligence, research all programs the best you can, speak to people who’ve participated or become a participant yourself. Monitor how your folks benefited from or liked the program afterwards. If they had a less than stellar experience, you can give the provider feedback, but err on the side of dropping a program rather than hoping the presenter will change. If an affiliate program could be considered a conflict of interest in certain cases, make sure you don’t receive a commission for those clients.
I use the word “Sustainability” often when speaking about platform building. There is nothing more frustrating than throwing money into social media, website, PR and hoping that a big advance or stellar book sales will pay back more than your investment.
The more you have income-producing opportunities already in place, the more any of your efforts can be sustainable from the outset. Your platform building contributes to the bottom line and, in turn, those income producing activities will naturally also result in book sales. This model will make book marketing more enjoyable, less stressful and sustainable.
When I see clients without a sustainability element, they often give up quickly because the activities that can generate book sales end up costing more money than they generate. Even clients who have stuck with it and gotten great PR end up with modest book sales (if they don’t have the sustainability element) compared to those who operate from a sustainable model from the outset.
Of course, these platform building strategies are meaningless without a solid book concept that speaks to a real need within a clear, significant target market and a well written book (or sample chapters). And you’ll want to go through the expected steps to write a book proposal as well. And be sure to download my free report: 10 Tips to a Book Proposal Publishers Will Love.
Have any questions or a publishing story to share? Comment below.