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Posts by Keisha Page

The Bare Bones Author Platform: What You Should Work On First

Let’s face it. Authors are busy creatures. Most of us work full time jobs, and squeeze writing time in while we’re commuting on the train or while the kids are watching Sponge Bob. It’s a thankless type of existence, taking up a lot of time with hope of best-seller status or a fantastic response to an agent query. Who has time to build an author platform?

Truthfully, you need to devote at least a little bit of time to making sure that you are building at least a bare bones author platform. Today’s publishing contracts rarely come with marketing allowances; you’ll be expected to handle the lion’s share of your publishing, at least until you hit certain sales benchmarks. And in today’s super-competitive market, having a following is going to be essential in getting a new author a contract with either an agent or a publisher. It’s an unfortunate truth; few publishers are going to hand a check to an author who hasn’t already built at least a bare bones platform.

So where should you start?

Truthfully, you just need 100 loyal fans.

But…

Of course there’s a but. There’s always a but.

Those 100 loyal fans can’t be your best friend since high school, members of your mother’s bridge group, or the ladies from your Zumba group. While they will probably do great things for you in terms of helping you get the word out, you need fans that love you for who you are and what you create. That creation is essential. Fans who love what you create social-media-961769_1280aren’t helping you out to do you a favor, like your mom’s besties will do. The follow you because they’ve developed an appetite for what you create. It’s those fans who will sell not just your first book, but your second, as well. And that, loves, is the real trick.

So as you’re spending some of your precious, sometimes stolen time, writing, you need to be devoting at least a little bit of that time to building your author platform. Yes, it takes away from your time to write. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt. Yes, you will have points where you hate doing it. You may even consider hiring it out, and that’s completely reasonable. The adage about spending money to make money is certainly true in publishing. A great author promotion company will work with your budget to help you build your platform while understanding any limitations that you may have.

The question then becomes, where do you find those 100 loyal fans?

If you have the time to participate in groups, then Goodreads groups devoted to your genre is a great place to start. You’re not going in there to promote; promotion is forbidden in most Goodreads groups. But it’s a good place to connect with fans, and a mention of your work-in-progress may be okay, although you should check with the group’s rules to make sure.

A lot of budding authors have developed strong, even fiercely loyal fanbases on Wattpad. They’ve published a few chapters, or earlier works there, and built a great following by giving out a steady stream of quality content while working on their main work in progress. Some authors have even been signed to publishing contracts on the basis of what they’ve published on Wattpad.

I also hold firm to the belief that as an author, it’s essential that you have a Facebook and Twitter presence. Managing these two social media platforms is time consuming, and there is the need to have fresh content readily available. For that reason, some skip this step, although I can assure you that agents and publishing houses want to see activity on these two platforms. Plus, your readers are on these platforms. You’ll find several of your 100 loyal fans there.

All in all, if you can spend just a bit of time each week focusing on these areas, they will help you to build the bare bones author platform that is essential to success in today’s competitive publishing market. You’ll be better suited when you’re ready to query agents or publishing houses; if you choose to self-publish, then you’ve already started the hard work of building a fan base, and it will be easier for you to go to those 100 loyal fans and arrange for reviews. I know that you don’t have much time to dedicate to marketing, but I promise that it will be worth the effort.

5 Key Components of Book Marketing

Writing a book is a big deal! You spend hours and hours working on this brainchild of yours and when you’re done, you have a completed book that people all over the world can read. It is a really fulfilling accomplishment. But when you are done writing, you may find yourself asking, “Now what?” How do you get people to read your book? Book marketing can seem like a hard task to take on if you don’t know all of the steps involved. Book marketing is very hands on and it is a process that can make or break your book’s success. 5 key components of book marketingThe best part is it only consists of 5 key components and once you master them, book marketing becomes a piece of cake.
1. A business plan. You may be writing books, but a business plan is just as important as when running a traditional business. Essentially, you are the business. Put your plans down on paper. How many books are you going to write? How often will they get published? This is where you determine out any and all critical information, especially your budget. Determine how much you are willing to spend on various costs, from writing to marketing, on each book. Putting your plans down on paper will give you a firm foundation from which to start your book marketing efforts.
2. Excellent product. Your final product consists not only of your written book, but also of the cover, synopsis, binding, and much more. Your final product is what you will present to your readers. You want this to be amazing. You wish to grab the attention of everyone who looks at your books. Keep that in mind as you design the supplemental items for your book. Consider using beta readers before you completely finish your book and plan to invest in a professional editor. They can help work out any kinks that might come up.
3. Building an author platform. This is essential in book marketing. You want people to be able to recognize your name and this means that you have to get your name out there. Social media is a wonderful tool in promoting your work. Most social media is free and with the right know-how, you can gain a substantial number of followers that you can use to market your book. Social media is more about building relationships that book selling, but when the relationships are developed, sales will follow. Goodreads is an excellent social media type tool for authors during the publishing and marketing process as well.
4. Online properties. This is where you work on any kind of website you might create for yourself or your book. An official website dedicated to your books will increase your overall credibility as an author. A blog on your website will also help with the before mentioned author platform. Consider creating an email list for regular updates on new book launches and other promotions.
5. A kick ass marketing plan. This is where you determine your book’s promotions. In your marketing plan, you need to have everything outlined. You need to set up your book launch, blog tours, online and offline appearances, and marketing maintenance. You want to design promotions for your book that will blow people away! Don’t leave any ground uncovered in your book marketing. Planning it all out ahead of time will save you the headache of not getting all that you want out of your book marketing.

One of the problems facing authors today is that they don’t wish to be in business. They just want to write books. While that’s great, if you need to earn an income from your books, you have to look at being an author as a business.

6 Tips to Help You Break Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a pain in the butt. We’ve all been there. As a writer, writer’s block is the bane of my existence. We’ve all hit that dead end where nothing we write seems to make sense anymore. Those are the times when watching even the smallest particle of dust flutter past your computer screen can feel like a better application of your time that 6 Tips Writers Blockwriting more nonsense words. It’s frustrating. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t break the writer’s block. You try writing prompts and taking breaks, but those tricks just don’t seem to cut it all the time. There are many techniques writers use to overcome the dreaded writer’s block. The trick is finding the method that works best for you. Here are six tips for you to play around with and use the next time you get writer’s block:
• Take a break and do mundane stuff. Stop your writing and wash the dishes or fold the laundry. Those tasks will give you something to focus on rather than your writing, leaving your mind fresh when you sit back down to write.
• Write at a different time or in a different place than you usually do. A change of scenery does a lot of wonders for a writer. The new scenery might spark ideas you wouldn’t normally have in your regular writing spot. The same goes for the time that you write. Write later in the night or earlier in the morning for a new take on your topic.
• Start writing in the middle. Introductions are stressful. Sometimes, it can seem impossible to write without nailing your introduction. But, coming back to the introduction after you have written a body of work can make your introduction stronger. Write where you want your story or blog to go and mold your introduction around it. If your writer’s block is stuck on a specific area, skip that and go back to it later. Many writers don’t write in order.
• Don’t edit while you write. Stressing over punctuation and sentence structure can cloud your mind and keep you from producing content that conveys the tone you are looking for. Don’t nit-pick your writing as you go. Focus on your content and the tone before you worry over details.
• While you’re at it, try free writing. Write anything that comes to mind. No punctuation. No grammar. Make it one long sentence if you want to. Freewriting is an excellent way to process your thoughts (or lack thereof) and get to the point you are trying to make. Even if what you write makes no sense, you may find something surprising in your freewriting!
• Change how you are writing. Like changing your scenery, changing how you are writing could spark new ideas. Change from Word to Notepad, or maybe even good ol’ pen and paper. Change your font size and color. Small changes like these can change the way you look at your writing.
• Most importantly, write for yourself. You obviously love writing. Forget writing for an audience and get back to why became a writer in the first place. Don’t care what anyone else thinks. Just be you!
The bottom line is, writer’s block is something that every writer has struggled with, and working through it will happen, in time. If all else fails, try a glass of wine and a good night’s sleep. Sleep is something that writers are usually woefully deficient in, anyway!

 

 

Keisha K. Page is a published author, and owner of Working Mama Media, where she helps authors navigate the business side of being an author, among other things. She writes weekly at Ecririons about book marketing, platform building, branding, and putting together a team to ensure your success as an author.

5 Tools to Make Self Editing Less Stressful

Writing is a long and complicated process. After you have toiled over your work, writing and rewriting over a long period of time, you always have to edit it. For many people, this is where the going gets rough. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation can get very technical. 5 Tools to make self-editing less stressfulIt’s enough to make your head spin. Microsoft Word never catches every error and rereading your own work can really make you cringe. Once you start rereading, you want to start changing. Sometimes, you can unintentionally end up with a completely different story. No matter what way you look at it, self-editing is a giant pain in the ass. It’s also a very necessary one. But have no fear, there are resources that make the task of self-editing less complicated. Here are a few resources to make self-editing your next work easier to manage:

  1. Have any online dictionary, thesaurus, and/or style guide you may need ready. Sometimes you will come across a sentence that may be grammatically correct, but just doesn’t set the tone you are looking for. Or it may not be formatted in the right style. Having a dictionary, thesaurus, and/or style guide ready will keep you from having to hunt for the right resource later. Most dictionaries and reference guides have become available online, making it easier to get your hands on the information you need.
  2. Use Grammarly to catch more mistakes when they happen. Grammarly is a spelling, grammar, and punctuation checker that you can add to your internet browser as an extension. It catches more mistakes than Word does. You can copy and paste your text into the Grammarly editor and get it corrected on the spot. Grammarly also helps catch mistakes in anything you write online. From Facebook to emails, Grammarly will correct it as you write it. (https://app.grammarly.com/)
  3. If you are writing about something wordy or technical, you may need to turn it into plain language. Many of us encounter wording that we don’t understand in everyday life. From legal documents to scientific studies, technical language can throw us all for a loop. Changing technical jargon to plain wording will help your readers better understand what you are trying to say. (http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/Examples/samples.html)
  4. If you use references, make sure they are cited right with ReferenceChecker. ReferenceChecker is a free, downloadable software that you can use to double check any and all references you write. ReferenceChecker checks a number of different styles as well as displays links to corrections for your references. (http://www.goodcitations.com/)
  5. Use a checklist to keep you on track. Without a clear idea of what needs to be done with editing, it is easy to get sidetracked. Keep a checklist nearby and follow it to keep you focused. Checklists also serve as a reminder for common mistakes to look for in your writing. (http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/printouts/Editing%20Checklist.pdf)

There are plenty of resources out there to get you through the editing process. Use these resources as a guide when you start editing your work. They may even lead you to more resources that fit your writing better. Editing becomes simpler with practice. All you have to do is persevere. Hopefully, these resources will make your next editing venture a little easier to handle.

Where’s My Eleventy Billion Dollars?

Last week, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and a post caught my eyes. I’m in a lot of groups of Facebook, mainly ones where we discuss marketing tips, and where I can meet authors and can exchange launch takeovers or blog interviews or other fun ways to help each other promote books.

The post that caught my eye was something along the lines of “I can’t wait until I get picked up by a publishing company. All of this marketing is tiresome and I don’t really have time for it.”

I had to laugh. Okay, I didn’t really laugh, because it was really early and I hadn’t had enough tea yet and if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m super cranky in the mornings. Like really. So I wasn’t laughing. But I’m not sure that I’ve read a more untrue statement since I first got involved in the writing community.

Here’s the deal. Yes, marketing is tiresome. I once watched an author I love do five author takeovers in a week. If you’re unfamiliar, an author takeover is generally done when an author is having a party to celebrate the launch of their latest book. He or she will invite other authors over to her Facebook page to “take over” during the launch party. This means the author who is launching doesn’t have to entertain his or her fans entirely on her own for a few hours, and authors and fans who hadn’t previously been connected get introduced to each other. It’s beneficial all the way around. But it’s tiring, especially given that most authors are still rocking a full time job in addition to writing and marketing their books. Chances are, the author I watched do five takeovers in one week also worked forty hours that week, and had a commute. Maybe she even had a family.

Marketing is also ever ongoing. If you stop marketing, you stop selling books, until you become a household name. For most of us, we’ll have to market until we die, or at least until we get so tired of it that we retire from trying to sell books.

But getting picked up by a traditional publisher isn’t going to end that.

Let me repeat myself. If you get picked up by a traditional publisher, you’re not going to find that you’ve sold a mountain of books and magically have eleventy billion dollars in your bank account without doing any marketing.

It’s just not going to happen.

First of all, marketing budgets have shrunk, all the way around. Even the Big Five publishing companies aren’t going to sink marketing dollars into a relatively unknown author. They’re already in to you for editing, cover design, formatting, and maybe, if you’re lucky, a small print run. There’s no money left for marketing. I’ve read that some publishing houses are even looking at your author platform to see if you already have a following. So even if you’re hoping to get signed by a publishing house, you need to have already done some marketing to get some people interested in what you have to offer. Oh, and that author I watched do five takeovers a week? She’s signed to a publishing house.

Not only that, but the time frame from being signed to releasing your first book through a traditional publisher generally takes months. Months. I’ve seen people who have waited over a year from the time they signed their contract until their book was available for sale.

Advances have shrunk, too. As self-publishers and e-books have driven down the price of books overall, there’s not much money left for huge advances. I’ve known some authors to be signed to major houses who got no advances. I predict that advances will continue to shrink as bookstores like Barnes and Noble continue to close, leaving Amazon with all of the bargaining chips.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to get picked up by a traditional publishing house. Hell, I’ve just booked an editor to go over my manuscript before my first round of queries. Oh, I’ll self publish if I don’t land an agent or a publishing house, but I do want to at least try. I’m going to start talking about my efforts in a few weeks, and I’ll probably update monthly.

I just don’t want you going into the game thinking that if you get picked up by a publishing house that you’re going to be living on steak and lobster for the rest of your life. That’s an unrealistic expectation in today’s publishing world, and to let you think any differently is a disservice. If you do get a big fat advance, I’m really happy for you. And yes, a little jealous. But, truthfully, the chances of that happening are fairly small. Be realistic about your expectations. Educate yourself. Learn about the business that you want to be involved in, rather than walking around holding out your hand, and asking where’s your eleventy billion dollars.

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