July 06, 2009

Nobody wants to market

Well, maybe there are some salesmen who just live to sell stuff but no writers I know fall into that category. What we want is this: we want to go study the sites we’re writing about, to write our lasting treasures, even to sit around and sip coffee and talk about writing with people who really understand. Then when we finish our work we want to go to the little wood-burning stove in the corner and send up smoke with a special paper like they do when they elect a Pope only for our signal the publishers will line up four abreast at our door to offer us an OBSCENE amount of money and promise to take it all from there and turn it into a bestseller while we begin work on our next timeless treasure. Any writers here that don’t want that?

But we know it ain’t gonna happen. Unless we take care of business and do a good job of targeting and pitching, and writing a professional manuscript followed by a professional proposal, or in other words take care of the business of writing along with the creative side, we’re not going to do much in publishing. It’s unfortunate, most of us would rather just be writing, but it’s how it works.

And that includes marketing and promotion. I’d rather get a root canal. We hear all this disagreement as to whether a platform is necessary if we write fiction. Judging from the notes that come back saying “this is a pretty good story, but the author just doesn’t have enough platform.” My money is on publishers wanting writers who are able to help them market the product, no matter what they may or may not say for public consumption.

A lot of us don’t really know what platform is, we think it is the subject we are going to talk about or how strong the topic of our book is for promotion. Nope. A platform is a stage, and the key is how many people are standing out in front of our stage. Who do we have direct access to?

If we have a lot of friends and relatives, if we are in a lot of organizations and can use them, if we have a newspaper column and know bookstore owners in our town then we have a good LOCAL platform. It’s a strong one, and worth a certain number of sales but it’s local. If we have those contacts on a regional basis then we have a regional platform, much bigger and much better. Get the picture? The goal is to have state-wide or national contacts or even some international. Now we’re talking platform.

It doesn’t much matter what entre’ I use to access that platform. It can be an organization of swine producers, but if I can use that network to promote my book and it is a really big organization that is a terrific platform plank. We don’t have to claim we can sell books to all these people, we just have to show we have access to them, and the more people we can demonstrate access to the better.

It’s been this way for some time. Maybe it used to be platform was only important in non-fiction, but particularly in today’s tight economy, they want to know the author is going to help, and that they are positioned to help. I encourage authors to start building platform even before they have a product to promote.

As for me, I’m still holding out hope for that stove and the special signal and . . .


Terry Burns said...

Want to know more about "How to Pitch and Promote Like a Pro?" I have an eBook on the topic that is the result of a month long course taught at the American Christian Fiction Writers available at my website bookstore www.terryburns;net - I'll draw one name from the comments to this blog to send them a free copy.

Leigh said...

I was part of your online class and already have the ebook, but I'll put in a plug for it. :-)

You covered so much territory in that class and helped make sense of so many things, I know I'll put it to good use when I finish my manuscript and am ready to start pitching. In the meantime, it has me thinking about platform in some new ways and how I can start extending mine now. Whoever wins it will have a great resource!

max said...

Good advice, Terry,

Books For Boys Blog

Vickie McDonough said...

Platform always reminds me of something I saw on the Tonight Show. Jay Leno had these two goofy girls covering the Republican Convention. He asked them what the Republican platform was, and one girl looked down and said, "I think it's made of wood." :)

So, if we don't have a big platform, how do we get one?