With the exception of a rejection letter, it seems there is little else that strikes as much fear in the hearts of fiction writers as marketing themselves. I, too, share this phobia. In college I was originally a marketing major. Then I remembered I was an introvert.
One of the things I adore about being a writer is that I can lock myself in a room for hours surrounded by complete silence. I had envisioned occasionally emerging from my writing cave to get something published, maybe do a book tour, and that was it. Wrong. Can I just take a moment here to say I was getting really tired of being wrong?
New mantra: research first, write second. Say it with me now!
To say that the world of publishing has changed a lot in the last ten years is a drastic understatement. It’s along the same lines of Monty Python’s Black Knight insisting that his loss of several limbs is “Only a flesh wound!” (See it here.) Authors are expected to market themselves, period. They do this by establishing what the industry calls a platform.
There are a number of definitions floating around out there for platform, but simply put, it’s about growing your audience. Former publisher of Writer’s Digest Jane Friedman has a great summary article on platform. She emphasizes that it’s not just about begging people to like you on social media. It’s about being authentic and producing quality work.
To be fair, unlike not knowing how to write well or not knowing your market, you do not absolutely have to start working on platform before you start writing (unless you’re writing non-fiction). However, every time I ask someone when is the best time to start working on platform, the answer always is, “Yesterday.”
Platform is easily the trickiest part of getting published that I have had to face thus far. It just seems like such an overwhelming task. Hiding under the covers with my cat and chocolate ice cream really is the only way of coping. I can’t do the Twitter! Insert hysterical sobbing noises here.
What’s a girl to do? First of all, I told myself to get a grip and stop scaring the cat. Then I did what I always do. I read. Christina Katz has written a very helpful how-to book called Get Known Before the Book Deal. It skews very heavily toward non-fiction writers, but there’s still a lot of great advice that can be transferred to those of us in fiction, too. I found AuthorMedia.com, an amazing website dedicated to teaching authors how to grow their platform, blog, use social media effectively, and create websites. I’m also slowly making my way through the encyclopedia that is CopyBlogger.
I started a blog. I now have a Twitter account. I announced both steps on Facebook. I’m going to an event at my local bookstore tonight. I broke out in hives. Just kidding! I survived. You will, too. I promise.
Up Next: Traditional vs. Self Publishing, or, Playing Emotional Ping Pong