Last week, I posted about the importance of platform for a nonfiction author. But platform is leaking into fiction as well, albeit in a slightly different form. At the beginning, the quality of the writing, and whether the book will fit into the marketplace at the time, is what matters. Agents and editors looking for fiction usually do not care whether the author has an MFA from Missouri or is an engineer who writes on nights and weekends. After a publisher buys your book, however, editors expect you to connect with the readers leading up to the publication date. Book tours have fallen out of favor due to the effort and expense required for not a lot of sales in return. Twitter and blogs have crept up in their place along with flash promotions and online reviews.
Many novelists would prefer to stay home working on their next book and leave all the promotion to the publisher’s publicity department. While the publicists can book interviews for the author with the media, or send out press releases and review copies of the book to newspapers and magazines, reaching out to the actual readers is something that only authors can do best. Leah Scheier started a book review site before her debut took off, which probably gave her a few followers and a knack for blogging before she launched her author site: http://www.leahscheier.com/. On these sites, authors share updates on their writing progress, offer additional background information on the world they’ve created in their books, host give-away contests, and of course, link out to retail sites where people can buy the books. Some are personal, some are strictly informational, and some send visitors into the realm of the book. Search for a few of your favorite authors; chances are they have a website.
Building a website to promote your novel is a great start, and is practically required these days. To stand out among the other novelists out there, you’ve got to do a little more. Incidentally, Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, posted on Friday his seven-step approach to How to Launch a Bestseller. Although he wrote a nonfiction book, he focuses on his actions leading up to publication, which all apply to fiction as well. He emphasizes the following:
- Set specific goals
- Assume personal responsibility (don’t completely depend on the publisher for promotion)
- If you have an existing following, ask for their input early, while your still working on the manuscript
- Secure endorsements
- Form a launch team
- Focus the promotion (to a particular time period or place)
- Offer incentives for buying/reviewing/buzz
Hyatt goes into a lot more detail on how he applied each of these steps in his post here, if you’d like to read more. For those of you lamenting the disappearance of the traditional book tour, I would add that I’ve lately read a few author interviews on some popular book-review blogs. One author said the interview was part of his own virtual book tour, which struck me as a fantastic plan.
If you’re planning on publishing a book, you should consider your platform — do you have followers on a blog or Twitter? What comes up when you type your name into Google? Authors can’t hide behind their pen these days, and publishers expect more.