You’re trying to implement as many of the tricks and tips that the ‘experts’ recommend, but few of your marketing tactics are gaining traction.
Sure, you haven’t tried EVERYTHING yet, but you’ve tried enough to move the needle at least a smidge, right?
There’s no question that building a strong platform takes time, and gaining momentum–even with a sound marketing plan–requires the patience of a saint.
But something just isn’t jiving.
You’re Building Your Platform on Sandy Soil
A solid structure needs a strong and stable foundation, and what many authors do is rush to build their platform without first laying a proper footing.
Each time you add another tactic, another strategy, another layer of your marketing plan, the framework becomes more unstable and things start to fall apart.
Methods that should make an impact, produce less than stellar results.
Effort wasted and wheels spinning, frustrated authors conclude that it’s not marketing, but luck that produces standout success for bestselling authors.
No. And here’s why: what you’re missing is the first brick.
You may get a bit of a push from your marketing as it stands, but without that first brick, without developing a solid underpinning, there will be little strength or support for anything that comes after.
To ensure you have the most stable of bases for your platform and marketing framework, there are two things that you must do.
And if done thoroughly, completing these two tasks will not only have a marked effect on your book marketing results, but will make the marketing process itself, much less painful.
Laying the First Brick
Before you do anything to promote yourself or your work, you MUST be able to articulate plainly, succinctly, and without hesitation: why you write what you write, and who cares that you write it.
It’s time to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into who you are, what you stand for, and why you create the work that you do–and for whom you are creating it. (Tweet this idea)
1) Know Yourself
People will give you very little time to make an impression.
Whether it’s via your website, on social media, while scrolling and clicking on Amazon, or even browsing in a bookstore, you have but a moment to grab their attention.
Even with the most irresistible book cover, the most articulate sales copy or the most fascinating website, the odds are statistically small that you’ll be noticed in today’s caterwauling of ‘buy my book’.
Imagine how much more difficult it is to capture attention and convince a reader to purchase, when even you can’t provide a reason why they should.
In Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, he discusses the concept of The Golden Circle–a framework that outlines a pattern or relationship between the what, how and why of an organization and how these concepts play into the level of connection, loyalty and influence a business has with its customers.
He uses this model to demonstrate how great leaders inspire action because of their ability to share their ‘reason for being’. According to Simon, it’s easy to explain ‘what’ you do, a little trickier to explain ‘how’ you do it, and rare if you can clearly express ‘why’ you do what you do. Those that can explain their why, enjoy a much higher level of engagement from the people they wish to lead or the customers they choose to serve.
How is this relevant to writers building their platform?
Your ‘why’ is what makes you unique, and when clearly defined, allows your readers to emotionally connect with you and your work.
And increased emotional connections lead to increased trust and loyalty.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
~Simon Sinek, Start With Why
For the average writer, this is their Golden Circle:
- What you do: write fiction, non-fiction, novellas, articles, poetry, web copy and so on.
- How you do it: your difference from your competitors; in marketing speak, it’s your unique selling proposition, or what makes your work distinct from other writers in your field.
- Why you do it:
- A purpose or belief. It’s why you get up at 5am to squeeze in your daily word count; why you write around your day job, family and other obligations; why you write, despite the pitying looks from new aquaintances when you reveal “I am a writer”. 😉
- It is the meaning and message behind your work.
- The piece to the puzzle that you need to solve, that, once determined, eliminates the need to continually try to differentiate yourself.
Will your ‘why’ resonate with all possible audiences?
No. But those it does meld with will be your rabid fans, your community, your tribe.
Without clearly expressing why you are doing what you do, you are left with trying to prove your advantage or significance based on marketing tactics alone.
Glowing testimonials, a list of credentials or 5 star reviews may help woo a reader, but disconnected from your ‘why’ won’t build loyalty and trust. Forming a community–an experience–around a common set of beliefs and values, will.
People who believe in your ‘why’ will read your book, subscribe to your email list, comment on and share your posts, support your work and be inspired to spread the word.
“Instead of asking, ‘What should I do to compete?’” the question must be asked, “Why did [I] start doing what [I’m] doing in the first place, and what can [I] do to bring [my] cause to life considering all the technologies and market opportunities available today?”
~ Simon Sinek, Start With Why
But here’s the hitch: you can’t invent or copy your ‘why’. It must be authentic for it to resonate with people, and that quality alone makes it unique to you.
Copying other writers doesn’t work. But studying other successful authors does.
You can research how other popular writers are making a connection with their readers, then tweak and apply what jives with your personal message.
Once you are über clear as to your reason for why you do what you do, then it is much easier to share that vision with your potential readers and weave it through the rest of your marketing strategies.
Your work is the embodiment of not only what you care about, but also what your readers care about. Everything that you share with your audience going forward must stem from this core concept.
2. Know Your Audience
Now that you’ve identified and can express why you are creating the work that you are, it’s much easier to identify the the group of people that will be most receptive to your message.
Who are you writing for?
Consider this scenario: You’ve just published your new sci-fi unicorn mystery thriller (with a touch of romance) “Mint Julep”, and want to shout it from the roof tops. You settle for blasting its release ad nauseam on every social media platform that will have you.
And even though you know that every author says this, truly, this book is for EVERYONE!!
Even one of the bestselling books of all time–the Bible–isn’t for everyone, so before you try to market your magnum opus to the world, take the time to determine who specifically will receive the most benefit from your work.
Besides, how can you possibly know if your book is right for someone, if you know nothing about them? How does it further your goals–or the potential reader’s–for you to push a book on them that they may have no interest in, receive no benefit from, or worse, that they may have some issue with?
How will it serve you (or your audience) to have your book read, and likely reviewed or critiqued, by the ‘wrong’ audience?
And of course, the big question for writers: how do you develop a marketing and book promotion plan when you have no idea who you are trying to reach?
Don’t give yourself a migraine trying to promote to anyone with a pulse. Even the most skilled marketers narrow the field to give themselves a fighting chance.
Instead, flirt with the advice of Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, and become obsessed with your readers.
“When given the choice of obsessing over competitors or obsessing over customers, we always obsess over customers.”
Learn everything you can about your future readers:
- What other authors and genres do they read and enjoy?
- How are they connecting with their favourites online?
- What questions are they asking on other sites?
- What questions are they asking on your site?
- What topics are they most interested in?
- What kind of conversations do they have and what ‘language’ do they use?
- Is there a lingo or insider catch phrases that only those ‘in the know’ will understand?
- Who do they consider as resources for their next read, inside information, hot new releases or genre specific ‘news?
- Where and how do they purchase what the read? And in what format?
- Whom does your work help?
- Whose problems can you solve?
- What are their pain points?
- How do they see themselves? And how does your book fit with that perception? (You are what you read, right?)
- What do they crave?
- What groups share similar interests and values?
- How is information shared with others in their group?
- Who already ‘speaks your language’ or conversely, whom does your work speak to?
I have yet to meet a writer who isn’t also an avid reader, so look at your own habits, influencers and experiences. What do you want from your favourite authors? Where do you get your tips for new reads, and where do you tend to congregate when you want to chat with like-minded individuals about the books you read?
As you gather more and more information about your audience, be careful to stay connected to your reasons for sharing the work that you do, and focus on only those topics that are relevant to the community you are building.
As you get to know your audience, what they want and need from you in the form of content, should become easier and easier to define.
As you get to know yourself, it should become easier and easier to provide it.
Accomplish these two things, and you’ll have created a solid footing from which to build trust, engagement and a much more effective promotional strategy.
Without this base, you’re making your marketing job much more difficult than it needs to be.
Over to You
Have you skipped these vital two steps on your road to building the ultimate writer platform? Do you think clearly defining your ‘why’ and the audience you intend to market to will make things easier or more difficult?
Let’s discuss in the comment section below.
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Top original photo by GaborfromHungary