Monday, May 19, 2008

Author Platform - More Important than Ever

If you’ve followed the headlines in the Christian publishing trade (CBA), then you know the industry is undergoing serious change. What does this change mean to you as an author? Growing your platform is more important than ever. Here’s why:

  • More Christian bookstores are closing down.
  • Most CBA publishers are experiencing sluggish book sales.
  • Most CBA publishers are reducing the number of new titles they publish each year.
  • Last month, Thomas Nelson (the largest CBA publisher) pulled out of the ICRS trade show, cut frontlist titles in half, and laid off 10% of it workforce.

This news has a lot of authors worried about their future. Some writers wonder if publishers will overlook the first-time or up-and-coming authors. Others worry that their books won’t get published if they can’t guarantee that over 50,000 copies will be sold. In other words, will sales trump craft? You can ponder this dilemma all day long. Instead, I suggest you take a deep breath and ask yourself this question, “What can I do to grow my author platform?”

Publishers no longer have the money or staff resources to market all of the books that they publish. More and more, they lean on the authors to help promote their books. Some authors complain that this treatment is unfair, because they’d rather stay in their writer's cave and churn out books. They think the publisher should do all of the marketing. Well, those days are long gone, and will probably never return. If you’re going to succeed as an author in this new age of publishing, then you must constantly improve your platform-building skills.

I know a lot of authors who think personal book marketing is ungodly or a waste of their time. But, here’s the irony…if you learn how to sell your books better, then you encourage more people with your message, plus you increase your income. In addition, you give your writing career a fighting chance, and you help your publisher succeed in a very competitive industry. So, what’s not to like about building a bigger platform? Yes, it’s hard work, but everybody wins.

Growing your author platform is no longer a luxury that you do in your spare time. Instead, it’s a necessity that every author needs to invest in with their time and money. Smart authors spend several hours each week focused solely on promoting their books.

At WildFire Marketing, I spend every day teaching authors how to build larger platforms. So, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, help me out…give me some tips to get started.” Here’s a few recent success stories from some of my clients that I hope inspire you:

Leslie Vernick, author of The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, flexed her platform-building muscles to help her new book go into a fifth printing in less than 8 months! Her efforts included activities, such as sending out audience-focused newsletters, revamping her website, using her expertise to garner regular exposure on national radio, speaking at churches and major conferences in front of influential leaders. Her publisher is ecstatic with strong frontlist sales that she’s helped create.

Mary Southerland, author of five books, re-energized her platform by capturing hundreds of new newsletter subscribers each month, revamping her website with free resources, creating a brand that separated her from the crowd, booking several new speaking engagements, and lining up six radio interviews by herself. All of these efforts helped her sell over 700 books on her own in less than 15 weeks! Her publisher was excited to see her backlist titles come back to life.

Johnny Parker, author of Blueprints for Marriage, sent out one newsletter geared to church leaders and never imagined what would happen. One church called and booked Johnny for a weekend event at his full fee. During his event, the audience responded to his message, and purchased over $3,000 worth of his books and resources. And, within a few weeks, the same church called and re-booked Johnny for another big event nine months later!

All of these authors realized that when you invest in building your platform, it produces a positive cycle with multiple benefits. You sell more books, strengthen your career as an author, and generate the income to keep growing.

So, what are you doing to build your platform?


Kristi Holl said...

Do you find this same trend in children's Christian publishing? My last nine books (four fiction, five nonfiction) have been with Zonderkidz. I've done websites for them, one with a blog, and a few signings. Is it necessary to go back to doing a lot of speaking (like in schools)? Maybe a newsletter for parents?

Rob Eagar said...

Hi Kristi,

It's important to build your platform, regardless if you write fiction or non-fiction, children's books or adults. Your ideas of speaking and writing newsletter to parents are valid. The key is to focus your marketing on the people who would pay to have the value of your message...because they really need it.

When you show them that you can help them improve their life, solve a problem, or even entertain after a hard day, then readers will be drawn to your books. Thanks!

Kristi Holl said...

Thank you for your quick response. Most marketing advice I read targets writers of adult books--or at least just gives examples using adult books. This was helpful!