On Saturday morning, a meeting room filled with people from all stages of publishing. Multi-pubbed award winners to aspiring writers who hadn’t finished their first draft yet, working in all genres, found their spots and settled in.
Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors. She also maintains an award-winning blog for writers at JaneFriedman.com; her expertise has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, PBS, CBS, the National Press Club and many other outlets.
With those kinds of credentials, it’s no wonder people were engaged and interested for the day-long workshop called “Are You Ready for Success?”
The main points included learning how to build an author platform, optimize branding and messaging to appeal to readers, and employ strategize in your website, blog, newsletters and social media to reach and engage your audience.
The first point she made was to define “platform,” which she equated to visibility. Right off the bat, the audience was asked to think, not in terms of individual sales, but in terms of how we reach our audience at large.
And the only way to reach that audience was to do the work.
In other words, write the book.
Building an author brand. The idea of a brand is to build an expectation in readers for what you deliver in text, design, and action. Presenting a unified, even repetitive image across all your media helps solidify that brand in the readers mind through consistency.
Optimizing your books starts with metadata, which consists of the book description, cover, editorial reviews, categories and keywords. She mentioned that one of the ways readers know what they like is through comparison, which is why you often see phrases like, “If you like X, you’ll love Y!” in book marketing.
Whether or not those comparisons are entirely accurate, knowing who and what is selling in your genre or niche can help you identify your target audience. Yasiv.com is a helpful tool for finding similar books, as well as looking through your also-boughts, checking reviews for mentions of similar authors, as well as Goodreads lists and those media roundups of “Top 10 Whatever Books To Read Next.”
Writing compelling book descriptions is more than telling the plot. Using headlines, bold type, and white space effectively, including editorial reviews from bloggers and media, as well as working in appropriate categories and keywords can help readers find you in their searches.
She also suggested updating your book descriptions periodically to take advantage of new trends. A little work every few months might bring in fresh readers.
Consider your strengths in generating leads. Are you a good blogger? Can you do a podcast or run a Twitter chat? Maybe you’re great at networking – not all authors are introverts. All of those and more are ways to generate leads, which in publishing translates to finding readers.
One way to discover some of your possible lead generation avenues is to do a SWOT analysis. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Focus on maximizing what you can (write more books!), and taking the chances that come your way.
Platform Assets: Website first, because it’s your official face as an author. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be functional. It should look like you – an opportunity to reiterate your branding – and it should have all the information about your books a reader or a potential contact might need.
Social media is another platform asset, because it’s a way to connect you to the community of readers, as well as a way to network with other authors and publishing professionals. It is not your best selling tool, but it is a way to brand yourself and build relationships.
The final leg of your platform asset is your email newsletter. When you build your list organically, it consists of your most engaged readers. They’re the ones who will evangelize for you.
She addressed a few different strategies for producing original content. For instance, readers enjoy media content lists — what you’re reading/watching/listening to/streaming right now. Q&As and interviews with other authors are of interest, as well as behind the scenes peeks into the writing and publishing process. Finally, funny is always a good bet for entertaining, value added content.
You can also send out RSS feeds, blog roundups and automatic digests for newsletters.
One of the biggest keys to maintaining a vibrant, engaged newsletter list is consistency in frequency, format, look, and voice.
If you need a priority list for your platform assets, attend to your website first, then your newsletter, then pick one social media platform where you can show up regularly.
But the best way to build readership?
Write more books!
If you’d like to find out more about Jane Friedman, visit her website at https://www.janefriedman.com/ and sign up for her free newsletter, Electric Speed, at https://www.janefriedman.com/free-newsletter/
If you’d like to learn more about the Missouri chapter of Romance Writers of America, the organization that hosted the special event, please visit https://www.morwa.org/wp/
Sela Carsen is an award-winning author of paranormal and sci-fi romance — with or without sex and dead bodies. Your pick. She maintains a permanent nerd-on for fairytales and mythology, and openly hoards reference books about obscure folklore. Born a wanderer, she and her family have finally settled in the Midwest. Until they move again, at least. http://selacarsen.com/