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  • Why the Standard “Author Platform” Doesn’t Work

    Social MediaThis article was originally published June 5, 2017 on the Operation Awesome Blog.

    All right, let’s talk straight. Specifically, let’s talk author platforms. You’ve read the articles. You’ve been told how important they are. You’ve been given a list of what to include. Heck, you’ve even taken all that information to heart and acted upon it.

    And the book sales aren’t happening.

    So you keep at it, hoping one day it’ll all pay off. Day in and day out you bust your tail on social media and the Web only to keep missing your goal sales-wise. Or, perhaps, you hit it some months and others you wonder what it’s all for. Frustration sets in and you don’t know what’s going on. You did what Author A said. You got your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, your Instagram and all the others—yet still you’re just another author voice shouting into the storm.

    Here’s the issue: you’re following someone else’s advice. Worse, you’re following it to the letter and in the game of publishing, following the author platform advice to a T is a death sentence.

    This is why:

    ▪ Publishing is a giant crapshoot. There is no sure-fire way to do anything. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or trying to sell you something. While true there are basics and groundwork you can lay, that’s all those things are. Yes, your standard author platform recipe should be part of your game plan. That’s no different than saying you want to sell your book but you know you can’t sell your manuscript as is. You need to make it pretty and put it between two covers before you can do so. That’s a given. The basics.

    ▪ The standard author platform isn’t working for you is because you aren’t making it yours. You’re making it like someone else’s or, simply, following the basic recipe without adding the personal tender loving touch that makes your cookies taste better than the other guy’s.

    This is how to fix the issue, written step-by-step, but don’t treat it like an instruction manual. Customization, you know?

    Step one:

    Lay down the standard recipe. All good baking has a fairly consistent base across the board. Have your Facebook page, your Twitter, blog, Instagram and all that. Customize each page and make it about you and your books then commit to a Web plan where you’re active on each on a regular basis.

    Step two:

    Start adding the TLC. Don’t make your Facebook page like Joe Famous’s. Make it like yours.

    I hate the word “brand” when it comes to this author stuff. It turns us into a product and, frankly, art is never about product. It can become a product, but should never be a product. See the difference? This world is sickly loaded with consumerism and people pushing products non-stop twenty-four hours a day. Most of us have tuned out the racket. But what draws us and captures our attention? Unique items and unique people. This so-called “brand” you’re supposed to become? How about voice? After all, your voice is what makes your art what it is to begin with. Why turn that off when sharing it with people?

    So . . .

    Format and design your pages to reflect you and your books. Don’t be all authorish. Don’t be all bookish. Don’t make people feel like they’re in a stuffy library when they visit you on the Web. In other words, don’t be so professional you come off as cold. Cold people suck.

    Into baking or crafts? Build that into your page designs and content.

    Into superheroes and comics? Put up some indie superhero character art as part of your banner and pictures.

    Into sci-fi and tech? Give your page(s) a mechanical flare and make the electro-junkies squee on the inside when they visit you.

    Into horror? Spook it up, man.

    Get the idea?

    Step three:

    With your on-line base of operations already established, leave it alone for a bit and start playing around with other marketing ideas.

    Some items . . .

    ▪ Set up book signings. Table at conventions. Hook up with some craft shows and flea markets. Arrange a book tour, say, local at first then, depending on success, look at traveling out-of-province/state, even country.

    ▪ Set yourself up as a unique property at these events. Don’t just have a plain table. Add some posters and signage. Add some props. Display your books in a pyramid-like tower. Stand out. Fool around. Don’t be the lonely author who sits there with a handful of books laid out boring and flat in front of them, longingly gazing at the passersby, your eyes pleading, “Please come talk to me. Please come buy my book.” I mean, you took all this time to personalize your on-line presence, why wouldn’t you do the same for your off-line one?

    ▪ Casually bring up you’re an author into everyday conversations. You can subtly work your pitch into whatever you’re talking about with someone—choose appropriately, of course—and at a bare minimum leave them with a business card. But have books on-hand or in your car in case a sale is to be made. Trust me, it happens.

    ▪ Go to open mic nights and share story excerpts or poetry. This is your chance to pimp your work, network and perhaps get hired for new projects.

    ▪ Do workshops.

    And a thousand other things. These examples are to make this point: lay your groundwork—that author platform—then play around with other marketing avenues. You’ll be surprised what works. You’ll also be surprised at what doesn’t because what works for Author A doesn’t always work for Author B.

    Book marketing is all about customization. It’s about finding what works for you and putting energy into those things while discarding the things that don’t after you’ve given them a fair chance (i.e. six months to a year or something). And you know what? Even that thing you did that didn’t work for your first novel might be the goldmine that works for your second one. Each book is different. Even each book in a series is different.

    Authors want the easy way out. “I just want to write,” they say. Well, if that were really true, you wouldn’t be publishing as well, right?

    Or they want to be told what to do: that standard author platform recipe. Come on. How can you be so creative in fiction then totally useless outside of it? Don’t you know your life is a story and so is your book career? That creative flare that you put on the page can be used off of it, too. Stop thinking inside of your book and start thinking outside of it.

    After this article is drafted, my plan for the day is to revisit my platform, one that I’ve already customized to me over the years—self-publishing since 2004—and take inventory on what’s working and what isn’t. I’m going to make some changes and try new things. Going to add my own TLC instead of relying on the standard Author Platform recipe.

    I’m eager to see how these cookies turn out. I already know my zombie chocolate chip ones are dead ringers for a win and my Axiom-man cookies are super.

    Screw the standard author platform. It’s boring and useless. But your own? The one with your personal touch?

    That’s something special.

    Get to it.


  • Why You Should Self-publish Part Two

    Click Here to Download from Amazon.com
    Click Here to Download from Amazon.com
    by A.P. Fuchs
    (from Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book)

    By taking on the role of a publisher, the one who fronts the cost to turn a manuscript into a published book, the self-publisher takes all the risk—but also reaps all the reward as a result. Think of it as an investment. Folks go to the bank all the time and dump in fifty dollars, a hundred dollars, a thousand or more into RRSPs or GICs, money they’ll never touch for years, but while it’s sitting there, it’ll earn them much more than they originally invested given enough time. Self-publishing is the same way. Even if your up-front costs are a thousand dollars, you start selling your books and, depending on format, make $3-10 profit, once you’ve sold 100-333 copies, you’ve made your money back. Everything above that is your return on your investment. And instead of making a dollar or even two dollars a book sold as per the traditional royalty system with the rest going to your publisher—and to be fair, they deserve to make money for bringing the book to market for you and taking care of you during your contract with them—you get to keep all the profits for yourself.

    There’s huge potential to make a lot of money self-publishing. Like I said, if you set up your system to ensure you make $3-10 profit per book (i.e. $3 minimum on an eBook sale and $10 or so on the high end for a paperback sale), you could come away with a very secure future assuming the market is kind to you. To sell 50 eBooks would pay my water bill for three months. I could do the same if I sold 15 paperbacks at a convention as I average around $10 profit per sale through those direct-to-reader venues.

    Before, a writer would have to sell thousands of copies of their book just to stay afloat because they made anywhere from 80 cents to a couple bucks a book depending on format. Sometimes less. And while it’s great that they sold those thousands of copies so they could pay their bills, imagine how much more they could’ve made had they been able to do the same volume of sales on their own? If they sold 2000 books total and made the aforementioned 80 cents to two dollars, that would be around $1600-4000 in their pocket. If they self-published and averaged $3-10 per sale, that’s a range of $6000-20,000 to their credit. A huge, huge difference, and for some, enough of a difference between having a bed to sleep in and food on the table.

    The beauty of self-publishing is the ability to produce a book for a niche market, something that you don’t typically find in the mainstream, if at all. For example, I write superhero fiction. Back when I started doing it in 2006, my series, The Axiom-man Saga, was one of a handful of other independent superhero fiction books. There was no way I could take my manuscript and sell it to a publishing house because no one would take the risk on a completely unknown superhero with no proven track record. Well, guess what? By self-publishing the series, I’ve been able to find an audience for it and every time a new installment in The Axiom-man Saga comes out for a convention or on-line, people buy copies. And when I’m behind on getting a new book out because I’m committed to other projects, people start asking me when the next book in The Axiom-man Saga is coming out.

    Self-publishing is also great for those who can’t keep their hands to themselves. Some writers need to be involved with their book every step of the way, and while this goes back to self-publishing enabling the writer complete control of the project, it also lends itself to writers who are also entrepreneurs, who are business people by nature.

    There are two types of people in the world: those who take risks and those who don’t. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. They see the potential for a business and are willing to spend the money—sometimes money they don’t have—to make it happen even though there’s the possibility it might not work out. And that’s their mindset when it comes to self-publishing: it’s a business. And what do businesses do? They manufacture a product and market it to people. Even service-providing businesses do the same because a service is a product. The entrepreneurial self-publisher is someone who isn’t just a creative individual, but also one with a business-oriented mindset, someone who has a vision for their book beyond simply writing it and are willing to take the risk(s) involved to make that vision a reality. While I personally don’t view books as “products” but works of art, from the outside looking in that’s what a publisher does: sells a product.

    The other advantage to self-publishing is to take a book and prove to a traditional publisher there is a market for it. There are many stories of writers self-publishing rejected manuscripts—which weren’t necessarily rejected for quality reasons—and turning them into bestsellers. There are also those who have self-published, had major success, and then were picked up by a traditional publisher who took on the publishing duties of the same book. Often, these publishers paid a lot of money to have these books in their catalog because the writer showed them there’s an audience for their book(s) out there. You need to sell several thousand copies to catch a traditional publisher’s interest, something to the tune of 5000 copies-plus, but self-publishing is an excellent way to give a chance at life to a book that otherwise would’ve been sitting in a rejection pile somewhere.

    By self-publishing, you are also the sole rights holder to the book. And while true even if you sold the book to a traditional publisher you’d still be the sole author and copyright holder, the traditional publisher would be the one who holds the print and electronic rights to it, meaning they could be the only ones to publish the book in the language they represent. Depending, some traditional publishers take additional rights when taking on a book: audio, film, even foreign translation rights if they are connected in that way. The first two are the most common. By going it alone, you decide who gets what, so if some guy from Hollywood wants to make a movie out of your book, you don’t need to share the monies offered with anyone if you negotiate the deal yourself. You’d also get to decide how much influence you’ll have on the movie, though, of course, if you want too much influence—and how much influence is “too much” is up to Joe Hollywood—then the deal might not happen at all. Regardless, to be the one in charge of deciding what other ways people can experience your story is up to you if you self-publish.

    If you’re a salesman or are good with people, then the marketing of self-publishing should excite you. For some, sales are a thrill-of-the-chase thing and for every sale they land, they get a high off it. And to know that for every hour of effort you put into selling your book will reap you and you alone the financial reward of doing so should make you even more excited. Books usually don’t sell themselves, but if marketing and creating campaigns is an area of interest for you, self-publishing is an excellent field to do it in.

    As you can see, there are numerous advantages to self-publishing your book, the main ones being control and the potential to make more money. You also get to bypass anyone who might reject publishing your book and just take it directly to the reader themselves and let them decide.

    But most importantly, self-publishing is a ton of fun and I love every minute of it. Unless a traditional publisher comes along and can do something for me I can’t do on my own, then I plan on self-publishing for the remainder of my writing career.

    Having too much of a blast doing so.

    Maybe you will, too.