5 Excellent Tips for Platform Building

This past weekend, I had the honor of keynoting the Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference in Austin.

During that weekend, I also had the opportunity to hear some wonderful advice from other publishing experts. Here’s some excellent online marketing advice I heard. All are direct quotes unless in brackets.

1. On using (or figuring out) Twitter

Agent Susan Schulman: At first I [wasn’t] very good as a tweeter. I didn’t have a voice. But I have since developed my voice.

The agency made a huge leap by setting up TweetDeck [to help filter tweets]. I follow my clients so I know where they are or what they’re doing. With fiction writers I can tell what their mood is [on Twitter], which is very helpful, just in terms of monitoring the client and working with the person on their career.

I have changed my business model to focus on digital rights development. So I’m going to be tweeting in a very select area where I can make a contribution. I really want to speak about the threat to intellectual rights and copyright, and little else. That’s a place where I can make a difference in the market.

Emily Griffin (Grand Central editor) later said, when addressing the time considerations of using Twitter, or any social media channel: “When you find your voice, you’ll find the time.”

2. On using social media for marketing and publicity

Marika Flatt (PR By the Book): There are so many applications to Twitter in terms of book publicity—in terms of getting our name out there and getting our clients’ name out there as well.

We have several new media relationships because of Twitter. We might not be able to get someone’s attention via e-mail, but on Twitter we can
get a response back right away.

In publicity, it’s all about relationships. It’s not about e-mail
blasting, it’s ALL about the relationship and how you can creatively
deliver a story idea that’s going to work for that person. If you take
the time to slow down, respond to that person, think about how you might
be able to help them now or down the road, you’ll see it paying off. I
was skeptical at first, but I’m not any more.

Rusty Shelton added: Twitter is a way for people to stay connected to you
over the long term. When you tweet at a conference like this, you’re not
just tweeting to people in the room, but there are people around the
country following the hashtag. So when you’re on Twitter, in many ways
you’re becoming a media outlet yourself. You have certain people that
trust you to provide info on YA or whatever it might be. Don’t take that
lightly. Think about the power of social media in terms of the
relationships that it can really build for you.

3. On the (un)importance of a novelist’s credentials or platform

Griffin: There are times people are concerned they don’t have an MFA, fellowship, or prior credits … It really depends on the read. It doesn’t depend on platform. That said … in terms of getting praise for the back jacket, it helps when you have contacts. It can be helpful down the line, but in general it all depends on the read.

[That said, Emily recommends reading up on Lisa Genova, a great success story for
marketing fiction. She has a nonfiction platform that ties into her
novel. For the vast majority of fiction pitches, Emily doesn’t need to hear
anything unless there’s a real publicity hook.]

Schulman: In every novel I’ve represented that became a bestseller, no author had a platform. If there is absolutely no platform, no credits, no degrees, if the story is well written, most agents have an open, receptive attitude toward that message, toward that connection.

[However, Susan later emphasized that for nonfiction authors, marketing is paramount. Publishers are looking at the platform before they’re looking very closely at the concept.]

4. On what a novelist can blog about (and why)

Shelton: Think about your blog as a relationship builder. You want to become a voice within your genre. Could you do an interview every Wednesday with top 100 authors on Amazon in your genre? This helps you build relationships with top novelists. You’ll be amazed what can come out of that.

Reviewing books in your genre is another thing you can do. Every author/agent/publicist has a Google alert on every book they work on. If you write smart, interesting reviews in a certain genre you are going to attract attention from the people you want to build relationships with. …

Marika added, “Find your niche, find where you want to be an influence.”

5. Final best tip
I really loved this piece of encouragement from Rusty Shelton, on your approach to social media or online engagement. So true!!

Don’t start everywhere at once. Start with what you truly enjoy. Pick 1
thing and try it for a little while, and if you’re not really enjoying
it, look to something different. Otherwise, you won’t find time (it’ll feel
like work).

WLT runs a well-organized show with top-notch programming. I highly recommend the event, and thank the board and volunteers for being so welcoming and helpful the entire weekend!

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5 thoughts on “5 Excellent Tips for Platform Building

  1. Lisa von Lempke

    "I follow my clients so I know where they are or what they’re doing."

    That is positively frightening. If I had an agent who knew what I was doing, pretty much around the clock, I’m afraid I would lose my contract like a shot.

  2. Tammy Snyder Author

    Great advice though I’ve never used Twitter. I looked once and was intimidated. lol I do use Facebook and have recently added a Welcome page, apps to encourage fans and I comment and contact constantly. Will it work, we shall see. Maybe I’ll give that Twitter another look. 😉
    Knowing authors stand a chance with no platform is good to know.
    Not sure if you’re just speaking about agented authors but the advice will work for us self-publishers too.


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