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6 Tips on How to Build a Platform and Sell Books

For nonfiction writers, the most significant development of the past decade has been the insistence by the publishers that authors have national platforms. For fiction writers, authors’ platforms matter less. However, it never hurts for a fiction writer to be charismatic, articulate, a vigorous promoter, and media savvy. Children’s book writers and illustrators also benefit from being willing to travel, visit bookstores, network with educators, and promote.

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This column excerpted from
Author 101: Bestselling Secrets From Top Agents

Agents gravitate to writers with visibility and “reach” because publishers are convinced they will generate more book sales. With that in mind, here are some basic ways to build a platform:

GIVE TALKS AROUND THE COUNTRY

  • Start locally by approaching civic, community, and religious organizations. Develop a series of talks for your church or the rotary club and then move up to larger groups and venues. Ask everyone you know to help find bookings. Speak often and work your way up. Make your initial mistakes locally and build a devoted fanbase close to home.
  • Hone your craft by taking speaking, voice, or acting lessons. Or you could hire a professional media coach. Then practice, practice, practice. 
  • Ask your audiences and your friends to critique your performances and to give you their suggestions. Ruthlessly critique yourself.

GAIN MEDIA PRESENCE

  • Inform members of the media about your appearance(s) and invite them to attend as your guest.
  • Maintain a file of press clippings about you and your presentations that you can use to get more media coverage.
  • Write a regularly published column, newsletter or blog. Again, start small and then try to build your exposure.

MAKE USE OF THE INTERNET

Starting and leading an online community can position you as an expert. Expand your following, and stay informed of problems, issues and developments in your field.

FIND PARTNERS

Compile a names list. Create a list of individuals who would be interested in buying your book. At your appearances or on your website, offer free giveaways to people who pass on their contact information or sign up for a newsletter.

PLATFORM ALTERNATIVE #1: JOIN FORCES

When some agents receive submissions that they like from writers who don’t have platforms, they try to pair them with people who do. Pairing seems to work best when authors are matched before the actual writing begins. They can plan the book together, divide responsibilities, and decide how they will work.

PLATFORM ALTERNATIVE #2: PLUG INTO AN ESTABLISHED BOOK SERIES

Good examples are the Dummies, Chicken Soup, Everything and Streetwise series of books. With a series like this, the brand and reputation are what sells, and are more important than the writer's platform.


Want more on this
topic?

  • Footnotes: 6
    articles on building a platform.
  • Buy Christina Katz's book on platform, Get
    Known Before the Book Deal
    .
  • Platform
    and the debut of your book.
  • Confused about formatting? Check out Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript.
  • Read about What Agents Hate: Chapter 1 Pet Peeves.
  • Want the most complete
    database of agents and what genres they're looking for? Buy the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents today!
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