Giving Back: How to Expand Your Platform Through Generosity

Building and expanding a platform is part of being an author in today’s market. Even if you’re not published, platform construction and maintenance help you cultivate a relationship with readers who will eventually buy your book. Social media provides an impressive toolkit for making this happen, but even in the era of cyberspace, two old-fashioned ideals still hold true: 1) Sometimes, you need to spend money to make money. 2) You get what you give. So be willing to give. GIVEAWAY: The authors are excited to give away 3 free copies of their e-book to random commenters. Comment within two weeks (by EOD, Monday, Jan. 2, 2012); winners can live anywhere. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: jcmartin, daking27 and landerson all won.)
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Building and expanding a platform is part of being an author in today’s market. Even if you’re not published, platform construction and maintenance help you cultivate a relationship with readers who will eventually buy your book. Social media provides an impressive toolkit for making this happen, but even in the era of cyberspace, two old-fashioned ideals still hold true:

1. Sometimes, you need to spend money to make money.

2. You get what you give. So be willing to give.

GIVEAWAY: The authors are excited to give away 3 free copies of their e-book to random commenters. Comment within two weeks (by EOD, Monday, Jan. 2, 2012); winners can live anywhere. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: jcmartin, daking27 and landerson all won.)

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Guest column by S. Jane Gari and Heidi R. Willis, co-authors of
the new humor e-book, Flush This Book: True Tales of Bodily Malfunctions.
Their ebook is 99¢ and can be purchased on Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble,
the Reader Store for Sony Reader, and Apple’s iBookstore for the iPad.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the World Toilet Organization
(worldtoilet.org), a global nonprofit that implements sanitation systems in
developing countries in order to prevent the spread of deadly diseases.
Learn more at www.flushthisbook.com and their blog www.nakedpoop.com.



• “You need to spend money to make money.”

If you’re passionate about your writing, you should be willing to invest some of your own money and give away some of what you produce for free.

We didn’t have a publishing contract, but we believed in our idea. Thankfully, many of our friends were polished writers and journalists who were willing to help us edit our manuscript. We chose several of our stories, researched self-publishing companies and produced a mini-book that we could give away to contacts we met at writers’ conferences, book festivals and other networking events.

The mini-book also served as a prize for contests we held on our website.

(Writer's Digest asked literary agents for their best pieces of advice. Here are their responses.)

• “You get what you give. So be willing to give.”

After we had several large publishing houses tell us our idea was salable and hilarious, we were frustrated that none of them were willing to take a risk on our project. Our bathroom reader had such a novel hook that marketing analysis couldn’t demonstrate our viability based on the past success of similar projects, because other books weren’t similar enough. We had to take our book’s future into our own hands to prove there was a market. Self-publishing an e-book was possible, but without the broad reach of a major publishing outfit behind us, how would we make sales beyond the modest readership we had built with our blog and social networks?

After taking a seminar with Chicken Soup mogul Jack Canfield, we were inspired to seek out nonprofits with which we could build promotional partnerships. The key is finding charitable organizations who share sensibilities with your target audience. We offer readers an irreverent laugh via toilet humor, so we found nonprofits that employ toilet humor in their approach to mitigating different aspects of the global sanitation crisis.

After some web surfing, we found the World Toilet Organization, an international nonprofit that implements sanitation systems in developing countries in order to prevent the spread of deadly diseases. We wrote them a letter that pitched our e-book and website as a way to help promote their cause, and we pledged to donate a portion of our proceeds to their organization. Our e-book was launched to coincide with the organization’s signature annual event, World Toilet Day. The World Toilet Organization receives so much more traffic than our site. Securing key placement on their website during a time when interest in their cause was at its annual peak amounted to a successful launch for our e-book as well as awareness and more funds for the World Toilet Organization.

(Read definitions of unusual literary terms & jargon you need to know.)

We’ve recently secured another partnership with DefeatDD, a nonprofit which focuses on the prevention of diarrheal diseases in young children in the world’s poorest areas. Both nonprofits have actively promoted our book on Facebook and Twitter and their websites. It all started with e-mails that outlined mutually beneficial promotional partnerships.

Platform building is about fostering relationships. It shouldn’t be about merely flogging your wares and randomly handing out swag. Interactions with your audience should mean something. Contributing to society in a way that simultaneously strengthens your brand is a recipe for success.

Take a close look at your book or your writing in general. Is there a recurrent theme that relates to an organization’s mission? If two chicks writing poop can figure out a way to do this, anyone can. Find your way to contribute and meaningful success is sure to follow.

GIVEAWAY: The authors are excited to give away 3 free copies of their e-book to random commenters. Comment within two weeks (by EOD, Monday, Jan. 2, 2012); winners can live anywhere. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: jcmartin, daking27 and landerson all won.)

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