Marketing Analysis and Author Platform

 

Thanks to bensound.com for the intro and outro music.

ASK THE AUTHOR: From James Earls via Facebook: Are agents & editors absolutely crucial to the writer’s life & their success or lack of it? I do my own editing & do not have an agent. It’s time consuming, but after my past experiences with them (I got burned twice) I developed a lot of mistrust. Is there hope for me?

AARON: There is always hope, James. But, as far as I’m concerned, agents and editors are still necessary. I wouldn’t want to navigate the world of publishing without an agent watching out for me. Plus, they do all the work I’m terrible at (making connections, checking up with publishers, sending my work out, keeping track of my submissions, etc.). I’ve been lucky enough to have good experiences with agents and editors. Not every editor I’ve worked with has been “to my taste,” but the process is still necessary. We become blind to the errors we make, and we need someone outside the project to look at it with fresh eyes. Be hopeful. When you find the right house and the right agent and the right editor, you’ll find how valuable they are.

AL: There’s hope for you, James. Aaron on the other hand…
Let’s talk agents first. If you’re trying to place your first book, then a good agent is invaluable. A good agent is also very hard to win over. There are too few agents and too many writers scrambling for their attention. Still, an effort should be made to get a quality agent. Remember, agents make their money selling a writer’s work to a publisher, NOT from charging reader fees. A professional agent’s only charge to you should be money spent on unusually large mailings. For years I had an agent and I think I had to pay for about $25 over those years. Very little. If there’s a reading fee, look elsewhere.

That being said, you can still get by without an agent but it’s difficult. I wrote four or five books before I had an agent. I didn’t need an agent to sell a book, but I needed one to speak up for me, approach publishers with whom I had no connection, do contract review, etc. So, not easy, but doable. The best way to do this is go to writer’s conferences and pitch the book to editors. (But first make sure there will be pitching sessions available.)

If you’re submitting to a publisher (as opposed to self-publishing), then you don’t need to hire an editor. A traditional publisher is going to edit the project anyway. If you don’t have a decent grasp of grammar and usage, then hiring an editor might be needed. One work around is use beta readers who will read your manuscript and point out problems.

MOLLY: My definitive answer? Yes. I’ll leave the agent chatter up to Aaron and Al, as they know more about those things. As an editor, I can tell you, yes. You need one. Here’s where Al and I differ in opinion: Even if you’re submitting to a traditional publisher, you should hire an editor. If you want to be recognized as a professional writer, you want to present professional work. As a writer, I work hard to edit my novel, but I still have an editor and will have beta readers to find those errors I can’t see. There are many types of editing you can pay for, from simple line edits, punctuation and grammar, to comprehensive. If you’re not sure you can fit it into your budget, some options may be to ask your writing friends for referrals, the local college English department for students, Craigslist or other online marketing sites. Don’t not get an editor just because of funding. If your project is worth marketing, it’s worth investing in.

Firsts in Fiction

Proposals: Marketing and Platform

This is our final week covering proposals. One of the final sections (which we touched on briefly last week) is the marketing information and author platform. Tonight, we take a closer look at those two sections.

To begin with, let’s hammer out a few definitions. The marketing analysis is where you take a close look at other titles that are similar to yours. This establishes that there is a market for what you’re writing. But you also want to mention how your project differs from what these other title offers.

The author “platform” is really the “reach” you have in terms of a following. This includes everything from social-media to blogging to speaking to your involvement in other professional (or nonprofessional) groups.

Social media fluctuates greatly; you’ll find your core numbers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and blogging. Watch our episode, Secrets of a Social Media Ninja, for more insights. https://youtu.be/vOs5hsNNTXQ

MARKETING ANALYSIS

 

  • Similar Titles: This part can be an incredible pain. Essentially, you’ll want to scour Amazon for other books like yours. But you don’t have to make this harder than it needs to be. Try these tips when you’re doing The Great Amazonian Hunt:

 

  • Start with books that inspired your work. What books did you have in mind when you were working on your project? Sometimes the big name novels work well here. It will help to establish that there is a market for your book.
  • Know your genre. Are you writing romantic suspense? Use those key terms in an Amazon hunt and find the best sellers. You’ll need to read up on them to ensure you know what they’re about, how they are similar to your project, etc., but it’s a necessary evil.
    • Aaron, am I correct in thinking you’re not saying read the books themselves? That would be a lot of reading. You’re suggesting read about the books, even Cliffnotes if needed. How many books should be included in the market analysis?
  • Think cross-genre. “My book combines the romance of The Notebook, but with a supernatural bent seen in the likes of Carrie and Lightning.” This can help an editor conceptualize what your book will look like. WARNING: This may make it harder to sell if you’re not careful. Try to keep genres similar.
    • It’s not unusual to link genre: romantic-suspense, romantic-comedy, police procedural-thriller, etc.

 

  • Sales analysis

 

  • What do the numbers look like for these similar titles? Amazon ranks? Get as much information as you can. Data is your friend. It will impress the number crunchers.
    • How do you recommend we acquire this information? Is it as simple as seeing the stats at the bottom of the Amazon page?
    • This is difficult to do with any accuracy because you won’t have access to true sales numbers. If a book ranks high on Amazon, you can mention that, or if the book is on the NYT Bestseller List, then mention that.
    • Don’t pass judgment on the books. Disparaging someone else’s book will not make you look good or make your book more interesting. Quite the contrary, it will make you look self-absorbed and judgmental and therefore a pain to work with.

 

  • How your book is different

 

  • It’s important for you to know how your book is different from these titles you’re assembling. You’ll actually say so in your proposal. I mentioned the Chronicles of Narnia in my HOA proposal, but called attention to the fact that, in my series, the kids created the world they were pulled into. There were several other “YA Portal Fantasy” novels out there, but each one handled it a little differently. Remember, your project should still be unique.
    • This is an important part of the process. You want to make certain the editor doesn’t see your work as a knockoff rather than a viable contribution to a genre.
      • After Jurassic Park came out and hit the big time, several other dinosaur novels appeared–and tanked.

PLATFORM

 

  • Social-Media

 

  • Social media is the most powerful and influential tool a writer has. In many ways, it has eclipsed blogging.
  • Stick with the big guys: This is where you’ll find 100% of your social media following.
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
      • Cross-linking between the two, and interacting with your followers, is huge. You can create private groups, public events, lists. I find a lot of support through the NOLA Swarm private group I set up on Facebook for my followers.
    • Instagram is a strong contender as well. People are becoming more responsive to instant visuals. A great photo or meme can get someone’s attention when they don’t have time to read a paragraph.
    • You’ll want to share your numbers: How many followers do you have, how active are you? If you have 5,000 followers but only post once or twice a month, you’re essentially neglecting your platform.
    • Mention not just the sites your own, but how you maintain them.
    • When it comes to your audience: Give them a reason to care about you, then they’ll care about what you write.

 

  • Speaking

 

  • Not every writer can be a speaker. We might be able to string some words together, but to say them in front of a group can be challenging. However, several writers do become speakers. This may not be talking to a stadium full of listeners, but it might be a trip to a library, or a school, or even a home-school. If you make the circuit talking about something in particular (that has to do with your writing), you’ll want to mention it here.
    • Does your novel touch on an area of interest to special groups (parents, NASCAR racing, cooking–think of the number of mystery novels tied to cooking–then join social media groups dealing with those issues. If you’re comfortable speaking, approach such groups with an offer to speak to them about the subject (not your book) and of course, you’ll mention you book.
      • When I was getting ready to promote Angel I pitched radio stations with something like this. “We are all subject to deception, but the worst and most powerful deception is self-deception.” I did twice as many interviews for that book as any other.

 

  • Blogging

 

  • How do you know it’s time to start a blog? When you start thinking, “I wonder if I should have a blog.”
  • If you have anything published (stories, articles, novels, etc.), you should have a blog. This makes you more marketable.
  • I (Al) have a different view. Many writers don’t have blogs.
    • WordPress.com is easy and free, but we suggest paying a little extra and getting a professional hosting package. Most will have WordPress plug-ins to make it easy.
    • Find something you’re passionate about, and write about that. Produce regular content (be it weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly). The more often you post, the more readers you get.
    • If you blog about several topics, you’ll develop a wider readership. Think mommy blogs that also do hotel or restaurant reviews.
      • This can be tricky. You want to be diverse, but you also don’t want to be all over the map. Make sure your main theme(s) carry throughout your blog posts. And make sure you find your blogger voice.
    • Don’t be afraid to pitch your books, but not everything has to be about your books.
      • If your followers come to believe that all you do is say, “Buy my book,” then they will stop reading.

 

  • Outside communities

 

  • What do you do for fun? Even if you stay home and watch TV,  you can plug into a television group online. Connecting with fans of shows you love will help increase your “reach.” That is, you will be able to “pitch your book” to a wider audience.
  • When interacting with this community, don’t make it about you. Celebrate whatever it is you love (reading, writing, swimming, bicycling, weightlifting, video games, etc.). Occasionally, you can mention your writing. Then, your new friends will be more interested in supporting you. But if you only belong to the group to “sell,” the other members of the group will tune you out.
  • Think churches and places of employment. Are you active in your community? These are all things to consider to “increase your reach.”

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