Welcome back, loyal listeners! This week, due to unforeseen occurrences, neither Al nor Aaron were able to make the cast. But because we had such an awesome guest lined up, we wanted to move forward and deliver a quality cast anyway. Steve McLain (former host) stepped up to the plate to serve in Aaron’s absence. Unfortunately, the crew ran into a plethora of tech issues. The audio for this episode is very rough, so we apologize. We’ll be back to normal next week. Thanks for your patience and your loyalty! You guys rock!
By way of introduction: Edie Melson is a prolific writer with years of experience in the publishing industry. Her best-selling ebook has been expanded and re-released as Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. In addition, her popular blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands of writers each month. She’s also the co-owner (with DiAnn Mills) of a dedicated social media and marketing site, The Author Roadmap: Helping Authors Find Their Place on the Marketing Superhighway.
Ask the Author: Mia Northrop via aarongansky.com – What are some questions you can ask yourself to determine whether a character serves a strong enough purpose in your story? I’m struggling to get at what one if my characters is trying to get the protagonist to reveal in terms of dramatic conflict.
Aaron: For me, I ask one simple question–how is the story different without this character? If the answer is “It’s pretty much the same,” then your character isn’t doing enough to “earn their spot” in the story. Try to find what it is that your character is doing–either challenging your protagonist, supporting your protagonist, etc. They have to contribute to the conflict in some way, either as a resolve or complication.
EDIE: Aaron, I love your criteria. I’d add one slight tweak. I always like to have a character that’s the unexpected truth teller.
MJ: Does this character influence other characters or accelerate the story? Do they have a quirk that adds to the writing? I agree with Aaron, your character needs to be indispensable. If they’re not, but you see potential, develop them further. Have them be the comic relief, the sidekick, but definitely bring them closer into the story, or take them out. A fly on the wall serves no purpose but to irritate people.
THE BIZ: Marketing
Steve: First, a bit about Blue Ridge. You did an incredible job. Things ran smoothly, and people were very satisfied. We had great attendance. How was your first year from your perspective? Any plans for next year?
Edie: Lots of plans. Right now on the blog (www.BlueRidgeconference.com we’re going over what to do now that you’re home from the conference. We’re also going to be sharing how to apply to possibly become a part of the faculty in 2017.
Steve: Let’s talk marketing. This is likely the thing writer’s like least, but it’s one of the most vital aspects of making it as a writer. One of the words we use most often in the biz is “platform.” What does “platform” mean and how does a writer go about establishing a platform?
MJ: Also, when do you recommend a person begin to create their platform? For their book release, a month before, or earlier, say, during the writing process?
Edie: Platform is a two-sided beast. On one side, it’s the type of audience you connect with. For me in my nonfiction writing, it’s military families and those with a heart for prayer. For my fiction writing, it’s an extension of that platform because I write science fiction.
On the other side, it’s the numbers you have in email lists, social media, blog audience etc. These are people that you can send out an an announcement to who will pay attention. My numbers are 18,000+ on Twitter, 4000+ on FB, 1000+ on Pinterest, and several thousand others on various other social media networks. In addition to that, my personal blog, www.TheWriteConversation.com has garnered just over 1.9 million unique hits since beginning in 2010. I average around 30,000-50,000 unique hits a month.
Aaron: Okay, so we’ve got to establish a platform. What are the best ways to do that? Is there something we can do beyond social media? Something like speaking? Blogging? Etc.?
Edie: Everything works together. But we have to be careful to work smarter, not harder. By that I mean we need to find our sweet spots and not spread ourselves too thin. I think it’s important to have a profile on a number of social media sites, but we only hang out on a few. Every author needs Facebook, Twitter, and to be blogging somewhere regularly. With the constant changes in social media, we have to make sure that the foundation of our platform lies in real estate we own – like a blog or website with an email list.
Aaron: How do we increase our “reach?” Once our book has launched, how do we get the word out there?
Edie: Actually once our book has launched is too late. We need to be building our platforms well in advance of that. Assuming we have the platform in place, now’s the time to ask for help from them. Pull together a street team, find people to root for you. Visit blogs that cater to your book’s audience.
Aaron: Do you recommend finding a “niche” for our books? How can we translate the substance of our book into a marketing plan? Do YA authors need to be reading in high schools, let’s say, or libraries? Do non-fiction writers need to be speaking in churches or professional groups?
Edie: Speaking and hanging out with our audience is vital. For YA, that means utilizing live tweeting during TV shows that dovetail with your book and/or hanging out on Instagram and Snapchat. For adult nonfiction, we need to find FB groups that cater to our audience. Offer online events where people can join in. And connect in person through speaking. Offer to Skype in with book clubs and other small meetings. There are literally hundreds of ways to connect.
MJ: Some people think a platform is similar to a media launch. That is, it’s necessary in the beginning, but not after you’re established. What do you say to that, and what tips do you have to keep the platform and your audience growing?
Edie: We need to always be working to be valuable to our audience. The most important thing is to be adding something of worth to their lives. Launching a book and building a platform is NEVER about us.