In 103-3B we covered how to build your author platform. Now, no matter who you are this is the final step that applies to both independent authors and those seeking traditional legacy publishing until after your book is out and you’ll have to market it yourself no matter what. Next, after we discuss polishing your author platform, you go in different directions.

Oooh, branding! Yeah, it's about this painful

To peek ahead, those seeking traditional publishing must find agents, mail them, and secure one. Then work with the agent to secure a publisher. Then learn how to market their book. Indie authors must design their cover, polish their blurb and catchphrase, edit their eBook, publish it, and then market it.

Marketing is where you next join up and it begins with the author platform, which we must now strengthen in preparation. So by now you should have accounts on multiple sites. Facebook. Google+, Twitter, Linked In, whatever, and a website with a blog are all created, exist, and hopefully have some postings, and a general direction figured out following your brand. So what is the next step?

That depends. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Trick question. No matter which you are in reality, you have to force yourself to be an extrovert for marketing, the real question is how much of an extrovert are you?

I’m not at all. I make hermits look like attention whores, so I stick to online only interaction. There are levels of online only and in person for every level of extroversion. For the most extroverted among you, join a writer’s group. NOW. Join it, attend local chapter meetings, and get yourself into a critique circle. Start forging relationships with other driven authors now, now, now, now!

Kind of like this...but read on for tips on how to stop restraining orders

If you’re like me and view humanity suspiciously at best, online you’re going to need to reach out. Start reading review blogs that focus on your genre. Look for online writer’s groups. Actually talk to people on social networking by commenting on posts and sharing. In short, the first step is to get people invested in you.

Here’s the trick: if you, long ago, started writing on a free writing site you have a following. They are loyal and wonderful people, trust me, but the bulk will just happily read your work but not promote it. 

You’re on your own, so the goal now is to collect passive promoters, people who tag you in posts that might make others click on you, or people also desperate for promotion who will promote you to get you to promote them.  Socialize on social networking and try to build connections as best you can. In online writer’s groups make sure to actively post and engage people in conversations.

If you’ve successfully published short stories in magazines, make sure to nurture your connections there. Follow comments and fan mail, keep on top of that, and make good and goddamn sure every editor, designer, and publisher you worked with gets a nice thank you. Really try to go for handwritten on nice stationary, sent through the mail. Those of us in the writing world are suckers for classics.

Kinda sorta...

Connections is step one. Research is the second step. Research is important. Everyone whose done a job interview for any level above McJob knows your interview goes much better if you research the company and ask them questions too. So when reaching out to reviewers or bloggers you need to do the same background research.

Taking a step back, even the assholiest of us have to learn to be nice. And most authors are assholes. Why else would we prefer fantasy to reality? The strange thing is when you force yourself to be nice over time it becomes part of you. Remember some key things when reaching out to others:

1.    People like to hear their names repeated to them

2.    People like you to ask questions about the things they are most passionate about

3.    People like to be actively listened to (so pay attention and ask follow up questions!)

4.    People like sincere-sounding flattery (so don’t just tell them they’re an awesome reviewer, cite an awesome review that blew you away and explain why)

5.    People do not like negatives. Always format criticism as a positive. Takes work, but you’ll get the hang of it (i.e. in constructive criticism, sandwich the negative between two positives). Never self-deprecate to make others feel better.

6.    People like smooth conversation. Write your bio. Memorize it. Make it smooth, not herky-jerky and stilted. Memorize a summary of your novel that only takes 30-45 seconds to rattle off.

If you’re really fuzzy on this, please go find How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. With those tools you can begin making real connections.

Next step is analysis. What are your most popular tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs? What type are they? You’ll need to focus on what gets the most attention, and yes, even negative attention is attention, but toe the line. Don’t post things that constantly get replies of “Asshole!” from fifty or more people. Try to focus on positive things. Remember, nobody likes negativity.

Is your blog suffering from lack of attention? Have you properly promoted it? Did you submit it to Google, Yahoo, and Bing? Is your metadata full of any and every tag someone might search for your work or stumble upon it? Do you submit your more interesting blogs to Reddit or StumbleUpon? You need to do this to increase traffic!

After connections, research, and analysis, you need to start creating goals. Now is the time to bookmark all the sites for promotion and reviews. Even if you go through an agent/publisher you’ll have to do almost all this yourself. Make it easier when you get to that step by doing it now. It takes a long time. For example, over half the sites Smashwords lists to promote your Indie eBook no longer exist or have been dead since 2009. It’s going to take a while, and when you find them you need to see what the most successful authors do on the sites. Do they do contests? Giveaways? Whatever they do, find the method that suits you best and create a goal to do the same after publishing.

Now, this is a short lesson, but all these things take time. You can do these things at the same time you do the next steps, but ideally you want to finish up to analysis before you go to the next step of setting goals.

And once you have done all these steps, the final step is streamlining. There are many good sites to streamline social media, I like Hootsuite. You connect it to your social media accounts and you can create posts and schedule them up to a year in the future. As a note, it doesn’t work with a Google+ personal page, only a Google+ business page, so make sure to have that going for you. It makes it much easier to set up a week or two of social media posts in just a half hour, it’s a lifesaver.

Do NOT just use Hootsuite or a similar service and never log onto your social networking sites. You have to remain connected until the point where your posts do the work for you. What is that point? It’s when every post on Facebook gets twenty or more comments, every Tweet gets at least ten retweets/replies.  It will take you a while to get there. I have five books out at time of writing this and I’m still not there. It will take a while.

Relying only Hootsuite before your social networking has enough steam makes your platform look and feel like this

Through this all, be conscientious of your brand. It should be your guiding light, a way to package you and your content, make you and your content easily identifiable. It’s the 21st century, this is just how it has to be.

Lastly, a note about goals. We need to be realistic here. Here are some hard facts, but bear with me, I’ll give you hope after:

1.    Only 2% of all authors make the bestseller list and sometimes it is inexplicable (e.g. E.L. James)

2.    The average author can only make a living from writing after they have published 10 books

3.    100% if marketing costs are on you, the author (publicity, promotion, travel, etc)

4.    Bad reviews will haunt you for life

5.    Danielle Steel and Tom Clancy were both rejected about seventy-five times before they every got an agent

Now, how do you set goals for promoting yourself knowing this and not stick your head in an oven? In short, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Here’s how:

1.    Get a day job. One that leaves you time to write but pays the bills

2.    Toughen up. Remember that most rejections are due to bad writing/spelling/grammar, and if you followed these lessons that’s not an issue. The next reason is the agent or publisher just doesn’t have a call for your genre. DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY and press on

3.    Create a budget. Live by it. Create a small percentage of income, such as 2% to go into savings (along with at least 4% for straight savings) into an interest bearing account. Keep track of it and use that for promotional costs

4.    When you’re starting out try to do as much as you can yourself to save money

5.    Commit to a long term goal. A book a year for twenty years, ten books over twenty years, a book a year for life, two books a year until you have a nervous breakdown. Whatever it is, plan it, stick to it

6.    Remember there are two ways to get onto the bestseller list. The George R.R. Martin method of writing book after book after book until a series becomes popular, your back catalog sells, and you become a god, or the Stephanie Meyers way which is to luck out and write a product on a subject about to become popular (try researching trend forecasters to do this yourself) for an emerging market publishers desperate to exploit (YA in her case). Or go ahead and write without really caring, these are your goals after all

7.    The worst cost is book tours. You foot the bill. Not even worth it unless you’re a bestselling author or rapidly approaching. Kids, this is what book advances are for!

8.    The digital age is kyboshing book tours. Blog tours are hot. Remember those connections you made? Use them, use them, use them! Quid Pro Quo, allow guest bloggers on your own blog.

9.    If you get bad reviews, truly look at them. If they all say the same thing…it’s time to change. Back off. Write short stories and work on that fault, publish to magazines. Take a writing course, ask your critique group for help. Do something else and back off for a while before publishing a next book. Then the reviews will compare your new, better book to the old and it will look even better. Just do not dismiss them out of hand!

Setting this as your desktop background can help, however

There is hope in realism. As we near the end of our writing lessons (this one concludes 104 and 105 contains the final steps) it bears repeating: all the things you learn here have been slow and thorough, designed to help you create the best product possible. The next time you do it, it will be faster, and the next, and the next, and so on. You’re almost there. All that’s left is to spit polish your baby and get it to the world, then get the world to pay attention. Keep going, and happy working!