Shouting it from the rooftops! My place or yours?

Placement, promotion and platform… What the ????? Unless you’ve been to a marketing class and tried to get a book agent, you may never had heard or seen these words before. As it turns out, I taught the intro to marketing at the University of St. Thomas business school many years ago, and that’s the only reason I know what placement and promotion are. Plus the fact I am writing this post, so I HOPE I know what I’m writing about.

But platform?? I had not really heard that word used in marketing before. Jane Friedman says, “Author platform is one of the most difficult concepts to explain, partly because everyone defines it a little differently. But by far the easiest explanation is: an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.”

The concept of platform rose in the book industry first on the non-fiction side of the business. That’s why you see so many pop stars, politicians and other news headliners writing memoirs. There’s a ready-made market because of their fame in some other area. In the non-fiction business one of the first questions an agent will ask is whether you have a platform, or how many followers are on your Facebook page. But it isn’t all about Facebook, Twitter or the like. It’s about selling. And that’s where the rooftop comes in.

If you are shouting, you must be saying something. That’s your message. Your message has to resonate with the audience that you are shouting at. You are shouting from a rooftop, or a convention, or a bookstore. The “where” you are shouting from is your placement. It is where you put your product so that the audience who will buy it will see, hear & respond to the message. It is the “place” that your book and your audience come together.

Shouting from a rooftop is one way you can promote your product. You may develop other promotions. Advertisements, radio, TV interviews. Special pricing. Promotions like buy one/get one. And this is where your platform come in.

For most of us just starting out, we don’t have a platform—a way to sell out books. But our goal is to begin to build that platform—that stage that features us, our books, our works, so that people will buy it. Many of us think Facebook or Twitter is our Platform, but in a larger sense, they are just two vehicles that drive our presence. Any way we reach out so that people know who we are and what we have would become our platform. And the more the merrier.

Our platform becomes the megaphone for our message. This might be our speaking engagements, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, email blasting, newspaper, radio… and on and on.

And this brings us to how we get this done. The production of all that we’ve discussed on the sales and marketing side of the world becomes the overwhelming barrier to taking that first step.

When we are young, time seems to move so slowly—it feels daunting to think of starting something that might take years to accomplish.

So here’s my advice: Map out everything you think needs to be done to develop a sound book platform. Then assign it to your resources—that might be you alone, or it might be you, a spouse, an office staff. It doesn’t matter. Put names on every major task that needs to be done, even if it is your name alone on every task.

Then prioritize the list. Since you can’t do it all, start small. Start easy. Then, over time, you will find that first task doesn’t take as long to do as it used to because you have learned, and the ease increases. Do you like Facebook, but don’t understand Twitter? Focus on Facebook. Add another task. And another and another. You may develop enough slack to hire work done. Continue to work your way through the tasks, constantly checking to see if work can be delegated. If it can’t, work on the things you can sustain and grow. There’s nothing worse than a nice website that hasn’t been updated in years. If you don’t have the bandwidth to do it all, just do what you can manage and maintain. The rest will follow.

Since I am a writer, I have found that by committing to post a blog weekly, I can keep content fresh on my website, hone my writing skills, and stay active on my social media sites. By myself. You can do it, too.

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