I interviewed Maria Ribas of Stonesong and we got very nerdy (and practical!) about what writers and bloggers really need to know about platform. You can find helpful (and some delicious!) posts from Maria at Cooks & Books. She has great posts for authors (and readers) as well as recipes. She and I share a mutual love for talking about building a writer platform and utilizing the online tools we have to connect with readers.
Some of my favorite posts from Cooks & Books:
How to Connect with Your Audience (with free workbook)
Do Fiction Writers Need a Platform?
Healthy Pantry Pasta Salad (Aren’t her pictures GORGEOUS?)
Connect with Maria on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter and get her great tips for writers by signing up for her email list on the Cooks & Books site!
Listen to Create If Writing – Episode 040
What do literary agents do?
- connect authors with publishers
- help writers acquire the best book deal, publishers, and agents
- 1-on-1 career coaching for authors
- edit proposals
- talk through book concepts and positioning
What does it take to get a book deal as a blogger?
- engaged readership
- followers on social media platforms
- email list
- social media like Pinterest and Facebook
Publishers are really looking for some quantification that the writer will be able to move a lot of books down the road. If you don’t already have an email list, start that right away. You want to be able to directly contact your people to tell them about the book.
What are the biggest mistakes that people are making with platform?
- not looking at it with the right perspective
- not starting early enough with making on- and off-line connections
Authors often feel like marketing and platform building are icky self-promotion. Reframe the discussion and start making those connections NOW, before you also have a book to promote. Think of platform as a way to share and to help people. It’s how you can offer people something they want or need.
The best piece of advice she would give is to get out there and talk to people and overcome the hesitancy to make connections and share your work with others. You want to start this as soon as possible, not when you are about to have a book come out. Work through the fears of “marketing” and reaching out to other people about your book. It takes time to get comfortable with this idea of getting out in front of people.
You don’t need to have an audience in order to get a fiction book deal, but you need to be building your platform if you want long-term success. Plenty of people get a fiction book deal with no social media accounts, while on the non-fiction side, it’s very competitive in that area and you need to have a strong platform there. It doesn’t have to only be online, but that is a crucial place. A lot of authors also do speaking engagements or teach classes and have an in-person connection.
- Buy Your Name Dot Com
- Publisher’s Weekly
- Galley Cat
- Publisher’s Marketplace (much of this content is members-only)
If you aren’t in my Create If Writing community, join us to share inspiration, ask questions, and talk to other writers and bloggers about building an authentic platform!
After listening to the interview (and thinking about my interview with Joanna Penn on Indie Publishing), are you more interested in traditional or indie publishing? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear YOUR perspective!
Chet Samdberg says
Maybe this was in the interview and I missed it, but she talked about how a good book would be passed over because ‘the platform just isn’t there’.
Why exactly do you need a traditional publisher if you’ve already built a platform?! Seriously, what is the justification they have to ANY part of what you make if they’re doing nothing (or next to nothing) to promote you?
I think it just depends on each person’s goals. Some people would NEVER consider indie publishing and still have that stigma against it. I actually like both and would love to have BOTH indie and trad pub books. But yes, exactly- if you have a platform, either way, you are more set. Because you can promote on your own without a publisher, or you can bolster the sales from a traditionally published book. I guess the bottom line is: build a platform. Then you can decide how you want to use it. 🙂
Also, Maria’s perspective is from the traditional publishing POV, because she IS a literary agent. So that’s the angle we were talking about and kind of the lens we were looking through in the interview! 🙂
Chet Sandberg says
So…it comes down to stigma and self-esteem issues? Does that really seem like a justification for an entire industry to exist? A therapist would probably take less out of your hide.
Didn’t it used to be that a publisher took a risk with you and then promoted the living hell out of your book because they had to justify their risk and get their money back out of the book? What BUSINESS reasons do traditional publishers have to exist anymore? They aren’t really ‘gatekeepers’ anymore if they just siphon off writers who have a platform – they’re following taste, not making it.
Sure, they could get you into that bookseller cum toy store called Barnes and Noble, but again, if YOU’VE built your platform, your readers will buy your stuff anyway and they don’t even have to leave their houses.
I think it’s just perspective, honestly. I read a recent article (maybe you saw it) from a traditionally published author who said she would essentially die before going indie. For some people, there is a certain validation that comes with going traditional. And other benefits. I’m in a middle place, where I really would like to do both and I really see some merits of both, but I do think that overall the traditional system is at a breaking point and they don’t know it. I think once you’ve look at the indie side, it’s really hard to kind of look at the other side. Clearly, you have your perspective on this, but I think it’s good to allow for other people’s perspectives and choices…even if they don’t make sense for YOU. I don’t think it’s just about stigma and self-esteem, but I do also think there are a lot of people wearing blinders in the traditional publishing industry. If you like indie, stick with indie. Some people will ALWAYS and forever choose to go with a publisher.
Chet Sandberg says
I’m listening to the Joanna Penn interview now. I listen to her podcast, along with SPP (although that’s almost entirely about how to market) and AC Fuller’s excellent ‘Writer 2.0’ podcast.
In AC’s case, he uses a more ‘hybrid’ publisher called ‘BookTrope’ and gets the benefits of eligibility for industry awards and whatnot. On the other hand, BookTrope takes a lot out of one’s hide too, sharing profit percentages with all artists involved (Editors, cover designers, proofreaders, etc.) but also offering those services without upfront cost.
The biggest block to an indie READER such as myself is that, holy heck is there a LOT of crap in the indie space. I’m talking ‘Were-bear Erotica’ and writers who think that a first draft is a finished novel. Luckily, a lot of the risk of the market (as a reader) can be mitigated by a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
I’m curious about your response re: Traditional publishing because if I’m reading it correctly, it comes down to snobbery. Take a look at that and ask yourself that if this wasn’t an already established behemoth of an industry with all the advantages of having their thumbs all over the process of getting books to readers, would there be any sense in it?
I think based on your comments, no matter what I do say about traditional publishing, you won’t agree. I don’t mean this in a rude way, but I’m simply not sure that a discussion will have any effect.
I DO see value in traditional publishing. But more and more I see the value in indie publishing and I’m super excited about it. I would like to work with a publisher and I do think it’s more than snobbery.
But I don’t know that talking through this in a comments section will make a difference. This just based on the passionate feelings you have towards traditional. I DO appreciate your view and the fact that you’re reading and taking the time to comment and comment back! Did you listen to my interview with Joanna a few episodes back? Or my recap of the Smarter Artist Summit from last week? Those might be a bit more up your alley.
I’m very happy to have your opinions and perspective, even if we don’t fully share the same exact one. There is room for all at the table…something indie writers know all about. 🙂
Chet Sandberg says
I didn’t realize how antagonistic my comments sounded when I wrote them. That wasn’t my intention and I’m sorry about that. I’ve just recently discovered your podcast and I love it.
I’m not against traditional publishing, I just want to get a handle on what the real positives are. I’d always thought that marketing was one of them. Obviously, an advance that lets you dedicate yourself to full time writing is another, though those are dropping in size from what I’ve been told.
A lot of indies use self-publishing to propel them into work with an agent and a traditional publisher – one of my favorites is trying that, in fact. But then there are the diehards that are building empires and that’s fun to see too. I’m going with indie because unlike nonfiction, it’s hard to propel yourself with a blog or a podcast and since I’ll have to put so much effort into getting that platform, it feels weird to then have traditional publishers try to co-opt that work without a clear idea of what they offer in return. Modern literary writing is hard to get off the ground in the indie space, and I’m still very grateful that those kinds of books get picked up and published by the traditional publishers, though it seems like a prestigious MFA is the best route toward getting noticed for that kind of work as an unknown.
Again, it wasn’t my intention to come on so strong. I’m not anti-trad so much as trad-ignorant.
Anita Ojeda says
I’ll dive into the conversation…I think that during the last economic slump (ok, we could call it a depression), traditional publishing houses had to cut a lot of jobs–at the same time, social media took off and the traditional publishing houses found themselves in a win-win situation. Less money for staff to market books to keep their bottom line happy, and go-getter authors who were willing to use their social media influence to do something new and innovative–promote themselves. The need for platform was born. It’s been working great for six or seven years, so it’s become the norm. People actually have businesses surrounding book promotions (available to both indie and traditionally published authors). The onus certainly seems to be on the authors these days, though. But for a fee, there’s someone with expertise willing to handle the marketing.