Author Stage or Author Platform

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Many people who are new to writing are doing exactly what we are all advised to do: Build an online presence, an online platform, and get the word out there. We have to sell ourselves, and we have to sell our books. But the biggest question I get asked over and over again is how do I get people to come to me and listen to what I have to say. This is the hardest part in some ways, but in other ways, I think it is actually the easiest, but you do need a few key ingredients: Humility, Patience, and Community are just three of them but believe me, you can’t get far without ALL of them. Here is why:

The first mistake we make is to go out, buy the wood and build ourselves a little stage in our back yard. We stand on it and wait for the crowds to come. It is heart-wrenching when no one turns up! So we fork out the cash for advertising, we stick posters on the lamp posts, and we tell all our friends. Some of them come, but still, there is no crowd and few of our books sell. It feels so unfair.

The problem is that many of us build a stage before we build a platform. Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook are all great tools, but they are just that, they are tools. They are the loudspeakers and the flyers and the billboards. But the problem is that they are lost in millions upon millions of almost identical loudspeakers, flyers, and billboards. At one end we have a FABULOUS product (aren’t all of our books going to be the next best seller?), and at the other end we have the advertising, but there is nothing in between. There is nothing to connect us and make us stand out. Even our STUNNING front cover is lost among thousands of other stunning covers!

So in comes humility and patience. Humility to ask someone else if we can perhaps have a seat at their table, to get to know them, and to one day accept a teeny corner of their stage. Over and over people tell me that they don’t have the time to meet people, to get to know them before they ask for help, or even then, that they don’t want to stand on someone else’s stage! They want to stand on their own stage. I get that. We all want our own stage to shine, but we can’t force people to come or to buy.

Another option perhaps is to build your own stage by all means, but for the first season, don’t stand on it other than to introduce our guests. Invite others to come and speak on it instead. Bring in people who you know others would love to hear. It is still your stage. But if you spend a season being the host, welcoming people, giving others a voice and a place to stand, then after a while, when people love and trust you, they will turn to you and ask you ” do you also write? I love to hear your voice at the beginning of each show, I would love to hear what else you have to say”.

These things both take time, they both take humility, and they take a whole lot of “paying it forward”. I am not saying it is easy, but for me, it is actually a whole lot easier than embarrassingly standing on a soap box and shouting “PLEASE BUY MY BOOK!” at the top of my lungs all day, every day.

We need to build an online presence and an online platform, but we must be a little careful of confusing it with simply building a stage…

Over the next few posts, I will dig much deeper into these things and answer any questions you have. Please feel free to join the closed Facebook Group on the subject of building ethical launch teams if you would like to ask your questions in a more private space, by clicking HERE.

 

Ethical Launch Teams Part 2:

img_9270 Yesterday I started a Facebook Group for anyone who is interested in the whole concept of Launch Teams. With so many people doing their own publishing, it has become imperative to also do one’s own marketing as well, and if you are a writer like me then that is HARD! I am not a sales person, I don’t like sucking up to people, and I am absolutely useless at self-promotion, but worse than all of that is the fact that I am also an introvert. And I would also way prefer to be writing my book or my blogs than writing about me or my book or my blogs. And what would I say anyway?

So while I don’t think that anyone enjoys the whole marketing side of their books, things like Launch Teams have become a necessity. But this has also opened up a massive opportunity for readers who aren’t writers. A world has emerged where readers can spend very little money and read as many books as they would like or are able to. They can get in on the ground floor and be a part of the machine that puts great books and great writers out there. Joining a Launch Team for them is a great way to get cheap or even free books.

That sounds like a perfect match to me, and I keep hearing people who are new to the game say the same thing…. and then a few months later they burn their toes and wonder how it happened. You see in the rush to be seen and heard, many authors ask for reviews, publicity, and support and are kind and willing enough to return the favour. This is where it comes unstuck. Let us imagine for a moment that you and I are in the same literary group. There are twelve of us and we have been meeting at the library on Tuesday evenings for a decade and now it is time for us all to launch our much loved, hard earned, soul-bearing books. The timing isn’t exact, but within a year or so of each other we all proofread, edit, double, triple and quadruple check everything, and each of us launches our book. We have all supported each other in every way possible for a decade and we all feel the love of the others as we all sign up for Amazon, buy each other’s books, and give each other an honest review.

Our little group sends out weekly emails to each other and we are all friends on Facebook. We even meet for Cocktail Hour at the local pub once a month. This group is harmless in every sense of the word and the love for each other (well, most of each other) is deep.

The problem is that Amazon and Google and all the powers that be which we don’t like to think exist, know that we all know each other and they also know that other less noble citizens are prepared to swap (or worse; PAY for) reviews and reads …..and they can’t tell us apart. We all look dodgy to them. So they remove some of our reviews, they reject others outright, and the readers of our small local library who have so kindly offered to support us, get caught in the fallout too.

It sounds like a very bad and ridiculous movie. But it isn’t. I am now watching people choosing NOT to join or create a Launch Team because they are frightened of the mix up between genuine support and the swapping of reviews or appearing to be coerced into giving one. Amazon is ruthless.

But I have to tell you, that the concept of a Launch Team is still a very good one. We just all need to be prepared to work in a MUCH wider circle, to “pay it forward” and trust that someone else entirely will do the same for us.

Soooo…. with that in mind, if the first step to a Launch Team was to create The Facebook Group to host it, now it is time to recruit. And the first tempting thing that people feel they “ought” to do is to reciprocate. But my advice is to be honest, be transparent, say why, but don’t jump onto every other persons’ Launch Team and create a virtual small circle. There are other ways to pay back and I will give a bunch of examples next time but for now give all you can to the Launch Teams that you sign up for, but don’t become too incestuous. Gather the bulk of your Launch Team members from work or school colleagues, family and distant friends. You can even ask friends if they have friends who might like to join. Advertise for some help at your local library, church, book club or corner store.

Throw the net wide, gather what you can, and if it isn’t big then that is OK too. Growing slowly is better than having dozens of people sign on but have nothing to give. Many of us have learned that the hard way. And above all, think of it as a loving, helpful, but business arrangement. They are going to get to be the first to read your book, have a say in the colours and font on the front cover, maybe even win something later on, but if they aren’t already your personal Facebook friend, then leave it that way. Keep them at a little bit of arm’s distance. You don’t have to pay them, pay them back, or give them stuff.

I have met some AMAZING people on this journey, two at least whom I hope will become real life, long term friends. But right now each of us needs to get our books out there and we need to keep our respect and help for each other at a bit of a distance. When we are both famous and have thousands of fans that the other can get lost in the middle of (as far as Amazon are concerned), then we can be Facebook friends as well. But for now, this is business guys!