Author Brands: Which Type of Influencer Are You?

Brand. Platform. Influencer.

Do these words scare you? If so, they shouldn’t because the fact that you’re online and interacting with this post means you understand a couple, if not all of them. Part of my brand is sharing useful information with writers, so you come here to gain knowledge from my platform.

Your personal or author brand is simply the way you conduct yourself and interact with the world. Online, your brand is everything from the color choice of your Twitter header which can evoke a certain mood, to the specific tone of articles you choose share on Facebook (uplifting? funny? motivational?). Developing a brand is just owning who you are, deciding what you want to say to the world with your work, and strategizing the best way to communicate it that reflects your brand (also known as a marketing-version of your identity). And lastly, and most important, being consistent with it.

Platform can mean two things: the type of social media site you like to use (i.e. Twitter is a platform) OR it can mean an “author platform” which is your network and ability to reach potential book buyers (i.e. 20,000 e-newsletter subscribers, a podcast, a column in a newspaper). Who knows you are? And why do they care what you have to say? Your brand is the angle and the platform is the way you share it.

Now, let’s talk influencers and check out this matrix from social media curator Klout. Look at the words across the top and the category names in the boxes. Start to think about where you fit into this.

klout-influence-matrix.jpg

WHO DOES WHAT?

In this matrix, I’m a “Specialist.” I post highly focused content about a specific industry. Mike Shatzkin of The Idealog is a “Thought Leader.” Media Diversified is an “Activist.” And as you start to think about where you get your information from, and from whom, you start to see the value in being certain types of influencers.

Think of some of your favorite authors: how active are they are social media? What square do they fit into? Which authors do you admire on social media? What are they doing that you’re not?

THINKING ABOUT HIDING OUT? THINK AGAIN.

You’ll notice that there is a listening corner for “Observers” however these people are inconsistent and do more watching than interacting–many new writers sit here. However, be careful not to stay here or fall into this category when you’re leading into book promotion time. Think about getting yourself into another square. You know why it’s important. Making time for interaction and engagement shouldn’t be on the bottom of your to-do list.

HOW DO YOU PIVOT?

To move between squares, look at the side bar to see what you need to improve. “Observers” should be moving towards “Curator” or “Networker” in order to increase their following. In order to do that they need to increase their usage (get more consistent!) and increase participation (If you agree with someone, tell them! If you read an interesting article, share it with us! If you want other people to promote your book launch, try promoting other writers’ launches!).

Once you reflect on how you’re interacting with others online you can work with your strengths to increase your engagement: expanding your brand. How can you share your world-view with more people? The more people in your circles who like what you have to say means that when it comes time to publicize your book they’ll be right there with you promoting you too.

That’s why writers get themselves stuck in a corner when they blog about writing. It’s best to use social media instead of a blog if you don’t have another topic to write about. That way if you want to talk about writing you can post links instead which will give you an influencer category more in the “Sharing/Creating” spectrum like “Feeder,” “Curator,” or “Tastemaker.”

I hope this is a helpful tool to help writers move out of their comfort zones and into higher engagement. Because higher engagement means more followers and more potential for book sales! Therefore, happy agent and happy publisher.

Q: So! Have you solved the puzzle? Which type of influencer are you? …and–if you want to pivot–what square do you want to move into?

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Guest Post: The 4 Platform Elements That Catch an Editor’s Attention

Headshot for Stonesong websiteEditor-turned-Agent Maria Ribas has a guest post for everyone today! It’s a small world in publishing and the story of how Maria and I know each other is a reflection of that. When Maria was an editor at Adams Media I sold her a cookbook called THE WELLNESS KITCHEN. She left Adams Media a couple years ago now and is currently at agent at Stonesong Literary in NYC. Maria represents non fiction and specializes in lifestyle and cookbooks. She has a great post about platform that I think you’ll all learn something from. You can also check out her site for more great information: www.cooksplusbooks.com or follow her on Twitter @maria_ribas.

I started out in publishing as an editor. And about once a week, I would get rejected. Our acquisitions meetings were on Thursday afternoon, and I’d spend much of that morning preparing a pitch for why everyone should get excited about that book I was so excited about.

The meetings would go something like this:

Me: !!!!

Everyone Else: …..

Me: !!!!!!!

Everyone Else: ????

Me: !!!!?

Everyone Else: No.

Having your excitement be met with disinterest is terrible. I know it’s something writers struggle with every day, and it’s a thing agents and editors have to battle through, too. But after some comically sad flops, I finally started figuring out what I needed to say so that people’s ears would immediately perk up.

And what got the most ear “perkage” (that’s not a word, is it?) from acquisitions teams? A platform-savvy author.

Any great agent or editor will tell you that you don’t need a platform to get a book deal as a fiction writer—a wonderful book is all you need. But any great agent or editor will also tell you that you can only avoid these platform-building initiatives for so long. A wonderful book may get you in the door, but only a strong publicity and marketing campaign will get your book back out the door and into readers’ hands.

That’s exactly why coming into the publishing process with those skills and networks in place can make you extremely appealing as an author. I’ve sat in many strategy meetings where an author’s editor, publicist, marketing manager, and agent put all their expertise together to formulate a strong marketing and publicity campaign. Yet the author’s lack of familiarity with the online landscape, and most often, their discomfort with putting themselves out there, crippled their ability to execute the campaign. The worst part is that this makes for a miserable, lie-awake-at-night book launch, because the author is forced to battle the fears and anxieties of platform-building at a time when they can’t afford to stumble.

Don’t let that happen to you! I know I sound like a scare-mongering PSA, but I’ve seen too many incredible books be completely ignored because the author struggled with the foundational skills of publicity and marketing.

If you’re overwhelmed about where to start, here are the 4 platform elements that most stand out to agents, editors, and acquisitions teams:

1. Connections

It’s true that you don’t need to be well-connected to break out in publishing, but it’s even truer that having connections will help you. Editors and agents know how hard it is to get even an ounce of attention for a debut book, so working with an author who has access to the megaphones of tastemakers is a huge advantage.

But remember that this doesn’t mean you need to live in New York City, attend all the right writing programs, or rub elbows with the literati every day. This isn’t necessarily about knowing celebrities, bestselling authors, and high-profile journalists. It’s about forming real connections with the people who are right there with you in the trenches. Get out and meet writers in your neighborhood; join online communities; reach out to that writer you admire just to say hello. Remember that it takes a tribe to launch a book, and it’s a whole lot easier to make real friends when you’re not plying them with information about your book.

2. Press

Similar to connections, press mentions are a way to get attention for a book, and they’re the foundation of a publicity campaign. So when a book comes in to an editor or agent and the author already has press experience ? That’s a big, big plus. Publishers think of it as a two pronged advantage: 1. The author already has a relationship with gatekeepers in other media (reporters, producers, bloggers, etc.) and can call on those connections to get coverage for the book, and 2. The author has already proven that he/she is comfortable with being a public figure and understands that pitching and public speaking skills are essential to the successful promotion of a book. This shows editors that you know how to position yourself and your work in a way that receives favorable attention, and that is always a good thing.

3. Analytics

Ten years ago cold, hard numbers had no place in the acquisitions conversation for a debut author. Today, they can be the #1 reason why an author and agent hears a “yes” rather than a “no” from an editor, particularly in the practical nonfiction world. Again, this is something that’s make-or-break for nonfiction, but still a big plus for fiction writers, too. These numbers are a concrete way of showing editors that you already have a readership—that you’ve spent years building relationships across different online channels, and that those people think what you have to say is worthwhile.

Analytics can be anything from traffic on a website or blog to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media followers.

4. Email List

Yes, you could put this under analytics. But I’m breaking it out for a reason—it’s a breakout number. That means that even if your social media numbers are middling, having a significant email list can get an agent’s or editor’s attention. This is because sending an email is the most direct way to reach potential readers, and it’s also the only way you can (nearly) guarantee that the recipient will see an important announcement. With so many changes to social media algorithms lately, it’s hard to guarantee that important updates (like a launch announcement!) will actually make it to the people who want to know about it. That’s why I preach the gospel of the email list to all my authors—it’s the best thing they can focus on building, because it’s the only channel they can themselves own.

I know platform-building can be overwhelming, fraught with emotional pitfalls, and overall more pleasant to ignore than to face head-on. But the business of publishing, in any genre, always hinges around sales, and the sooner authors can build marketing and publicity skills, the sooner they’ll find their readership. And the less often that their exclamation points will be met with a cold, hard “No.”

Maria Ribas began her career on the editorial side, first at Simon & Schuster and Harlequin Nonfiction, then at Adams Media, where she was an associate editor before moving to the agency side in 2014. At Stonesong, she specializes in practical and narrative nonfiction from authors who understand how a thoughtfully produced, proudly promoted book can grow their brands and their businesses.

She also writes about writing, platform-building, publishing, and cooking her way through books at www.cooksplusbooks.com

 

The 4 Platform Secrets No One Has Told You

Platform.

Platform.

Platform.

It’s all anyone in publishing wants to talk about! Writers are feeling this top down pressure to check all the boxes publishers and agents are looking for. Including platform. But we’re talking about platform for a reason. (Need a platform primer? Try Jane Friedman’s here.)

Let’s be clear: non fiction authors understand that platform is non-negotiable; it’s a must. However, fiction authors don’t require one–but we won’t be sad if you have one. Now that we’re all on the same page. Let’s breakdown the secrets to platform that you probably haven’t discovered how to leverage. Ready?

The secret to a meaningful platform is engagement. It doesn’t matter how many tweets you send or pins you post. If there is no engagement on the other side you’re wasting your time speaking into a black hole.  You don’t always need to go searching for more, more, more. Try focusing on the small fans you’ve cultivated this far and work with them. What does your current audience require to be more connected to you? Be authentic, be honest, learn from online greats like comedians, authors, and journalists. See how they’re doing it. Guess what? They’re out of their shells and interacting with people, tweets and memes. Platform is not self promotion, it’s engagement.

The secret to building a platform is following other people. It goes against our desire to be “cool” when we follow other people hoping to get followed back, but guess what: it works. Following other people is a signal to the world that you exist. You’re not a satellite circling alone, you’re a compass pointing visitors to your brand. A vacant platform can be a sign of fear: are you afraid to follow other people because you’re afraid you won’t be any further ahead? It’s also a sign of disinterest: are you too “busy” for your brand? Then a publisher isn’t going to make time for you. Many of today’s success stories revolve around authors who have understood what their fans expect and want from them. Never before have you had a water cooler at your fingertips. A missing platform is a sign that you don’t understand technology and that scares us: how can we expect you to market your book if you don’t have time for social media? So to build that platform you have to tell the world that you are here and you have something to say.

The secret to platform isn’t just primary social media sites. Everyone thinks Twitter and Facebook are the only platforms that matters. Guess what (depending on what you do) there are many platforms for you to leverage: YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, blogging, journalism, podcasts, or online TV. Where can you show your voice, expand your brand, and engage with like-minded people best for your message? That’s where you need to be. There is no right or wrong way to develop platform, but the success comes from the most authentic way to share your voice. What do YOU want to say? And how or where can you say it best?

The secret to platform is numbers. Do you know yours: Followers? Impressions? Shares? Sales? Subscribers? As soon as you learn to quantify your platform you know how to transition to leveraging your engagement. How many people clicked on your links? How many people signed up for your e-newsletter? How many people do you speak in front of per year? Numbers means audience. Audience means sales. Sales is what business is all about–even publishing.

Experiment: take a week and follow a few hundred new people (and engage with them!) and then report back to me how many new followers it got you. Deal?

6 Tips for Author Self Promotion You Can Start Today

Quote3Self promotion has a sense of over-confidence about it. Only people who think super highly of themselves can promote themselves unabashedly, right?

Wrong. Self promotion has two sides to it: you and people who receive it. If you build a community online (whether it’s social media, a blog, or a website) self promotion is how to reach that audience. And if that audience is following you, they want to know what’s going on with you and celebrate with you.

6 Tips for Author Self Promotion You Can Start Today

1. Comment on blogs/websites, @-reply or ‘like’ equal to twice as much as you post original content. Shouting into the void doesn’t bring more people to your cause. If you engage with others in a way that doesn’t directly benefit you, other than that personal connection, you’ll find people will do the same for you.

2. Get visual. Have any graphic design skills? (If not, there’s an app for that.) Try putting text over images to create visual interest. Have a popular or new recipe or quote? Put it on an image. This is great for Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. See Taylor Jenkins Reid’s graphic for her novel AFTER I DO in this post. We’re a culture with short attention span. Capitalize on that.

3. Combine forces. You don’t have to do it alone! Do a Twitter chat with another author. Start a hashtag conversation. Guest post on another person’s blog. Have them guest post on yours. Bring new readership.

4. We are creatures of habit. Start a schedule. A posting or tweeting schedule is important to your sanity and creates reader expectation and anticipation.

5. Internalize a brand or message. Who do you want to be online? The informational resource people can come to? The funny, jokey person that loves to banter? The person that brings insight to causes? The person that shares their personal journey? You can be a mix, certainly, but think about the persona you are and the message you want to share. Start living that message today.

6. Collect email addresses. On your website or blog make sure there’s a place that people can subscribe. Don’t ignore this simple way to collect information for future use like an e-newsletter.

Ready to reach your audience?