By Stuart Miles. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Stuart Miles. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What is this platform thingy people keep talking about? Why do people use this term?

Many authors are thoroughly confused by how to start marketing their work (whether it’s a blog or book – any genre).

Let’s deconstruct.

MARKETING PLATFORM

According to well-known marketing definitions (and pulled from this 2010 article by Dan Schwabel):

‘A marketing platform is a mass communication tool that allows you to convert subscribers (readers/fans) into leads. Marketing, by definition, uses a mix of place, product, promotion and price to create a transaction between a buyer and a seller.’

You may be the writer but make no mistake: you are also the seller.

Let’s look at each component individually: place, product, promotion, and price.

PLACE

With the plethora of options in which to help your work, book, or service gain exposure, it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly what works best. A typical basic platform includes:

  • Social Media (Twitter and a Facebook page)
  • Optimized Website
  • Blog with fresh content at least once weekly.
  • Sales channel (i.e., Amazon).

A more advanced platform contains all that, and:

  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Goodreads and Shelfari (maybe even also Library Thing)
  • LinkedIn
  • Twice weekly (or more) blog posts
  • Advertising
  • Newsletter (email).

The point of all this: create a fan base. Make it easy for people to find you. Share your voice.

Take it slow. You don’t need to be all places at once. Or, if budget allows, hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

PRODUCT

What have you done to ensure your product (book) is the absolute best it can possibly be?

In order to do that, you must:

  • Work with a professional editor (structural/content edit)
  • Hire a proofreader
  • Hire a graphic designer. A cover will make or break your sale.
  • Hire a formatter.

You don’t want to buy something that is disappointing in quality, right? You would most likely complain and return it…maybe even leave a scathing review. Then why would you sell something that is? Remember, people will review your work.

(And know now, that even if the Midwest Book Review (scroll down to see the Broken Pieces review if you’d like) or Kirkus give you a spectacular review, you will receive 1-stars. Don’t take it personally.)

The onus is on you to make your book the best it possibly can be. Readers are smart. If we hate the book, or find it riddled with errors, that’s on you.

Basic marketing principle: start with a spectacular product.

PROMOTION

This is where I find people become lost and resort to spamming links repeatedly on Twitter to their own work. I’m an advocate of Twitter and of sharing occasional links – Twitter is a wonderful free marketing platform. However, it’s not a free advertising, one-way broadcast platform. BIG difference.

There are a number of ways to approach promotion (including pulse pricing, discussed below). Let’s review just some of many options:

  • Ads. If you can afford a daily Starbucks, you can afford ads on Google AdWords (spend time learning it via Google or YouTube or buy (gasp) a book about it).
  • Blog Tour. Think book signings where you never leave your house. Book bloggers host you, review your book, and feature you in some way. Even if their blogs don’t get a ton of hits, having your name and book mentioned multiple times in multiple places helps your overall Google Rank.

I’ve found some tour companies to be amazingly effective with very little investment (Orangeberry Book Tours comes to mind). There are more expensive tour options you can book, but if budget an issue you can do it effectively on the cheap.

  • Reviews. There is no reason whatsoever your book should be up without you having sent it to betareaders first. Why? It’s a critical final step in making sure it’s the best it can possibly be. A wonderful side benefit: many of these readers are either reviews or fans, who will be happy to give you feedback and perhaps (no guarantee) a review once it’s up. Whatever you do, do not ever pay someone to review your book. It’s an ugly side of publishing that you just don’t want to get involved with.
  • Pre-release marketing. Are you writing about your new book? Have you joined critique groups (all over Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn) to get feedback? Shared excerpts on your blog? Guested blogged for someone else?

All this creates buzz.

  • Social Media. Yes, social media is wonderful. It’s a terrific way to connect with your readers, other authors, book bloggers, and reviewers. Just make sure that’s what you’re doing: connecting, not spamming repeated links to your own work. The key to success in social media is to be generous – promote others — and balance your sales message with other stuff (info, resources, pictures, infographics, quotes…whatever floats your boat).
  • Blogging: You must blog frequently (if for no other reason than to increase Google Rank), but also as a more intimate way for people to learn about you, get to know your style, and interact in comments.

I started with a Blogger blog and soon found I was spinning my wheels when it came to SEO/SMO and Google Rank. Don’t make my mistake: start out first with WordPress.org (not .com), where you can create a site that has a blog. You’ll write more than one book, right? This is your home. Invite us in.

PRICING

This can be confusing and tricky. What’s the best price for your book? Is it dependent on genre? Length? Both?

It’s a little bit of everything. If we look at Amazon, any book priced at $2.99 or above makes a 70% royalty. So, for example, my first book is A Walk In The Snark (released 1/2011), priced at $2.99. I make about $2.04 per book. Not bad.

I priced it there because of length and genre (163 pages of nonfiction, humor). I’ve tried higher and lower prices, which I’ll cover below.

There are many factors to take into consideration when pricing your book:

  • How are similar books in your genre priced?
  • How long has you book been out?
  • How many books comprise your backlist?
  • Promotions

a) Average price: If books in your genre are priced around $4.99, start there. See how your sales go. You can always lower it.

I’ve personally found that because books from The Big Six are generally starting to be priced anywhere from $1.99 up to $7.99, the midpoint for a quality indie is around $4.99.

And according to Digital Book World (March, 2013)*: the average price of a best-selling eBook dipped below $8.00, driven mostly by $2.99 and $1.99 big-six titles.

*Keep in mind: they are discussing Big Six bestsellers here.

b) First book. I spoke with a lovely fella the other day who asked me to take a look at his first eBook on Amazon. So exciting! His price: $9.99. I gasped.

Me: Dude, Big Six bestsellers are priced at $9.99. Him: Wow, I had no idea. I just took a stab.

He repriced it at $6.99 (which I still think is too high). When I release a new book, or work with a client who does, I suggest a lower price for a week or so, or even taking it free if they’re KDP Select. This helps immensely with rankings and, as you see above, most books priced between $1.99 and $2.99 are selling the most. Or, if you go with the higher price, lower it once in a while — it helps with rankings! A lower (good) ranking means more exposure (better) and hopefully more sales (best).

c) Backlist (or lack of one). If this is your first book, I suggest a lower price. I’ve played with pricing on my three books and when I released my latest title, Broken Pieces, at Christmas, I went with a higher price overall, $5.99 (studies show that prices ending in 9 sell much better than 4 or 7). Why? I feel it’s my best quality work, it’s getting the best reviews of my career, and I’ve paid my dues, so to speak, with my first two books.

This is also because of having a backlist. I then priced my two previous books lower ($2.99 and $3.99).

d) Promotions. There are so many ways to go, as we discussed above.

  • Lowering the price for a week.
  • Taking part in some kind of group promotion with other authors.
  • Taking it free (for up to five days as part of KDP Select or Smashwords coupon) or pulse pricing for a short time.
  • Running an ad, contest, or giveaway.

It really is endless, limited only by imagination, time, and budget.

I hope this article has helped you identify areas for you to focus on or learn more about. Any questions at all, please hit me here or check out my new Facebook page Ask RachelintheOC Thompson.