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Ep 044: “Building Your Author Platform”

Welcome to the 44th episode of The Author Hangout, a podcast designed to help authors, especially self-published and indie authors, with marketing their books and improving their author platform. Authors struggle with various aspects of marketing and we are here to help!

“What are the ways that things have always been done and are you doing them just out of habit or just because “everybody is doing it this way, every author has a Facebook page, or every author does this”, or whatever but does it have to be that way?”– Dorie Clark

Building Your Author Platform

In this episode we were joined by author, blogger, and speaker Dorie Clark. She shares some great tips about how she built her platform to help to make her book launch a success. If you’ve been confused about building an author platform, or what you need to do, then you definitely need to listen to this episode!

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Intro

She’s a branding expert, marketing strategist and speaker who was named one of the Top 25 Professional Networking Experts to Watch in 2015. With a passion for helping others take control of their professional lives, she wrote Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around it and Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future. She often contributes to publications such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review and the World Economic Forum Blog. Here to share her story is former award winning journalist, Dorie Clark. Dorie, welcome to the Author Hangout.

How did you become an author and publish your first book?

She shared some great tips for an author, whether you are going the self-publishing or traditional publishing route:

“I just long had a dream of publishing a book. I had been interested in doing it. When I became an entrepreneur 9 years ago I started a business as a marketing consultant, it became both a general dream that I wanted to achieve but also there was a really specific purpose because I knew that writing a book could be helpful for my business in driving clients to me. In 2009, I decided to get really serious about it. I didn’t really know a lot about the process. I didn’t know a lot of authors in general or business authors in specific and so, essentially, I went about it the wrong way. Which is, that I spent the first half of the year writing 3 different book proposals, just thinking, “One of them is going to work. Someone’s going to land one of these ideas.” Which was not a bad theory but it was not the correct one. Because, really, what they were most interested in was my platform. Meaning, how many fans, how many followers that I had, how big was my audience that was one of the key pieces they wanted to know. They took a look and said, “Well, it’s not there, you’re not famous enough” so I didn’t get to publish any of the books. I realized that I had to go back to square one and start building an audience before I would be able to get a book contract. So that was what I committed myself to. In my case, I focused on blogging. I started blogging and ultimately within a year and a half to a 2-year period that started to fall into place and by 2011 I was able to get a book contract for my first book Reinventing You but it was a slower process than I wanted because I didn’t understand and appreciate at the outset how important having an audience and communicating with that audience was before even writing a proposal for the book.”

What is your most recent book or project?

Dorie talked a bit about her book Stand Out:

“The new book Stand Out is my effort to try to understand the question of why certain thought leaders today in a variety of different fields got that way. What was it that they did? What was it that separated them from the pack? Why are these folks the ones that we heard about and know about and look up to? So I set about interviewing 50 top experts in fields ranging from business and technology to real estate and genomics and essentially tried to reverse engineer what they did. How did they come up with the ideas that they’re known for and how did they start spreading the word about them so that regular people could apply those same principles. I think in a lot of ways this is the process we all need to go through as authors because we want to be known for an idea, i.e. our books and we absolutely have to build the following either at the outset because we want to get a contract and convince publishers we are a good bet or if we’re self-publishing certainly by the end of the process you need to have the audience so can have people buying your book and being out there taking in your ideas. So, I really want to create a guide that would be very useful in a hands-on way for people and that’s what I try to do with Stand Out.”

She also shared one of the stories from her book, about psychologist Robert Cialdini, and it is a great story you have to hear, so be sure to listen to the interview!

A great tip that came out of it is this:

“I think for all of us it’s really a question of what assumptions are just taken for granted in your field? What are the ways that things have always been done and are you doing them just out of habit or just because “everybody is doing it this way, every author has a Facebook page, or every author does this”, or whatever but does it have to be that way? Is that an immutable law of nature? Or might there be a different way to approach the problem?”

There are some really great tips for building a platform, spreading the idea of your book, and connecting your audience with each other for exponential growth.

Can you tell us about a time when you really struggled as an author?

She did the hard grunt work necessary to grow her author platform:

“One thing that I’ll mention is that I knew in terms of building my platform prior to the release of my first book, Reinventing You that I needed to have even more places where I could be seen. I knew that, trying to be as ubiquitous as I could was a worthy goal for myself and so I really worked on that. When I started out, I first was able to start blogging for the Huffington Post and then for the Harvard Business Review which ultimately led to my book contract for Reinventing You but the Huffington Post was not really know for its business coverage and Harvard Business Review was great but they just weren’t publishing my work often enough. They have a kind of slow editorial process so it wasn’t fast enough of the quantity wasn’t enough for me. So I thought, “I need one more place. I need one more place that I can be publishing.” So what I did was, this is a process that can work for any author, I committed myself to really focusing on this. I spent probably 2 full days, 2 full business days on this. First, I created a comprehensive list of about 2 dozen blogs, newspapers, TV networks, and anybody that had a website that had a blog feature on it that would have been an appropriate audience for my message.”

Then she did even more work:

“Then I went through for each of them and I checked to see, “Okay, do they have an active blog and do they accept outside contributions from outside people that are not staff members.” So I checked off all those things whittled the list a little bit. Then I went through again and tried to find the contact information for web editor. Some of them it was a little hard but I just did a bunch of searching on the web, found the addresses of those people and I began sending out pitch letters.”

Does this seem like hard work? It is, but it really pays off!

If you started over today, what few things you would you tell yourself to help you sell more books?

She shared things that all authors need to be doing:

“Number one, is the importance of building your own email list. It is very easy based on the way that people talk about these things, what’s in the news, what gets a lot of coverage. To think that it’s sufficient to just have a big Facebook following or a Twitter following or something but that’s not a good way to sell books. Studies have shown that even of the people the follow you on Twitter. An average of between 2 and 5 percent of people see any individual tweet. Literally, it’s like a 1 in 20 chance someone will even see your message. So it is really important to build your own email list so that you have the personal connection to the reader through their inbox.”

Sounds familiar? That’s because you NEED a list. She also shared some tips on book tours:

“Some people are anti-book tours. They’re kind of a thing of the past and just do podcasts. I’ve done a lot of podcasts, I’m a big fan of that but I also think that a book tour can be useful in terms of connecting with readers. However, it’s almost like you have to thread in middle ground. Your publisher probably doesn’t want you to bother to do it because they don’t want to pay for it and they think, “Oh, she’ll just be wasting her time” or whatever, even if you pay for it yourself they’ll tell you “no”. As an author, you might have this idea, “Oh I’ll just go to a city and I’ll discover readers and people will come out and hear me.” That’s not really right either. What I’ve discovered, I sort of knew this to begin with but I saw proof on my most recent book tour is, no one is going to discover you on your book tour. What a book tour is a place where you can connect with existing passionate readers and those people will come out and they will be excited to see you. It’s great for that because they will be more highly motivated to talk about you and spread the word about you but you’re not going to get new people. Maybe 1 in 50 you might get one person who just happens to be at the bookstore but they’re not going to come out for somebody that they don’t know.”

How can people connect with you?

“The best way to connect with me is on my website which is http://dorieclark.com/ . It’s D-O-R-I-E-C-L-A-R-K and in fact, for folks who are interested in this question of platform building, how do you come up with your big idea and especially how do you build a following around it, I actually created a free resource that people can download. It is a 42-page workbook that I adapted from my new book Stand Out it’s literally 139 questions that you can go through step by step to help develop your ideas and create the platform that you need. Folks can get that for free on my website, http://dorieclark.com/”

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