Monday, October 15

The Best Way To Build A Writer's Platform Is To Write

The Best Way To Build A Writer's Platform Is To Write

Dean Wesley Smith holds that writers should write. Period. Sure "promotion can help book sales when done right and for the right reasons" but Dean advises authors:
Don't bother. Keep writing and selling. (The New World of Publishing: Promotion)

Don't promote, just write

That advice flies in the face of much of what independent writers have been told (for instance the advice John Locke gives in his book, How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months) so if you're skeptical I don't blame you. That said, best-selling author Erin Kern is a great example of what Dean's talking about.  First, though, here's what Dean says in his own words:
Put your story out on the market either to editors or readers and forget it and focus forward on learning and writing more stories. It can’t hurt you to have them out. No one will read them if they are a stinking pile of crap. So no big deal.

And if you happened to have gotten close to a story that works, then readers will pay you money for it without you doing a thing to push them. And you will then know and can take credit for writing a good story.

And when that happens, take the credit. You will deserve it.

Keep writing and learning and writing and learning and writing and learning.

There will be enough time down the road for promotion of the right book.

And keep having fun. (The New World of Publishing: Maybe You Wrote a Good Book)
In short, the best thing you can do as a writer to help sell your work is to write. Rather than spending time and money to market your last book, write a new one.

Dean Wesley Smith knows what he's talking about. He has written hundreds of books (I'm including his ghostwritten stories) and worked successfully in a high-risk, turbulent industry, for at least 30 years.

As part of my series on building a writer's platform I want to examine what Dean says about marketing and how it applies to platform building, but here's the short version. (And please keep in mind this is just my opinion.)

I think constantly writing stories, constantly putting new work out on the market (whether you submit work to editors or publish it yourself) is a smart way of building a platform! I don't think writing and platform building are separate; rather, they are two sides of the same coin.

For instance, if you write a horror story and it sells well you're branding yourself--or at least that pen name--as a horror writer. This happened to Stephen King. His first big book was Carrie and that went a long way to brand him, not only as a writer of horror, but of a certain kind of horror. The creepy, oh-my-gosh-I-can't-look-away white-knuckle kind.

Skeptical? Let's take a look at Erin Kern's fabulous success story.

Erin Kern

When Erin Kern published her first book, Looking For Trouble, she sold one copy in two weeks, and that was to her husband! She writes:
The first month Looking for Trouble was published (October 2010) I sold about 10 copies. The next month I sold 12.

And that was with lots of marketing. And when I say lots, I mean some reviews from romance websites, and the occasional feature.
Erin published Looking For Trouble in October 2010. Six months later the book started to take off and Erin saw the book's Amazon ranking steadily improve. What changed? Erin writes:
But my sales did eventually take off. In April 2011 I started seeing a steady uphill climb in ranking. By then I’d all but quit marketing and was basically working on my next book. In fact, the only change I’d made was the price of the book.

I lowered it from $2.99 to $.99.
The point? What sold the book was the book and finding the right price point. Erin writes:
To make a long story short, Looking for Trouble was on the Amazon top 100 for 4 months. Sometime in June, the book peaked at #6 in the paid Kindle store, and #1 on three different lists. In that month alone, I sold 38,000 copies. What was I doing to sell all these books?

Nothing.

The higher ranked your book is, the more exposure you get. Readers brows the bestseller lists all the time to see who they should read next.
Erin speculates that the self published book is the new query letter because it can get you noticed by agents, editors and publishers.

So, what's the truth about making it as a writer in this new age of digital publishing? Erin sums it up nicely:
You just have to write a great book (actually more than one would be helpful). My second book, Here Comes Trouble, was in the Amazon top 100 2 weeks after I published it.
Great advice! To write a great book, you have to write a lot and write regularly. It's a simple recipe for success but far from easy to follow.

I heartily recommend Erin Kern's article, Are Self-Published Books the New Query Letter?

Other articles you might like:
- Penelope Trunk: Blogging And Branding
- Building A Platform That Meets Your Needs
- Jim Butcher Begins Another Series, The Cinder Spires: It's Steampunk!

Articles referenced:
- Are Self-Published Books the New Query Letter?, by Erin Kern
- The New World of Publishing: Promotion, by Dean Wesley Smith
- The New World of Publishing: Maybe You Wrote a Good Book, by Dean Wesley Smith

Photo credit: Pascal Maramis

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for this--a completely different angle than everything I've been reading, and a bit of a relief....I can just write my story??!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dean Wesley Smith has written hundreds of books so of course he knows what he's talking about, but I do think it's a bit different for writers at different stages of their career.

      If a writer doesn't have a following, if they only have a few books published, I think it helps to--and this is on top of writing--post regular blog articles and then let their Twitter pals know about the new blog post.

      But that doesn't have to take long. I believe what matters is blogging (somewhat) regularly, even if that's only once a month. :-)

      Delete

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