Coming at this topic as a newbie, trying to learn, I was surprised at how many writers don't use a platform, or worse, flub it. I mean, it's writing. Blogs, tweeting, messaging. All words. We're supposed to be good at that, right? Yet some good authors are failing—how could I possibly succeed?
Well, I think writers are good with words. Some just don't know how to shift gears from telling their characters' stories and getting their own out. In other words, switching from narrating to marketing—that I'm trying to learn. So here are three tenets I've picked up (from others) about using the internet to connect with readers. Feel free to share your own.
The Three Be's
1) Be useful
What does your readership care about? For me, as a middle grade writer, it is important to address subjects that parents (who buy books) and kids (who read the books) want to know about. As a father myself, I can leverage my experience addressing issues that parents and kids deal with at this 'in between' stage. Topics such as family pets, competing in sports, and the awkwardness of going from kid to adult. My novel is about all three.
2) Be entertaining
A writer is a story teller, right? Tell one! Be funny, save the best bit for last, you know the drill. Would you have your protagonist discuss grocery lists or backed up toilets in your novel? No. Readers are not your friends, they are your clientele. Consumers of what you write, they aren't here to listen to a writer's complaints. That's exhausting. That's for your personal, super-secret blog that nobody reads but your mother.
3) Be real
You wouldn't immediately upon hearing a coworker's story about her nine-year-old's birthday party say, "That reminds me of my vampire novel, 'Suckers on the Loose!' Let me tell you about it." Um, no. That would be weird. But I see that all the time appended to blog posts. Good salespeople connect personally with their customers. Listen to them, hear what they have to say, and give them what they want. You are establishing a life-long reader relationship here. Not selling a rusted-out hooptie and leaving town on the first Greyhound.
I've done sales before. Hated it. Yet, like going to the gym, it made me a better person. A stronger person. I will readily admit, however, I sold more when I believed in what I was selling.
Why write if you don't believe in your own book?
Three People To Be Like
April Hamilton is a dynamo of an author-as-entreprenuer whose ideas can work for self pub and traditionally pubbed authors. After reading her inspirational posts, I was moved to 'try it again' myself.
John August is primarily a screen writer, but his site is a model of usefulness with a depth of reference material unmatched. Recently he self-pubbed a short story on the Kindle that has been a terrific lesson in how one can use a new distribution system for your writing. From contests, to an insider's view of the industry, his site is fun.
JA Konrath is the hardest working writer on the 'net. When he's not writing a novel, he's experimenting with sales on the Kindle, judging writing contests, and visiting scores of bookstores. Then he blogs about it. Whew!
So why platform? Well, if you can't draw readers to your blog, what makes you think you can get them to buy your book? Or get a publisher to take you on? Think of it as authorship-in-training. I know I do.