9

Every piece of writer's advice I see will include something about "building a following" online, so that a publisher will be more likely to pick you up. The problem is, I don't have any idea how to do this! Besides that, I don't really have the time, what with working a full-time job and fitting writing in

Is a "platform" really necessary in this day and age to sell a book?

3

If you want to self-publish, then probably you do need a site.

If you intend to find an agent that finds you a publisher, then probably not. If anything, you can rely on your publisher to handle any kind of online promotion or site for your book or books (as part of their own site).

Although many people think self-publishing and getting 50% or 60% of sales after expenses is the way to go, it also involves running a business, devising and maintaining a website, dealing with sales, production, buying artwork, devising and running ads, blogging to sustain reader interest, visiting and bargaining with bookstores, and on and on. Selling your work becomes a full time and exhausting job.

Agents are professionals that bargain for you, and publishers are professionals in running the business of selling books. Agents don't just find and bargain with your publisher, they know how to protect your other rights, bargain with movie studios, find and bargain with foreign publishers, deal with translations of your work, make sure they wring every dollar from your words.

I say let them do the work for you. Writing well, and running a business well, are different skills; you can be great at writing and suck at business, especially if business doesn't interest you that much. You can write a compelling story, and write truly awful ads, or produce artwork that doesn't sell your story much at all. (Remember, even if you hire awesome artists, what they produce is up to you, and you are an amateur at selling books through cover art).

I say go pro. By which I mean "use the professionals". In fact, most writers of best-sellers use the professionals, they have agents and publishers and just write. As far as I am aware, all the wealthiest authors of fiction have agents and use publishers, and they just write. I know there are a few millionaires coming out of the self-publishing industry, but so far they are a tiny percent. Most (over 50%) self-published novels loses money; the author spends more in hosting fees, software, artwork, production and advertising than they ever earn in sales. Not to mention the time-suck all of that is, if you try to do it yourself instead of paying for it.

Even if it becomes profitable, it becomes a full-time job besides the writing, so their writing remains in "hobby" mode, a few hours a day after dealing with tech issues, production, bills, accounting and service providers all day. For writing to be your full-time job, get an agent, get a publisher.

So you produce the word art, the story, then leave business to the professionals. They can do all those things better than you, faster than you, and cheaper than you, because they are not amateurs, in each discipline they are pros that have done it for their whole career. They deserve their cut, and you will hopefully make all that up and more by the volume in sales they produce, and your own greater productivity, doing the part you like, creating the stories.

  • You see the thing is, I am intending to go pro. But the articles I read were referring to going pro. They would say things like "you'll never get published unless you have a following online!" or "A publisher doesn't know how to market a book. That's up to you!". And it put a bit of fear in me – klippy Aug 30 at 9:23
  • @klippy When I said "go pro", I meant "use the professionals". In fact, most writers of best-sellers use the professionals, they have agents and publishers and just write. As far as I am aware, all the wealthiest authors of fiction have agents and use publishers, and they just write. I know there are a few millionaires coming out of the self-publishing industry, but so far they are a minority for the reasons I mentioned; it is a full-time job besides the writing, so their writing remains in "hobby" mode, a few hours a day. For writing to be your full-time job, get an agent, get a publisher. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Aug 30 at 10:22
  • @klippy I have added the above to the answer, for clarity. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Aug 30 at 10:39
2

Do you HAVE to? Of course not. But how many copies are you expecting or hoping to sell?

I've self-published 4 books. All non-fiction, which I think is rather a different market from fiction, but whatever.

If your book is listed on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or some other online bookstore, some number of people may stumble on it. But I wouldn't count on that being many. I may sell 2 books a month that way.

If you want more than that, you have to do SOMETHING to bring your book to people's attention. It would be nice if you could write a book and people would somehow just magically hear about it and rush out and buy a copy, but sadly, it doesn't work that way.

I have a website for my books, but I've found that has generated very few sales. Maybe it's not well enough done. Well obviously there's SOMETHING wrong with it or it WOULD be generating sales.

Mostly I rely on advertisements in magazines or websites related to the subjects of my books.

My father wrote a book and his sons are in a country band, so he sells books at a table at their concerts.

There are many ways to advertise. Print ads like me, a web site, email blasts, radio, selling at conventions, etc. The trick is to figure out what's appropriate for your book. You will likely find that some forms of advertising or publicity that work for others don't work for you. Some things that might work may be out of your budget. Like, prime-time TV commercials might be great, but there's no way I could afford it. Find what works for you and then keep doing it.

1

To me, this sounds like advertising. Advertising your books and yourself. Anything you want to sell in large amounts needs advertising.

You don't have to do large amounts of advertising to get a following, though. Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, and more all have inexpensive advertising. You can do as little or as much as you want/need. The thing about getting a following is that at a certain point (often called a tipping point), it'll take off on it's own and you won't have to manage it as much.

You also don't need to start at 1000% from the beginning. You can start a simple website at Wix, WordPress, or other website/blog creation site. Even having Facebook, Twitter, or similar social media page can help get you started. It really doesn't have to be complicated to begin with. These can be worked on nights and weekends, just adding content and design as you have time and energy. To help you get things moving, you can even draw out a basic idea of what you want to look like on paper (think napkin at a coffee shop on your lunch break), then work on designing it later. This is what us web developers often do (we just do it faster, because bosses and deadlines, not because we're necessarily better at it).

You might want to start out with a basic personal profile, like a Facebook page. A simple photo of you or whatever inspires you, a basic bio about you and what inspires you, a list of things you're proud of doing/writing, and some other background info as to why people should be interested in you. After you get a bit of a following going, you might even want to start your own Wikipedia page with all of this same info. If you get really popular, other people will start maintaining that page for you, for better or worse. If you already have a FB or Twitter, make a sub-page or account that's specifically for you as a writer. You can still link to your personal page, but keep them separate. Also, keep what you post on each separate and on topic. If your kids win a sports game, put it on your personal account, then maybe write about it in your genre on your business account, but don't use your business account to post all your "night out" selfies, unless you write "valley girl" books.

There's 3 things that I find that sells: cute, adorable, and relatable. Cute will get you some sales, but it's not reliable. Adorable will have physical items flying off your store shelves, but it probably doesn't work for writing and unless you're a Barbie girl, won't help your bio. (FYI, adorable is essentially cute plus emotional reaction to item.) So relatable is really what you're looking for in this case. You don't have to be a back-country-girl-next-door type to be relatable, you just need t o be relatable to your target audience.

If you write emo/goth books, be relatable to them. If you write romance novels, be relatable to housewives. If you write action novels, be relatable to testosterone fueled men. If you are relatable to housewives and write action movie style novels, you've missed your target. You don't have to be 100% relatable to everyone in that target audience, because that'll never happen, but try to start out that way.

Don't lie in your bio, but stay on topic at first. Once you get more of a following, you can add more that isn't on topic, which will make you more relatable. Write about yourself like you write in your normal writing. Don't make it into a resume, unless you're a business writer, but rather write it as an expression of yourself in the genre you write.

A platform may not be 100% necessary, but it definitely helps. As a reader, if I don't know a writer's name, I probably won't pick up the book. If I happen to find the cover artwork interesting, I'll look at the reviews to see if they are known by others as well as to see if they and the book are any good. When I see something like "I love Issac Asimov and this book is no exception." I know it's likely to be good as well as helping to keep Asimov in mind for other purchases. If I really like a book or a series of books from an author, I Google them, trying to find out what else they wrote. If I can't find anything, I'm probably not going to buy another book, since I don't know what other books they have. It's really that simple: if I can't find out what they've written, I can't buy more.

Advertising yourself might feel a bit boastful, self-righteous, bragging, or other negative descriptors, but as a writer, it's absolutely necessary. If you don't no one else is likely to do it. You can't be a wallflower and expect to sell anything, unless you have a publisher to do all this for you. Even if you do have a publisher, they will likely want you to have this for them. So yes, it'll likely help you get a publisher if they can already find you and don't have to push you so hard to get that going. If all they have to do is nudge you to update your content, it's 100,000x better for them than trying to force you to start from scratch. They know it takes time, including time away from your writing, so get started now, so you don't have to try to do it all later.

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