Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Author Platform and Selling Books via Amazon and Other Ways

Before I started on the adventure of self-publishing and learning what is entailed, I viewed book publishing like most people do.  You write a manuscript, find a publisher and the book magically appears in the bookstore and of course, because you wrote it, it becomes a best seller, or at least sells enough that you can make some money.

That view is laughable to me now, particularly since I have learned that it is largely up to the author to market the book, most manuscripts are never accepted for publication and self-published books seldom are sold in stores. One of the things I have learned, is that some manuscripts are picked up by trade publishers because the author has what is known as an "author platform."

What this means is the author has created a means to communicate with a fairly large number of potential buyers of the book and to create buzz for the book before it is even on the market. The author platform is equally important as a means to build support for the book when it is in print and available for sale.

How does an author create a platform? Is there only one way to go about building a platform? The answer is there are numerous ways to build author platforms.  Blogs and the internet have obviously changed the game for authors who self-publish, allowing them to share information and stories to potential readers and by-pass the old mechanism that shut out most authors who self-published.

For non-fiction authors, content based blogs and websites are a good platform. Potential customers of the book will come to the site looking for needed or desired information and discover the author's book is available.  Several visits to the site with constant exposure to the fact the book is for sale often results in the potential customer becoming an actual customer by purchasing the book.

E-newsletter created from an opt-in mailing list are another great way to share information with potential readers and customers. The social networking craze with Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are changing the game in both the music and publishing industries.

The Long Tail of Amazon enters into the picture by means of the widgets and product item buttons Amazon allows authors to insert into their blogs or on their websites. Blogs and websites, by using the Amazon buttons or widgets combined with content worded to encourage shoppers to do so, can steer customers to Amazon. The more sales a book has on Amazon, the higher the book is ranked and the more often it will appear in product searches by other Amazon shoppers, engaging the Long Tail.

For niche market books, an author platform is essential and a great way to communicate with other individuals interested in that information niche. Sharing bits of information or excerpts from an upcoming book with readers who share similar interests can be a great way to promote a book and create word of mouth for the book. Belonging to Yahoo or Google groups is a good way to obtain and share information and depending on the group rules, to encourage members to visit the author's website or blog.

Speaking to groups is an excellent piece of an author platform.  It identifies the author as an expert giving credibility to the author's book.  Being an author also gives the author credibility as an expert. Speaking in public to groups, if you are good at it, is a great way to create buzz both about yourself as an expert and author and about your book.

Regardless of the method you choose to build your author platform, be aware that it takes time. Creating a following or an audience does not happen overnight.  Patience, diligence and hard work over time are all part and parcel to have a successful platform.

Whether an author is self-published or trade published, an author platform is a necessary piece of any marketing plan for a book in this day and age.