With Guest Helen Lacey.
Actually, I was thinking for the purposes of this blog, that for an author, all the world’s a platform.
Words like platform and brand seem to go hand in hand with being an author these days. When I first started seriously writing and submitting my work way back when, the process was relatively simple – write a book, send it to a publisher who had a slush pile (Unless you were one of the lucky few who had an agent as these were like gold) and then….wait…and wait…and wait. Wait on tender hooks for the call and hopefully the elusive contract. Or wait for the more often than not dreaded no-thank you snail mail letter or when the internet came along, the form email. One emotional burst of outrage and few tears later, said author would jump back in the saddle and write the next book.
I will admit I waited a long time to get the call….twenty three years (and eighteen submissions) in fact from the time I sent my first sub to Mills & Boon UK, until November 23rd 2010 when my agent called to say that Harlequin Special Edition in New York offered to buy my book. Since then I’ve had four books published with Special Edition and have just signed a contract for three more. It was a very long and arduous apprenticeship, often filled with disappointment and the lingering sense of will-it-ever-happen. Fortunately I now have a wonderfully supportive editor at Harlequin and an agent who is a fabulous advocate for my work, for which I am very grateful.
Nowadays, it’s a very different landscape. If I’d actually started writing in the last few years the journey would have certainly taken me on a different path. As authors in this era we have multiple options. We can stay with a traditional print publisher, we can work with one or more of the many successful ePublishers, both boutique and more mainstream, and we can self publish and/or do all three. It’s an incredible age of opportunity. But with more choice, can come more risk, and in my case, more confusion. What’s the right road? Is there one? Why are some authors more successful than others? Why do some have a more prominent platform and brand? Do they put in more hours? Are they targeting more effective sites/blogs to find readers?
I’m not particularly tech savvy…so creating a website, working on Twitter and Facebook , promoting myself and my books (and my brand) doesn’t come naturally to me. When a book comes out my instinct is to burrow down and try to avoid being noticed, so I have to push myself to make my books, and myself, and therefore my platform, front and center. The thing is, I love reader feedback and knowing my stories are on the bookshelves and I’ve done blog tours for a couple of my Special Edition books. However, although I enjoyed them, I constantly question am I boring people/readers with my rambling? Is the subject matter interesting? Am I over-exposing myself? And then, is there such a thing as too much branding?
But every author is different. Some authors really enjoy blogging and tweeting and promoting their work on social media. Some love the attention and checking best seller lists and sharing reviews. Some also use promotion as a way to procrastinate and avoiding the actual writing (I’m guilty of this). Some don’t do any promotion at all and simply keep writing.
But in this new and fiercely competitive world of digital and/or independent publishing, hanging back can often mean being left behind. So, what’s the answer?
The answer, I’ve discovered, is that often there is no answer.
If a newly published or aspiring author ask me about promotion my response is always, do what you are comfortable with. And then, once you’ve done that, do a little more. If you’re reluctant to open the door on self promotion and platform building, open a window.
It’s obvious that if you’ve self published then the onus is 100% on the author to promote and there are many other things to consider…are you an author writing across different genres? Do you need to promote in different places/mediums to be exposed to different audiences? Does your Steam Punk YA novel need the same promotional investment as your inspirational historical romance?
I’ve just released my first independently published contemporary romance, The Cattleman’s Proposal, and plan on a small blog tour and some social media giveaways etc. My motivation for publishing this book was to develop a multi-layered platform. I write short contemporary romances, books that are about home and family and community. Even though I want to branch out into romantic suspense and thrillers, my first foray into Indie publishing was to start with a book similar to those I write for Harlequin. Baby-steps, I like to call it. Building a platform like one might make a cake…a layer of sponge, then filling, then more sponge, then icing…rather than the boots-and-all approach.
What I’d love to know is – how do you promote? Do you strive to drive your brand? Do you use your personality and life experience to create a unique platform?
Thanks you so much for having me as a visitor at Seekerville. I have two giveaways today – one is a signed copied of my August Harlequin Special Edition Date With Destiny and the other is a e copy of my latest indie release, The Cattleman’s Proposal. Leave a comment to go into the draw! (Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.)
Helen Lacey grew up reading Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie. These childhood classics inspired her to write her first book when she was seven years old, a story about a girl and her horse. Her parents' love of travel meant she saw much of the world in those early years and she feels fortunate to have had a diverse and interesting education over several continents.
She continued to write with the dream of one day being published, and becoming a Harlequin Special Edition author is the realization of that dream. She loves writing about tortured heroes—both cowboys and CEOs—and heroines with gumption who finally get their men.
From Welsh parents and a large family, Helen lives on the east coast of Australia in a small seaside town at the southernmost point of the Great Barrier Reef; she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband, many horses and three spoiled dogs.