Lately, I’ve had a lot of questions from my Beautiful Writers Group around how to spark an agent or publisher’s interest in a manuscript. Other than writing a RIVETING page turner of a book, no matter your genre, you can guess my answer. Uh huh. Build. Your. Platform. But before you head for the fridge, hear me out. The process will grow you and your writing and make you infinitely more magnetic. Here are eight of my favorite things you can do, including resources and tactics I’ve tried that have made a big difference in my career:
#1 Boost your posts on Facebook.
If you have a public page (which I do, and recommend), you can boost your posts for more views. Obviously, building a following on Twitter or Instagram or another platform is powerful, too. But publishers tell me they get the most sales via Facebook. So if you’re going to choose one social media platform to focus the bulk of your energy on, I’d start here. I’m no FB expert, but boosting my posts for $10, $20, or $30 brings thousands of more eyeballs to them. If you think of it as a billboard, as Danielle LaPorte helped me to see, it’s more enjoyable investing in yourself—as no one would expect free billboard space. I know that when I boosted this post about my TEDWomen talk on Time Debt, I got more comments and shares than I’ve ever received—by a longshot. (By the way, heartfelt thanks to those of you who commented & shared; I was so nervous, but your support and love made/makes me so happy.)
#2 Become a source for HARO.
HARO, also known as Help A Reporter Out, is always looking for experts to be interviewed or offer a comment. Journalists may be writing for national magazines or newspapers, on a wide variety of newsworthy topics. It’s easy to sign up, monitor the source requests, and email your pitch for a particular story that’s in alignment with your expertise or book topic. Sign up for free to start receiving resource notifications.
#3 Get your mug on screen.
Thinking of being on any Internet or TV screen begs the question: Are you ready to be seen? If not, ask yourself what you need—emotionally, mentally,
As for baby steps, I’ve had first-time clients book themselves easily on their local news channels via a one-page press release they wrote up after Googling “how to write up a press release.” They then called the news station themselves and talked and emailed their pitch. A Carmel writing retreat alum laughed in July when I told her how easy it was, but then booked herself on two news shows last week! Think of it this way: shows have an endless need for content. And you’re awesome. Just sayin’.
TED, TEDWomen, TEDx events, Moth, corporate, local, etc. Again, speaking gets you to clarify your message and become comfortable putting yourself out into the world in a bigger way. And, once your talk is online, you can send it to agents/publishers—if they don’t come to you first. A lot of people have been asking me how to get on the TED stage. I was lucky in that they heard about my topic, Time Debt, and came to me. But, I’ve asked Pat Mitchell, the TEDWomen founder how to direct you, and she said to go to TED.com and fill out the application. If your talk is right for TEDWomen, she’ll see it. The TEDWomen conference theme this fall in New Orleans is “Bridges.” They’re nearly full for this year, but still reading what comes in. And, you can apply for TEDx events in your local area via individual sites by searching your nearest city. Go for it. It’s worth the stretch.
#5 Start a blog and add a sign-up form to turn viewers into subscribers.
Giving a free gift for a viewer’s email allows you to communicate with your followers via newsletters/your blog anytime. (Danielle LaPorte calls this GTFL: “Grow the f#cking list.”) Your gift could be anything of value: a recipe, the first chapter of your book, ten steps to wellness, a resource list, an e-book, etc. At the bottom of my home page, for instance (and on its own page—as a button in the header), I offer my new “Writer’s Gift Pack,” which includes my book proposal checklist, and two audio downloads. The first audio is “17 1/2 Ways to Build Your Platform” with myself and creative cohort Samantha Bennett. The second audio download is on the topic of “The Power of Weaving a New Story” with bestselling author Katherine Woodward Thomas. (What? You want the other 9 1/2 ideas? Click the graphic below to grab your writer’s gift pack and become an email subscriber!)
#6 Be interviewed on the radio & other people’s blogs and summits.
Radio sells more books than television every day of the week. Despite all the new forms of media, radio is actually more powerful today than ever before. Reason being that over 125 million Americans are stuck in their cars on an average of an hour a day on their morning + afternoon commutes–ready to hear you talk about your work, product, or book. These captive listeners may just listen to you for an entire hour! (And, they have the cash to buy your stuff because they’re on their way to work. They have jobs!) Trouble is, most markets are DINKY–as in, three-people-and-a-cow dinky. (When I did my first book tour back in the late nineties, my publisher got me nearly 100 radio show interviews, but I don’t know how many of those hosts were talking to me from their garage in their underwear. Ha.)
If I knew then what I know now, I would have used a list of contacts of the largest markets from a guy named Alex Caroll (that reach 95% of the commuter audience). Jack Canfield told me years ago that he and Mark Victor Hansen did radio every single day for their Chicken Soup for the Soul record-breaking promotion, and Alex was their guy. I bought his program in 2014 prior to the release of my app, The Boyfriend Log, and used it to EASILY get me booked on several of the biggest national shows. We saw immediate massive spikes in downloads within minutes of being on air. Overall, I was on writing deadlines at the time and couldn’t focus much on promotion, but those few shows we pitched (Elvis Duran on iheart radio, where they still have me on their What’s Trending blog, and Kiss 108 fm in New York) made it easy and got me excited about future book promotion. #worthit!
I was so happy with the results that I told Alex I’d happily tell my peeps about him. He insisted on giving me this affiliate link (same as above), so I’m pretty sure I get paid if you buy something with it after visiting his site. But, NO pressure. Find him however you do. But obviously, I highly recommend his work.
It’s also super easy to pitch yourself as a guest blogger for a favorite site, or as a guest on people’s Internet shows + podcasts. Write up an email about who you are and what you can write and/or talk about that will benefit their fans and listeners (if you can cross promote your appearance on your social media and to your list, mention that as well). You might be surprised at how easy it is to get yourself booked. A former assistant of mine, as an example, wrote an email to The Unmistakable Creative Podcast about me several years ago and it worked. Not only did the host, Srini Rao, get right back to us and book me on the show, but we got double, triple the coverage when our episode made their well-publicized “Best Of” list. They even created a drawing of my face for the album cover. How bizarrely cool is that? When you get booked, before you go live, ask the interviewer if it’s possible to refer people to the free offer on your site, again, to turn some of those listeners/readers into subscribers. Show hosts and producers usually like to offer their listeners free stuff, so your request is likely to be seen as a win-win. You can also find a natural way to suggest it yourself in the conversation. Like this: “Oh, that’s a great question, Cheryl. For people listening who want more info, I have an in-depth teaching on that I give away for free over on www.____.com. But for now, I’d say the first four steps are ______ and _____…”
#7 Create alliances with influencers.
As John Kramer writes in the PR bible, 1,001 Ways to Market Your Book, “Publishing and marketing are people businesses. The more relationships you develop and the more friends you have, the more successful you will be.” Think about those folks in your genre and beyond who are likely to give you testimonials and email/social media support when it’s time to launch. Building alliances takes time but enrich everything. You can start by following your favorite authors and commenting and sharing their posts. Show up to their readings/signings. Go to their workshops. And, of course, ask everyone you know who they might know to refer you to for support.
You may be amazed by the resources already around you. That said, sometimes an alliance is easy to strike, as in FAST.
You may have heard an interview I did recently for the podcast with the world’s biggest literary agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. That chat happened by happy accident! I was following her on Instagram, meant to leave a comment on one of her posts, but I was moving too fast and accidentally direct messaged her. When she answered, I jumped: “Hey! Any chance you want to be a guest on my podcast?” and she said yes. In other words: Do the work. Go through the appropriate channels. And leave room for magic.
Another example. I recently went to Danielle LaPorte’s event at the Agape center for her book White Hot Truth. As she was speaking, I naturally took notes. The next day it occurred to me that all of Danielle’s fans and my followers would have loved to have been there, but couldn’t make it. So, I posted a photo of us from the night next to her book cover and a list of highlights from her speech. Danielle loved it and reposted it, saying: “This is what writers do for each other. Provide A+ crib notes.” So, in trying to be a good friend and help build buzz for her book, I inadvertently helped myself because when she re-posted it, I got a lot of new followers that day. It never occurred to me that she’d share it. I was just being supportive of a sister. But being supportive, came back to support me.
#8 Start a podcast.
I had no idea how much fun I’d have hosting a monthly podcast! (The Beautiful Writers Podcast is nearly two years old now, and we just released our first “Best Of” episode.) It’s a helluva lot of work—which is why I only air one episode per month, but with nearly 400,000 listens/downloads, it’s the easiest way I’ve found to reach tens of thousands of people month after month. If you’re podcasting on the topic you intend to write about, you get to hone and share your message as you go. Word to the wise: Bank a lot of episodes before you post the first one to give you time to get it just right.
Gretchen Rubin did an amazing job at this with her Happiness Project blog BEFORE she wrote the bestselling book, The Happiness Project. The book was released in 2009, but it’s so timeless that I’ve been listening to the audio all week and LOVING it. Not only does blogging while you’re writing help you create content and test it out, but interacting with your blog community makes the writing process so much less isolating. A win-win all ’round.
That’s all for now. Thank you for spending your valuable time with me here. I’m hoping this inspires you to try new things and take greater risks with your creativity. Author Samantha Bennett (GET IT DONE, and START RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE) of the Organized Artist Company and I took a much deeper dive into this topic for the Beautiful Writers Group Expert Series last week. If you’re already a member, head over to the archives to hear us break these ideas down into smaller, more do-able steps. (And be sure to hop on our monthly Q & A calls to get further clarity on anything you need.) If you’re not yet a member, we’d love to have you in the tribe. Because friends don’t let their friends write alone. Okay, they really do… but just not all the time.
Happy platform building, my friend. Remember, baby steps. Even though some of these strategies will be easy and take very little time to implement, taken as a whole, this list can feel paralyzing. Pace yourself. And keep in mind, strangers become future readers, clients, and besties, so this platform-building stuff is pretty magical. After all, that’s how I met you.
P.S. If you’d like to share a platform-building tactic that’s worked for you, or any thought on this topic, the conversation’s happening over here on my FB page.