Guest post by Angie Bailey
Occasionally, friends tell me they want to write a book, but don’t know where to begin the process. The thought of authoring a book can feel completely overwhelming, but when we break it down into bite-sized pieces, it’s way more digestable. Everyone knows the importance of good digestion, right? Take small bites, chew slowly and enjoy each tasty morsel. Writing a book is the same way – moving too quickly and not consciously focusing on each step is a sure path to literary indigestion. In this first segment of a four-part series, I’ll share my own blog to book experience and offer tips for mindfully and effectively moving through each step toward getting published.
Prior to constructing that perfect proposal, you need a platform, and I’m not talking about shoes. Feel free, however, to wear whatever footwear you’d like while thinking about your book. But seriously, there is such a thing called a “platform” and I believe it’s a critical first step in the book-writing process.
A platform is all about your visibility. Do you already have an audience, online or offline? If you have a blog or any social media outlets, are your numbers strong and is your audience engaged? Those are just a few of the questions you’ll want to ask yourself. If you want to catch the eye of an editor or agent, a solid platform is your best friend. I’ll take this opportunity to let you know I’m focusing on the traditional publishing route in this series. That’s where my experience lies, and there are definitely experts who can guide you through the self-publishing process. Regardless of which way you decide to go, the platform is still key.
Here are five steps I used to develop a solid platform for Texts from Mittens and Whiskerslist: The Kitty Classifieds:
Identify your passion
We’re way better writers when we write about what we love. I adore cats and spend most of my freelancing hours writing about them. I could not as effectively write about pilot safety or nail fungus – or pilots with nail fungus. I’m don’t feel passionate about any of that business. I primarily write cat humor. See, I even narrowed it down to humor. Narrowing your niche can help you reach your target audience.
Find your audience
Where do the members of your target audience spend time? Are there certain sites or Facebook groups where you’d find your people? Chances are pretty good you’re already familiar with these places. If not, do some digging and observe what kinds of subjects those readers enjoy. Identify the type of information or entertainment that’s most popular with that group.
Create a blog
Now that your passion is in place and you know what your potential audience likes to read, create a blog. There are many platforms (there’s that word again, but this time it’s referring to a site where you can set up your blog), some easier to navigate than others. Do your homework to see which one works best for you. Blogger and WordPress are both popular platforms. I could spend all day writing about how to effectively create a blog, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Here’s a great resource with handy tips. I recommend writing a few entries before unleashing your genius on the world. That way, readers will have multiple posts to admire when they visit your fabulous new blog.
Don’t get discouraged if your readers’ feedback guides your blog in a different direction. My first blog, Catladyland, was initally a general humor blog that included some posts about my cats. I found that readers responded best to the feline-related content, so I switched gears and became a straight-up cat humor blog. Meow.
Add social media
After you’re armed with a few blog posts, it’s time to capture readers, but not in a kidnapping kind of way – that would be bad. You want to be that beacon of awesomeness that guides readers to your online world.
Personally, Facebook has been my most successful outlet; however, I’m active on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram. Okay, breathe. You don’t have to take on all of those at once. Start with one, share (and ask your friends and family to share) your blog posts, thoughts, and interesting content from other sources. I know many of you are already social media wizards, so I’m sure you’ll agree that numbers count, but engagement is key as well. In my experience, editors and agents care more about numbers, although demonstrating active reader engagement works in your favor.
Get out there!
Don’t just build your platform from behind the computer, get out there and make a name for yourself face-to-face. Look for opportunities to speak about your passion, teach a class through community education, help a local shelter with a fundraising project. Editors and agents take notice of these activities because you’re increasing your visibility and proving you won’t be afraid when scheduled for book signings or public speaking events after your book is published.
Angie Bailey is an award-winning author, blogger and humorist. She wrote Texts from Mittens and Whiskerslist: The Kitty Classifieds, and created the Catladyland and Texts from Mittens blogs.