Building Your Author Platform: a Word Vancouver presentation

Word Vancouver—the literary festival that celebrates reading and writing‚ is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and many of Publishing@SFU’s instructors were on hand to provide free professional development sessions on a variety of literary topics.

Creating an Author Profile with Monique Sherrett

Authors today, whether self-published or contracted with a publishing house, must have solid self-promotion skills. In a digital world, authors must understand social media basics; how to build the right audience; how to work with editors, designers and publishing professionals; and how to use print, radio and other paid media.

Books get sold based on 3 things: Positioning, Author Platform and Sales

  1. Positioning is how the book is positioned in the market. What it is about, who it is for, and why they should care.
  2. The 7-second pitch in the book trade is the “sales handle.” Approximately 25 words that create a recognizable, and compelling, frame of reference. The sales handle often identifies the genre and audience, and includes anything noteworthy.
  3. The sales handle is the basis of an author’s marketing. It can be used in a pitch letter to an agent or publisher, and later in outreach to reviewers and bloggers. The sales handle can act as the first sentence for the book’s description online, and be adjusted to act as the “About” blurb on social media profiles or as Tweets and Facebook Posts.
  4. A previously published author has a sales history that is known to booksellers and helps establish how many copies the bookseller may stock. But comparable titles (people who like X, also buy Y) and competitive titles (people buy X, or they buy Y) can also be used.
  5. If you’re in the business of being an author, then you really know your subject category: where your book is shelved, what is face-out on the shelf, what titles appear consistently across various retail channels, what titles are featured online or on special tables.
  6. The business of being an author requires that you refine your craft but also work on building your reputation and credentials. Understanding the highly competitive retail market and researching what is successful tells you a lot about your book: whether it fills a gap in the market, continues a conversation that is ongoing, takes a controversial or insider look at the subject, etc.
  7. Resources are limited, which means when building an author platform, you need a mix of owned media channels (your author website, email newsletter, blog), rented media channels (social media like Twitter and Facebook), earned media (publicity, reviews), and paid media (advertising).

The Boxcar Marketing blog provides more online marketing tips. Of interest to authors will be:

Monique SherrettMonique Sherrett has a passion for all things digital. She began her career at Raincoast Books, where she spearheaded online marketing strategies for various campaigns, most notable being Harry Potter. She founded Boxcar Marketing in 2007 and is a professor of professional practice in the Master of Publishing program.