Building a Platform

Platformby Gayle Bartos-Pool

………… As we continue the Points from a previous posting.

 

Point #2

  1. What makes you so special? Okay, you have taken inventory of yourself. You know the types of books you like to read and you know what types of books you want to write, (if you haven’t already penned your first or even second book.) You have some special skills that give you credibility or you have done a great deal of research into certain areas that you will be covering in your book. You feel fairly confident your research will interest an audience down the line. So what makes you different from every other author out there who writes a similarly themed book?

Costume 1

Say you like mysteries with a food theme: chef/sleuth, caterer/sleuth, food critic/sleuth. There are other books out there with those characters. Jerrilyn Farmer (Killer Wedding) writes a mystery series about a caterer who gets caught up in crime. Mysteries are notorious for having food-related themes. Amateur sleuths are constantly eating in their books. (They should all be fifty pounds overweight.) What makes your Ginsu knife-wielding sleuth more interesting than any of the others?

 

Knowing the answer to “What makes your character special?” can be the biggest selling point for your work. While you are building your platform, you will be building a platform for your main character.

 

When an agent says, “Yeah, you write well, but there are a hundred chef/sleuths out there.” What are you going to tell him or her that makes your guy or gal sleuth unique? If you are Oprah’s personal chef, boy do you have an in. If you cooked twenty years in the army, you just might have an edge. If your sleuth is a Martian with the best quiche recipe in the Solar System…You get the idea.

Writing 41

So, what makes your sleuth different? Have that answer at your fingertips before you submit your first manuscript.

Consider using the same simple technique screenwriters use to sell a script: the high concept idea. Have a short, pithy term to describe your main character. Maybe you have a blind chef, or a wisecracking Yenta chef, or a bi-polar chef. Make it memorable and you just might have a winner.

 

The main character in one of my mystery series is Johnny Casino. I bill him thusly:

Johnny Casino is a retired P.I. with a past. He just hopes it doesn’t catch up with him.

You can get 14×12 inch magnetic signs from places like VistaPrint for the side of your car with your book’s cover and your website on it along with your catchy phrase. You will be a driving bulletin board. People can see the sign when you’re driving down the freeway or across town. It’s (almost) free advertising. The sign costs around $10, plus shipping. And it’s fun.

 

Point #3

  1. Get yourself plastered… all over the Internet. Create a Web presence with a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin – so people can find you. Even before you send out your first manuscript, create a website, preferably with your name in the title. You can even Photoshop a fun picture like this one.

PhotoFunia-1562086112

www.agathapenwrite.com will draw more people to you than www.im-a-greatwriter.com. Whether you use a pen name or your real name, remember: You are selling “you” out there. You are the product. And you want people to buy “you.” You want people to pick up a book with your name on it, recognize your name, and pay real money for that book. You want people to say, “Oh, Agatha Penwrite wrote this. This must be good.” And the next time they check out Amazon or the local bookstore, they will be looking for Agatha Penwrite, not some obscure domain name that could fit anybody. And frankly, those silly website names say that you aren’t quite a professional yet.

Sign on to Twitter, find people you know, other writers, old classmates, old boyfriends, ask them to follow you. Then document your writing journey. Using those 140 characters, let people know that you finished the first draft of your new book, you joined a writer’s group, you sent query letters to agents and publishers, and that you got some bites. Put a few notes on Facebook about who you are. Remember you already discovered the “real you” in the first bullet point in this series. Now it’s time to get your name out there.

While you are signing up for all these Internet presences, get someone to take a good picture of you to post on these sites. People want to know what you look like. If you settle for the generic silhouette people use when they have “no picture available” it says you don’t know who you are yet. If you are nervous about having a picture taken, rent a nice looking dog and hold him up next to you.

You are putting your name and face out there so people will know who you are. And they’ll love the dog. (The picture on some of my books is me with my dog Sherlock. I didn’t have to rent a pup.)

Get that new picture of you on your website and all those other sites. No time for being shy. And your publisher will love the fact that you are advertising the product (you) out there in cyberspace.

 

Point #4

  1. Is anybody out there? Now you are thinking, “OMG, this writing stuff is harder than I thought it was going to be. Do other people really do all this?” Find out by joining several writers’ organizations in your chosen writing genre. (Mystery writers have groups like Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Romance Writers of America covers the more passionate side of writing. Check the Internet for your genre and see what’s out there.) After you join one of these groups, talk to other members and ask if they are as nervous as you are. (The answer is yes, but still ask.)

people group

Go to events sponsored by these groups. Meet other people who are going through the same things you are, and be sure to talk to those who have progressed a little further and learn more of the ropes from them, and share your experiences with others. There will actually come a time when you will be considered an old hand at this stuff and someone new to the business will be asking you questions. Learn as you go so you can pass along that knowledge to others. Say hello to the featured speakers at events. Make contacts. Remember, when you are out there selling your book at an event, you will want people sitting in the audience listening to you. Be there for others and maybe they will return the favor and be there for you.

We will have more in the upcoming weeks…

Author: gbpool

A former private detective and once a reporter for a small weekly newspaper, Gayle Bartos-Pool (writing as G.B. Pool) writes two detective series: the Gin Caulfield P.I. series (Media Justice, Hedge Bet & Damning Evidence) and The Johnny Casino Casebook Series. She also penned a series of spy novels, The SPYGAME Trilogy: The Odd Man, Dry Bones, and Star Power. She has a collection of short stories in From Light To DARK, as well as novels: Eddie Buick’s Last Case, Enchanted: The Ring, The Rose, and The Rapier, The Santa Claus Singer, and three delightful holiday storied, Bearnard’s Christmas, The Santa Claus Machine, and Every Castle Needs a Dragon. Also published: CAVERNS and Second Chance. She is the former Speakers Bureau Director for Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and also a member of Mystery Writers of America and The Woman’s Club of Hollywood. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” (The Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook is available.) “How To Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line” in sunny Southern California. Website: www.gbpool.com.

11 thoughts on “Building a Platform”

    1. Paul, I have used VistaPrint.com for years and have many of their magnetic signs for my car. You can design your own or use one of their basic designs then add your own information.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A friend of mine has a sign business that makes magnetic signs, has done for years.

    Thanks Gayle, as soon as my printer shows up I will print out your post. Extremely helpful ideas, as usual. Regarding theme mysteries, Peggy Ehrhart got a contract with Kensington for a knitting club series despite the fact there are several knitting mystery series already out there. Probably will be even more now that we have to stay home.

    Is anyone else in isolation like me? I have one more week to go having flown to CT and told to self-isolate but happily I am surrounded by golden daffodils and red cardinals, to say nothing of squirrels

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jill, I have stayed home for over three weeks. I can pick up groceries from VONS after ordering online and don’t have to go into the store. I have done a lot of odd jobs around the house, but really need to get back to writing. Not that I didn’t do that before the lock-down, but this has been different mentally. Hang in there and get some quality time for your writing as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda, This is what happens when you teach a class in writing. I had to go back over what I did as a writer and start thinking about what else I should do. The classes I have taught have helped me, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such good advice and reminders (we can’t be reminded too much about how to navigate the writing world). I like the magnet idea. I have magnetized business cards, but never thought about putting a larger one on my car. Of course, I’m not in my car much these days, but that’s another matter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The car magnets do attract attention whether it’s on the freeway or in a parking lot. I’m pretty sure I have sold books this way. Try it Maggie.

      Like

  3. Gayle, this really is full of terrific ideas. I think I need you as my manager! I am guilty of not adding the photo – I don’t know how… or maybe just don’t know who I am. Like Jill mentioned, I have printed it out as my road-map. And I, too, self isolated 3 weeks ago. I am actually enjoying it – catching up with paperwork and un-answered email. Oh – and editing my Lottie novel…. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Something I have found, Rosemary, is the fact we can learn new skills just by giving it a try. Most of this stuff is actually easy. Ask a few questions and jump in.

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