Friday, August 12, 2011

5 Steps to Building a Platform When You Hate Selling Yourself

The following post was originally written as a guest blog for Michael Hyatt's blog on Leadership. This single guest spot generated:
  • 186 Facebook likes
  • 215 Tweets
It also forced me to write the blog following a "method" that Michael has devised and I found it really helped to create a very focused post. Even though it was posted about a month ago, it still is generating a lot of traffic to my site 5th highest of all other sources and just a smidge down from twitter!

So here's the blog as it originally appeared:

I hear the following from authors all the time, “All I want to do is write. I hate promoting myself. I’m no good at it.” The result is they don’t work on their platform, hoping somehow that the whole notion will somehow just go away.

A Man with His Head in the Stand - Photo courtesy of Š, Image #10656911

Photo courtesy of ©

Putting your head in the sand is not the answer. It’s no longer a question of if an author needs a program, it’s now part of the writing business and can mean the difference between success and failure.

But fear not, I’m here to tell you that it’s not only easier than you think, but you should know that someone with your attitude is actually well-equipped to do well.

I’m going to let you in on the most important, and most often overlooked aspect of social networking: It’s not about selling. It’s about participation. It’s about being a member of a community. It’s about connecting with people who share your interests.

Those that use social networking merely as a venue for saying, “Buy my book, buy my book,” are missing out. Nobody likes to be sold to. What people gravitate to is those who give of themselves.

Here’s what you need to know about getting started in social media.

  1. Observe. Start out by joining and watching. Pick a venue to get yourself started. It could be twitter, an online forum, or a site dedicated to books like GoodReads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing. You don’t have to do anything at this point other than watch and learn. Be a sponge and absorb what is going on around you. Get a feel for the place. Wait until you are comfortable.
  2. Participate. When someone makes a comment that you agree with, support their position. Expand on it. Give an example from your own life that illustrates the point. If you disagree, do so respectfully, offer supporting information for your opinion.
  3. Contribute. Once you are comfortable talking with others, it’s time to go to the next level. Start contributing. If you read an article that people in your group might find helpful, post a link to it. If you read a book by someone in the group and liked it, tell others. Be supportive. Be helpful.
  4. Form Relationships. This is what social networking is all about. Make this your “end game.” You’re not participating to sell your books. You’re here to make connections. If a fan writes a nice review, thank them. Most don’t expect to hear from authors. But after hearing from you, they’ll remember you even more. They might even share with their friends “how nice you are.”
  5. Provide Information. Let the people in your group know about what’s going on in your life. Do you have a signing coming up? Is a new book being released? Have you posted a sample chapter for free? Did a magazine publish one of your short stories? This isn’t selling; it is informing. You aren’t telling them to buy; you are letting them know what you have and leaving the decision to them.

Notice that I never once asked you to sell. That’s what’s so great about social media, you don’t have to. Become a person that others like, be one that is helpful, let others know that you have products (books) and the sales will come.

Now I know what you’re likely to say next, “But Robin, that’s a LOT of work. I don’t have time for all this. I want to write.” I understand, but is writing ALL you do? Of course not. What if you cut out some TV? Is having your dream of being a writer worth your spouse helping a bit more? Can they do the grocery shopping or get the kids bathed and ready for bed?

By trading off on non-writing tasks you can make time to devote to this. The only thing that will hold you back is your belief that it will be a chore. If approached differently, this would be so, but if you follow my steps you’ll find you actually look forward to your time online.

When you receive a great review, tell your network, and they’ll celebrate with you. If you are struggling with a chapter, talk about it and you’ll get words of encouragement. You may just find the opposite is true, that spending time online can be very addictive. Does that sound like such so terrible?

Question: What do you need to do next to take your platform to the next level? You can leave a comment


Anne Marie Novark said...

This is a great post, Robin. I saw it when you originally posted and I've taken your suggestions/tips to heart.

I'm observing mostly right now at different sites/venues, getting the feel of things and contributing a little.

I'm the quiet type, an observer/lurker by nature, so the social media stuff is really stepping out of my comfort zone.

Thanks so much for giving step-by-step instructions that even I feel comfortable with implementing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent advice! Our FFW's topic today was marketing and my advice was to come to blogging not to promote but to make friends. Being active in this community and giving back is the most effective.

Lauren W. said...

Thanks for passing this article on. Even though I've heard it said before, the detail this went into is very helpful. It's so important to support and contribute to other writers and readers, and that is the best way to get positive attention for your novels.

Sarah said...

So true! I think writers are more likely to be introverted than the general population, so selling ourselves can be a terrifying proposition.

Steve DeWinter said...

After reading this post a while back I happily embraced MySpace, Facebook and finally Twitter. But I was most resistant when it came to creating a blog.

I wanted to make a valuable contribution and not create a blog just to have one.

I finally figured out a unique platform for my blog that would enable me to give back to the community and not be just about me.

There is more to the author/reader relationship than a sale.

Greg Downs said...

Saw this on Michael Hyatt's blog formerly. Any advice for keeping track of all those different venues? It may be just me but so many accounts on different things is intimidating.

Michael E. Walston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael E. Walston said...

It's also appropriate, I think, to simply thank someone for a post or topic you found helpful.

(previous post deleted because of a spelling error)

David Gaughran said...

Hi Robin,

I read this originally and enjoyed it, but I don't think I commented then.

Just out of interest, you said that Twitter was the 4th highest source of traffic to your blog. For me, it's always first or second (along with Facebook), unless some extremely high traffic blog/site has linked to a specific post one day. But even then, it's close.

Below those two top spots, it can be anything really, an always changing mix of forums, blogs, StumbleUpon, Google+ or whatever.

What's #1, #2, and #3 for you?


BlackLabRVAdventures said...

As always, terrific advice. The nice thing about socializing on the internet is that you can find your niche audience within minutes and not have to leave your home or coffee shop. If anything, it does seem overwhelming at times - I'm on FaceBook, Twitter, KindleBoards, Shelfari and follow different blogs. It's a matter of finding out where and who you can serve at any given time!

@Steve - I checked out your blog - love the Villain concept.

Rob Cornell said...

I still need to work on my blog, find the right angle. I've read John Locke's book and experimented with a post that garnered some attention, but didn't quite target readers so much. I have a hard time offering something valuable in a blog. I don't want to do one of those, "I had orange juice and a blueberry muffin for breakfast this morning," kind of blogs.

Perhaps a subject for a future blog post of your own?

Now, Twitter, I get. I've wrangled up a good amount of followers and my sales have increased steadily since I got serious about it. But it's a lot easier to throw out one- or two-sentence posts about cool stuff I find on the web, or retweet other interesting tweets.

Linda Gartz said...

Getting good and efficient (that doesn't mean adding meaningless comments -- but getting to the sites we want to support, the twitter feeds we want to respond to) is daunting. I'm making a concerted effort to expand those I'm following and who follow me. But I see all those tweets in my in-box and can't figure out how to prioritize and get to the ones I want to respond to without it taking hours -- not the 15 minutes everyone says it should take! Any ideas?

BlackLabRVAdventures said...

@Linda - are you using the Lists feature in Twitter? I have three lists - Other Authors, Book Related, and Social Media (which is for people I follow who are social media experts). That way, if I just want to see Other Authors, I can narrow it down and it's not so overwhelming. I should take it a step further and put them in a List by genres...

Melissa Douthit said...

The problem sometimes is if you tell people you have books for sale or even if you post a note announcing a book giveaway, there are people on these sites (Goodreads, Shelfair, Library Thing) who will label you a spammer. I posted an announcement for a book giveaway and someone messaged me, telling me that that was spam. I was surprised because it was a giveaway. Not a announcemen that I was selling something, hmmm ...

BlackLabRVAdventures said...

It is tough in that regard - people have fine lines with what spam is and isn't. As authors we need to promote or no one knows about our books, but with all the real spam out there, it's muddied the waters.

I find the KindleBoards to be great - there's a thread in the Book Bazaar that is specifically for authors promoting their books. You can also set up a signature that has all of your books at the bottom whenever you post.

The real art is building relationships within these sites first then let it come up that you have a book too. I'm learning that it's a grassroots effort.

Happy posting!

Melissa Douthit said...

Thanks Heather!

Robin Sullivan said...

@David - #1 & #2 are from author's site that has my blog listed on their blogroll (with just a few sites that they take a lot of stock in. I've not gone through the whole blogs so it's possible that they have "talked about me" in posts and then people clicked over.

I also get a lot of traffic to my blog from signature links at forums I participate on.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Rob - Yeah I can do a post in the future about blogging. Some advice right now...readers like to "know you" as a person. So some personal stuff is fine, but yeah they don't care about what you had to eat. But for instance Michael has shared stories about how we met and many people have wrote us and mentioned how touching it was. Anyone who is at all familiar with us know that Michael's writing is a partnership between us and getting some glimpses "behind the scenes" at things like editing, or twists and turns that occur are usually good topics for people to be interested in.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Linda - yes...make a favorites list of those that are giving you exactly what you are looking for in terms of content, advice, great articles etc. and then use this list as your primary view when to watch.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Melissa - a lot has to do with now what you said but how you said it. Goodreads is notorious for hating drive by posters. If you come to a group -make an announcement and leave they get a bit upset. But if you are a member of the group - interact and what not then happen to mention you are looking for beta readers, or giving away a book - then they are more than happy to hear about it.

Remember - you have to "be" a member of the community first.

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