I got a call recently from an agent who received a book proposal from a business professional. She liked the book idea and wanted to take it on but the prospective author had no platform. The agent wanted to know: Could I help? It raised a good question that I think other authors frequently wonder about: How do you start from nothing?
First I went to the author’s website. He used the site mainly for speaking engagements. The design was fine, but it needed to be professionally written to market his profile and expertise.
1. If you have a website, make sure it is good. For any person or brand, think of your website as your house. It is a reflection of you and it’s the place people will go to when they want to know who you are. It’s your chance to express your value and expertise to readers so take the time to figure out how you are different from others in your space. Ask yourself: Who is your audience? What do you have to say? And watch out for typos—they will put off a reader.
After looking at his author website, I Googled his name. A fairly minimal list of results came up. The agent wanted someone to help him write and place stories and blog posts under his byline so he could start to make a name for himself. This brings me to my second point:
2. Write and place some stories on blogs, even small ones, to show off your point of view and writing. Try Huffington Post or the online version of a magazine you admire. But don’t underestimate the power of guest posting for smaller, lesser-known sites. The main point is to get your voice out there. Re-post content on your own website and share the link through your social media networks.
I learned that this author didn’t have a social media following. I cannot stress this enough:
3. Start using social media as soon as possible. But here’s the catch: Social media is great for building awareness but not necessarily for engaging or strengthening bonds with people you don’t know. So, spend the time to make real social connections with people face-to-face. This means get out into the community: start or join a writer’s group; take a class; attend industry events; contact your alumni association and ask if you can do a book reading; if you’re in business, join local or regional business groups; if you’re an academic, attend more readings and panels. Once you make new contacts, connect with these folks on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Then use social media to retweet, share articles and comment on other people’s content.
I shared these ideas with this first-time author; I’ll let you know how it goes.