By Jori Hanna
The internet is full of suggestions for how authors can make their work stand out. Some advice is often repeated—grow a platform, develop your craft, spend money on ads, start a blog, start a podcast … The list goes on.
How much of that do you actually need? And when should you start it if you want the best chance at getting published?
We have good news for you. All it really takes to be a good author and get published is to have a really, really, good story.
So why is the rest of that peddled? And why is our own blog full of similar advice?
While it may not be necessary for you to wear every hat possible within the marketing industry to be a successful author, knowing how to market well and developing a fan base early will help you sell more books. So, whether any of it is necessary to get published is highly dependent on what genre you write, what connections you already have, and what you hope for out of your publishing career.
At a bare minimum, you should be active on one social media and have a living website. That website can be as simple or as complex as it needs to be, and we have many resources you can look into if you want some help building that website. But being active on one social media and having a website will allow your readers to find you if they want to learn more.
That said, having only those two items won’t help you sell a large quantity of books. And if your goal as an author is to make a living, there are a few other things that will all support that goal.
Develop Your Craft
Writing is, at its soul, art. Anyone can create art, but it often takes intentional effort and practice to create good art. This is subjective, however, because what makes art “good” depends heavily on the viewer. What one person loves another person may hate. What one person is amazed by may seem simplistic and amateur to someone else. Writing, as a craft, has just as much variation in what people look for as anything else. If you don’t believe us, pick any book off a recent bestseller list and scroll through its Goodreads reviews. The same book is just as likely to get a one-star rating as a five-star rating for the same component. You won’t ever be able to please anyone, but there are things you can do to make your writing stronger. The better you learn those rules of writing, the better your odds are with editors, agents, and publishers.
Grow a Platform
Your platform is anything that allows you to get the word out about your book. This includes social media followers, previous publications in print or online with regional distribution, and the connections you have that will open doors within your community. The goal of your platform should be twofold: attract attention and gather interested people.
How you go about attracting attention is up to you, but it should be three things: authentic, maintainable, and on-brand. The same goes for how you collect those interested people once you have their attention. People will see through sales tactics, so the most effective thing you can do is to be authentic. Even though you know humor works online, if you have a hard time being funny naturally, it would be better not to build that into your brand. On the other hand, even if you’re a natural-born comedian, if your book is an intense thriller, you’ll present yourself incorrectly by drawing people in with humor alone.
Stick to your strengths and build your brand around those. The internet is brilliant at presenting your content to the people most likely to enjoy it. Create within your comfort zone. If done correctly, your audience will come to you.
Study Marketing, Publicity, and Outreach
Telling a good story and drawing people to yourself is half the battle. If you have people to tell, you still have to master your delivery. How many times have you found something that looks exactly right for you, only to get it and realize it was entirely wrong? Or perhaps the opposite happened, your friend twisted your arm to go see a movie you swore you’d never see because of the trailer, and you ended up loving it?
How you present your work to the world is just as important, if not more, than creating something to present. The good news is that while writing is art, marketing is science. You can learn the tactics that have been proven to work over and over. Spending time really developing this skill will help you convert more interested parties into dedicated readers.
So, while it’s true that having a good book is the only requirement to get a publishing deal, the business of publishing dictates that when two similar books come through the slush pile, it’s often a better business practice for the publishing house to go with the author who has already demonstrated an ability to market themselves and their idea to the world. Developing those extra skills can help give you the best chance possible at getting your book published.
If you’re interested in submitting your book to us for consideration for a hybrid or traditional contract, please check out our submission page for more information on what we’re looking for. We routinely work with debut authors and love coming aside authors in any stage of their publishing journey—whether you have a platform or not, whether you’ve written five books or whether you’ve only written one. We’re excited to hear from you.