Friday, January 13, 2012

Building a Platform before You Have Anything to Say

You may be saying to yourself, "Hey, where is the promised post on dialogue exercises?"

It's still waiting to be written, and it's all my husband's fault. Okay, so that's not entirely fair, but him having surgery yesterday morning did eat up a lot more of my time that I anticipated. (That sentence just made me laugh out loud. Hello, Stephanie. Husband having surgery + 2 little kids will likely not leave much time for blogging. Not sure why I didn't see that coming.)

So, the short of it is that dialogue exercises will have to happen next week. But I do have time to do some copying and pasting!

Some of you might have seen this on Seekerville back in the fall. This is written by Gina Holmes, the award winning author of Crossing Oceans and the founder of Novel Rocket (which, oddly, was mentioned on here yesterday because they just opened their Launch Pad contest for unpublished writers.)

Many of you have asked me about if you should have a blog now when you're not published, or what kind of things you should be doing to market yourself. I will be perfectly frank with you and say this is something I wasn't at all smart about. But Gina Holmes was, and she has some great tips to share, which is why I asked her permission to repost her words on Go Teen Writers:

When you’re constantly receiving rejection letters from publishers or agents, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is publicizing a novel you can’t even seem to sell.

Before I continue, let me stop a moment and give this very loud and clear disclosure: nothing, nothing, NOTHING, matters more than writing a killer book. Spend 99 percent of your writing time perfecting your craft and fashioning a story that will change the lives of those who read it, or at least entertain the heck out of them.

But with the other one percent of your time, even if you’re just starting out, start building yourself a PR folder. You’ll thank yourself later.

My debut novel, Crossing Oceans, released May 2010 with Tyndale House Publishers. Though it was the first to earn a publishing contract, it was actually the fifth novel I’ve written. I started my marketing folder back on book two because I was sure it would be published. Although book two still collects dust, as does three and four, I’m lucky to have gotten that head start.

The thing with publicity is if you wait until your book is releasing or even about to release, you’re almost too late.

Once you sell your first novel, you often are under contract for a second, and possibly third. I was contracted for a second novel which was due the end of the month my first novel released.

I had more than a year to write this novel, so I didn’t stress. Until that deadline snuck up on me and I wasn't even close to being finished. What happened? Well, I had some personal things that set my writing back. I got married to an amazing man who distracts me just by walking by. Major life changes, no matter how good have a way of slowing the literary flow—for me at least.

After what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, I finally turned my sample chapters in for approval… they weren’t approved. The story I'd planned and plotted was too different in tone from the first. I was asked, for my own career good, to hold off on this one and try something else. Both my agent and publisher were in agreement, and after a little consideration, so was I.

I found myself with just a few months to publicize my all important, debut novel, and write my all important sophomore novel.

I also had children, a day job and Novel Rocket to tend to. Guess what? I was certainly stressed, but not as stressed as I would have been had I not started preparing for that moment years in advance. I’d like to share some of what has helped me.

What can you do now to get ahead of the eight ball?

1. Buy your website URL and begin to build it. You can go very expensive and pay thousands for a professional site, or you could start small and do something like godaddy, where you build your own site. I took a third route and hired someone to make me a template and then set it up like a blog, so that I could tweak and update it easily.

2. Get professional headshots. I hired a friend whose work I admired but who is still considered an amateur. For fifty dollars and my husband agreeing to baby-sit for an afternoon, I got a few really great and professional looking pictures. Don’t let anyone convince you that a good headshot is a waste of money for a novelist. On Novel Journey we post lots of author photos, many of which look like candid shots that other people are cut out of. Remember how important perception is. I look at a substandard picture and I subconsciously think this author is no perfectionist, and am less likely to want to read their work. Spend the money and get a good promo picture of yourself.

3. Keep a file filled with the names of magazines you come across that fit your writing. For example, if you write Victorian era historicals, Victorian magazines might later be interested in an article written by you. Jot down the names of them and any other publications you come across that might be a fit. This will save you a lot of research time later on.

4. Keep a folder of book reviewers you’ve come across that seem to enjoy the type of stories you write. I send myself emails with the reviewer’s name, books they’ve reviewed and liked, their email address and, if I know them, how I know them. While it’s true that they might not still be reviewing when your book finally releases, it won’t hurt to try.

5. Start reading marketing/publicity books now and take notes. My personal favorite is the simply titled Publicize Your Book. If you can only afford one book on marketing/publicity, I highly recommend you make it that one.

6. Read The Tipping Point. It will explain some very important concepts on what makes things popular. It’s an easy and surprisingly entertaining read.

7. Read How to Make Friends and Influence People. The book has been around forever for good reason.

8. Keep a list of natural influencers. You’ll call upon these folks later for help in getting the word out about your book.

9. Help anyone you can. For one, it’s just the right thing to do, for two, what goes around comes around.

10. Start building your platform now. Write articles, create a blog with excellent and frequently updated content, volunteer to teach classes on what you’re an expert in, or for whatever committees in ACFW, or other writing organizations you belong. People are much more likely to be interested in your book if they feel like they know you and you’ve shown interest in them.

In conclusion, Crossing Oceans, my debut novel went on to hit CBA, ECPA and PW's bestseller's lists. Did my platform and diligent efforts pay off? I tried to do everything right—to write an excellent story, to build a platform, network, help others, and everything humanly possible to publicize my book.

Was that what made the difference?

That’s the kicker, maybe yes, maybe no. The thing with publicity is that no one really knows what works. All we can do is write the best book we’re capable of, not let any chance pass that will help get the word out about it, and say our prayers.

With my sophomore novel, Dry as Rain in stores now, I get to ride the up and downs with as much wonder as the first go around. It's still every bit a mystery as it always was, but I'm doing what I can once again to help my book's chances of finding readers. . . and not letting book three's deadline catch me off guard this time.

Gina Holmes is the author of the award-winning novel, Crossing Oceans and newly released Dry as Rain. She founded Novel Rocket (formerly Novel Journey) in 2005 where she continues to wreak havoc to this day. She and her sexy husband and fabulously good-looking and brilliant children make their home in Southern Virginia. You can learn more about this modest writer at
her web page or Novel Rocket.


  1. I found this post extremely helpful. The cover art on both your books is gorgeous, by the way. :)

  2. Aren't they beautiful? I think Tyndale, her publisher, does a really great job with covers.

  3. Well, I've got the blogging thing started. Now to work on the rest of this stuff. Thankfully I'm getting all this advice early on so I can work on it. Headstart much?

  4. Question :) if you want to become an author you should start a blog? What do you blog about? If you blog about your yet to be published books is there the possibility for it to be stolen? How would you operate all of that?

  5. I heard an advertisement for your book on the radio! It sounds really good! Those are great tips :D

  6. Yes, I love the covers!
    Such an interesting post. Has you read Gina's books? Are they good? YA fiction or adult? :)

  7. Thanks for the interview. It was really helpful!

  8. Wow those covers are gorgeous! Thanks for the tips :) And yes has anyone read them? I just might :) And your picture is gorgeous! I guess it was the one she was talking about huh?
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

  9. Thanks for the insight. Encouraging and informative. :-)

    <3 Gina Blechman

  10. Thanks all. Tyndale did a nice job with the covers. No, I don't think all writers need to be bloggers. That's just one possibility.