Author platform and book launch essentials

Reminder of two upcoming events:

  1. Today! January 14th at 1pm ET: Join me for a work session on Finding Your Ideal Audience. Register here. In this session, I will walk through strategies and tactics on how to identify who your ideal reader or audience member is, and will answer your questions.
  2. Next week: Friday January 21st at 1pm ET, join me for a work session on Author Platform and Book Launch Essentials where I dig deep into how to grow your platform and prepare for launching your book. Register here.

Okay, onto today’s message…


Are you a writer who is trying to develop your author platform, or plan for a book launch? Well, today I want to talk about three essential tips I would encourage you to focus on. What we will cover today:

  1. Start early. (For your platform, years before you think you need to. For a book launch, at least 12+ months ahead.)
  2. Have a system that you follow. Don’t drown in an endless list random ideas.
  3. Focus on creating specific experiences and connections with your ideal audience.

Let’s dig in…

Start Early

So many writers I speak with wait before they begin building their platform. Their decision follows a clear logic. They may justify: “I’m still writing my book, what on earth would my platform even be about without the book?” The reasoning can vary depending on someone’s situation, but all focus on the idea that it’s better to wait… and wait… and wait… until they feel they will have more time to focus, or they have a clear milestone that is about to happen, such as the launch of a book.

But by then, it is often too late. If you start taking your platform seriously only when you need people’s attention, then you have waited too long. Because at that point, you will feel pressure to do the thing you are trying to avoid: spamming people with posts to “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book! Pleeeeeeaasssee, buy my book!”

Another mistake writers and creators make is that they feel that if they posts to social media every so often (once a week, once every other week, once a month), that they are building their platform. Then, they feel betrayed that their “platform” hasn’t delivered a dedicated following, even though this writer has barely shown up on their own channels.

What should they have been doing instead? Truly showing up. To express what they create and why. To connect with readers and other writers. To understand how engagement happens.

Think of it this way… imagine someone who goes to a party and thinks, “I don’t really know anyone here, so I’ll show up late, and immediately tell this great joke I thought of. People will love it. Tonight I’ll be the life of the party!” Then they tell their joke, and it falls flat. No one cares and everyone moves on instantly to other conversations with people they have been meeting all night long. In this scenario, the person who showed up late may think: “These people aren’t my people. Who needs them,” and leaves the party. But that is what you are doing if you wait and wait and wait, and then you finally make this great “reveal” of your book on social media. Social media will likely disappoint, you, and you will now feel you have even greater reasons to abandon it.

For your platform, start years before you think you need to. Then, become a student. Not “I need to learn all the bells and whistles of a specific social media channel,” but learn how to share what you create in a manner that feels authentic to who you are. Identify where readers are and what engages them. Develop real connections with like-minded people.

For a book launch, I usually work with writers 12+ months before publication date. Why so long? Because so much of marketing relies on communication and trust. And that takes time to develop.

How to start early? Some ideas:

  • Talk to writers who have been down the road you are about to embark on. Don’t just read articles, don’t just listen to podcasts, but talk to people in an actual conversation. Ask questions early and often. Be honest about what you don’t know and what matters most to you.
  • Set up the channels you think you may need, even if in the most basic form. This could be a single page website. Or a social media account that you have yet to share anything on. Or create an email newsletter that has zero subscribers. Everyone starts there. My newsletter began by me sending it to 9 people I knew, after I walked up to each of them and asked if I could send it. 15 years later, I have sent that newsletter every single week. Lay the groundwork so that you can fill up these channels later. Get past the fear of starting by simply establishing yourself where you think you need to be.
  • Create really simple habits. For instance, if you follow me on Instagram (and you really should follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danblank/) you will notice that in my Stories each day around 5:30am you will see a post of what I’m reading at breakfast, followed by a post that I’m writing my next book. I start the day with reading and writing. Sharing that is a simple habit. Don’t feel that you have to reinvent the wheel or do something innovative. Just showing up as a writer is what the world needs. And showing up each day to create and share already differentiates you from many other authors out there.
  • Envision your book launch now. What do you hope happens in the month your book is released? What do you hope the experience is like? Who do you hope it reaches? Where do you hope it is featured? Then, work towards those connections, experiences, and feelings. One tiny step at a time. For instance, do you want to know how a certain author became a guest on a popular podcast? Oftentimes it is because years before, they simply became a fan of the show. Then they followed the show on social media. Then they commented on their posts. You can begin these foundational steps right now, with no pressure, no expectation. And you will be surprised how these small actions can actually benefit your book launch that may not happen for months or years down the road.

There are so many more ideas I could add to the list, but this is more than enough to get started. Which leads us to…

Have a System

So many writers try to develop their author platform and launch their book with a willy-nilly list of ideas gleaned from blog posts, social media, podcasts, and tips they hear online. They end up frustrated by a never-ending list of tactics, bouncing from one to the next, never feeling as they though they hit on something that works.

But a system is the opposite. It is having a plan for what you will do, and when. It connects all of your actions to a cohesive whole. It also helps you determine what you won’t waste your time doing, thereby conserving your energy to just what matters to you.

The Creative Success Pyramid is the system I developed to help writers get clarity in their work, develop an audience, and launch their work in a meaningful way. See below, and click here to see this full-sized in a PDF:

 

It’s composed of five basic parts, you start at the bottom and work your way to the top:

  • Get radical creative clarity on what you create and why.
  • Build your platform to open pathways to your work.
  • Create and share with your authentic voice.
  • Connect with your ideal audience.
  • Launch and market your writing.

To be honest, this is the tip of the iceberg. When I work with writers, I walk them through a 15+ tab spreadsheet where we co-create their plan step-by-step. The thing about having a system is not to feel confined by it. Rather, the system should be the starting point to then personalize the actions you take based on your book, your creative vision, and your comfort level.

Focus on Creating Specific Experiences

Too often, when a writer thinks of developing their author platform or launching their book, they focus on a milestone. Perhaps it is seeing a certain number of followers on a social media channel, or their book being available to purchase online. The issue with that is that these milestones are fleeting. Instead, I want to encourage you to focus on creating experiences where you engage with your ideal readers. On creating moments of real connection, conversation, and a reason to come together around the themes you write about.

First, let me explain the difference between two things:

  • Organic platform building. This is the day-in, day-out work of sharing on social media, sending a newsletter, or otherwise sharing what you create. This work is smart to do, and I am a huge advocate of it. I not only post my weekly newsletter, but also a weekly podcast, and share more than once every day on Instagram and Twitter, and a couple times a week on LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Creating experiences. This goes above and beyond, where you focus people’s attention on something specific. This is meant to bring people together. Now, that can happen in small ways or large ones. An experience can be a really good email chain between you and another author. Or, it could be something larger, a 1-day event that you create on Zoom that brings together 20 people.

A key distinction here is that many writers get on social media, and do this: Tweet and hope. Tweet and hope. Tweet and hope. Meaning: they just keep posting content and hope that something… somehow… finds an audience. But, if you want real engagement. If you want real growth in terms of the size of your audience, I want to encourage you to create experiences for people to be a part of.

This can include every connection you make, every conversation, every way you bring people together, and every time you have an engagement with someone that feels aligned to what you write and why.

I will dig into all of this with strategies and specific case studies next Friday for a live work session. Join me Friday January 21st at 1pm ET. Register here.

Thanks!
-Dan

Find Your Ideal Audience (Podcast)

So many writers and creators I speak with feel that if they could just find their audience, then the path forward would be obvious. Today I want to talk about a concept for how to find your ideal audience, and invite you to a work session next week where I answer your questions and show examples of the practice in action.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

You can watch the podcast here:

Find your ideal audience

Reminder: On Friday January 14th at 1pm ET: Join me for a work session on Finding Your Ideal Audience. Register here. In this session, I will walk through strategies and tactics on how to identify who your ideal reader or audience member is, and will answer your questions. Okay, onto today’s message…


So many writers and creators I speak with feel that if they could just find their audience, then the path forward would be obvious. For some, they want to find a readership for books they are launching or have already published. For others, they are pre-publication, so they are developing their author platform to find their audience so their book launch will be successful when the time comes. All of this applies to any creative endeavor: someone sharing their illustrations, their art, and so much else. For everything below, I’ll use the example of a reader as that ideal audience member.

Today I want to talk about a concept for how to find your ideal audience, and invite you to a work session next week where I answer your questions and show examples of the practice in action.

What is an Ideal Reader, Anyway?

An ideal reader is the person that you feel would most appreciate what you create. They are someone who you feel would love to read what you write. They already know of and read books that would be shelved next to yours in a bookstore. You would love to schedule an event during your next book launch, and have this person show up in the audience. You can imagine them coming up to you after you speak, ask for you to sign their copy of the book, and tell you why your words resonated with them. Of course, these are also the people you hope sign up for anything you share online, whether that is a newsletter, social media, or anything else.

This is not just the person that you hope spends $15 on your book and maybe never reader it. It is someone you hope deeply resonates with what you write. You imagine they may choose your book as a selection for their book club. Or that they will gush to their friends about your book. And even further: that they may simply enjoy supporting your career and what you write.

When we talk about ideal readers, we stop simplifying success as a writer to numeric milestones of sales, reviews, bestseller lists, awards, media hits, and the like. Although, in doing this work full-time for 12 years, I have found that when you focus on your ideal readers, then you are increasing the likelihood of more sales, reviews, publicity, and marketing.

I want to encourage you to be able to talk about your ideal reader as if they are a real human being. You should be able to describe what resonates with them about books like yours, and how that fits into who they are as a person.

Why Do Many Writers Have No Idea Who Their Ideal Readers Are?

Too often, writers simplify the description of who their ideal audience is. They hide behind vague categories, demographics, and terms. Here is an example:

“My ideal reader is anyone who likes science fiction, fantasy, or horror books.”

With that description, the writer has just described three sections of a bookstore that contain hundreds of books, many of which have a different set of themes, writing style, tone, and other aspects. Of course, if you go online, you will find thousands upon thousands of books in each category. If that author bought a table to display their books at a sci-fi/fantasy/horror convention, they would find themselves lost amidst a sea of tables, unable to know what attracts their ideal readers.

Another example I often hear:

“My books are for someone who just wants to be entertained, they want an escape from their otherwise stressful life.”

If I replied to that author, saying that this could be anyone, that author may get excited and say: “Exactly!” Their enthusiasm is because they hope that their book reaches the widest possible audience, so keeping the description of their reader as broad and vague seems to serve that purpose. But here is the problem: how can this writer find these ideal readers? When the description of your writing is: “Oh, it can be for anyone,” that means you have nowhere to start to find the people most likely to love your writing. To tell friends about it. It means you have no idea what podcasts you should be a guest on. What to write in your email newsletter. What to talk about at a literary festival. What to share on social media. So you are left repeating the same vague phrases again and again, hoping that your ideal readers do all the work to find you. Instead, I want you to have total clarity of who your idea reader is so that you can find them!

This could challenge your assumptions about how you hope publishing works. Sometimes we keep things vague because we simply hope that “the industry” will figure it out. That by using a genre label to describe our audience will someone just make readers find your books. Or if you find exactly the right hashtag on social media, readers will buy your books in droves. Or if we can find just the right category to describe our work — especially a hot and trendy category — that “the industry” will notice.

But this doesn’t happen often. Luckily, there is another way…

The Whole Reader Framework

I want to encourage you to see the reader as a whole person.
Understand who they are as a human being, and what drives them in three ways:

  1. Head
  2. Heart
  3. Action

I had some fun with craft supplies to illustrate this:

Whole Reader Framework

 

Let’s look at each:

Head

The head represents logic, and how people think the are motivated. It is a thought process rooted in how they view their identity, their hopes, their fears, and their life experience. For instance, someone who says they are “bargain shopper” who only buys things that are on sale. Or someone who says “Oh, I have an elevated sense of literary taste, I won’t waste my time on anything that isn’t layered and nuanced.”

Inside your ideal reader, the head represents preferences they have to:

  • Discover books through certain channels, such as recommendations in certain magazines, podcasts, from specific people on social media, etc.
  • Look for certain phrases to signify a book is for them.
  • Be motivated to check out a book based on certain requirements (eg: a great blurb, a beautiful cover, a bestseller, a certain publisher, or it has to remind them of another author they read already, etc.)
  • Feel a clear sense of what they like and don’t like.

Oftentimes, inside our head we are 100% convinced that we know what we like and why. It is based on a clear logic and set of values.

But…

People don’t’ always act in clear and rational ways based on logic. I mean, does anyone else out there have a stack of books that were purchased with the best of intentions, yet sit on the table, unread after months… years even? I sure do.

When we consider how you can understand your ideal readers to make them aware of what you write, to consider purchasing your books or subscribing to your newsletter or following you on social media or spreading the word about what you create, we have to consider more than just the head.

Which leads us to…

Heart
The heart represents how emotion can drive our sense of self, our place in the world, how the world works, interactions with others, what we are attracted to, and how we can feel connected with someone or something. For a reader, this can include:

  • What grabs their attention.
  • What fills them with a positive emotion.
  • What gives them a negative emotion.
  • What they don’t know (or think) they want, but always react to.
  • Deeper motivations that lie beneath the surface of their thought processes.
  • How their entire life experience plays into who they feel they are and how they engage with the world.

What does all of this have to do with what books they buy? Well, everything. We each read for many purposes. When you consider how complex each of us are inside, and how complex the world we interact with is, appealing to someone’s heart is a way to cut through the noise.

This can apply to how you describe what you create, how someone discovers your work, and even things that may feel counterintuitive. For instance, many writers have told me over the years that they wished they could just write books and not have to ever worry about marketing. But what if your ideal reader wants to feel a sense of connection with like-minded readers? Could what you share on social media or in a newsletter not only attract a reader, but give them a sense of deeper connection that includes your books, but also extends beyond it?

Knowing how the heart determines your ideal reader’s place in the world and how they connect will also help you understand what attracts them to a certain book — yours.

Action
Action represents the ways the head and the heart turn into the reality of what we do in our lives. What gets someone to click the buy button before they can even think or justify it? On social media, what do they click “like” on without even a thought? What gets them to gush about a book again and again and again, even if they start by saying, “This is not the kind of book I would normally read or recommend, but I just have to tell you about it.”

Our actions are often driven by a complex set of psychological and emotional cues. Combined, this becomes our everyday reality. Even if someone says, “Oh, I only make careful decisions after a deep analysis. I will never be pressured by marketing trickery,” that doesn’t mean this person won’t make an impulse purchase when they see a sale. Or buy something that they don’t have time to read.

With action, we can move much more deeply into the psychology behind marketing and sales. The actions of your ideal readers represent:

  • What gets them to take a clear action, such as buying a book, leaving a review, subscribing to a newsletter, and so much else.
  • How their preferences (positive or negative) can be turned into a behavior.
  • A multi-faceted process of requirements which turn logic or emotion into an action you hope they take.
  • Not only what gets them to move towards something, but what repels them away from something.
  • Using sales language, what what gets them to “convert” from someone who is considering something, to someone who buys.

Combined, the head, heart and action can explain the complex narratives in a reader’s head. What they are drawn to, and how it connects to their identity. Their hopes for when they buy a book. What turns them on to it, and away from it. And what gets them to take actions that are meaningful to you as a writer: how to get them to pay attention to your work, buy your book, sign up for your newsletter, and how to get them to spread the word through word-of-mouth marketing.

An Example of The Whole Reader Framework:

Let’s take a simple example to illustrate how the head, heart, and action work together. Let’s talk about… Batman. Why does someone decide they are going to become a fan of Batman movies and comics? Perhaps it could be:

Head: What they say they want, such as:

  • A complex plot, with multiple storylines and characters.
  • A mystery that keeps them guessing until the end.
  • Suspenseful action where the stakes feel high.
  • A special effects masterpiece or compelling illustrations.

Heart: What draws them to these stories, and what keeps them engaged long after watching a movie or reading a comic:

  • Living with a clear set of values. (Batman is generally known as the superhero who refuses to use guns or kill others.)
  • Appreciating the underdog (Batman has no special powers, yet he is often battling quasi-magical beings.)
  • Living up to a deeper motivation: (Batman chooses to make the world a better place after witnessing the murder of his parents.)

Action: What gets the reader/fan to buy or act:

  • Limited showing. For instance, a new movie that is in theaters or only available streaming online for a limited time.
  • A shared experience. They want to be among the first group to experience the movie or comic, post on social media they are there, talk about it online, maybe read through comments from others in the weeks before/after the event online, attend a special preview panel at a convention, etc.
  • Reinforce their identity. This could be as simple as posting a photo on social media that they went to the midnight showing of the movie — illustrating they are a real fan, or even getting a tattoo of the Batman logo.
  • Showcasing their own expertise or devotion by defending the movie online, or panning it. There is a thriving community of movie reviewers on YouTube, many of whom share a “hot take” on a popular movie that they feel may be controversial. This helps share their own identity and they may love the reactions they get.

Why Use The Whole Reader Framework?

This entire process is meant to help you make decisions about where to find your ideal audience, discover what resonates with them, and help you build excitement around what you share online and your next big book launch. There are so many practical things that this leads to. Every day I work with writers and creators on this to help them determine:

  • What to share that will get attention.
  • What channels they should use, and how.
  • How to understand the marketplace around books like theirs.
  • Where to find their ideal readers.
  • How to get more followers or subscribers.
  • What leads to sales, book reviews, and other marketing actions.
  • And so much else!

But even more than that, it is meant to help you create meaningful experiences with others around your creative work. To have a platform as a writer that feels authentic to who you are, and filled with conversations that matter to you.

Please join me next Friday January 14th at 1pm ET, for a work session on Finding Your Ideal Audience. Register here. In this session, I will walk through strategies and tactics on how to identify who your ideal reader or audience member is, and will answer your questions.

Thanks!
-Dan

Start the Year with Creative Clarity (Podcast)

Want to reach your audience in 2022? Start with creative clarity. My Clarity Card method is simple exercise that has filled people’s lives with more time and energy to create, and the foundation to growing their platform and sharing their work. These 10 cards can change your life. Download the entire Clarity Card method for free right now, then join me Friday January 7th at 1pm ET for a work session where I answer your questions, provide feedback. Get it all here: https://wegrowmedia.com/creativeclarity/

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

You can watch the podcast here:

Start the year with creative clarity

In helping writers and creators reach their audience, I have found that the first essential ingredient is creative clarity. When you have creative clarity, you:

  • Know exactly what to create.
  • Understand how to use your limited resources for the greatest impact to reach your audience.
  • Feel confident in your creative identity.
  • Focus people’s attention and better communicate your creative vision to others.
  • Have the foundation to build a solid plan to launch and share your writing or creative work with others.

I want to invite you join me in working through my Clarity Cards method. This is a simple exercise that has radically changed people’s lives for the better. This is free, easy, and potentially life-changing. What you end up with is a pyramid of 10 cards. While they look simple, the results are powerful:

Clarity Cards

 

Here is what I am encouraging you to do:

  1. Download the entire Clarity Cards process here. It’s 100% free, all in this one PDF. You can work through it right now, or wait for…
  2. Join me for a Clarity Cards work session next Friday January 7th at 1pm ET. Register here. In this session I will answer your questions, provide feedback, show you how I work through Clarity Cards, and how to use them to lay the foundation for your creative goals in 2022. (If you can’t make the live event, please sign up anyway and I’ll send you a recording of the session.)
  3. After you work through the exercise, send me a photo of your cards! I’m happy to review them in the work session. Just email me a photo to dan@wegrowmedia.com.
  4. Share this with others! Wouldn’t it be great if other writers and creators you knew felt a deep sense of creative clarity as they started the year? Please considering sharing the Clarity Card process and invitation to the work session directly with those you know through email or on your social media channels. You can just copy and paste this: I’m starting my year with creative clarity, won’t you join me? Download @DanBlank’s Clarity Card method, and join us for a live work session on January 7th: https://wegrowmedia.com/creativeclarity/

It is useful to do Clarity Cards at least once a year, even if you are someone who feels confident in what you create. If you have done Clarity Cards in the past, I encourage you to use this opportunity to take a fresh look at your creative goals and potential in 2022.

I have helped hundreds of people work through Clarity Cards, and am constantly amazed at how it helps people break through barriers that they have struggled with for years.

Plus, Clarity Cards are the first step to preparing to launch your creative work. If you are looking at 2022 and 2023 hoping to truly connect your writing and creative projects to others, start here. Don’t just wait for it to happen, create a plan. That begins with Clarity Cards.

Thanks!
-Dan