There’s a wide range of self-publishers. Each of us has different motivations for doing the work of making books, either electronic or paper. For me, self-publishing is a way of extending my audience a little beyond face to face. While I fantasise about selling a million copies on Amazon, I realistically look to only a ‘pocket distribution’, say about 200, for my self-published books. My Upside Down World of St Francis has sold 100 physical books and about 30 e-books.
My friend Simon Haynes has a different motivation. Simon is the author of the Hal Spacejock novels. He writes in the specific genre of comic space opera. Simon started with self-publishing, then after some success with mainstream publishing has now returned to self-publishing where he has more control of marketing. His ‘platform’ is homogenous, and with each new book in the series, all he has to do is to find similar readers to grow his platform. Simon advises, ‘Work on gradually increasing your audience, and write more of what they want.’
Austin Briggs’s manual is for writers wanting to know how to build their ‘online platform’, which he defines as ‘a following of people who find your work through the World Wide Web’. How does a writer set about increasing the audience for her book?
Austin Briggs writes historical fiction based on his ten years researching the Aztecs and is gathering readers for this particular genre. His manual invites people to build on his experience, first by recommending blogging as a way of establishing credentials as a writer, and then by reaching out to other bloggers and through social media. The manual concludes with a detailed 90-day calendar culminating with an online launch.
I probably won’t have any need for the details of 90-day calendar: my audience is quite different to an audience of genre readers, and I have no immediate plans to publish a full-length book. However, I think the calendar would be helpful to new writers of genre fiction or general non-fiction.
The strength for me of How to Build a Powerful Writer’s Platform is in the clear explanations of the principles and practicalities of online networking. The changes of the last four or five years in publishing and the growing presence of the Web in everyone’s lives are enormous, and as writers we need to resource each other with the skills necessary to achieve our goals in writing and self-publishing. Austin Briggs has been generous is sharing his experience.
He notes that it is hard work to build an audience, but encourages the reader to build up, and to keep augmenting, a repository of blogging, so that visitors to the blog are able to find useful or interesting content. He stresses the importance of online mutuality, offering to ‘guest blog’ and to host guest bloggers, to really communicate with followers and friends on Twitter, to be professional and generous with professional knowledge on LinkedIn, and to master the technologies needed for gathering an email list of ‘insiders’.
How to Build a Powerful Writer’s Platform is clearly written and well-produced. I didn’t trip over spelling and basic grammar errors. It was well-designed for the Kindle – the links in the Table of Contents worked well, and the frequent pull-quotes (white script in black text boxes) were legible and pertinent reminders.
I finished this book both encouraged and with new skills.