Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why do Writers have to be Market Savvy?

Once upon  a long time back, a writer’s work ended after the  manuscript was  submitted to a publishing house. After that, all  that the writer had to do was to work on rewrites the editor demanded, and go over the edits and the proofs and maybe do a book reading or two.

The scenario has done a complete volte face now. Today publishers are not just looking for perfect and polished manuscripts that require very little editing, they are also looking for writers who come with ready made platforms: blogs, websites, facebook like pages and twitter followers.

 This way the publishing houses with limited budgets to market each writer, do not have to spend a lot of money if writers arrive with marketing packages and are willing to plug all gaps to give their books a leg up and the much needed visibility.

In this scenario, it becomes important for writers to be a part of several forums: book clubs, writer’s guilds, facebook, twitter, other social networking sites and start their blogs and make connections with other writers and their readers.

Many writers  wait too late to join and build platforms. By then their books are out and have faded from memory. I realized the value of Facebook a year and half back, when a good friend of mine who never reads books, mentioned an author’s book launch. At my raised eyebrows, he sheepishly admitted  that he  had read about the book on Facebook as the  author and he had few common friends, and the common friends had shared the launch photos.

I was impressed. If genuine book haters (my friend is one of them)  become aware of book launches via facebook, then what about book lovers like us. Social networking sites, though a big time suck, can be a huge blessing for us if used effectively.

The ideal  time frame is to slowly start  making genuine connections with the writing fraternity: writers, publishers, editors and agents, and also the readers when the book contract is signed, maybe even before its signed. Practically everyone is on facebook and is net savvy, so making connections  is not that difficult. This way  people  are familiar with the writer’s  name even before the book  is released. The point to be noted is connection and not forcing oneself on  others. If the writer comes across as too pushy, there will be no denying the fact that people will shy away from such a person.

These connections help in spreading the word when books are launched, in the way of author interviews, giveaways, book reviews and guest posts. Waiting too long to take the plunge doesn’t take the writer far. Writing is time consuming, so it becomes all the more important for writers to do everything  they can to give their books visibility and spread the word around.

I was one of the late starters. My first lot of books have faded from public memory. I didn’t do much to market them, other than the mandatory newspaper interviews organized by my publisher.

My  advice to other writers would be to get Market Savvy. Are you all  big time social networkers? At what stage of your writing did you all start building a platform and making connections. What are you all doing to give your books visibility? Which sites have you joined? We would love to hear  your views.


  1. Hmmmm, I have decided that I need to take a step back because I think I've been trying so hard to come up with the best novel idea I've burned my brain to a crisp and I need to regroup the grey matter. LOL! Interesting post though :O)

  2. Agreed Rachna. My crit partner was very market savvy. She held contests on her blog and facebook. She has sold a lot of books since her debut in January. I learned a lot from her. And I plan to put that knowledge to use.

    This day and time we have to make those solid connections. Blog, FB, twitter, goodreads (which I love) and tell the world who we are before our book comes out. :-)

    Excellent post Rachna.

  3. I have my blog, twitter, and goodreads. I do have a facebook page, but that's only for family and friends. I won't make an author page until I have a book to be published.

    Online marketing is extremely beneficial, but writers have to be careful that they're not putting more time into platform building than they are with their writing. Social networking can only do so much; it's a compelling story and dynamic characters that sell the novels!

  4. Will keep that in mind if someday had to pen down my emotions.

  5. I love your opening phrase here: "Once upon a longtimeback."

    It's absolutely true that writers must have "platform" to sell books these days. I think Twitter and a professional blog are the most important. Goodreads is great, too. Having some kind of Facebook and LinkedIn presence is a good idea, too, but the most important component is your blog. That's because all the other sites are for members only. Your blog can reach all readers.

    But I hate to see beginning writers who haven't even finished a short story wasting all their time on platform building. The most successful platform builders start about a year and a half before their book comes out. I think romantic comedy writer Tawna Fenske is a great role model.

    Now, as always, the most important thing for a writer to do is learn to write. And that takes a long, long time.

  6. You are so right, Rachna. At the moment I have my blog and Twitter. I will probably do Facebook but not until my book is at least completed - I just don't have the time!

    Ellie Garratt

  7. I've been social networking for a year now... that's pretty early with no book, but it's been more than just a platform. It's been fantastic to meet and grow into the writing community.

  8. Great post (as per usual), Rachna. I can't agree more - nowadays you need to slot time in to build your author 'platform' (don't you hate jargon!), and still make sure you don't bite into writing time.
    Some days, I still have trouble with this aspect of being an author - mainly because being on Facebook and (a little bit of) Twitter is enjoyable - for me, it's about linking up to other writers across the world.
    That's how I met Rachna!! And what a lovely, fortuitous day that was. Now we connect across the Indian Ocean - Brisbane to Bangalore. :)

  9. Great post. My first book has been a bit of a learning experience over the frst 2 months. I've used facebook, etc. but I try to use other writers as examples of how to reach and interact withi more people.

  10. I put all my networking effort into blogging. It takes up the most time but it's quite fun. Maybe someday I'll do Twitter. I FB but not vigorously.
    Great post, Rachna!

  11. @ Madeleine, its important to step back frequently so that we reserve our major portion of time for writing, else platforms will not serve a purpose if we haven't written any books.

    @ Robyn, yes we do have to tell the world who we are before our books make their debut.

    @ Laura, you are absolutely right, it is indeed a compelling story and dynamic characters that sell books.

    @ Rachit, that will surely be a good idea.

    @ Anne, I too feel bad when writers spend all their time online, building platforms and this eats away into their writing time. We have to strike a balance between writing and building platforms.

    @ Ellie, I have my blog, Facebook and a LinkedIn presence. I am yet to join Twitter, but I will definitely check out Goodreads that both Robyn and Anne mentioned.

    @ Lynda, I too have been social networking for a little more than a year, and I am thoroughly enjoying connecting with all of you.

    @ Sheryl, sometimes I feel I should cut down on my other activities and concentrate more on writing. I am extremely glad we met and that we have connected big time.

    @ Aron, I too am learning from other writers on how to reach and interact with more people. This is an important aspect of building a platform.

    @ Lydia,like you someday I too may do Twitter and I am not vigorous on FB. I invest most of my time on blogging and visiting blogs.

  12. Very valid and apt coming from your own experience. Today we know that packaging and marketing sells. Yet all this looks so daunting and cumbersome....

  13. Good post, as usual. I started blogging for fun, not for networking. But then I started connecting with other writers and got into the networking aspect. I really love it that I can meet other writers online and have a wider circle of literary friends (a very special one of whom is Rachna). And I like, too, that I can visit agent blogs and read their advice. I think building a platform is probably necessary these days, yes, but I've enjoyed the process of doing it slowly and sincerely and learning about the whole writerly world out there.

  14. A very thought-provoking post Rachna. This is something I struggled with alot. I am a naturally reclusive writer and though I love being with people, I find it hard to drag myself away from my actual novel writing to do things like network and blog. My CP nagged me into it :) and here I am - with a blog which has surprised my. I actually have things to say!! And on the plus side I have made lovely friends who have at last given me a social network I truly enjoy...
    And... see that you are from beautiful Bangalore! My mom's family originate from Bangalore so we have something in common- mmmh about 140 years ago!!

  15. Great post Rachna! So true that nowadays a writer's world and responsibility is very different. But although it can be challenging, I find that it is a good thing. Now readers really get to know their favourite authors and many up and coming writers have almost direct access to the wisdom of their mentors even if they live on other continents. That is all thanks to social networking and blogging. Of course for the reclusive writers this can all be a bit daunting but in the end it breaks down the barriers between writer and person...you are now not only a name on a book but you are a person. Readers get to know you and tend to appreciate your writing even more. The world is becoming a smaller place but I choose to see that as the world becoming more intimate which is never a bad thing. For myself, I treasure my online writer networks and have "met" some truly fascinating and inspiring individuals. You, my dear friend, are right at the top of that list. I am now joined up to more than 5 different online writing groups not to mention my social networking through my blog/twitter/tumblr. At first I was wary of the blogging aspect and twitter left me in a cold sweat of consternation at first..but I persisted and in the end it has enriched my life with some amazing people, formed true friendships and more importantly it has focused the direction of my writing path. For the social aspect it takes me back to my school days when I had pen pals in foreign countries. As writers I believe it important that we are open minded and have a good understanding of the many different cultures...social networking aids in this.
    Thanks for posting this topic Rachna.
    I wholeheartedly agree that it is important to get Market-Savvy.

  16. loved reading this blog post. marketing oneself is important. but my problem is that with the passage of time i have gone inside a cocoon. once upon a time i used to be very social but not anymore.

    Thanks for coming in my blog. hope to get your support in future too.

  17. I love your blog, Rachna, you always have very insightful stuff for me here! I've joined facebook, blogger, LinkedIn connections, a few writers groups like Scribbleratie, Authors Incognito...

    Whew... But I need to be efficient on juggling all them networks. :(


  18. Absolutely. The days of the reclusive writer are over. It's a bummer but we do have to face it. Social networking, youtube, blogging, forums, all of these things are very important, as well as the traditional methods of interviews, signing events, reviews.


  19. @ Alka, today marketing and packaging is extremely important.

    @ Elizabeth, even I am enjoying meeting other writers online and widening my circle of literary friends. I really enjoy my interactions with you and all the valuable advice you give me. I remember clearly the day we met on Scribblerati.

    @ tgayer, I too was a bit of a recluse, but not anymore. Nowadays, I enjoy my social networking and am learning from everyone's experiences. Its nice that we have a distant Bangalore connection.

    @ Kim, today both a writer's world and responsibility is indeed different, with all the things we have to manage, our writing time is being compromised a lot, because we are actively involved in marketing our books. But, I cannot complain, it comes with the territory. Its been great meeting you.

    @ Preetilata, marketing has become very crucial.

    @ Elizabeth, I have a tough time managing all the sites I have joined. Its tiring, but fun.

    @ Jai, the days of a reclusive writer are dead and buried. Today writers have to be seen, heard, read and written about.

  20. I agree, Rachna. Writers do have to put themselves out in the public eye more than they needed to in the past. I guess its just that after all the time taken up writing, editing, tearing our hair out and doing other writerly things, writers don’t feel like tweeting and facebooking much! At least not me!

  21. I really like your emphasis on making "genuine connections". To me, that's what it's all about, sharing, learning from one another- I also trust in God's grace and goodness (not to excuse my lack of diligence; but He knows the rhythm of our lives, timing, relationships etc...) I believe that it all can be used to help us to be better people and writers. Good job, Rachna!!

  22. I agree, Rachna. This is good advice. I need to revisit where I'm going with this. I currently blog and use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Goodreads. Was on Twitter for a while but ditched it. May get back on at some point, but right now, there's enough to do with my WIP and other projects. Good topic, thanks for sharing about it.
    Have a great weekend,

  23. I got my blog set up a year ago this month, which was four months after I signed a book contract. Publisher said I would need a blog and/or website to help with marketing. At this point, I've finally figured out Twitter and the value of it, so I'm becoming more active there. I need to do more Goodreads, too, and Facebook as my memoir is supposed to be released on April 25th. Might be a bit later, though.

    Well, I'm back from helping my daughter who had neck surgery, so now I'm moving again through social media. But most important to me are the friendships I've made and continue to make along the way. I love to see your smiling face on my blog. Thanks for your lovely comments while I've been with my daughter!
    Ann Carbine Best’s Long Journey Home

  24. All true! It's incredible how many Internet options we have to market ourselves. It blows me away jus to think about it.

  25. This is a GREAT post, Rachna, that really speaks to the need to get started on platform building early in the process. I know I'm a bit late in reading but will be retweeting this important message on Twitter. Hope you're well, dear!

  26. This is a very complicated issue. You may have many followers, but that does not mean they will also be your customers. There are many people out there who are looking for freebies everywhere, and are not willing to pay for anything, if free is an option.