Building an Author Platform

Guest Post by Eliot Parker

What is an author platform, and why is it necessary? An author platform is simply the ability to sell books because of who you are, as an author, and the ability to reach readers in a variety of ways.

Why does this matter for authors? The evolution of technology in publishing (through Amazon, Smashwords, and other online publishing platforms) has made it easier for authors to produce work and make it available to readers. However, that also means the publishing medium is more crowded than ever before, with thousands of writers hoping their works get noticed by readers.

In 2016, the Washington Post conducted a nationwide study of book publishing, accounting for all the various books published that year in all platforms and formats. The study found that over 600,000 titles had been produced that year. That means that over 600,000 books had been published in 2016 and were looking to attract readers and interest.

As publishing becomes more accessible to more authors, getting work noticed by readers is becoming more complicated. However, building an author platform is more than just finding readers and selling books. Building a complete author platform also means staying aware and abreast of opportunities for participation in writing workshops, conferences, book festivals, and other events directed towards the growth of the individual writer.

In terms of book sales, here are places many writers should consider:

  1. Gift shops at state parks – Almost every state park with lodging has a gift shop. This can be an excellent place to sell books, especially if you are a native of that state. Often, your book will be one of the few featured, giving it more visibility. Plus, most state parks buy books in large quantities.
  2. Creative arts “stores” – Often, these stories are distributors of items other than books made my local artisans. Some of the distributed items include signs, canned goods, crafts, and other homemade items. Do not be afraid to approach the manager/owner of the store and ask about selling books in the store. Often, the manager/owner has never been approached about selling books as part of their local items, and they are more receptive to the idea.
  3. Craft festivals and fairs – These can be excellent places to sell books. The vendor table fees can be substantial, but the potential to sell books is tremendous. Fairs and festivals feature plenty of people selling food, handmade items like wreaths and yard signs, but few of those events feature authors selling books. Readers attend those events as well, and they will be thrilled to see an author participating. A note of caution: often festivals occur for several days, and the days can be twelve-hours in length or more. Stamina is a requirement to participate in events such as this.

For development opportunities for the individual author, I recommend the following:

  1. Attend one large, national writing conference each year. This is a great way to network with other authors, attending readings, meet agents and publishers, and recharge the creative energy needed to write. Pick a different conference in a different part of the country each year, so you are free to explore more new places with the new friends you will make.
  2. Subscribe to BookBuzz. This website offers paid promotional services. Each month, they will send an email with many free opportunities to sell your works or free webinars and seminars available to authors that focus on the “business” aspects of writing and publishing.
  3. Subscribe to Authors Publish E-Magazine. This magazine comes to your inbox several times a month and features calls by publishers looking for new work as well as literary journals that are currently accepting submissions. The subscription is free and well-worth it.

There are other ways to build an author platform. Having an active social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) is important, but there are other ways as well. Building a platform takes time and consistent effort on the part of the writer. In fact, as a writer, I have a goal of completing two tasks each day that will help me build or enhance my platform. That goal is attainable and does not require copious amounts of time to be taken away from my writing or other tasks.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to talk more about building an author platform.

eliot Parker

Eliot Parker is the author of four novels, most recently A Knife’s Edge, which was an Honorable Mention in Thriller Writing at the London Book Festival, and is the sequel to the award-winning novel Fragile Brilliance. He is a recipient of the West Virginia Literary Merit Award, and Fragile Brilliance was a finalist for the Southern Book Prize in Thriller Writing. He recently received with the Thriller Writing Award by the National Association of Book Editors (NABE) for his novels. Eliot is the host of the podcast program Now, Appalachia, which profiles authors and publishers living and writing in the Appalachian region and is heard on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.

You may purchase Eliot’s award-winning books HERE.

Summer 2019 Reading List — Four Books You #MustRead

Books Summer 2019 (2)

Whether you spend your summer days reading on the beach, in a shaded hammock in the mountains, or curled up in your own climate-controlled living room, you won’t want to miss grabbing one–or all!–of these Summer 2019 #MustReads! There’s something in the list below for everyone!

NOVEL –
Valerie Nieman’s To the Bones  is a murder mystery, slash romance, slash ecocritical novel, slash ghost story, and it deftly blurs the lines between these seemingly unrelated genres with page-turning skill. Y’all, this novel kept me up late, and the ending caught me so off-guard I know you’ll never see it coming. With equal parts Celtic mythology and Appalachian folklore, the twists and turns will have you laughing, gasping, and second-guessing what you think you know until the very last page.

SHORT-STORY COLLECTION –
The Sound of Holding Your Breath 
is Natalie Sypolt’s debut collection, and wow! What a way to start a writing career! These stories are set in modern-day Appalachia, but no matter where you’re from, you’ll relate to each of the fourteen stories herein, because these characters deal with emotions you’ve felt or feel, they’ve faced challenges you’ve faced or are facing–or shoot!–one might even be you! These stories will test your courage and your mettle, and you may find yourself at the end of this stunning work asking yourself if you would have behaved in the same way these characters did, if you would have responded in the same manner in which they did, should you be faced with what they are facing.

MEMOIR –
Dawn Davies writes “A Memoir in Pieces,” Mothers of Sparta, and even if you think you’re not a fan of memoir, prepare yourself to be struck to the core by the gorgeous rawness of these stories. It’s rare for me to cry over a book, but this one turned me inside out. I giggled, I shook my head, and I truly wept over the course of these sixteen stories, each even more powerful because I know it is true, I know Davies bared her weakest, strongest, and most honest self to us in these pages. We see Davies navigate her nomadic childhood, marriage and divorce, pregnancy and postpartum depression, and the beautiful heartbreak of motherhood. With blade-sharp prose, Davies bisects and dissects her life for us, and in doing so, she lays bare a path that leads straight to the heart.

FORTHCOMING NOVEL –
Though you won’t be able to order Jon Sealy’s latest, The Edge of America, until September 11th, you’ll want to go ahead and pre-order today and keep it at the top of your to-be-read list. This action-packed political thriller is set in steamy 1980’s Miami, Florida, and man, is it hot! The CIA is keeping their eye on employee Bobby West, who when in need of easy money succumbs to a money-laundering deal with the devil himself–if the devil is named Alexander French. West’s obstinate teenage daughter skips town with French’s millions and a small-town Southern boy who is merely looking for his own shortcut to riches, neither realizing an Israeli hit woman has been hired by Cuban exiles to find French’s money and exterminate them both. You’ll hold your breath on this one through to the very last page.
NOTE: Be sure to look for my detailed review of Sealy’s novel forthcoming in South 85 Journal later this year!)

 

 

Writers Reading

It’s a question writers often ask their friends: what are you reading? Often the answer will be a novel from the bestseller list; less often, classic literature or a short story collection; even less often (sadly), a book of poetry. When writers ask other writers the same question, common responses might be reversed, and answers likely include books on the craft of writing.

Writers aren’t snobs to bestselling genre fiction—some of us love nothing more than a lighthearted beach read or eerie horror story now and again. After all, it’s a writer who wrote that bestseller. Still, the books and novels you’ll find on an author’s bookshelf may differ from those on Great Aunt Martha’s shelf, or your cousin’s shelf, or even your best friend’s shelf.

Why is that?

Mostly it’s because, as writers, we understand the importance of reading the best stories, and by best, we don’t necessarily mean bestseller. We mean stories with characters we can’t forget, with plots that we’ll be thinking about a year from now, and with a narrative voice that rings in our ears forever. Writers also understand how crucial it is to study in perpetuity the craft of writing. We are students until the end of our days. While we’re always looking for the next, greatest writing book, we still return to ones we’ve read before, knowing we’ll learn something new—something we missed the first (or second) time around, when our writing skill was at a different level.

craft boooks

A large shelf in my office is filled with books on writing craft, and there are still more stacks of texts about writing in other areas of my home. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t read a chapter—or several—from one of these sources of inspiration, style, and skill.

Below are titles of a few texts I’ve found extremely helpful as a fiction writer and to which I often return. I hope you’ll share in the comments some of the books on craft that have helped you grow as a writer. Because, as you well relate, I’m always looking for the next great book on writing.

The Lie that Tells a Truth by John Dufresne

The Art and Craft of the Short Story by Rick DeMarinis

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter

From Where You Dream by Robert Olin Butler

Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Eudora Welty

Writing Fiction by Gotham Writer’s Workshop Faculty

Building Fiction by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway

Now share your favorites below!

 

Throwback Thursday

You may be thinking that it’s difficult to throw back on a brand new blog site, but there are ways to pass or rush around just about any obstacle. I’m going to tackle it today (another football metaphor—did you catch it?) by posting a list of throwback novels or story collections that had a direct and positive impact on my writing. I call them throwbacks, not only because I read them some time ago, but because each was published over ten years ago. I’m leaving out the classics—it goes without saying that most any writer or reader has been shaped in some way by Hawthorne, Austen, Poe, and Hemingway—focusing instead on works by contemporary authors, a few of whom you may not have read.

Some of these novels influenced my use of language or dialect, some taught me how to develop characters or add tension, some inspired me to prioritize study of the craft, while still others simply left me breathlessly wondering how on earth did they do that? All of these fulfilled the ultimate goal of any work of fiction; they entertained me.

If you’re a writer or an avid reader who loves a great story, I hope you’ll crack the spines of a few of these fabulous fictions. And while you’re browsing the list below, perhaps you’ll recall titles of a few works of fiction that inspired or influenced you in some way, as well. If so, please share them the comment section below, so we can add them to our “to read” lists in 2015.

Here’s to a great novel and a cup of hot tea to warm your spirit on this cold winter’s day!

 

Storming Heaven: A Novel, by Denise Giardina – I credit this novel (and author) for helping me realize it’s okay to tell my own story, my “Where I’m From”, in a voice and dialect that sound natural and authentic to my upbringing. (It’s okay to write y’all, y’all.)

Open Secrets: Stories, by Alice Munro – These intriguing, multi-layered stories hide as much as they reveal, and I love reading them again and again, each time uncovering some new truth, gaining a new perspective on the world in which I live and write.

A Drink Before the War, by Dennis LeHane – This first in a series of six private-eye novels taught me that genre fiction and literary fiction don’t have to be separate entities, as there’s some damn fine writing here. It’s the first time I’ve ever read straight through an entire series of novels, one after the other, in less than a week. Captivating and harrowing!

Burning Bright, by Ron Rash – It’s no secret among my bookish friends that I’m a huge fan of Ron Rash’s writing. It’s—wow—it’s just, WOW! (Okay, okay, I’m breathing normally again.) Though I’d read everything Rash had written up to that point, when I read this collection of amazing stories, something clicked in my head, and I began writing at a deeper, more intuitive level. I can honestly say that my MFA creative thesis would not have been the same without the heady influence of these stories.

Waiting, by Ha Jin – I’ll never again try on a pair of too-tight shoes without remembering the compelling characters in this story. With amazing narrative structure, the right touch of humor, fascinating cultural details, and poignant allegories, this is one love story you’ll never forget.

The Complete Stories, by Flannery O’Connor – Yes, yes, I know I said that I wasn’t talking about the classics, but O’Connor’s collection transcends description like classic and canonical—though it’s certainly that! Her stories are as relevant today as they were when she penned them half a century ago. I turn to them often, particularly when I need inspiration to write, when I’m struggling to make every word purposeful, or when I simply want to enjoy an entertaining read.

 

This list could potential go on for several more pages, as every novel I read perhaps holds some sort of lesson for me as a writer. These I’ve mentioned, however, are a few that gave me courage and confidence and motivation to pick up a pen and write.

Now it’s your turn. What works of fiction have influenced you?

Reading on a cold day

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