Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance. All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ. It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there. To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.
The biggest task for any writer, beyond writing and publishing a book, is generating readership and creating an author platform. For a first time author, the big question is “When should I start generating a platform?”
When I first started, I decided to create an author identity and presence before my first book had even been picked up for publication. To be honest, I felt a little silly doing so — why on earth would I go about telling people I’m an author when I have nothing to show for it? Wouldn’t it make far more sense to generate a readership after I’ve published something?
I certainly understand that point of view. For every published author, there are probably a thousand people who claim to be authors but have nothing published. And in this day and age of self-publishing, there are a lot of authors who have put out a dozen or more books and are sorely in need of an editor and a reality check.
To go blazing into social media claiming to be an author before you’ve been published can feel like putting the cart before the horse. And, if you’re like me, it can be an embarrassing prospect.
However, let’s step back a bit.
Back before indie publishing and back before ebooks, there were only print books. I used to work in a bookstore, so I remember the “good old days” (*sarcastic eye roll*). A print book would be on the shelves for, at most, three months. If it wasn’t a big seller, it was sent back to the publisher and was only available by special order. And if your book received poor sales across the board, it was taken out of publication and, once stock ran out, unavailable. Back in those days, it was crucial to generate a readership before a book was released, as you only had one shot at it. If you didn’t have big sales in those first few months, you ran the risk of not being picked up for your next book.
Ebooks revolutionized the market. Ebooks are available, at no cost to the publisher, for eternity. (Well, not quite eternity, but definitely far longer than in the old days.) Ebooks don’t need that instant rush of sales, as sales can trickle in over the years… so much so that you might have far more sales than in the old days, but you just don’t have the rush. So, in other words, you might have an ebook that is far more profitable than a print book in the old days, but your sales pattern are such that your book would have been discontinued before reaching those sales numbers.
So, if ebooks have revolutionized book buying, then why bother with generating a pre-publication readership so that you start with a bang? After all, books can have a resurgence and a sales boom can happen at any time. My launch of my first novel, Autumn Fire, went decently. After about a year, I decided to go on a blog tour to promote it some more (which is a tactic that would have been uncommon in the old days as the book would have been off the shelves by then).
There are several reasons why a pre-publication platform and following is important:
- Start with a bang! While book-buying patterns are different now, publishers still like it when a book launches to great sales numbers. For your career, it will mean increased chances your publisher will take your next book and, if your publisher gives advances, it may mean a higher advance. For self-published authors, it can be a necessary ego boost. Imagine self-publishing your first book and you sell one copy in the first month. Would you even bother with the second book? What if you sold 500 in the first month? You’d jump right into writing the sequel.
- Bestseller status. There’s no denying that if your book hits a bestseller list, it increases your visibility, and thus increases sales. To get on the bestseller list of a website, you need a glut of sales. You might have 5000 sales over the course of a couple years, but if you don’t have a surge in a short period of time, you won’t get on any bestseller lists. I have three titles that have achieved bestseller status on All Romance eBooks — and that site puts a permanent badge on your book page to signify this. When a potential customer views my book listing on ARe, they see three bestseller badges on my list of ten works. You better believe this encourages them to give me a chance.
- Community. Writing is a lonely endeavour. By generating a platform and collecting readers (or having other authors connect with you), you are part of a larger book community. This can offer you encouragement and support and motivation.
- Instant promo help. By connecting with authors and readers on social networks, you increase the chances of free promo when your first book is released. Authors you’ve connected with will retweet you to their followers. Readers will comment on Facebook about the great new book by the great new author. This takes a heck of a lot of work off your shoulders. Your fan network and author buddies will help you get the word out.
So, the big question… how do you launch your platform?
- Figure out which social networks you want to engage with. (I will blog about these various networks in upcoming posts.)
- See what other authors are doing. Figure out what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Take the stuff you like and figure out how to work it into your own social media platform.
- Figure out how to word your profile bio. To avoid the stigma of “this person’s an author but they have nothing to show for it,” I would advise being honest in your bio. I had something like, “Cameron D. James is an M/M erotic romance author hard at work on his first novel.” I wasn’t touting myself as a published professional, but I wasn’t downplaying what I was doing, either. I was also specific about what I’m working on. If I had just said I’m an “aspiring writer,” then I’d be ignored with the thousands of other “aspiring writers” out there.
- Connect with authors. Eventually, readers will connect with you, too. (And in future posts, I’ll talk about what to share on the various networks so that you appear professional, approachable, social, and real.)
- Somewhere along the way, make sure you create a website, too. Social networks cannot replace an author website. (Again, this is something I’ll blog about in the future.)
So, we’re back to the question of when you should start generating your platform.