5 Steps to Building a Platform When You Hate Selling Yourself

This is a guest post by Robin Sullivan, a small press publisher, publicist, and public speaker. She blogs at Write to Publish. You can also follow her on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I hear the following from authors all the time, “All I want to do is write. I hate promoting myself. I’m no good at it.” The result is they don’t work on their platform, hoping somehow that the whole notion will somehow just go away.

A Man with His Head in the Stand - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/tap10, Image #10656911

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/tap10

Putting your head in the sand is not the answer. It’s no longer a question of if an author needs a program, it’s now part of the writing business and can mean the difference between success and failure.

But fear not, I’m here to tell you that it’s not only easier than you think, but you should know that someone with your attitude is actually well-equipped to do well.

I’m going to let you in on the most important, and most often overlooked aspect of social networking: It’s not about selling. It’s about participation. It’s about being a member of a community. It’s about connecting with people who share your interests.

Those that use social networking merely as a venue for saying, “Buy my book, buy my book,” are missing out. Nobody likes to be sold to. What people gravitate to is those who give of themselves.

Here’s what you need to know about getting started in social media.

  1. Observe. Start out by joining and watching. Pick a venue to get yourself started. It could be twitter, an online forum, or a site dedicated to books like GoodReads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing. You don’t have to do anything at this point other than watch and learn. Be a sponge and absorb what is going on around you. Get a feel for the place. Wait until you are comfortable.
  2. Participate. When someone makes a comment that you agree with, support their position. Expand on it. Give an example from your own life that illustrates the point. If you disagree, do so respectfully, offer supporting information for your opinion.
  3. Contribute. Once you are comfortable talking with others, it’s time to go to the next level. Start contributing. If you read an article that people in your group might find helpful, post a link to it. If you read a book by someone in the group and liked it, tell others. Be supportive. Be helpful.
  4. Form Relationships. This is what social networking is all about. Make this your “end game.” You’re not participating to sell your books. You’re here to make connections. If a fan writes a nice review, thank them. Most don’t expect to hear from authors. But after hearing from you, they’ll remember you even more. They might even share with their friends “how nice you are.”
  5. Provide Information. Let the people in your group know about what’s going on in your life. Do you have a signing coming up? Is a new book being released? Have you posted a sample chapter for free? Did a magazine publish one of your short stories? This isn’t selling; it is informing. You aren’t telling them to buy; you are letting them know what you have and leaving the decision to them.

Notice that I never once asked you to sell. That’s what’s so great about social media, you don’t have to. Become a person that others like, be one that is helpful, let others know that you have products (books) and the sales will come.

Now I know what you’re likely to say next, “But Robin, that’s a LOT of work. I don’t have time for all this. I want to write.” I understand, but is writing ALL you do? Of course not. What if you cut out some TV? Is having your dream of being a writer worth your spouse helping a bit more? Can they do the grocery shopping or get the kids bathed and ready for bed?

By trading off on non-writing tasks you can make time to devote to this. The only thing that will hold you back is your belief that it will be a chore. If approached differently, this would be so, but if you follow my steps you’ll find you actually look forward to your time online.

When you receive a great review, tell your network, and they’ll celebrate with you. If you are struggling with a chapter, talk about it and you’ll get words of encouragement. You may just find the opposite is true, that spending time online can be very addictive. Does that sound like such so terrible?

Question: What do you need to do next to take your platform to the next level? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Brenda

    Someone on twitter retweeted one of my blog posts the other day, and it really encouraged me. I need to start participating in that way by helping others and suggesting their work to other people.

    • Joe Lalonde

      That’s awesome Brenda!

    • http://www.touchtheskye.org Chris MacKinnon

      Retweeting is so quick and easy. If I am touched by a tweet or article, I don’t hesitate to retweet it, thinking that if it’s good for me, it has to be good for at least one person in my sphere of influence.

      • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

        Exactly! Retweeting in the fuel that feeds a lot of social networking – Sometimes I find the best articles through retweets because I know more than one person found it useful.

        • Dariavi

          I found this article through a retweet!  I just listened to Robin Sullivan in interview on a podast called Adventures in SciFi Publishing then came here from twitter. 

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        Same here! I get really excited when my articles get retweeted! :)

      • Jmhardy97

        Good point Chris. I retweet a lot. I makes good sense.

        Jim

      • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

        I agree!

    • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

      Good for you! I had the same thing happen to me this week and it made my day! It also inspires me to look for people to encourage and promote.

      • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

        Yes, I am always encouraged when someone tweets a post from me!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      One or two successes certainly helps to give you encouragement to do more and make more connections. When you use twitter – make your links with bit.ly so you can track those that get more attention than others.

      • http://www.paulawhidden.wordpress.com Paula Whidden

        Robin, I hadn’t heard of the bit.ly thing, how do you do that?

        • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

          Bit.ly takes a long URL and shortens it – but then it also tracks how many people clicked on the link so you can see what links of yours resonate more with people and so you can focus on the content you are providing. It’s free – just need to sign up.  The URL is:

          https://bitly.com/

          For instance I saw that 671 people clicked on this article yesterday and 149 people clicked on my blog about Create Space verses Lightning Source for printing paper books.

          • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

            You can also edit the short link to personalize it, such as my blog in a personalized short link:  http://bit.ly/byrdmouse.
            Of course, since the site is http://byrdmouse.com, it actually makes the short link the longer of the two. Regardless, I have had several people use it to access my blog.

          • http://ajmorgan.webs.com/ michael

            Hi just a simple question. How does one get this link shorten er?

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            You just go to bit.ly and follow the directions. It’s free.

          • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

            There are lots of link shorteners, but I use bit.ly. Just type that into the address bar of your Internet browser then put in the long address. It will shorten it, allow you to copy and keep track of what you shortened. I signed up for an account which allows you to customize the links and it will also tell you how many clicks have used your link.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Brenda, you may also want to create a Disqus account so you can link your blog to the comments you make here. It can help increase your traffic and participation.

      • Jmhardy97

        Joe,

        is it easy to do? I have been nervous about setting it up.

        Jim

        • Joe Lalonde

          Jim,

          It is very easy. All you need to do is head on over to – http://www.disqus.com and click SIGN UP. Follow the directions and you’ll have an account.

          • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

            Part of the reason I moved my blog to a self hosted WordPress blog was because I couldn’t add Disqus to the free blog. It even allowed me to import the older comments from the blog, which was great.

          • Joe Lalonde

            Jonathan, I did not know you could import from the old blog comment system to the Disqus system. That’s a valuable feature.

          • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

            I loaded Disqus before I imported my blog and it was a feature of the plugin load. After I imported the blog I sought the feature out and found it.

          • Joe Lalonde

            Thanks for sharing that. I’ll have to keep that in mind for a person that I’m helping with her blog. It will be nice to be able to import the comments if she decides to change to Disqus.

    • Jmhardy97

      Wow,

      that is great. Hopefully things will continue to build for you.

      Jim

  • Jviola79

    This is such great advice. Thank you so much as I needed to read this. As I read this, I thought (and cannot remember where it is) – “To have friends, a man must show himself friendly.’ Thank you so much for helping out all of us that are just starting.

    • Joe Lalonde

      That might have been something from Dale Carneige. He had a great book called “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

      • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

        You know that is a classic book that I’ve never read – I should pick it up sometime – thanks for reminding me of it.

        • Joe Lalonde

          You’re welcome Robin. You can get it for under $5 shipped at Better World Books, http://www.betterworldbooks.com/how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people-id-0671723650.aspx

          Hope you enjoy it!

          • Jmhardy97

            Joe,

            Thank you for sharing.

            Jim

          • Joe Lalonde

            Jim, if you’re looking for books, I hope you do check out Better World Books. They sell used books and use part of the profits to help better the world.

        • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

          My wife told me to read it years ago and I resisted. Finally about three years ago she handed it to me and said read this or quit telling me about the problems you’re having relating to others at work. While I haven’t instituted it completely I have noticed a HUGE improvement in my relationships with others at work, church and home. I highly recommend reading it.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Thanks Jviola – I’m glad you found it helpful.

    • http://www.gospellab.com Gospel lab

      It is actually from the Bible.  :)

      Proverbs  18:24  A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

      • Dougpatten

        That’s hilarious. Too often we say something is from the Bible when it really was Mark Twain, or Ghandi, etc…

  • http://www.touchtheskye.org Chris MacKinnon

    I’m just beginning the move from Participating to Contributing. I’m finding it takes time for others to consider my input valuable. It is also important to me that the community does not take me for a spammer, so I am entering slowly. 

    I have to say, too, that your suggestion of an author saying “Thank you” to a reviewer is a great move. I post book reviews on my blog, and I was shocked to have one author stop by and say thanks. I will never forget that. Great suggestion!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Bloggers and reviewers are so important in the Word-of-Mouth chain. They are tireless people who devote so much of their free time to unselfishly. For someone to take the time and effort to write something needs to be acknowledged. – Glad you liked the tip.

      • http://www.touchtheskye.org Chris MacKinnon

        That is part of the change in mindset that makes your plan easy to adopt. If we ARE writing and contributing unselfishly, it doesn’t seem like work. Otherwise we become so results oriented that we lose the heart we started with.

        • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

          Exactly! It becomes a fun interaction and the results flow naturally.

        • Jmhardy97

          Great point Chris.

          Jim

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      Making contributions is very important in increasing your platform.

      • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

        Much more difficult to build a platform by yourself. I’m not even sure you can do it with participating. The more I try Michael’s suggestions the more I find out how easy and right on they are.

        • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

          So true and well said!

          _____

    • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

      I think we often overlook the value of contributing (at least in the beginning). That really is the best way to self-promote, even if that isn’t your intention!

  • Curtis Matoga

    Thank you for this excellent article. I will be checking out the sites you recommended such as Goodreads. I really appreciated what you have written here.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Good reads is a fantastic site.  I’ve met so many great book lovers there.  Conicidentially my husband is being featured in a Q&A Session for a group there over the next two days.  If you want to ask him some questions about his writing, publishing, or anything related to books – you can join in at: http://bitly.com/qvsMXy

      • Jmhardy97

        Robin,

        Thank you for sharing. There is a lot of valuable information here.

        Jim

        • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

          Glad to have been of service Jmhardy97

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Great tips! I always tell authors, “If you want to be the life of the party… you have to first be AT the party.” Participation means a lot.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Great quote Daniel! I may have to reuse it.

      • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

        Haha. Thanks gang.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No THAT is a great quote!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      So true Daniel.

    • Diane Stortz

      That is a good quote! Because I want to write more, I do need to be more connected. But even if my writing wasn’t a consideration, I don’t want to find myself completely on the outside in another five, ten, or twenty years. Boomers like me need to find ways to relate to those coming behind us as well as those of our own generation.

      • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

        Participating takes some time away from writing, but it’s worth it.

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      Haha! That’s awesome!

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      That is a great perspective on life.  Many times we want people to bring the party to us – to do all the work for us; yet, we are the ones that need to put in the work and sometimes we need to start the party.

      • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

        That’s the spirt – be someone to initiate and get the ball rolling.

        • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

          I think it is something that we have to be intentional about.  It is so easy to hid in our own little holes and we have to be intentional about getting out and joining the conversation.

          • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

            Agree – doing nothing is always such as easy “default position” but not very helpful.

      • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

        Indeed. Being AT the party is only the starting point. I can be AT the party but if I am a wall-flower, simply standing in a corner by myself, then I will likely be ignored. If I choose to engage then I take initiative to create conversations… that’s when people take notice.

        • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

          Yeah…unfortunately that kind of shoots my desire in the foot for hanging out in the back of the room and watching the antics of other people ;-)

        • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

          And regardless of where you stand if you only talk to yourself you’re going to be looked at funny and not invited to join in.

    • Jmhardy97

      Good Quote.

      Jim

    • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

      I love it!

  • Joe Lalonde

    I’ve been trying to contribute by posting on forums and blogs. The next step I need to take is creating my own blog and posting good content on there. It’s scary as I’m not sure what I want it to be.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Joe, making a blog these days is so ridiculously easy. They really have come a long way in the last few years – I recommend that authors combine their website and blog into one. Have the main front page as your running blog entries then use tabs or static pages for lists of your books, buying direct, or offering sample chapters.  If you are out contributing people will certainly want to find you to learn more so yeah the blog is essesntial. Start out simply – by making the first post then gain inspiration from other blogs you read.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with – so post a link here after you have it going.

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        I totally agree with your advice…and go with wordpress! :)

        • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

          Hey I hear great things about wordpress. I started with blogger long ago and don’t want to lose the momentum by converting over. If I had it to do over again I would probably start there.

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            You really wouldn’t lose anything. With one click, they have a feature where
            you can transfer all info (post, comments,etc.) over to wordpress. You won’t
            be losing anything…you will just be logging in and publishing in WP. I
            would totally do it! Blogger is really behind compared to wordpress. When I
            was with my old blogging platform (very similiar to blogger), I got at the
            most 150 visits per month. Now, I am averaging 3,500! That is a huge
            improvement from the other platform. I would check into it!

            http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com

            _____

          • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

            What about my followers? Or those that have feeds to the blog (email or through RSS) wouldn’t they be stranded?

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            They would; however, the people who are really “following” your site will
            subscribe to the new one. I had over 50 subscribers with my other site, but
            only 2 of them really even visited it. When I switched, I have over 37
            faithful subscribers who visit my site frequently.

            I do see your point though…but the faithful followers will “pack up and
            move”.

            _____

          • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

            I would recommend just to go self-hosted. You can get hosting for a few bucks a month and a domain for cheap too. All in all, probably less than 100 dollars a year. That, to me, is a small price to pay to not have to switch over at a later point. But I’m far from an expert.

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            I would second the recommendation – it is worth it and it is really simple to get started with a self-hosted WP.

          • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

            You all have given me good food for thought – I’ll put that down as project to investigate more soon.

          • http://Lbgtmsf.com Ted Werth

            Agree that self hosted is the way to go.  WordPress.org has significant limitations compared to self hosting.

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            Just to clarify, you’re speaking of WordPress.com (where you sign up for a free account, being limited) versus WordPress.org where you can download the wordpress package to be installed on a self-hosted site.  I know what you were thinking :-)

          • http://Lbgtmsf.com Ted Werth

            Thanks for catching that. I guess I was hurrying a bit to much.

          • Jmhardy97

            Thank you for sharing Brandon.

            Jim

          • http://Lbgtmsf.com Ted Werth

             Robin, losing all your links and SEO juice is what scares most people.  I’d suggest you check out a book by Sharon Hujik. More info. and a credible endorsement here: http://remarkablogger.com/2011/04/15/how-to-move-from-blogger-to-wordpress/

            I’ve used both platforms and WordPress is so much more efficient once you get through the learning curve.

          • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

            Ted,
            That looks like a perfect article – thanks for sharing it – I’ll definitely check it out.

          • Anonymous

            If you did want to convert, the good news is it’s easy to export your entries from blogger to a hosted wordpress site. Just found that out and did so a month or so ago. The bad news would be the search engine rankings if they’re solid now, but the other good part is you own your own hosted site vs. blogger being owned & controlled by Google.

      • Joe Lalonde

        Robin, thanks for the encouragement. I know it’s easy to make a blog. It’s that I’m unsure of what to write about or have to offer. I don’t have a book, no clear direction, etc…

        • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

          Again – being genuine and yourself is the key - start your first blog just by introducing yourself to the Interwebs – what you are interested in…what your goals are.  What you have to offer is yourself…Just pick something that intersts you – it could be writing…biking…wines…a certain genre of books.  Make a list of the blogs that regularly read and a direction is sure to emerge.

          • Joe Lalonde

            Robin, thanks for the ideas. I fall into the trap of thinking that I have nothing of value to offer.

            But taking a look at your reply, I can see a theme in the blogs that I normally read. It would be business and self-employment.

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      Definitely start one!

      • Joe Lalonde

        Thanks Brandon. I’m still trying to figure out what I would write on a blog. I’m not an author, I have no products, and no services. I know I could write about any old topic but if I were to start a blog I would like it to have some sort of focus.

        • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

          True. I’m not an author…nor will I probably ever be, but my passion is
          leadership and worship music. I regularly blog on worship, worship music,
          leadership, and Christian life. I would write on whatever you are passionate
          about! Here’s my site so you can kinda see what I’m talking about:
          http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com

          _____

          • Joe Lalonde

            I checked out your blog Brandon. It looks good. One of my issues is that I’m not sure what I’m passionate about. Makes it a bit hard to write on it.

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            Thanks! True. Just pray about it and list somethings you are passionate
            about. If God wants you to develop a blog, He will help you! Also, I would
            encourage you to check out http://www.tentblogger.com. There is some awesome stuff
            on there for starting a new blog!

            _____

          • Joe Lalonde

            I’ll check out tentblogger. Thanks for the recommendation.

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            No problem! John has great resources!

            _____

        • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

          You could even try writing some articles before putting up an actual blog.  Try writing about some various topics and see which ones you really seem to click with.  You might try writing like you were sending thoughts/information/stories/inspiration to your friends – you could even put it into an email to a group of people and see what kind of feedback you get.

          This also gives you the added bonus of having several posts pre-written if you do decide to start a blog.

          The point would be…just start writing!

          • Joe Lalonde

            Steve, thanks for the advice on that. Maybe I will just start writing.

          • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

            Good point – a journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first step. Gotta start somewhere.

        • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

          When I started blogging two years ago I had no idea what I was going to say. After a while I got the hang of it, and my blog now is no where near what it used to be. Just start and see what interests you and go from there!

          • Joe Lalonde

            Great to hear that Dylan. I think I’m going to start blogging soon due to all the encouragement. We’ll see where it goes from there as everyone seems to say it gets better with time.

  • http://profiles.google.com/helenleemail Helen Lee

    Great advice! I think it also helps to change our perspective from one of “I have to build a platform to sell books” to “Building a platform enables more people to hear the message God has intended for me to share with others.” I hate to think about selling myself, but if I believe that God has given me ideas to share, then building a platform is ultimately about bringing Him the glory. That helps me to keep the right perspective about the platform-building process.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Very true Helen – I’d take it a step further.  Don’t think of of it as “building a platform” at all – just think of it as connecting with people who share your interests.  I think people forget that “Social Networking” – when broken down…. “Social” (Relating to human society and its members) Networking (making connections).  Glad you liked the article.

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        What do you think about doing give aways on your blog? I’ve been thinking of doing some for awhile…I already give away free 300×150 ads every month, but I want to do more than that.

        • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

          Personally, I think doing giveaways on GoodReads is more productive than your own blog. Every giveaway I’ve done there ha shad 600-1100 people signing up. That’s a lot of exposure that I could never hope to duplicate on my blog – and besides anyone already coming to my blog knows who I (or the author in question) is.  Doing a giveaway on a site that is already populated with readers is a great opportunity to get some recognition outside of your echo chamber.

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            Great idea! I think I will go check that site out…I’ve never heard of it
            before.

            Brandon

            “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the
            glory of God.”
            -I Corinthians 10:31

            http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com

            _____

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            Also, what % of people do you think would come from Goodreads to your blog?

            _____

          • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

            From just the “giveaway” – not many – but if you are a regular participant on the site – then many.  I used to follow up as people signed up for the giveaway pointing them to a page of my website where they could download a free sample. I used google analytics on that (as well as bitly) and saw several hundred people “looking to find out more” – in a world where 1% or 2% is considered successful getting 30% was great.

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            That’s awesome!

            _____

          • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

            Wow, Robin. That’s a good idea!

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            That is an intriguing idea – it makes a lot of sense.  I haven’t heard of GoodReads.  I will have to check it out.

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      That’s a great point, Helen. I try to do the same. I try to take my own glory out of the equation. Tough to do in your heart, but it helps me to be bold in moving forward. The only problem I’ve run into is misconceptions that people have. My heart may be to bring God glory, but I just look like an aggressive spammer if others don’t know my heart.

  • http://www.peaceforthejourney.com elaine @ peaceforthejourney

    I couldn’t agree more! Collective, community connection. I’ve spent four years getting to know my readers, and I do so because I like being in relationship with others.

    Thanks for posting.

    peace~elaine

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      That’s great elaine – you are way ahead of the curve. Readers love having a personal relationship with authors whose words they enjoy. Writing can be so solitary and with today’s interconnectivity writers can interact in ways that never existed in the past.

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    Timely thoughts, thank you! I find myself resembling this post a great deal. I hardly ever watch tv anymore and if I do I’m usually multitasking online! My poor kids have learned in the morning mommy is writing, daddy doesn’t sleep in as much now! I’m also becoming more comfortable about participating in online communities. I ask myself as much as I can, am I contributing value. Whether in a comment, a blog post, a retweet, a review, etc. I want to think about how I present myself and impact the people I’m interacting with.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      That’s so great Beck. If your focus is on contributing value – you’ll emerge as a natural leader within you community.

  • Anonymous

    I’d heard (pretty consistently) that if you want to get published these days, you need to have a platform to demonstrate your existing network and saleability. The tips here seem to presume I’m already published. {sigh} I’m still just aspiring. I’ve recently shifted focus to self-editing, believing the best path to getting published might be through self-publishing. I’m spread thin now (working full-time, writing/editing, novel-group member, blogging, twitter, etc) and wondering if I’m heading down the wrong path. Should I start seeking an agent/publisher and devote more time to building my network? Or just be patient (my current track)?

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Publication is not a pre-requisite. You can start partcipating in social networking even before you have something and have a ready made anxious audience when you do get something out.

      As far as whether self-publishing or traditional publishing is the right way to go. The good news is self-publishing is far more viable now than in the past. My husband’s series was originally self-published and I attribute his success there as a main reason he was picked up by a big-six publisher so quickly after submission.  I think it is important to make a list of your goals and see which path aligns the best with them – self or traditional. 

      Feel free to send me an email sometime (robin.sullivan.dc@gmail.com) and with a couple of key questions I might be able to help you figure out which path would fit you best.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks, Robin! I will take you up on your gracious offer!

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Besides, networking online isn’t done via smoke signals. So when you’re interacting socially online, you are writing. Coming up with a zingy tweet is a creative challenge no different from coming up with the next sentence of your book. You may even be able to use some of your social utterances in your work. (I’m not  a writer per se, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but literary cross-pollination between social networking and one’s “real” writing seems at least possible. It doesn’t have to be an either-or situation.)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great point. Thanks.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Great point Cyberquill. I think of some of the best posts my husband has written for his blog which are actually little “mini stories”. They happen to be about his life or writing but I find them just as entertaining as his fiction writing.  Here are three of my favorites:

      In the beginning: http://riyria.blogspot.com/2009/01/in-beginning.html

      Song of Bias and Prejudice: http://riyria.blogspot.com/2011/04/song-of-bias-and-prejudice.html

      Voices: http://riyria.blogspot.com/2011/07/voices.html

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      Totally agree!

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      So true.  I have had several posts that started as comments on someone else’s site or as emails that I have written to the volunteer teachers I work with at church.

  • http://twitter.com/susiedavis Susie Davis

    Fabulous advice, Robin.
    And it’s fun getting to know people online that you otherwise would never have a chance to meet.
    Thanks for the encouragement!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Glad you enjoyed Susie – and I agree I’ve met so many fantastic, caring people online – the Internet really has a way of bringing people together even when seperated by huge geographic distances. I feel so fortunate to live in a time that makes such things possible.

  • http://www.BrandieLagarde.com Brandie Lagarde

    Robin,
    I was shocked by this post because of how much it sounds like me and without knowing it I seem to be doing the right things by default of my personality. I am off to check out your blog, thanks for sharing because I feel very encouraged!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Brandie…That’s so great. I had a similar ah-ha moment recently listening to a Ted (great ideas worth sharing) video.  (http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang/eng//id/848) It talks about how some people know what they do, and others how they do it, but few can articulate why. I realized I had a huge “why” behind what I do and blogged about it here:

      What I believe: http://write2publish.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-i-belive-in.html

      I higly recommend everyone to check out the Ted Talk above it is exceptional.

      • C Swanson

        The Ted Talk Robin references is probably the best Ted Talk I’ve ever listened to. Definitely worth the few minutes. Grab a cup of coffee and a pencil/paper, sit down, and learn!

        • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

          Agree!  It’s well worth 18 minutes of your time.

      • Jmhardy97

        Robin,

        I really injoy the ten videos and this is another great one.

        Jim

        • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

          So glad you watched it – TED is like getting a MBO without paying tens of thosands to a college or doing any homework. it is a fantastic site.

  • Anonymous

    I love that picture!  To get to the next level, I was thinking of a free ebook to offer on my blog as well on other networking sites.  

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      That’s a great idea!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Laurinda – Do a giveaway on GoodReads – its a fantastic site to be on period but their author giveaway program generates a TON of interest.

      • Jmhardy97

        Thanks I have not heard of this before.

        Jim

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the recommendation Robin!

    • Jmhardy97

      Great Idea! There are other authors that I believe are having success with this.

      Jim

  • http://cynthiaherron.wordpress.com Cynthia Herron

    Ohhh, I needed this today. I’m a gal who’s learning as I go, Robin! Initially, I felt a little uncomfortable–like I was selfishly tooting my own horn, but it really is just as you say…it’s all about participation and forming relationships and everything you just mentioned. Thanks so much for this reminder today!

    Oh…what am I doing about platform? A seemingly small thing to most here…Learning the art of tweeting. (I’m creeping out of stealth mode one step at a time.)

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Learning as you go is great – with each tweet, or blog comment, or forum post it will get a little easier.  Keep your eye on the prize – which is contributing value and being a helpful member of the community and the rest will come naturally.

  • theresa anderson

    From someone who doesn’t like to sell anything, least of all myself; I appreciate the change in perspective. This article by Robin Sullivan showed me it’s not about sales, but about connecting with people. And, isn’t that why we write – to connect? With the pressure off, I’m free to be creative and mingle and network. Thanks!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Yeah!  You are exactly the type of person I was trying to reach with this post. And you are so right – this change in perspective should take the pressure off. I’m glad I was of help.

  • http://twitter.com/RookieWriter David Barry DeLozier

    Great post!  I only recently got back to the business of building a platform after a three-year hiatus.  I’ve been stunned by how loudly people try and sell, which makes me empathetic for agents and publishers who must hear this all the time.  Thanks for providing a timely reminder on the priority of building relationships.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Welcome back. I know exactly what you mean about people loudly selling.  They don’t realize that they are working against their own best interests. If they would spend that time participating, rather than saying – look at me…look at me. It would be more rewarding for both themselves and the people theat are hearing them.

  • Tk Beyond

    Michael, thanks for posting this article by Robin… it’s a great encouragement to me! I’m still at the first couple steps, but moving forward more steadily… thanks!

    • Tk Beyond

      Oops…. thank you Robin!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Hey Tk….thanks for reminding me to thank Michael. I used the steps he outlined on this blog for guest posts to construct it and it really helped me to focus my thoughts.  This was a great exercise for me and it seems like it is resonating with people so I’m a happy camper today.

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        I’m thankful for this site…and the people who make it run!

  • Lisa

    Love this post, Robin/Michael.  I was one of those author’s that didn’t want to “sell” myself — fought it with both of my previous books.  I have since done all the things you suggest, even before my new book was readied for release.  The biggest blessing for me has truly been the connect with people. In my “real” life, I have conversations with people that aren’t one sided; otherwise, I’d lose all my friends.  So I treat my online life with the same respect.  It’s a privilege for people to be interested in my work.  It is my belief that I honor them back by being interested in them.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Great point Lisa – that you need to treat people “online” with the same respect and giving way that you do in “real life”.  The medium of communication shouldn’t negate the golden rules.

  • http://www.eileenknowles.blogspot.com Eileen

    Great post.  Coming from someone who stinks at selling herself. And, who is not even at the point in my writing where I can.  I have recently started to understand one of the points you made.

     “It’s not about selling. It’s about participation. It’s about being a
    member of a community. It’s about connecting with people who share your
    interests.”     Thanks.  And, I love your picture!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Thanks!  I’m incredibly un-photogenic – this was one of the times when, as was said in the original movie Arthur, “The light hits her just right”.  I’m glad that this point resonated with you. It is at the core of all of this.

  • Aaron

    Good points. I recently started blogging seriously, and heavily utilizing and sharing my posts on twitter, facebook, and linkedin. Also, these platforms interconnect with each other. Update one and all the others are updated. But, since doing this I have seen my blog go from 34 visit per month to 400 visits per month, all within a 3 month period.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Wow – Aaron – that’s an incredible increase.  You must be saying things that really resonate with people – and they are telling others.  Word of mouth for books and blogs all work the same way – give people what they like and they’ll let others know.  Congratz on the success.

  • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

    Love this perspective! I’m a book publicist as well and I’ve learned that my efforts are most effective when I view each book not as a selling product, but as a ministry of words with the power to transform lives. This is how authors view their own books, and I enjoy connecting the right people who most need to hear this message with the book. But it falls flat on its face when we try to sell hard.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Glad you liked it Stephanie…and you are so right – authors write to entertain, touch, to connect with others. Social networking should be natural for such people but they are also artists and the thought of “selling” or “tooting ones horn” is so alien to them. Once they realize that it’s not about that – it can be very freeing and bring them back to what they wanted in the first place which is to connect with their readers.

  • Kay Camenisch

    Thank you! I feel like a social misfit when it comes to electronic connections of any kind, but I know I need to build my platform. I am already incorporating things you’ve posted earlier and this is also very helpful. More posts on the subject would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Glad you enjoyed it…and I bet you are not nearly as much of a misfit as you think you are – just be yourself, be genuine…and do as Lisa (above) suggested – treat people online the way you treat those in real life and you’ll be fine.

  • Lyndie Blevins

    What great advice! Even though it seems like common sense steps, there is nothing common or sensible about being on-line

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      I agree…most things along these lines are common sense – but without gentle reminders we sometimes forget about them. I’m always amazed when I come across a blog telling me something I already know but realize while reading it I hadn’t been doing what they suggest. 

  • http://stopdoingnothing.com Patrick Allmond

    Another aspect I take on self-promotion is to look at it in terms of promoting my information, not me. I have great information to share. It will help you. You are not buying me. You are buying the information I have painstakingly taken the time to organize and present to you. I sell solutions, and I sell less stress. 

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Patrick,
      It sounds like you are involved with non-fiction – I envy you as fiction is so much harder. You’re correct in that you have content that is providing a service and in fiction you are usually providing entertainment – you have a much easier job (imo) than the fiction writers.

  • http://www.thenarrowwaybook.com Chris Lemig

    I think the key here is to be genuine, just be yourself. Gradually, it becomes less about collecting friends and followers like they’re Monopoly money, and more about making real connections with real people.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Couldn’t agree more!  Thanks for posting.

  • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

    Great tips! I think that all of those you mentioned are essential.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Glad it was helpful to you!

  • Tim Blankenship

    I am not a writer/author, but find this helpful in networking in general. Thanks!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      I agree Tim…While my focus is on writers (as I run a small press and my husband is a successful writer) you are absolutely correct that approaching social networking in this way would work no matter what industry you are in.

  • http://twitter.com/andreayorkmuse Andrea York

    Commenting on other people’s blogs/tweets are fastest way to build a platform. I notice in the few short weeks that I’ve been blogging that the days that I don’t tweet or comment, my blog hits are fewer.

    However, as you said, it’s important to add to the conversation rather than just add noise.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Agree Andrea…as you mentioned you need to be “contributing”. Posting on other’s blogs are the thread that lead back to yours. It is a way of extending beyond your own echo chamber and invite people back to yours.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    I really like your point about forming relationships. Many people, including me at one time, viewed this in a very mercenary way. I was looking for people to scratch my back and was begrudgingly scratching a few backs to get to that point. But now I see that the relationships are not only key, but they have value in and of themselves. It’s a pleasure to have relationships with the great people I’ve met online.
    I do have one question, though. How does one go about developing an honest relationship with someone who’s platform is bigger? I don’t want them to feel like I just care about their platform and not them, and I’m wary of projecting an image of someone who is just using them.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      To be honest I never even think about the size of the personality when I’m posting on a blog. Whether their an industry heavy weight like Jane Friedman, or an  immensely popular write like Joe Konrath, or some newbie author that has 3 followers my actions are the same. Which is to say – I’m giving “my take” on the subject at hand. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I disagree.  Be yourelf.  Contribute. If people like what you’re saying they’ll seek you out on your own blog. 

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      A couple of helpful hints that I have learned is to be consistent (don’t show up for a little bit and then go away after you have gotten what you want) and to add value to the conversation.

      Take this blog for instance…you see a variety of people that have commented consistently over the last several months and you see people that are adding to the conversation, providing additional thoughts and even trying to help others in the community.  All of that goes to show that you are interested in the bigger picture.

      The reality is that everyone is “in it” for some benefit to them.  The difference is in your attitude, response, and coming with a willingness to engage for the benefit of others.

      • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

        I totally agree. It’s better to pick a few sites that you visit often then hitting and missing. If you show up occassionally and infrequently you’ll not have the same impact.

  • http://twitter.com/mgdobishinsky Michael Dobishinsky

    Awesome advise! If you believe in what you are doing you need to make the time to do the networking.
    ~Michaelwww.thecolorofsound.edublogs.org

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      No question that having “passion” for whatever it is you are interested in shows. So “believe in what you doing” is contagious.

  • http://twitter.com/mgdobishinsky Michael Dobishinsky

    Great advice! If you believe in what you are doing you have to put the time in.
    ~Michaelwww.thecolorofsound.edublogs.org

  • http://ericspeir.com/ Eric

    I really like this post. I’m an aspiring writer and blogger and for the longest time I struggled with “promoting” myself but I’ve come to the point that I don’t have to sell something to people. I’m learning that the greatest influence that we have with people is by adding value to their life. If we can add value to people’s lives then we have influence. If we have influence then we won’t have to worry about pedaling our books!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Bingo!  That’s a great way to sum it up.

  • McNair WIlson

    I only hate doing my own self-PR. I enjoy seeing and learning from others’ self promotion. Being retweeted, having folks quote me or link to my blog: “These are a few of my favorite things” … in self promoting. I seek to serve others in a way that is worthy of being promoted by others. AND …I believe I need to toot the horn the Creator gave me. (It’s not a museum piece.)

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Learning from observing others is great advice. And yes it is great when someone likes what you have to say enough to retweet or come over to your blog to comment.

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  • http://aprilmcgowan.com April Mcgowan

    It’s hard to build a platform before you have published your first book…but I’m slowly doing it through blogging and posting blogs on writing forums, Facebook and Twitter…1500 hits last year. Just gotta keep on going.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      I commend you for starting before you’re published. It will pay off in the long run. The nice thing is once you do have a book out there – all you have to do is make it known that it exists and you’ll gain immediate sales.  Many don’t start until its too close to release time and then it appears (whether it is or not) as predatory.  You’re way ahead by starting now.

      • http://byrdmouse.wordpress.com Jonathan

        I, too am on the way outside, not having finished anything but a novella (though my novel is getting close now) but still working on building a platform. I’ve been Tweeting for some time and blogging since Apr and suddenly feel good for having had 900+ hits on my blog so far.
        One thing I’ve noticed the blogging and tweeting doing is improving my writing, making it more concise and focused. An added feature is the increased desire to be writing on the novel instead of other things.
        The days I have the most hits are days that I am actively participating in other blogs.

        • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

          The fact that you are watching your hits is very good.  It allows you to see a direct correlation between what you are doing and whether people are following you back to you r echo chamber. Watching this on a regular basis helps you to know if your contributing in a way that is resonating with people. I’m a big believer in using quantative data to drive your actions – good for you!

  • http://twitter.com/mattplynn Matt Lynn

    This is great advice. I’m on week 5 of starting up a new blog and I’m starting to get really sick of the self-promotion game. I like Robin’s relational approach to social networking. It’s more time-consuming and not as easy, but the pay-off is worth it.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      It is certainly more time consuming…but in many ways I find it easier than going a more “hard sell” approach.  For me it changes the whole online experience from something I would dread doing to something I actually enjoy.

  • http://twitter.com/SusanMeissner Susan Meissner

    Very encouraging. I am a marshmallow when it comes to marketing. I bought my own Girl Scout Cookies when I was a kid. But I can do this. I can observe, participate, contribute, inform and be a friend. This I can do.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Great Susan – You’re exactly the person I was hoping to inspire – thanks for letting me know that I hit my mark.

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony Alicea

    This is such solid advice. I only wish more people would use it! There is so much self-promotion on social networks (namely Twitter) that it’s overwhelming.

    I would add one more point that many don’t consider. Or at least they don’t do it.

    6. Share Your Platform

    So many get so focused on “their” thing, that they forget what it was like to be a little guy. Rather than put someone on your shoulders to help them reach farther, many people push down and require that others “put in the hard work like they had to”.

    I think we would see much more progress overall if more people were inclined to share their platform like Michael Hyatt did here for you.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Reaching out and lending a hand always comes back two fold. Personally, my experience has not been one of “pushing down those that have not paid their dues”. Guest blogging, as Michael has allowed me to do here is great for both parties becuase they get  “a day off” when someone else is creating the content to keep their rapid fans well fed, and the person doing the posting gets exposure to a new group of people they hae never heard of them before.  If there is a blog you regularly visit and comment at – send the creator an email with an idea for a quest post – if it is is on topic and would resonate with their readers I think you’ll find you almost always get a “yes”.

  • http://twitter.com/CoachTheresaIF Theresa Ip Froehlich

    Tony, I totally agree with you about sharing your platform. If we all see ourselves as networkers for everyone else, we can all build synergy and can all benefit.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Synergy is a powerful force. When more than one person is contributing (through guest blog posts and the like its a win-win for both.

  • http://twitter.com/CoachTheresaIF Theresa Ip Froehlich

    I am doing the social media networking and I get what you’re saying, Robin. What I have to overcome isn’t the lack of knowledge about those points you made, but rather I am a face-to-face networker.
    I am already doing it, and I am trying to stay with it.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      That’s interesting Thresa – that you do a lot of face-to-face networking. I personally find that online is more efficient because I can reach more people, and reach them while I’m asleep or doing other things as posts have a longer lifespan than a one time meeting with people. But do whatever you are comfortable with and what works for you.

  • Kennisha

    Hi Michael! I was just talking to my husband about this yesterday- the truth about relationship building and not working so hard to “sell” yourself. I am more likely to purchase something from someone who I feel is “likable” even if I don’t read their particular type of book. There are many people like that out there who merely would love to be a support if you’re a sweetheart. I can’t stand the constant “buy me buy me” antics. 

    Really great word there. Thanks!

    Kennisha

    • Anonymous

      Kenisha – see my thoughts above .. beginning with “Whenever people of faith discuss …” (Everyone hates the “buy me buy me? folks.) Self-promotion can be offered in humility, and as a servant. But if you (or your husband are great horn players, BLOW THEM.)

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      I’m glad my post resonates with you. There is a great Ted video about people buying from you because of what you believe in (i.e. why you are doing what you do) rather than when you tell them “what” you do.  You should check it out.

      http://bit.ly/mBeenS 

      It’s 18 minutes of pure inspiration.

  • Kennisha Hill

    And now I realized I didn’t answer your question. Sorry for my little rant :)

    Since I write a singels column and get a lot of feedback, I thought a cool idea would be to do video’s a week that discuss hot topics and giveaways for them. Videos seem more personal and fun. I’m going to try it and see how that works. Blogging and connecting via Twitter and Facebook are great ways to connect with your platform. I’ve connected with so many that way!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Videos are great. It gets more of “you” across – I really should use this medium more.  Thanks for reminding me.

  • http://Lbgtmsf.com Ted Werth

    As someone who has recently started to learn about Twitter, I found this very helpful and encouraging.

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Great Ted – I’m glad it was helpful.

  • http://www.mosaicmiamichurch.com Kev sutherland

    Going to start looking and watching… very informative! Great for newbies like me! 

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Kev, as a newbie – this should get you off on the right foot – many people start on the whole “look at me”…”buy my book” approach when if they had started out with this approach it would have been so much better for them. So good for you for being able to “start right”.

  • http://www.mosaicmiamichurch.org Shari Charles

    Really enjoyed this! really great info, without feeling overwhelmed with too much info, so that i never start! 

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      Thanks Shari – when it comes to social networking remember that you can do as little or as much as you feel comfortable with. Doing it for a short period everyday is better than doing a long period once a week.  Small steps are good steps.

  • http://byrdmouse.wordpress.com Jonathan

    So take the same approach that works with leading people to Christ? To not try and cram Christianity and/or book sales down their throat but rather befriend, participate with, and build relationships that make them want what you are selling (be it Christianit or books).

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      If that is the approach you’ve been using – I’m sure you’re getting many more people listening to your message. Yeah this approach works for any type of message you want to get across to people.

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  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    There is nothing like encouragement, whether it’s from friends, or people you have “met” through social networking. I have been lifted up by many through social networking. So blessed!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      We live in faboulous times when we can touch and be touched by people we’ve never even seen and who live hundreds or thosands of miles away.

      • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

        indeed. 

  • http://www.echristianjewelry.com/ Breanne

    Social Networking is HUGE!~ It is SO true, people like it better when you participate rather than trying to sell, sell, sell and telling people to buy, buy buy. Great insights! Totally agree!

    • http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com Robin Sullivan

      I’m glad you enjoyed it.