I used my own modest platform to build a following for DBW's Twitter account and early content. Rather than blow a limited marketing budget on traditional channels and standard registration promotions, I built our email list by producing three free webinars ahead of the first conference, and promoting them via paid emails to used Publishers Weekly's email list. I also launched a weekly "webcast" called DBW Roundtable where a panel of industry colleagues discussed the topic of the week, not only steadily building our audience and email list, but also serving as a test lab for potential conference programming and speakers. My content strategy wasn't to make DBW another traditional media outlet, but a trusted platform for informed opinions and industry expertise that offered the kind of actionable insights we promised at the annual conference—on a year-round basis. In doing so, it would not only ensure the continued relevance of the annual conference, it would also become a steady source of new ideas, content, and voices while also developing additional revenue streams.
“Most book marketing advice comes from authors who’ve had commercial success with books but no actual marketing experience. Many are taking advice that isn’t meant for them yet because they're not where they need to be,” explained Kilby Blades, an award-winning indie author and professional marketer, sharing practical insights for effective paid marketing strategies with WDC19 attendees.
"Market research is a very dry, dull topic, but finding and connecting with readers is how we make money." Too often, market research is limited to the basics—high-level demographics (age, gender, income) and/or broad genre interests (science fiction, romance)—leading to target audiences that either don't actually exist, or worse, reflect the researchers' personal interests. To find the right readers for a specific book or author, Amy Collins encourages writers to set aside personal assumptions and dig deeper.
In 2019, I remain astounded (but not totally surprised) by how many authors' platforms lack the basics—if they have one at all—but far more egregiously, too many publishers are way behind the curve with their own platforms, doing a disservice to the authors they've committed to support and help succeed. If you're querying a publisher—big or small, traditional or hybrid—you (or your agent) should be able to satisfactorily address these three planks of their own platform before they inquire about yours. Each one is potentially more important than the size of your advance, and definitely more important than the size of your own Twitter following or email list.
Since Google Reader shut down back in 2013, there's arguably been no worthy replacement, partly because it helped accelerate the death of the individual blog and relegated RSS feeds to a tertiary distribution channel that most sites barely pay attention to these days. Over the years, I've used an unwieldy combination of Instapaper, Feedly, Twitter lists and Gmail filters (for the most useful email newsletters I subscribe to) to stay connected to my primary sources, and only a handful make the cut heading into 2019—including one social network that became unexpectedly useful in 2018.