by Eldred "Bob" Bird
Most authors spend more time than they expected pondering their author platform. With the world slowly beginning to open up again it’s time to look at the other side of the coin—the Offline Platform. Take a look here for a refresher on what makes up your Online Author Platform in Part 1. If you are ready to reconnect in person there are plenty of opportunities to grow your brand.
The Three Legs of Your Offline Platform
The offline author platform is supported by the same three legs as the online platform—visibility, authority, and reach. Let’s take a look at how each one plays out in the real world.
Visibility relates to how easy you are to find. In this age of social media and the internet, it’s difficult to think in terms of our visibility in the physical world. How do we make ourselves stand out?
- Get in front of the readers.
Book launches and signings at your local bookstore are a great way to get in front of readers, but not the only way. Check out book fairs as well. If you can’t afford a table, talk to other writers and offer to share a table and split the fee.
- Get in front of other writers.
Writer’s conferences and workshops are not just for honing your craft, they’re a great place to network with other writers, editors, and sometimes agents as well. You never know who you might meet, or how they might help to boost your writing career (like asking you to guest post on an award-winning writer’s blog!).
Remember to always have business cards in your pocket, ready to hand out to your new contacts. If you don’t have cards, get some. They don’t cost much and will give you a good return on investment. Hand them out to everyone you engage with and remember to ask for their card as well. Check out this article about networking by John Peragine.
Do you belong to a local writer’s group? Talk to the organizer. I cut my teeth as a presenter by getting up and speaking to a group I’ve belonged to for several years. The familiar faces made it easier to dip my toes into the waters of public speaking.
Also consider presenting at conferences, both local and national. Chances are you’ve picked up some knowledge along your writing journey that others will benefit from. Write a proposal and submit it to the conference organizers. The worst that can happen is they say “no.”
- Talk to bookstore owners, managers, and employees.
Building a relationship with your local bookstore, be it an independent or chain, is always a good move. Remember to be kind, be a good listener, and above all, don’t be obnoxious. You’re selling yourself, not just your books. Visit the libraries in your area as well. Talk to the librarians about your work and offer to get involved in some of their events.
Authority asks the question, “What is it that gives you credibility in your space?” This is especially important if you write non-fiction. People want to know why they should read your book, rather than someone else’s.
- Are you published?
Whether traditional or self-published, having your work out and available in the real world makes a big difference. If your books are on the shelf in bookstores and/or libraries, so much the better! Publication in journals and magazines boost your authority as well.
- Have you attended or taught workshops?
Education, be it workshops, or college courses, carries big credibility. While a degree (especially for fiction writers) isn’t required, it can open a lot of doors. Having an MFA under your belt shows a major dedication to the craft.
Teaching classes and workshops raises your credibility even more. Make sure to mention your past teaching experiences when putting together a proposal for presentations.
- Do you have any awards?
If you’ve won awards for your writing it says you’re someone worth listening to. Make mention of them in proposals, bios, and any promotional materials you hand out at workshops and appearances. You worked hard for those awards, so flaunt them!
Reach is exactly what it sounds like. It’s about your ability to reach your target audience. Reach is not just about getting your name in front of people but getting it in front of the right people and getting them to respond.
- Have you done interviews in print media?
While circulation has dropped for the big newspapers, a lot of small local ones are still going strong. Community-focused papers are a great way to get exposure in your own city or town. Many are happy to feature local writers and artists. That leads us to the next question.
- Do you have a press kit?
When setting up an interview or sending a press release to the local media, it’s a good idea to include some information about yourself as a writer. Usually done in digital form these days, your press kit should at the very least include your bio, your headshot, a bibliography of your work (with cover images), and your contact information, including email, websites, and social media. You should also include other promotional images and logos if you have them.
- Always have promotional materials on hand.
We’re talking about business cards, postcards, bookmarks and other swag. When making an appearance, always have something you can put in people’s hands. Check out this WITS post by Sherry Ficklin to learn more about using swag to extend your reach.
- Do you use physical mailing lists?
It may sound “old school” to do physical mailings, but it can pay off. Get postcards printed and send them to libraries and bookstores. Emails are easy to bypass, delete, or lose to a spam filter, but a physical card in someone’s hand is going to catch some attention.
Some Final Thoughts
In the current technology-driven landscape, it’s difficult to separate your online and offline efforts. The simple truth is you can’t. Each effort supports the other, creating a much stronger overall author platform. Your online presence is going to help you get those real-world bookings. Likewise, your offline efforts help you make connections, build credibility, and may even give you fodder for your online content.
You may not be ready to step back out in public quite yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning and booking those appearances now. Be cautious, be confident, and be bold. Potential readers are out there waiting to hear from you!
What in-person efforts have worked well for you, or someone you know? What do you wish you'd done differently? Feel free to ask questions down in the comments - we have a great community of platform-builders here!
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Eldred Bird writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and personal essays. He has spent a great deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his home state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing Karma, Catching Karma, and the soon to be released Cold Karma, reflect this love of the Grand Canyon State even as his character solves mysteries amidst danger. Eldred explores the boundaries of short fiction in his stories, The Waking Room, Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.
When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time cycling, hiking and juggling (yes, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives). His passion for photography allows him to record his travels. He can be found on Twitter or Facebook, or at his website.