Build Your Platform For Yourself, Not An Individual Book: A Quick Note on Platform Building

platforms via pinterest

Get it because platform? Photo via Pinterest

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of queries through the ol’ P.S. Literary inbox from authors who have, for one reason or another, built out entire websites and social media presences for their books.

Books that aren’t out yet.

I see the same thing, again and again. Sometimes it’s a fully fleshed out website dedicated to a book, complete with an about section, synopsis, detailed bits about the characters and the like. Other times, the author is using a Twitter handle, named after the book, with a link to the book’s website in the bio. Or maybe even a Facebook fan page, for the book, with periodic updates about that book, and almost always, there are like, a dozen fans.

Please. You must stop this.

Not that this is a bad thing that’ll turn agents and editors away (though they might think the book is out already, be careful!), but because it’s a waste of your valuable time. Time that could be spent building something worthwhile.

Here’s what I think the problem is.

I think there’s something getting lost out there in the advice that gets dished out on writing and publishing websites. Because let’s be real, the platform discussion is one that gets brought up pretty constantly. I mean, all the time. Always. Forever. I hear the same shtick again and again, no matter what conference I go to. Build a homebase. Work on your social media profiles. Build your #brand social-media-buzzword-nonsense-blah-blah-blah.

And while that advice is correct, and you should have an online presence and all that… it should be for you.

Not for your book.

Let me explain. Your online platform, as an author writing fiction or non-fiction, should (and can) do a few things. It should introduce the world to you, the writer. It should be a jumping off point for you, in terms of networking and interacting with the community (ie: writing blog posts!). It should help with buy-in, showcasing you as a person that’s worth looking into. What are you like? What are you reading?

It should not be just for your book.

Here’s the thing, after your book is published… there is a window of time that it gets marketed and pushed. And eventually, after that window between building buzz and post-publication, the push slowly stops. Unless you become a monumental bestseller, reviews are going to slow down. People will stop tweeting about it. And eventually, you’ll move on to your next book.

Your next book.

That’s the thing, you guys.

If you spend all this time building up a platform for an individual book, you are putting all your effort into something that, in the end, won’t get utilized anymore. If you’re constructing an entire Twitter persona off the title of your book… what happens when you’re working on that next book? Do you make a new Twitter handle? Do you change your current handle, and consequently, complicate your links across the Internet because now none of them will work, and point to something outdated? What about that Facebook fan page for your book? What of that? Will your audience navigate over to the new fanpage? How many?

If you use your time creating a platform for an individual title, instead of working on yourself… you run the risk of having something totally useless down the line.

Look. I want you to think about the reason you create a community.

You do it because one doesn’t exist, right? That’s why you bother to build a community online. Because you see a need for it someplace. So… is there an absolute need for the website and social media presence for your individual, singular book?

No.

The communities exist out there for it already.

From bloggers to the mass media, BookTubers to well-established community reading platforms like Goodreads, LibraryThing, etc… these exist to be, in some way, the platforms for your book. People have built them, and they are incredible (especially book bloggers, I love you guys). Down the line, when you’re published, your publisher’s website will have details about your book, full of resources and valuable materials.

You don’t need an individual site for it. The communities exist out there already. There’s no need to create one.

When you’re published, and maybe have a series? Sure. Then talk about building out a website. There are SO many great microsites out there for book series, that dish out stuff for die-hard fans and work as places to gather information for educators, librarians, etc. And those are generally created when there isn’t a place to house that stuff. But, that comes later, you guys. Much later.

You will impress agents and editors far more with a solid online presence that’s about you. In addition to your book, they are interested in YOU. Very much so. Remember, you’re someone they want to build a career with. Sure, they want to sell your book, but that website isn’t going to help.

Your prose will.

So refocus that platform. Create a website that showcases you as an author. If you’re looking for absolutely stellar examples of that, here are a number of authors that have spectacular online platforms, who I bring up in just about every talk I give at conferences.

Check them out, and learn a few things. Good luck, and remember… focus on YOU. Other people on the Internet will take care of your book’s platform for you. I promise.

Book Expo America 2016: Recap, Top Ten Books I’m Psyched About

bea

Ah, BEA.

This year’s BEA was really the first Book Expo I’ve been to as like, a fully grown literary agent. I went last year, but I was just one month in, and didn’t even have proper business cards yet. This time around, I had a few book sales under my belt, actual business cards like an adult, and meetings scheduled with editors at a few publishers.

On the agent side of things, BEA was a delight. I nudged editors at publishing houses I’d yet to meet anyone at, had some great meetings, and met up with three of my brilliant YA authors, Dave Connis, Samira Ahmed, and Lizzie Cooke. I was lucky enough to be able to bring Dave and Samira to a few events, and seriously felt like a proud Dad while watching Dave network at a YA author meetup.

What? It’s not weird.

authors

Me, Samira, and Lizzie, breakfasting for like three hours. It was awesome.

dave danielle

Dragging Dave around to things, hanging with Danielle Paige.

I also managed to squeeze in a bunch of workshops with writers, and attended the Chicago SCBWI’s meeting (with over 40 members!) to talk about agenting and querying on Thursday evening, and on Saturday, the Chicago Writers Workshop, to take queries before jetting back off to The Book Con for a panel.

Saturday night at The Book Con, I got to host an in-discussion panel with Michael DiMartino and Leopoldo Gout. You might know Mike from his work co-creating Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Leo has worked producing numerous James Patterson movies and television shows. It was an absolutely honor, and a HUGE thank you goes out to the Fierce Reads crew for having me out.

Other quick highlights of BEA including getting to see so many of my blogger friends, BookRioters, BookTube pals, and author BFFs. I finally met David Arnold, Danielle PaigePaul Kruger, and Dhonielle Clayton, after being buddies on the Internet forever. I had the pleasure of getting to hangout with the brilliant Anna-Marie McLemore, who promptly prank texted me the entire weekend (seriously check that out here). And I only fanboyed a little bit when I met the hilarious John Corey Whaley.

Okay, maybe a lot. Whatever.

bookmarks

Oh, and did I mention that Bloomsbury was handing out Branded bookmarks? What a thrill! It was really fun to see my lil’ book getting some push at BEA this year, especially when it’s paired up with two other fantastic titles, AND being given out with temporary tattoos for Isaac Fitzgerald’s next book. Super honored. <3

All in all, 10/10, would go again.

Now, as for those books.

I managed to snag a mind-boggling amount of ARCs, and might have been seen leaving a party early just so I could go to a Target and buy a bag to lug them all home. Out of all of them, these are the ten I’m the most excited about… though I should note I’m SUPER psyched to get A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir and History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. Couldn’t snag one at the con. Someone send me those please.

As for what I picked up… here we go! All book links in the list will take you to Goodreads, so please, go add these to your shelves, and join in the excitement.

five books top

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold: I’ll be honest. I wasn’t leaving Chicago without a copy of this book. It was either I’d get this book at BEA, or I would have to wait in Chicago until the book came out, wandering the streets, shouting at the sky outside Barnes & Noble. His debut, Mosquitoland, was one of my favorite books of 2015 (you can see that list here on Paste), and I definitely need his followup. I even got it signed.

Teach Me To Forget by Erica M. Chapman: I ran into Erica while wandering the convention, and was bummed to have missed her signing. But gasp! She said there were still copies at her publisher, Merit Press. So I booked it over there, and promptly held her book to my chest, ever-so-tightly. Rumor has it this one brings the tears. I am ready.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova: I waited in line for this one. Zoraida and I actually went to Mexico last month on a writing retreat together (expect a blog on that soon, btw) and she didn’t have an ARC for me! The vacation was almost canceled. I waited patiently until BEA to get her latest, and I’m psyched to dive into this book full of culture and witchcraft.

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner: This book has been getting a lot of buzz on the ol’ bookish Twitter, so it was way up at the top of my must-grab list when I was wandering BEA. Out with Candlewick in September, it sounds like a pretty devastating read about loss and grief. More tears! Ya’ll know I like to cry. The ARC has a pretty photo on the front of people swimming, so I think this will be an ARC I keep. <3

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige: While I was really happy to meet Danielle at BEA this year (FINALLY), I was double excited to get the first book in her new series. The crew over at Bloomsbury (who were giving out Branded bookmarks, those sweethearts), hooked me up with an early copy, and I’m excited to see Paige’s take on another fairytale gone wrong.

four books

Spindle by E.K. Johnston: How. Did. This. Happen. I was rushing by the Disney booth when an all-too-familiar cover caught my eye. I LOVED Johnston’s A Thousand Nights, and spotting the companion novel sent my heart racing. This one isn’t even out until December. So excited. They’d just put the ARCs out when I snagged one, and they promptly were devoured by the book hungry hordes. No surprise. Johnston is fantastic.

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles: Man there is a lot of buzz going on for this book. There’s even a blurb on that back of it from Peter Jackson. As in, the guy who directed the Lord of the Rings movies Peter Jackson. There’s a bounty hunter from Hell in it! And romance! Just… just gimme, I need to start this now.

Mice of the Round Table by Julie Leung: So Julie is actually in my writing group here in Philly. Or was. SHE LEFT US FOR NEW YORK. But oh, I am so excited for her middle grade debut. It’s charming, involves adorable mice that run around with swords and shields. It’s like middle grade Mouseguard, which is one of my favorite things in the world. Can’t wait. So proud.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West: I managed to snag this one during an ARC drop over at Holiday House, and focuses on an orphan who finds herself roped into a magical world, inspired by a number of myths and legends, including the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. So… yes. I am here for this.

Resurrecting Sunshine by Lisa A. Koosis: When I ran over to Albert Whitman for a Very Professional Agent Meeting (TM) I managed to stumble on Lisa’s signing. We chatted a bit and she was absolutely delightful, so I’m already way excited for her debut novel. YA contemporary, yes! And it’s about CLONING. Leaving the cover blank on this one, since I don’t think they revealed it yet. I don’t want to mess that up.

So these are the books! Look for them!

Book Blogger Giveaway: Win One of Ten Summer Books

giveaways books

One of the lovely things for writing for a bundle of websites, is that I get sent lots of ARCs. And with summer here, publishers are sending their “summer reading recommendation” bundles on out. And while getting hefty envelopes full of a half dozen books is lovely, when you’ve just come back from BEA (a post on that soon!) with like two dozen books…

Well, I’d like to get these into the hands of some more reviewers, and get these some love! I only have so much time to write.

So! Time for a giveaway, just for book bloggers. Because ya’ll are my people.

I’ve got ten books (seven ARCs, three finished hardcovers) to dish out. You can enter to snag one by entering the Rafflecopter below, which you can do just by leaving a comment about which ones you’re interested in. At the end of next week, I’ll pluck out ten people at random, and send each of you a book you were into. Done and done.

The catch? You have to be a book blogger, and you have to be in the US. Sorry, can’t ship international. It’s too expensive.

Here we go!

RUINED by Amy Tintera (Finished Hardcover): Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped. [More on Goodreads]

QUEEN OF HEARTS by Colleen Oakes (Finished Hardcover): As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life. [More on Goodreads]

THE CAT KING OF HAVANA (ARC, Out in September): Rick Gutierrez is . . . the Cat King of Havana! A cat-video tycoon turned salsa-dancer extraordinaire, he’ll take Cuba by storm, romance the girl of his dreams, and ignite a lolcat revolution! [More on Goodreads]

THE FIXES by Owen Matthews (ARC, Out in August): Gossip Girl meets Heathers in this wicked YA novel about a group of high school A-listers on a mission to root out phoniness in their sun-drenched beachside town. [More on Goodreads]

GIRLS MANS UP by M.E. Girard (ARC, Out in September): All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. [More on Goodreads]

THE DARK ARMY by Joseph Delaney (ARC, Out in September): Newly risen from the dead, Thomas Ward has been tasked with leading an army into battle against the dark, alongside his apprentice, Jenny, and the witch assassin Grimalkin. But their battle goes terribly wrong, and Tom’s situation seems hopeless until Alice—a powerful witch turned to the dark—appears. [More on Goodreads]

THE KING SLAYER by Virginia Boecker (ARC, Out in June, I LOVE THIS BOOK YOU GUYS): Former witch hunter Elizabeth Grey is hiding within the magically protected village of Harrow, evading the price put on her head by Lord Blackwell, the usurper king of Anglia. Their last encounter left Blackwell ruined, but his thirst for power grows stronger every day. [More on Goodreads]

TRUE LETTERS FROM A FICTIONAL LIFE by Ken Logan (ARC, Out in June): If you asked anyone in his small Vermont town, they’d tell you the facts: James Liddell, star athlete, decent student and sort-of boyfriend to cute, peppy Theresa, is a happy, funny, carefree guy. [More on Goodreads]

THE HAWKWEED PROPHECY by Irena Brignull (ARC, Out in June): The babies were born as the clock struck twelve. A bat fell from the air mid-flight. A silver salmon floated dead to the surface of the river. Snails withered in their shells, moths turned to dust on the night breeze and an owl ate its young. The spell had been cast. [More on Goodreads]

THE OUTLIERS by Kimberly McCreight (Finished Hardcover): Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself. [More on Goodreads]

a Rafflecopter giveaway

BRANDED: Inked 2 Gets a Cover, Title, & Publication Date!

branded cover

 

Oh.

Oh my.

It’s happening.

Last week, while I was on my lil’ writing retreat with Adi Alsaid and Zoraida Cordova (more on that in a future blog post soon, you guys), YA Interrobang unveiled the title and cover for Inked 2. BRANDED will hit eReaders everywhere on September 8th via Bloomsbury’s digital imprint, Bloomsbury Spark.

Jenny Zemanek designed the cover, and she also works on covers by a number of other lovely Bloomsbury Spark authors, including Actual BFF ® Ashley Poston, who writes YA books I adore. Definitely check out Jenny’s portfolio here. She’s a rockstar.

BRANDED is available for pre-order via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other e-retailers now, and you can add it on Goodreads. Please do!

I’ll launch a fun pre-order campaign soon, so keep an eye out for that. Folks who pre-order will get a signed poster pack from Inked, Branded, and a really lovely quote illustration that Ashley Poston drew a while back. You can see that here. If you pre-order it, drop me an email at ericsmithrocks at gmail dot com, and I’ll make sure you’re on that mailing list.

bunny posters

Look how cute those posters are! Please note, bunny will NOT be included.

And speaking of mailing lists!

If you’re a book blogger that’s interested in a review copy of Branded, let me know! As ya’ll know from my days at the Quirk Books HQ, I LOVE BOOK BLOGGERS TERRIBLY. If you want a review copy of Branded, email me, and I’ll make sure there’s one in your inbox.

Huge thank you to Nicole at YA Interrobang for doing the reveal! And of course, to Dawn Frederick for her tireless work as my agent, Meredith Rich for her patience with my frequent ellipsis use, and my dear Kristina for the continued push. Can’t wait for September.

So I Favorited Your Tweet in a Twitter Pitch Event [Updated]

turn chair

Oh, hello #PitMad / #PitchMatch / etc. participants! I didn’t see you there. Come on in, have a seat.

Did I favorite your tweet during a pitch event on the ol’ Twitter? Awesome. That means I want to read your stuff. Gimme. Here’s what to do to make sure I get your query and partial manuscript:

1. Start composing that email! You’re going to want to send your query on over to query@psliterary.com. Please don’t use my personal email here on this blog. When you send an email to the query box, all the agents at P.S. get to see it. That way, if it isn’t for me, someone else might scoop it up. We like to share!

2. In your Subject, put Twitter Request for Eric and the title of your book. There are almost always a few P.S. Literary agents participating in Twitter pitch events, so you want to make sure yours gets to me.

3. In your email, include your Twitter handle, your Twitter pitch, your full query letter, and attach the first 50 pages of your manuscript. Attaching those pages is important. If you paste that much, it’ll probably get cut off.

4. Click send!

If I’m interested, you’ll certainly hear back from me in a few weeks.

Note, this blog post idea was gleefully stolen from Maria, another agent at P.S. Literary who is awesome. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and follow her blog on Tumblr.