SPECIAL FEATURE: School of Hard Knocks with Ellen Butler

“School of Hard Knocks”
Lessons Learned by a Plucky Writer
by Ellen Butler

I consider myself a fairly seasoned writer. My tenth novel is publishing this month, and I’ve got my first short story coming out in a mystery magazine. I believe one of the biggest lessons learned, in my six years as a published author, is that whether you are traditionally published by a big house, through a small press, or independently published—all of which I’ve done—you are going to have to create a platform and take a hand in marketing to be successful. If you are lucky enough to sign a contract with a big publishing house, you may think you’ve got it made. “I’ll just sit back and ride the wave.” Don’t kid yourself. That publishing house expects you to take a chunk of that juicy advance and plough it right back into the book’s success through marketing. My best piece of advice to new and aspiring authors—begin creating your platform now.

What do I mean by platform? You may have heard of “product branding,” and that’s how you need to think of this new publishing business. You and your book are the products and you’ll need to prepare a platform for your brand. In other words, if you don’t have an author website, get one. Determine what your social media handles will be and start researching where your readers hang out. Social media can include—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Bookbub, Pinterest, TikTok, and Snapchat. Identify your demographic. Younger readers may be on Snapchat and TikTok. Older readers, Goodreads and Facebook. Authors have become very successful connecting with readers in Goodreads by joining groups in their genre and participating in meaningful discussions. Once you’ve identified where your reading demographic hangs out, set up accounts under your new handle and begin engaging your future readers.

Additionally, I have found that some of my best reader interaction is through conferences and signings. Do some research and find out what conferences your readers are attending. If you write sci-fi/fantasy, then Dragon Con is probably for you. Mystery writers and readers attend Boucher Con, or Thrillerfest. If you can’t afford a big international conference, check your state and local library festivals; many have at least one or two book festivals during the year. Reach out to the coordinator and figure out how you can participate.

Remember you and your book are now the product. Determine how you want to present yourself to the public and get started. The more you engage with your readership, the better your book is going to sell. Let’s be honest, this is a business and the bottom-line matters. I recommend new authors learn to be proactive, the sooner the better to set yourself up for success.

Ellen Butler is the international bestselling author of the Karina Cardinal mysteries, her newest novel, Pharaoh’s Forgery is releasing September 16.

She just wanted a little downtime. But now she’s running out of time…

Cancun was supposed to be a relaxing getaway. Instead, thanks to Mrs. Thundermuffin and an Egyptian death mask, Karina and fellow lobbyist Rodrigo are besieged by crooks, conmen, kidnappers, and killers. When things really erupt into chaos, they could be going home in the tackiest of souvenirs—a body bag.

Preorder Now!

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Jocie McKade
Her fiction writing has received the Author / Ambassador at Library Journal Self-e Authors, Winner Queen of the West Reader Favorite Award, Amazon Bestseller - Historical, Double finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Mystery and Humorous Categories. Writing humorous cozy mysteries and romantic comedy, Jocie can find humor in most everything, even when she shouldn't. She lives in the Midwest on Dust Bunny Farm with her family.

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