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Part III: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
By Erika-Marie S. Geiss
December, 2007, 13:59

Pound drums, knock on doors, send emails, make sure everyone hears about your book.
In part one of this series I described my experience with learning why an author needs to have a platform. Part two focused on the electronic part of your platform. In this final segment, you will learn how to maximize the network of people that you can reach in person.
Classes, Seminars And Other Speaking Engagements

If you have the opportunity to do public speaking engagements then remember to get contact information from the participants and the group leader or organization. With this information, you have a built-in audience, especially if it's a regular gig.

For example, on the heels of publishing my book Passion Of Christ, a local art group contacted me to give a lecture and do a book signing. Now, when my next book is released, I can send that information to their coordinator, and she will share it with the members.

Further, when you give a class, seminar, or lecture, ask the participants to provide their contact information so that you can send them information. (Be sure that doing so does not conflict with any other agreements of your speaking or teaching engagement.) Reassure those who sign your list that it will not be used for spam, and perhaps let them know how frequently you will contact them. Get them used to the idea of receiving your e-news, so that they don't ignore it when you come out with Something Big; you want them to be eager to buy it.
Set Realistic Expectations

If you are willing to do book signings and speaking engagements, include that in your platform, but be realistic. For example, don't write that you'll hit all of the major book fairs and writer's conferences in New York when you live in California and are raising a small child – unless you already plan to be there.

In my platform, I limited the places that I was willing to travel to on short notice to areas that are within a five-hour drive. This way, I don't set myself up for failure when the realities of life take precedence. I did, however, mention that there are areas that I'm willing to consider going to if given enough time to make the appropriate arrangements. This lets the readers of my proposal know that I am seriously committed to in-person book promotion and that I have considered the logistics.
Do The Leg-Work On Your Home Turf

Even if the publisher promises that your local bookstore will carry the book, it may not happen. If you really want to have an engagement at your local store, find out what their requirements are ahead of time. Then as soon as you know that the book has a release date, start the ball rolling to ensure that your local store carries it and that they're willing to put you on their calendar. Bookstores get a lot of requests from new authors, publishers and their agents – yours is just one of them. As excited as you are about The Greatest Thing Ever Written, the manager of your bookstore might not be willing to book you without a really good reason. He needs to know that you've done your homework to ensure that The Greatest Thing Ever Written brings more people into the store to buy more books and other merchandise.
If there are groups in your community that are always seeking engaging speakers and topics, try to get on their calendar. Look at the local cultural center, the senior center, the rotary club and youth and school groups. When you speak, inform participants about your upcoming book, and like with your classes and seminars, ask the participants to give you their contact information. But again, be sure that doing so does not conflict with any of the organization's rules for speakers.
Don't ignore the potential of your local media. Getting information about your book to national media outlets is great, but the lifestyles editor of your local weekly or network affiliate might also be interested in either reviewing your book or doing an article or segment about you. If it runs early enough, you can use it as part of the presentation to the manager of your local bookstore.
These are just a few things that you can do to work your platform. You realize now that you already have one, don't you? Use it and use it well. But like with your résum, keep it fresh and updated. Sure, you could hire a public relations firm or publicist who will do these things and more for you, but for most of us writers who don't have a money tree growing out back, these are effective, inexpensive vehicles for your platform.  

Good luck with all of your writing endeavours and may we all see our names on that Best Seller list someday.

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Erika-Marie S. Geiss is a writer and editor living in Michigan. Author of The Passion of Christ (Publications International, 2004) and another forthcoming book Fall 2008, publication credits include The News Herald, World Energy Monthly Review , IN and Speak2Me. A work-at-home mom, Geiss runs Red Pencil Editing Services and is Editor-in-Chief of the WAHMmagazine.

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