Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Twila's Tips for Building Your Platform (Part 7 of 8)

Think about whom you’re trying to reach, where they hang out, and how to connect with them there.

Social media gives us many opportunities to create a community or become involved in a community and make connections there. That’s a big part of developing our platform. But we shouldn’t neglect the in-person opportunities.

What is the topic of your message or theme in your book? Are there local, regional, or national groups with people of similar interests you can join? Can you go to conferences where your target audience meets and make connections there? Can you teach workshops or develop seminars based on your topic? Cec mentioned in a previous blog post about speaking on your topic to various organizations and gave ideas about how to do that.

Here’s one way we’ve worked to get Cec in front of his target audience. It’s on a larger scale than what many of us are able to do right now, but it shows the potential of what can happen.

A few years ago we learned about the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) World Conference to be held in Nashville. More than 7,000 counselors, pastors, and ministry leaders would attend. Cec has several books that are an excellent fit with that target audience, and I researched for information about how we could be involved. We purchased an exhibitor booth and lined up two book signings. We interacted on a personal level with Cec’s target audience, they became aware of his many great resources, and they got a good feel for who he is. A lot of warm fuzzies were created as well.

Last fall we attended our second AACC World Conference as exhibitors, but this time Cec was able to teach a workshop as well as have two book signings and a couple of interviews. We built on the foundation that was laid at the previous conference. He’s now known as an excellent resource and he has credibility within that audience.

Because of getting Cec in front of that audience, he’s had ongoing speaking opportunities, requests for interviews, new book projects, and he now contributes to the AACC blog. The exposure he’s received is great and the momentum continues.

Where does your audience hang out? How can you get in front of them?

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Twila's Tips for Building Your Platform (Part 6 of 8)

Pay attention to current events, happenings, and holidays, and think about potential tie-ins to your book or topic. Here are two examples.

1. Cec is a sexual abuse survivor. He’s written two books about abuse, has a blog for male survivors, and often speaks and interviews on the topic. We see headlines in the news quite often about male sexual abuse, sometimes every day. When Oprah Winfrey had Tyler Perry on her show along with 200 male survivors, we took advantage of that opportunity by creating a news release offering ten suggestions to help a man you care about move through recovery. That news release generated a lot of publicity for Cec. We had similar opportunities with the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal. We didn’t mention Cec’s books in the body of the release, but his bio included all the pertinent information and a link.

2. Last year Regal Books released Cec’s and my book I Believe in Heaven: Real Stories from the Bible, History and Today. In it we included a variety of stories such as Don Piper’s and Colton Burpo’s heaven experiences (and many that have never been told). The increased interest in heaven because of the theatrical release of Colton Burpo’s Heaven Is for Real provided a perfect opportunity for us to promote our book, and we’ve done that in a number of ways. Regal Books also created a special eBook offer to help us gain new readers.

Because I’m a smart author,
I look for tie-ins and new ways to promote my book and message.

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Twila's Tips for Building Your Platform (Part 5 of 8)

Two things are extremely important for us as communicators—a bio and a link.

1. The bio. Our bio works for us. It introduces us to our readers and helps connect us to our audience. Bios are used on websites, articles, book covers, profiles, proposals, and promotional materials. If we’re a speaker, a bio helps the event planner publicize us and gives the emcee something wonderful to say about us. Before an interview, our bio familiarizes the host with who we are and helps him relate with us better.

Bios come in a variety of sizes and forms. They can reveal our personality. They can showcase our professionalism and credentials. They can be short for articles and long for proposals. When writing a bio, we want it to have the proper length and tone for the occasion. By studying other people’s bios, we can get a good feel for how to write one.

2. The link. We need to make it easy for people to find out more about us. We should always, always, always provide some sort of link with our bio and on our promotional materials. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If you don’t have a website, use your blog address, social network URL, or even your email address.

Here’s an example of how a bio and a link can work in our favor. I wrote a series of devotions for The Upper Room Disciplines, a daily devotional book based on scripture passages from the Revised Common Lectionary. The pay wasn’t huge, but my bio blurb and link led to a nice opportunity for me. An elderly woman—a matriarch of a Methodist church in South Dakota—read my devotions and liked them. She thought I would be a good speaker for their women’s retreat, and she gave the committee my name. Because my bio mentioned that I’m a speaker, and because I included a link where they could find out more about me, they contacted me and I became the speaker for their fall retreat.

(As a side note, keep in mind that you can write for denominations other than your own. I wrote for a Methodist publication, which turned into an opportunity at a Methodist church, but I’m not Methodist.)

Often we’ll have opportunities to write articles for little or no pay, but if our bio line and link are included, it can profit us greatly.

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Twila's Tips for Building Your Platform (Part 4 of 8)

The relationships we build in this industry are important and can impact our platform in significant ways. For example:

In 1998 I attended Write to Publish, my first writers conference, nervous and clueless about a lot of things. I made a connection with one of the instructors there. He saw something special in me and asked me to stay in touch with him. That was before I had email, so he sent me a Juno disc and helped me set up an account.

In 2002, after reconnecting in person with him at an American Christian Writers Conference, he emailed and proposed that we start a writers conference in the Quad Cities area where I live. I moved forward with that idea and directed the Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference for eight years.

In 2007, again at a Write to Publish Conference, that man asked me to work for him.

At the present time I still work for him and with him. Because of my involvement with him I interact with readers, authors, and industry professionals every day. I’ve also written four books with him and contributed to others. The man’s name is Cec Murphey.

Has that connection helped grow my platform and increase my exposure? Yes, in huge ways. Did I know when I first met him in 1998 how different my life would be in the future because of him? No. I’ve learned to not discount the importance of connecting and networking with other people in the writing world.

Because I understand the value of industry relationships, 
I will be nice to people.

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Twila's Tips for Building Your Platform (Part 3 of 8)

Create warm fuzzies whenever you can.

A warm fuzzy is a good impression or a feeling of comfort or trust, and when we create that in our readers and in our industry relationships, we are remembered in a good way. That strengthens our platform.

Here’s an example: Cec has a habit of writing thank you notes to the hosts and/or producers of each radio and TV interview he has. He prefers to send the note via snail mail, but if that address isn’t available he’ll send it through email. He often hears that he’s the only interviewee who has ever done that. The hosts and producers are impressed with his thoughtfulness and are eager to interview him again.

Another way to generate warm fuzzies is to show a genuine interest in people. When talking with them in person, look them in the eye. Listen. Call them by name. When emailing, using social media, or chatting by phone, be personable and kind.

Also, think about how you can give back and invest in others. Realize that you didn’t get where you are today without someone investing in you. There’s a biblical principal about the more we give, the more we receive, and it works that way in building our platform. Cec often shares his favorite verse that relates to this. It comes from Jubilations 4:4 and says, “Yeah, the Lord shoveleth it in, and I shoveleth out; and behold, the Lord hath the bigger shovel.”

Creating warm fuzzies might not be a normal marketing strategy, but I’ve seen it pay off in big ways.

What are some of your ideas for creating warm fuzzies?

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Twila's Tips for Building Your Platform (Part 2 of 8)

Another simple thing we can do is to create an email alert. (See http://www.google.com/alerts or http://www.talkwalker.com/alerts.)

Alerts help us monitor the Web for interesting content. They make us aware of what’s being said about us or our product. They can keep us up to date on a particular topic or news item, and we can use them to get the latest scoop on a favorite author or celebrity.

When we set up an alert, we enter a search query (a name, title, topic, etc.), how often we want to receive the alert, and our email address.

For example, I set up an alert for Cec so I could keep up on the buzz about him. I put in a search query for Cecil Murphey, and I entered another one for Cecil Murphy (without the “e”) because his name is often misspelled. Many days I receive several alerts. Some I delete immediately because they don’t relate to Cec, but others point me to a blog article or newsworthy piece that refers to him. When I find that someone has mentioned Cec in an article or blog post, I’ll forward that info to him. He follows up by commenting on the blog or sending a nice thank you note. That makes people like Cec. (And I get to keep my job.)

When I worked on a special project for a young adult author, I entered a topic in the search query that pertained to both the author and to the protagonist in his book. I had to weed through a lot of irrelevant alert messages that came in, but I found a few that paid off. Because of one that talked about an upcoming movie on that topic, and because of the similarities in the storyline between the movie’s main character and the young adult author, I connected the two in a news release with a catchy headline. That resulted in interviews and publicity for the author. We were also able to connect the subject of the movie and the author on Facebook, and a relationship developed that led to new speaking opportunities for the author.

Email alerts help us gain new friends and increase our opportunities.

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Twila's Tips for Building Your Platform (Part 1 of 8)

We often focus so much on the bigger, more time-consuming tasks that we neglect the little things that can make a difference. Here are two:

1) An email signature line. If you aren’t currently taking advantage of this, you can easily create one right now by going to your email options. (I use Outlook, and under options I go to “Create or modify signatures for messages.”) Once set up, the signature line will automatically appear on each email you send, unless you choose not to use it.

On your signature line, always include a link(s) where people can find out more about you or follow you (website, blog, social media). You can add your tag line, the title of your book, a quote, or any type of information, and you have the freedom to change it as often as you’d like.

Not every email reader pays attention to the signature line, but some do. I learned the value of mine when my son was sick and I sent an email to his basketball coach. In the coach’s response he said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I went to your website and learned….”

He went to my website because of my signature line! That’s what we want to happen.

2) A business card. Business cards don’t have to be elaborate or expensive, and today you can order them easily online. Have your business card with you wherever you go and be ready to give it out when the opportunity arises. Again, along with your pertinent information, always include a link where people can find out more about you. And don’t forget to have a stack of business cards with you when you attend writers conferences. (Just trust me on that.)

When building my platform, 
I will not underestimate the value of simple things.

* * * * *

Twila Belk, aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She works full time with best-selling author Cecil Murphey and enjoys teaching at writers conferences across the nation. Twila has written or co-written five books and contributed to several others. For more info, visit www.gottatellsomebody.com

Friday, April 4, 2014

Building Your Platform (Part 10 of 10)

"Anyone can market," they tell me. Maybe so, but I haven't done very well at marketing myself. My virtual assistant, Twila Belk, has done far more for my visibility than any of my endeavors. (For that reason, she will continue this series.)

Some experts say that marketing or promotion isn't self-promotion or calling attention to yourself. "It's not about you," they insist.

Really? Then who is it about? I hear this especially from the religious/Christian community and I disagree. If it's not about you, don't do it. You might want to think of yourself as a divine instrument. Isn't it about building your platform? If that's true, then who is it about?

You have to sell yourself because you and your product go together with consumers. The more people know who you are (and especially if they like you), the more readily they buy your books.

Not everyone can market, but that doesn't excuse you. These days, marketing yourself and your books are your built-in responsibility. If you can't sell your products, you may need to get help from people who can.

1. What can I do to build my expertise?

2. How do I build my name recognition, so potential readers will identify my product with me?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Building Your Platform (Part 9 of 10)

"What are you doing right now to reach your target audience?"

You can answer that question in several ways. For instance, you can show that you're speaking on the topic to various organizations.

If you're not already a public speaker, get training. Toastmasters International is the most commonly mentioned group to help potential writers learn to speak in front of an audience.

Have you volunteered to speak at civic organizations, libraries, senior-citizens groups, and support groups? You probably won't receive money, but you'll gain invaluable experience. And you'll extend your influence.

Know your target and aim several topics around them. Once involved with them, you can also learn more about their common areas of interest. Don't overlook the fact that individuals in those groups can also become advocates for your book.

1. What am I doing to reach my target audience?

2. Do I need to get training so I can make oral presentations?