Marketing Your Book: Part Three with Harry Steinman

It’s Thursday (thank goodness) and we are back with the next part in the Marketing tips series featuring the well spoken gentleman Harry Steinman. He paid me to say that. I don’t say kind things for free.

I would once again like to thank Harry for sharing his wisdom, his success stories, trials and errors with all of us. He is a man that one can learn a lot from and I truly, greatly appreciate his friendship. Okay, I gave him that one free. I might send him a bill later.
Feel free to ask Harry questions and make him tell you his secrets. Studies say that nothing keeps the brain young like giving it a good workout.
If you missed part one and two, you can find them here.

Overnight Success: the Planter and the


By Harry Steinman, a Guy Who Sold

Some Books Despite


Writers: heed the wisdom of a clever proverb, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Many experts say it’s part of ancient Chinese lore. One internet authority credits the bon mot to a guy named Tom. Whatever its literary DNA, the proverb reveals an important instruction on a preliminary task in the self-publishing process.
First, let’s take a one-minute review of Parts I and II. The main point of, “Hot Stoves and Wet Paint” was, “Marketing is the backbone of publishing. You publish because you want others to read your writing. Marketing connects you to your readers.”

Don’t like the word, “marketing”? Think it’s whorish, Madison Avenue, snake-oil deception? Then go on to the second post, “Know Thy Reader”. You’ll discover that marketing is simply figuring out who is your audience and communicating clearly and honestly with those readers.

Today’s installment covers another step in preparing for self-publication: building a platform. Here is a story of two writers, two books, two successes and two approaches that reflect the ancient tree-planting wisdom.

Kelly Thompson a free-lance writer, blogger, graphic novelist, habitué of social networks and interest groups. And she’s a damned good writer. Her debut novel, The Girl Who Would Be King garnered kudos from the likes of io9, USA Today, and 72 Amazon reviewers.

Kelly planted her tree ten years ago when she submitted her first poem for publication. Now she touches several thousand readers through her website, blog, free-lance writing, Twitter, Facebook, and regular columns in a constellation of publications. She says that she offered much of it for free during the tree-growing years, and the freebies paid off. Today, she enjoys a platform any independent writer would envy.

Me? I’m a palooka with a pencil. I planted my tree—created a platform—as an afterthought. Kelly grew her audience. I bought mine. Want my advice on which choose? Emulate Kelly. It takes longer. It’s harder. It works better. Build a platform before you publish.
What, exactly, is a platform? Writer’s Digest magazine defines a platform as, “your personal ability to sell books through (1) who you are, (2) [your] personal and professional connections (3) any media outlets (including blogs and social networks) that you use to sell books.”

According to Forbes magazine, the model emphasizes, “an unobstructed back and forth between authors and their readers, with the authors — not the publishers — controlling the flow.”

Kelly Thompson did what she loved—wrote—to build a platform. She contributed her writing as often as possible, including freelance assignments. “Freelance doesn’t pay well—often not at all—but you create a lot of content. You write about what you love, you learn about deadlines and editing, and you build a platform.”
Blogging helped build her platform too. “I started blogging in 2007…by 2009 I was writing for other sites. That led to regular, paid columns…and a following. I suspect people could feel my genuine interest and love for superheroes—and they responded by supporting my fictional work. At some point, I discovered that I’d built a platform.”

Kelly is not a one-call closer. She stays connected to her audience. “I built my audience through quality content on Twitter, my blogs and pieces I write for other publications.”

The effort paid off. Her novel, The Girl Who Would Be King, gathered critical attention…and sales.

If I were to publish my first novel again, I’d follow Kelly’s lead. Take at least a year or two to build a platform. But patience isn’t my long suit and I thought I could use my sales and marketing experience to create an overnight success. I read an armful of books on how to be an instant best-seller. There were a few good tips, and little more. (Even the authors of these books are not best-selling authors—except when they had built a following before publication.)

The result? I sold books, sometimes a lot of books. But I gained few followers. Little Deadly Things now hits best-seller status only when I’m running a promotion. I lack sneezers—readers who can infect others with their enthusiasm. Sure, I sold books, but through transactions, not through followers.

Advertising is a long-term effort. You need several months to test even a few ads. You can run only one ad at a time if you want to determine which ads draw. You must test at different times of the year to rule out seasonal effects. For example, Christmas can be a boon; July 4 can be a bust.

When you finally identify a handful of ads and promotions that work, guess what? You’ll have spent about as much time testing ads as you would building a platform the old-fashioned way, follower by follower—like Kelly Thompson and other tree-planters.
So, before you start the publishing process, be sure you’ve built a platform. A damned good book isn’t enough. You need an audience, too.

In the next two posts, we’ll explore the ABCs of self-publishing. You’ll learn the nuts and bolts, the nitty-gritty, the how-to, the step-by-step…well, you get the idea. I’ll be joined in the post by my mentor in self-publishing and we’ll explore the lessons I learned—and the bonehead mistakes and the accidental successes that I call experience.


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25 thoughts on “Marketing Your Book: Part Three with Harry Steinman”

    1. Hi Charles, Yes. I built a following through a Facebook page for Little Deadly Things, and through Kickstarter (which is bi-directional: a good platform leads to a successful KS project, and a well-executed KS project adds to a platform).
      I’ve met some influencers at book expos, and for months, I walked the streets asking everyone I passed by, “Do you like to read books?” and give ’em a bookmark. That was fun and marginally effective.


      1. I had very little luck with Facebook, but the blogging and tweeting have been very helpful. Did you make friends with other authors to share information and support each other? That’s been a very big help for me.


  1. Great post Harry! I’m looking forward to the next one. I hope we’ll hear some tips about the advertising and promotions you ran for Little Deadly Things, what worked, and why. 🙂


    1. Hi David…Thanks for supportive words. Yes, I’ll jump back into the ad biz later on. Next two, maybe three, posts are the nuts and bolts of self-pub.


  2. Hi Harry! We’re back. Good to see you and as always with great advice. I am hoping not to late for me. My husband wants to try his hand at improving my cover art, now that he has a new “Print Artist” software, and I know more of what I am looking for. We hesitate to spend any more money on this project for now, maybe later. I got my first review on iTunes and it was 5 star…I am hoping it is infectious having just published. I was introduced to blogging only AFTER I published, so I am even fresher at blogging. So happy to have found you through Ionia’s blog! Do you recall your first review? (Aside from editors, friends and family?)


    1. Yes, I do recall my first review from someone I didn’t know. It was 5-star. I thought I could do no wrong. Then I got my first critical review and looked for a pool of lava into which I could hurl…my computer.
      Keep on truckin’!


      1. A decent critical review is not a bad thing in my eyes. I would hope that I could take constructive criticism well, and use it in a way that might improve my writing…but then again, there are people out there who are simply mean in a nasty way.


      2. Got some insight from an early critical review. Got the willies from the first of a few that were simply nasty. The good reviews were harder to ignore than the vindictive ones, but both are treacherous.


  3. Harry, Really good info. I was glad to see you endorse the slower method of platform build. I am not published but am trying to build a platform one reader at a time. The Facebook thing is still a mystery but I think I will figure it out sooner or later. Thanks again and thanks to Ionia for having you guest


    1. You’re welcome. I’m on the fence as to the value of Facebook for building a platform. Maybe that means I just don’t get it. I think that if you can figure out who you wish to communicate with, and then where to find that audience, and then communicate honestly, then you’ll be on your way. Keep us posted on your progress.


      1. Facebook is another breeding ground for messages I forget to answer. I don’t understand the logic. Smoke signals were more effective. If the land caught on fire I knew to respond.


  4. “Sneezers”, lol. I didn’t know what they were before this post. But now I know my novel needs ’em (like the plague, possibly?!) Thanks a bunch!


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