NOTE: Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.
We’re on week three of tackling the Platform Monster. Week one we talked about numbers as in how big an author platform should be, and week two we took the first step toward achieving those numbers by acknowledging that growing a platform should be like playing with dominos. You move forward, tile by tile, focusing on one thing at a time until the big payoff when everything falls into place and you have your platform.
So now let’s dig deeper. Each week, we’ll take a look at one of those platform components (Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Speaking) and I’ll give insight into how to do them right and reap the biggest reward.
This week, we’re talking about WRITING ARTICLES.
I chose this one to start us off, because aside from blogging, it comes more naturally to most writers than, say, YouTube vlogging and public speaking. It also is one of the easiest ways to ensure your name gets in front of lots and lots of people.
Here’s my thinking...you Tweet something or write a blog post or throw something up onto the Internet, and unless you happen to be talking about a trending or searchable topic, it only gets read by your immediate audience. But with articles (especially print articles), your words will be read by a majority of that publication’s readership. And 99.9% of those readers are people that you haven’t met before. So while pitching articles and columns may be a bit outdated, it’s one of the best ways to get your words in front of NEW readers.
So how do you see success with articles? Here’s what I recommend:
1. Take a look at what you write and identify the topics you specialize in. If you’re a nonfiction writer, this is pretty easy. If you’re a fiction writer, it’ll take a bit more effort. Come up with a list of 5 or so interests that you feel are reflected in your writing. For example, Bernard Cornwell writes spectacular historical fiction geared toward men. When he was in the midst of writing and researching his King Arthur series, he could have identified the following groups of people who would be interested in his work: British history enthusiasts; King Arthur enthusiasts; mythology and folklore enthusiasts; myth, hero, Arthurian and possibly medieval reenactment groups; and of course, historical fiction enthusiasts.
2. Once you’ve identified your groups of readers, track down publications that serve those readers. You want to dig up as many publications as possible and focus on print publications as well as e-publications (oftentimes referred to as e-zines). Popular blogs may also be considered.
3. Write a handful of articles or essays for each interest group (some may cross over). If you’re like Bernard Cornwell, you may choose to write about the research that you’re doing. Or, if you’re Susanna Clarke, you may want to write about Magic in Adult Literature – Has Harry Potter Juvenalized the Subject? Whatever the topic, make sure it parallels your writing subject and interests your reader.
4. Pitch your articles to the publications. Now the key here is to reuse articles so that you’re not always writing something new for every publication. The article you sell to Fitness Magazine can also be tweaked and then used in Self, Shape, and then Oxygen.
5. When you get a few bites, pitch new ideas to those publications. The goal is to create a relationship with the publication in hopes that they’ll bring you on as a contributing writer or columnist. Also, by frequently appearing in the same publications, you’ll start to develop a readership.
6. Keep track of how many people are seeing your words. Every print or e-publication has a readership number. For print, they refer to this as their circulation. You can find these numbers on their website or by emailing and asking. For e-publications, you’ll need to get their web stats. I like to rely on www.compete.com to give me insight into how many visitors a website will get per month (Tip: Only search the home page of the website. Don’t search your article’s individual URL).
7. You should have some sort of website already, but at this point it’s time to add another outlet. Say, Twitter or Facebook. Think of it as placing that second domino right behind the first one.
8. Come up with a byline that directs your fans to whatever social media outlet you chose in step 7.
If you look at the top of this blog post, you’ll see I have a handy little byline that directs you to follow me on Twitter and visit my Facebook page. And it’s worked. Since writing these posts, I’ve added three dozen or so followers. It’s not much, but imagine if I had been posting these words on multiple blogs and e-zines around the Internet. That group of three dozen could have been a few hundred. In just a matter of weeks.
And that’s it. Success in article-writing in 8 easy steps.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and questions.