Author Platform Example: Caitlin Doughty, Ask a Mortician

Author Platform Example: Caitlin Doughty, Ask a Mortician An excellent example of ticking all the boxes for building an author platform. Any author, self-published or traditionally published, can learn from Caitlin Doughty’s example.

Death. An inevitable fact of life, but one that is usually spoken about in hushed tones and with sadness and awkwardness, right? Well, that is until now.

Caitlin Doughty, a licensed mortician with a degree in medieval history, kind of blows that theory out of the water. Caitlin deals with the topic of death boldly, factually and with humour.

Her book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory was published in 2014, but she started her YouTube channel Ask a Mortician in 2011, long before the release of the book, and she hasn’t done just a video or two. Caitlin has produced more than 50 videos, some receiving in excess of 250,000 views! In her eccentric, entertaining manner, Caitlin addresses questions that many of us have wondered about but never felt comfortable enough to ask, even if we knew someone who could answer them. No topic related to death seems to be too weird or too uncomfortable for Caitlin to discuss.

Perhaps it is because of this that she has more than 650 reviews of her book posted on Amazon (a 4-1/2 star overall rating) or perhaps this success is due to our curiosity about the niche topic she so readily and easily explains with her insider knowledge, but I’d like to think that Caitlin is a perfect example of an author with an extensive author platform, established long before the launch of her book. She’s ticked all the boxes for building an author platform by using an extensive number of social media networks, YouTube and a website to attract readers for her book.
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Authors: Let’s Play Show and Tell

Authors: Let’s Play Show and Tell explains why authors need to show and tell potential readers about their books and suggests how they can accomplish this.

As writers and authors we see our books from a unique perspective.

We’re excited about our books, right? And we already know how great they are, right?

Because of this, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that our potential readers have to catch up and learn what we’ve known all along—that our books are fantastic and they really need and really want to read them.

So, how do we do that?

Show and Tell

Do you remember way back (well, way back for some of us!) when we were in grade school and we had to bring something in for Show and Tell?

When our books are published, it’s our job as authors to “show” our books and “tell” our potential readers all about them.

What Influences Readers?

But, let’s think like readers for a minute. When we go to buy books, what makes us decide to read a particular book?

I think we select books in our favourite literary genres or subject matters based on:

  • The book cover
  • Availability of the book
  • Familiarity with the author
  • Reviews

So, if these factors influence readers to buy books and we have to “show and tell” readers so they know about our books, how do we do that?

Showing and Telling When It Comes to Your Book

  • Book Cover
    Your book cover is often the very first connection your readers will have with your book and contrary to what we’ve always been told, i.e. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” we do exactly that. I mean, come on, how could we NOT do that when there are 10 books on the same topic to select from and 5 of them have covers that look like they’ve been designed by a five year old?

    Without taking the time to evaluate the contents, we make assumptions that the author didn’t care enough to do a proper job of the book–based on its shoddy cover. As readers, we don’t stop to think that the author already knew that his book was fantastic and just didn’t know how to relay that information to us, do we?

    Have the cover of your book professionally designed. If you’re determined to do it yourself, have a neutral party with experience in this field critique your cover. One way to do this is through the monthly e-Book Cover Design Awards run by The Book Designer and even if you don’t actually submit your e-book cover to this contest, you can learn a lot by reviewing previous submissions.

  • Bookstores – Online and Off
    Wherever possible, and unless you have a very good reason not to do this, make your book available through various online and offline retailers in print and e-book formats so it can be seen and is accessible. We’re all busy people and many of us are a bit on the lazy side. If it’s too hard to find your book to buy it, most people won’t.
  • Your Author Platform
    Just as you should put your book out there, show your face, too. Connect with your readers, your potential readers, other writers and other industry professionals. Utilize social media, maintain a blog, do interviews, consider podcasting, do a newsletter, write guest posts.

    Use this, your author platform, to tell potential readers about you and your book. Tell them why you made certain decisions about your storyline, or where you did your research, or how you picked your book cover, for example. Let them in on the creation of your book and tell them why you think it’s fantastic, but don’t go over the top with “Buy my book! Buy my book!” because they won’t. You’ll just turn them off.

    It’s recommended that you create your author platform well before your book is actually published to build your connections and to reap the most benefit from your social media networks when your book is released versus starting from scratch after your book has been released.

    Interact with your audience and others in the industry and be approachable. If they like you and are interested in what you have to say, odds are they’ll want to read your book and might even help to spread the word about it.

  • Book Reviewers
    Book reviews are an important way to tell the world about your book. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some book reviews without asking as people read your book, but more than likely you will need to get this ball rolling, and it will be your job to contact book reviewers and ask them to read and review your book and show them your book (see to it that your book gets in their hands) so they can do this.

    Book reviews tell people about your book and the more people telling the world about your book, the more noise they’ll make and the more likely it will be that others will want to read your book, too.

My clearest memory of bringing something to school for show and tell was taking a dried blow fish that my grandfather brought back from Jamaica where he was stationed during WWII. The poor thing was old and very brittle (and ugly!) by the time I took it to class some 20 years after the war ended. I don’t remember what I told the class about this dried up old fish when I showed them, but I do remember that that fish had the last laugh when its sharp pointy spine things poked through the paper bag I was carrying it in and gashed my legs.

Showing and telling your potential readers about your book sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It is, and while it’s not quite as simple as back in the day when you could drag a favourite toy (or a dried up fish), into your classroom and talk about it for five minutes, you can still have a lot of fun with it.

Photo credit: Puffers via photopin (license)

What Scares You About Blogging and Using Social Media?

What Scares You About Blogging and Using Social Media? by Shelley Sturgeon addresses common concerns people have when they start blogging and using social media.

Authors are advised to create an author platform, an online presence which includes blogging and using social media, to help them to network with others and build an audience for their books. But, many find themselves suffering from paralysis by analysis when they think about starting out online. So, I’ve attempted to list a few of the worries and concerns I’ve heard and attempted to put things in perspective.

You’ll make a mistake and EVERYONE will see it!

Newsflash! EVERYONE makes mistakes so of course you’re going to make mistakes! Even seasoned bloggers and social media experts screw up from time to time. I’ve received numerous emails that were missing attachments or links. I’ve clicked on links that go nowhere or go to the wrong place. I even once accidentally clicked on the Publish button on a blog post instead of the Save Draft button. This of course meant that a half finished post was suddenly out there for the world to see! That was a big oopsie that required some pretty quick back peddling to fix it. But nothing ventured, nothing gained!

You don’t know what you’re doing.

We’ve all had to learn the ropes and at first we don’t know what we’re doing. Research and read. Create an account and observe what others are doing. Take baby steps but do take them. Before too long you’ll be confident and will have it mastered.

No one will see your efforts and you’ll be wasting your time.

It takes time to build an audience or following with any social media platform. Be patient. Offer quality information. Share your sparkling personality with the world. Learn how to attract people to your blog, find followers on Twitter, etc. It will happen if you work for it and research how to find your audience. Don’t just shrug your shoulders after a week and walk away because no one is acknowledging that you’re there.

You won’t know what to blog about, tweet about, comment on, etc.

Do research on the social media platform for ideas, observe what others with big followings are doing, promote others and share their information, don’t try to sell your product or service, at least not until you have a significant following and have built trust with those followers. Sign up for my newsletter for more ideas.

Your work won’t look polished enough.

Sometimes we are too critical of our own work because we want it to be perfect. Relax. Do your best. Your blogging and social media efforts don’t have to be as polished as published books. Books need to be professionally edited. Blogs are more like newspapers, often with a very short time between idea to publication. In time, you will be more at ease, more confident and your efforts will reflect that.

It’ll take too much time to maintain.

Yep, blogging and social media can take a bit of time. Won’t sugar coat that. But, if you’re marketing a book or business you most likely need the exposure that they provide, and for the most part these platforms are free. It’s always an option to hire some help. Virtual assistants can build you a mean WordPress site, format and schedule your blog posts, schedule your tweets, etc.

It keeps changing and you can’t keep up with it.

Yeah, this scares me about blogging and social media, too! LOL We don’t like change, do we? And, yes, there seems to be continual change in functionality within social media sites sometimes it seems just for the sake of change without apparent benefit, new social media sites, old ones falling out of favour, and so on. The more you learn, the more fluent and comfortable you are with blogging and using social media, the less this will bother you. Sure, you might still grumble about it (I do!) but you won’t be shaking in your shoes. It’ll be more of an annoyance than something that will keep you up at night – promise!

Agree or disagree with me? Did I leave any of your worries off the list? Let me know in the comments.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici | Freedigitalphotos.net