A writing tip from John Elder Robison

Make sure you have the audience before you try to sell the book.

When publishers consider buying a manuscript for publication one of the biggest deciding factors is your platform. Do you have an audience? All too often people write books and assume audience building “just happens” when a book is published, or it’s someone else’s job. It’s your job, and it needs to be done first.

The best way to do this is by social media. Build a following on Facebook with personal and author pages. Build a following on Twitter. Create a popular blog. Get your name out there. Use that social media buzz to get speaking opportunities. Talk to local groups, clubs, and organizations that will have an interest in your topic. Always ask yourself: Who will buy my book? All those people are your audience, but my experience suggests only 3-4% of an online audience will actually buy your work, so you need a big profile to get any kind of decent sales. If you decide to self publish this is even more critical because no one else will be promoting you. The time to start this task is a year before publication, at the latest. Preferably, you’ll have 1-2 years into community building before bringing out a book for sale.

John Elder Robison is the NY Times bestselling author of Look Me in the Eye and Be Different. His newest book, Raising Cubby, is coming 12 March 2013 from Crown.

Misfit, truant, delinquent. John Robison was never a model child, and he wasn’t a model dad either. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of forty, he approached fatherhood as a series of logic puzzles and practical jokes. When his son, Cubby, asked, “Where did I come from?” John said he’d bought him at the Kid Store and that the salesman had cheated him by promising Cubby would “do all chores.” He read electrical engineering manuals to Cubby at bedtime. He told Cubby that wizards turned children into stone when they misbehaved.

Still, John got the basics right. He made sure Cubby never drank diesel fuel at the automobile repair shop he owns. And he gave him a life of adventure: By the time Cubby was ten, he’d steered a Coast Guard cutter, driven a freight locomotive, and run an antique Rolls Royce into a fence.

The one thing John couldn’t figure out was what to do when school authorities decided that Cubby was dumb and stubborn—the very same thing he had been told as a child. Did Cubby have Asperger’s too? The answer was unclear. One thing was clear, though: By the time he turned seventeen, Cubby had become a brilliant chemist—smart enough to make military-grade explosives and bring state and federal agents calling. Afterward, with Cubby facing up to sixty years in prison, both father and son were forced to take stock of their lives, finally coming to terms with being “on the spectrum” as both a challenge and a unique gift.

Click on the cover to visit the book's Amazon page.


Christine L.Henderson said...

I understand the idea of building a social media presence, but how do you build a demand for being a speaker before the book is published?

John Robison said...

Building speaking demand is easiest for non fiction authors with a message as they can seek out concerned groups to speak to. That's what I referred to

Wendy said...

Great advice on doing some footwork in advance of your book coming out. Thanks for sharing it with us, John!