Kathi is back with author Niki Hardy to continue the conversation about how to get a book deal on a small platform. Last week Niki gave great insights into what publishers are looking for through a very practical scientific approach to the art of writing! Today, in part two they are talking about how to maximize your small but mighty platform. The specifics publishers are looking for in a platform may change, but these principles will stand the test of time friends:
- Understand that your platform is bigger than you think
- Look around you
- Learn along the way
- Lay it out clearly
- Demonstrate a Clear Growth Strategy to Prime the Pump
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Meet Your Hosts
Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO
Niki Hardy is pastor’s wife, cancer survivor, and teller of terrible jokes. As the author of Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart she’s all about helping you discover that with God, life doesn’t have to be pain-free to be full, then living it. You can find her at www.nikiHardy.com and https://www.instagram.com/niki.hardy/
Transcript of this Episode
Read along with the Podcast!
Writing at The Red House Podcast # 200
How to Maximize Your Small (but Mighty!) Platform
Welcome to the Writing at The Red House Podcast, where we gather at the table to break bread, and tell tales with some of our favorite writers and speakers.
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Writing at The Red House Podcast, where our heart is to equip men and women to become the communicators that God has created them to be. This is part two in our series with author Niki Hardy. We are so excited. I love this topic so much. How to Get a Book Deal on a Small Platform. Niki, welcome back to writing at The Red House.
Niki – Thank you, Kathi. It’s great to be here.
Kathi – Okay, we are on to topic number two. So, if you didn’t catch our podcast last week, Niki gave us some great insights into what publishers are looking for. I love Niki’s brain. She took a scientific approach to the art of writing and said, “Okay, quantify: This is what people are looking for.” This is a great conversation. Go back and listen to it. Today, what we want to talk about is, most of us have a small platform. Here’s the thing, what a small platform is to one person is huge to another, and vice versa. What some publishers are looking for in a platform changes all the time. Our goal here is to help you make the most of the platform that you have and also grow it at the same time. So, Niki’s got a few ideas here, and I want to discuss them. Okay, so your first tip is Look Around You. So, tell me, what do you mean by Look Around You?
Niki – Well, I think it’s terribly easy to look at our email list, that’s got three old ladies and a dormouse on it, and one of them is your mom.
Kathi – Okay, so hold on. A dormouse?
Niki – Like a church mouse. A little field mouse.
Kathi – Can I just tell you? I learn a new word every time I go with Niki. So, bijou was my last word which means small and precious and wonderful. Now, dormouse. I can’t tell you how delighted I am. Please continue.
Niki – You know, last week, how we talked about having a unique voice. I write with an English accent.
Kathi – It makes me so happy, I can’t even stand it. I spent a summer in England and everything on my television is AcornTV, so let’s just be clear. I don’t mean to make you quaint, but this is making everything in my anglophile heart just so happy, I can’t even stand it.
Niki – Well, I’m so glad. I’m told I could read you the phone book and you’d think I was a genius. I’ll take it.
Kathi – You’ll take it. Hey, any advantage you have as a writer or a communicator, you need to hop on that. That’s one of your superpowers, friend.
Niki – It really is. So, I think we can look just at the numbers and think, “Woe is me. I’m not going to get a book deal.” But, actually, if we look around us, our platforms are bigger than we think. They’re bigger than our email list or our Instagram numbers. We are all so much more connected than we think we are. We have our church. Maybe your church is part of a network of churches that you can tap into. Where is your audience hanging out? Are you connected there? If you’re not, you probably should be. So, be talking with them and hanging out with them and listening to how they talk about the problem they are facing. Are there speaking venues? Are there other ministries? If you’re writing a mom book, are you connected to your local MOPS groups? So there are all sorts of other ways we can be connected. Are you part of a writing community? All these things add to just the raw data on the page.
Kathi – So, I think one of those is worth exploring a little deeper. Are you in this community? If you’re not, why aren’t you? You got your start, really, with Caring Bridge, talking about your own journey. People there were saying, “You should write a blog.” And you were like, “What’s a blog?” So, you figured it out. One of the things that I see that many writers want to do is, they want to talk as an expert on a subject that they have no audience for. I want to dissuade people from doing that, because you have to know if your message is resonating with people. There are a million people out there talking about clutter, but none of them, as far as I know, are talking about it as the daughter of a hoarder and their own recovery. That’s a unique angle with a very self-deprecating voice. I’m somebody that says, “By the way, my nightstand right now is a hot mess.” I know how to get it back to a place of peace in 15 minutes or less. You have to figure out if your message is resonating. That’s when your audience starts to build. When people are like, “Oh. She’s like me. I get it.”
Niki – Exactly. I think people want relatability as much as anything.
Kathi – Yes. They want to know that you’re in it. You don’t have to come in as the expert. You’re a fellow journeyer. That’s wonderful. Okay, you say Learn Along the Way. Tell me more about that. What do you mean about that, Niki?
Niki – Well, one of the things I did was, I would try something, then I would think, “Oh. Well, that’s not working to grow my platform, to engage people, to show how compact and bijou my platform is.” So, it’s being willing to pivot. It’s being willing to look around you, within your niche and say, “What’s working? What’s not working? What are other people doing? Am I willing to see what they’re doing and say, ‘Huh. I could make that kind of thing work in my unique way.’” Then, to build relationships. I think it’s so sad when we have this scarcity mentality. “So and so has written a book in that niche, so I can’t.” or, “My book came out six months after Lysa TerKeurst’s book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way.” At first, I was like, “Well, great. She’s done it.” But actually telling my audience what a great book her book is, and sharing that, I was serving my readers right where they needed it, still be able to help. So, learn along the way and pivot can be really useful.
Kathi – Yeah. My two biggest books, the first one was The Husband Project, was in production, and my kids texted me from a movie theatre and they said, “They made your book into a movie.” I’m like, “I don’t think that’s what happened. That would be wonderful, but that’s not what happened.” Well, it was a similar concept called The Love Dare. Which was Something Fire. I can’t remember. At that point I was like, “All hope is lost!” Right? “There’s no way I’m ever going to get over it.” Then, Clutter Free came out the same day that the Magical Art of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo’s book, released in the United States. Here’s what we need to know. If people are interested in that topic, they’re not going to stop at one book. They want to find all the things on that book, so understanding that is really important. So, I think you’re right. Figuring out, what is it about those other books? I love that you were promoting Lysa’s book, because you say, “You know what? My goal is for my readers, the people who have trusted me with their follow, I want to give them the best information I can.” Sometimes that’s other resources, and that’s okay. I think it shows a confidence that say, “You know what? We all have a different take on this, but here’s some things you’re going to find helpful.” Okay, Niki, you’ve given us two ideas about how to maximize your small (but mighty!) platform. Look Around. Learn Along the Way. Learn what’s working for you. I love that you can also look at what happens in other places. People who are not writing on your topic, and you say, “How can this apply to me?” That’s how I first learned to do a book study. It wasn’t a book study on your marriage, but I saw someone else doing it, and I was like, “Oh, that can apply to my book as well.” So, learning to pivot is so important. Think creatively, outside your own box.
Niki – Exactly.
Kathi – Okay, so now, you say, Lay It Out Clearly. What does that mean as it comes to your platform?
Niki – This is when you’re laying out your platform in your book proposal.
Kathi – Oh, okay.
Niki – So, for me, when I thought about it, to start off, you’ve got this section in your book proposal and it says, “Platform and Promotion” and I’ve these three little numbers that are terrible and dwindling, and it felt so empty and hollow, like it was in a vacuum. But, actually, once I’d done all the work of looking around me, and thinking about my different networks and connections and communities, I brain dumped that. It was this long list of all the things and the connections and all the things I can do and all the things I will do. Then I realized that it was super important to make the editor’s job as easy as possible.
Kathi – Because the editor is going to their publication board to say, “This is why we should have Niki. She’s amazing and here’s the information to prove it.”
Niki – Exactly. She was my voice in the room, so I needed her to clearly understand the different areas where I was connected, the different levels of influence I had in different places, the names. So, I really set it out super clearly, with clear formatting, bullet points, bold, and had different sections. So, hopefully, I was able to serve her by making it clear. She was able to be my voice in the room. I think editors notice that. When you serve them well, that speaks of how you’re going to be for the rest of the whole book writing process. I had a very interesting moment where, I was on the phone to my acquisitions editor, and she said, “Okay, we’re going to take this to Publishing Board.” And I said, “Well, what else can I do for you to make this as easy as possible, to make it a win for you? What else do you need from me?” She said, “Nobody has ever asked me that question before.”
Kathi – Wow.
Niki – So, we want to serve our readers, but in the book proposal, we want to serve the editor.
Kathi – Okay, I have written more than my fair share of book proposals and yes! I’ve never articulated it this way, or understood it this way. Niki, this is brilliant. Can I tell you what one of my friends did? And she’s talked about it on our podcast before. This is Cheri Gregory. So, she will be the first to say that she doesn’t have a giant platform, but she has a niche that is so important. It’s for highly sensitive women. She was trying to express to the board how much this topic was needed, but there weren’t numbers to show it. There wasn’t anything. So, what she did, and I think this is just genius, is, every letter she ever received. Every email that said, “Thank you for doing this work. Thank you for writing about this. Thank you for explaining this to my family.” She photo copied every one of those and put it in a big binder and sent it to her editor. Her editor, at the end of the presentation, said, “This is the weight of women who are waiting for this book.” And plopped it on the table. What you’re talking about, it’s a tool they can use to say, “This is why this book is needed, and why this author is the right one to write it.” Niki, this is genius. This is a highlight moment. I love that. Okay, finally, you talk about Demonstrate a Clear Growth Strategy to Prime the Pump. So, explain your four-pronged approach to that. What does that mean? What is your clear growth strategy?
Niki – I think it’s really important. They’re going to get a snapshot of where you are right now. I think it’s very important. If we can say, “Look, 6 months or a year ago, I was way behind that. I have grown to this current point, but here’s what I’m going to do moving forward to prime the pump for launch.” For me, it was a two year process between meeting an editor and the book hitting the shelf. I had two years to grow my platform and get out there and get known. So, laying out a clear strategy for what you’re going to do not only shows that you’re going to do it, but it shows that you know where your audience is. It shows you know how to serve them. It shows you know how to build relationships. So, the four points to that. We can guest post. We can do book reviews. We can, generally, increase our visibility. It’s a great thing to do to spend those two years, just posting. It doesn’t have to be in Christianity Today or Relevant Magazine. Friends’ blogs, if you’re part of the writing community. Just start getting out there, testing out your message. Always offering a freebie at the end, so people can sign up and get to know you. You can submit to all sorts of places. You can google “Places to submit for Christian mom writers.” Lists will come up. My point to sharing Lysa Terkeurst’s book. Do a review on that and post it on your website. It serves your reader, but it will also serve the author and you might get connected. There’s ways of doing that and increasing your visibility. Then, keep building relationships with readers. So again, that’s about going to where they are.
Kathi – Right. I think a lot of people, they want to save everything for the book, and it’s like, you can’t do that. You have to start building that trust and saying, “I’m a go-to resource for this, this and this.” You have to be generous with what you’re doing. Now, know that a lot of people are going to listen to this and they’re going to say, “Ugh, Niki, that’s a lot of work.” Yeah. It is.
Niki – It is.
Kathi – A lot of people what to publish books. What an editor is looking for, is for somebody who is going to show up and serve their audience over and over again.
Niki – So, what is the core nugget of your book, and how can you serve that up time and time again, in different ways? You feel like you’re giving away the farm, but as I’ve heard marketing people say, “You give away the what.” What to do. The book is really the how to do it. The backstory. The relatability and stuff. This is what you’ve got to do. Keep serving it up and building.
Kathi – It’s so true. I want to equip just the person who’s doing a drive by of my blog, or of my Facebook post. I want to serve them as well, but there are some that want to go deeper and that’s what the book is for. The book is not for everybody. Let’s be super clear. When I’m talking about being prepared, some people couldn’t care less right now. Maybe someday they will and they’ll come back. There are some people, this is at the forefront of their mind. So, those are the people I’m trying to serve. I’m not trying to serve everybody. I’m trying to serve the people that are ready.
Niki – Exactly.
Kathi – Okay. Niki, such good stuff. How to maximize your small (but mighty!) platform. Look around you. Understand that your platform is bigger than you think. Gather all of that data. I love that there’s such a scientific approach to this. Learn along the way. Figure out what’s working for you. See what’s working for other people and how you can apply it to your unique situation. Lay it out clearly. Give you editor all the ammunition that they need. Give them all the tools they need. Ask the question of the editor, “How can I make your job easier, going into that Pub Board room? There are lots of people who are going to ask lots of questions. They’re looking for reasons not to publish books. They’ve got so many that are coming at them. Finally, demonstrate a clear growth strategy to prime the pump. Show them where you’ve been. Show them where you’re planning on going. Show them the strategy you’re going to use to get there. Niki. Such good stuff. Guys. We have some free downloads that Niki has created for us, here at Writing at The Red House, that you can use to follow along this path. We want this to be a learning session for each and every one of you and take away, so you can go do this for your own book proposals, for your own marketing for all that you’re doing. Niki, thanks for being a part of Writing at The Red House.
Niki – You’re welcome. It’s such fun.
Kathi – Guys, join us next week. We’re going to be talking about common mistakes first time authors (and let me just be clear, sometimes second and third and eighth time authors) commit. So, you’re not going to want to miss this. You don’t want to be that person. You’ve been listening to Writing at The Red House podcast. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, God has given you the best message. Go live it.
*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items