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Planning Your Platform & Marketing Campaign for Your Novel

Rebeca decides to create a platform and marketing campaign for her novel...

Two weeks ago I attended a writing meetup group via Zoom. This particular gathering normally met once a month at coffee shops in the town I live and in surrounding areas, but now, for obvious reasons, we meet via Zoom to write for two hours on the weekends.

During our first meeting, after the first round of fifteen minutes to exchange pleasantries and then writing in silence for forty-five minutes, a member asked about process during the mid-point break. I immediately chimed in and said I use Scrivener to write. Another member jumped in and said, “You write novels. So it makes sense you use Scrivener, but I write short stories so it wouldn’t be of any use to me.” 

Of course, I had to correct her wrong assumption that Scrivener is only good for long works of fiction and/or non-fiction, and that it provides templates for essays, research papers, novels and even a short story template!  I explained that I use it for all my writing projects from drafting blog posts to query and pitch letters. 

I also use Scrivener as a planner of sorts. A new project I recently assigned myself is to create the platform for my novel (assuming I reach “The End”). The idea of creating the platform started with the notion that I needed to work on a writing project that had a lateral relationship with the various subject matters of my WIP. A friend suggested I write a series of essays that not only helps build a platform, but that I could sell for publication. However, apart from writing essays, I also want to create an entire marketing plan that would consist of social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as well as writing blog posts. 

With this somewhat premature project in mind, I rolled up my sleeves, opened Scrivener, selected the blank template. I then started assessing what I wanted to include within the project. Would it make sense that in addition to the marketing plan and essaysto include a customizable query letter to agents and some form of tracking process all within one project? Why not, I figured. At best it would be all in one place and easy to find, and if it became too cluttered and overwhelming, I could always delete the unnecessary items.

First Steps: Adding Folders and Using the Synopsis 

My first step in the draft section of the binder was to create a number of folders that included: Query Letter, Synopsis, Literary Agency Outreach and Manuscript Partial/Full. 

Within the Literary Agency Outreach folder, instead of writing within the editor, I used the synopsis to create a list that included agent name, email, address, when the query letter was sent, if a full or partial manuscript was requested and if representation was offered. The reasoning behind this was to see it all laid out so it could be a quick glance in corkboard view.  

But what about the actual document? That’s held in reserve for due diligence on the agent and literary agency. In other words, it will include a list of authors the agent/agency represents, which publishing house acquired authors' books, deals the agent worked on behalf of their authors e.g. film rights, international rights, as well as book reviews for the authors/books they represent, and so on. 

Creating a Spreadsheet Using Custom Metadata in the Outliner 

Another option, if you are the type of person who rather work with outlines, you can jump on over to outline view, but you will need to create new columns using custom metadata (I added the same information from the synopsis). I’ve added an extra column for following up, which would most likely include a number of follow-up dates by email (if you don’t hear back, I would quit after three emails. Don’t be a nuisance.).

To create the custom metadata, go to Project->Project Settings. Select custom metadata on the left pane. Hit the plus sign found in pane to the right, and from there you can create your different fields. 

You have a few options to choose in “Type” that includes a checkbox, list, text, and date. For my purpose, I selected “Text.” This is how the columns looks in outline view: 

Please note the columns won’t automatically appear; you’ll need to select them by opening the menu that list the columns. Simply click on the right pointing arrow on the far right. The menu will open and from the list you can decide what to tick or untick.

Note that if you click “Custom Columns” it will take you the project settings window. The custom metadata also appears in the inspector. 

To populate your outline you can either type in the custom metadata fields in the inspector for each document or simply fill out the columns in outline view. 

If you plan to write essays, you can use the same type of method to help track which publication was queried, the name of the editor you emailed, response, accepted or not, and the fee paid by that publication.

Creating Your Social Media Strategy

A big part of your platform will be participating in various social media platforms. You might want to consider which platform is best for you or you might want to reach out to different audiences. Instagram, for example, has thousands of book review bloggers who have beautifully curated accounts and regularly post the covers of books they received from publishers and publicists. Twitter is used by many literary agents and editors at the major publishing houses, making it a good social media source for your due diligence. If you create an author page on Facebook, you can post items that not exclusively related to your book, but to writing in general. 

In the case of Instagram, if you want to engage with those readers and book review bloggers, you might want to create a visually engaging account that centers your book and its various themes. This would include a cover reveal, settings where the story takes place and other visuals, maybe which actors you’ve “casted” as your characters. 

To prepared in advance, you can use the research section by creating a gallery of images to have handy for your daily or weekly postings. For example, my WIP deals with a number of topics ranging from the Spanish Civil War, the Great Depression, the Blacklist, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, as well as the Spain’s Historical Memory and the number of exhumation that are in process in the country, plus the several locations the novel takes place: Berkeley, CA, New York’s Lower Eastside, the Belleville neighborhood in Paris, and Darmos in Catalonia, Spain. 

I’ve collected several images,* imported them into the Research section as inspiration while I draft the novel. But they’ll also serve, when the time comes market the book, to rouse the curiosity of potential readers, and allude to parts of the book with a caption and hashtags

Preplanning Your Social Media Strategy

From my perspective this type of preplanning works best for those who prefer using Instagram or Twitter. The captions don’t need to be long and the use of the hashtags (keywords in this case) serve as a good search function on both Twitter and Instagram. For Facebook, you may want to use the images, but I plan to post articles that have some connection to the story. One of subplot includes the exhumation of International Brigade veterans and the Spanish concentration camps that the Natioanlists established and where so many Spanish Republicans were imprisoned and executed. Any relevant article centering on Spain’s Historical Memory and the exhumations of those executed by the Nationalists, I plan post on Facebook with the hope to draw out conversations with page followers who might be interested in this topic. 

To organize those posts you can either import web pages or PDFs into the Research section of the binder. In the synopsis for each web page or PDF, you can write a caption for the post with the linked URL so you can copy and paste it on Facebook. If you rather not crowd yourresearch section, can use the Bookmarks feature found in the Inspector. To become more familiar how to use this feature, you can refer to this post “Accessing Your Research in One Click.” 

There are a number of other marketing tactics you can include within this project. If you amass a following after you’ve sold your novel, you can start planning the author and book website, you can draft scripts for the book trailer; you can also create a folder for your monthly newsletter that announces events you’ll be attending, readings and signings, interviews and so on.  Remember, even if you’re not traditionally published, you can use many of these elements to promote your self-published book.

The big question is whether you should just focus on writing and editing at the moment or whether this is all premature. That’s really up to you, but for me this exercise provides more motivation to get to “The End.”

*Corkboard image credits and some trivia:

rue Saint Maur: http://www.cadredevie.paris/requalifier-la-rue-saint-maur-apaiser-la-rue-faubourg-du-temple-reamenag

279 East Broadway, NYC: Rebeca Schiller. I used to live there on the first and second floors. It was formerly owned by a famous tattoo artist. That building and the entire neighborhood is a treasure trove of politically leftist history.

Alvah Bessie: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13576531/alvah-bessie

Men in Battle: Rebeca Schiller (it’s my own copy of Alvah Bessie's memoir when he went to Spain with the Lincoln Brigades).

Hollywood Ten Protest: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hollywood-Ten 

Julius Rosenberg: https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/soviet-spies-the-rosenbergs (as a boy, he lived on Broome Street about block away from my old building. The tenement building where he lived was knocked down and it's now a police precinct). 

 

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