Platform Building & Media Relations for Indie Authors

Chris Well recently joined me on a Conversations with Frances broadcast. Hear what he had to say about media relations and platform building for indie authors.

Chris started young in the media; by college he was writing for national magazines. Later, he worked in radio and worked as an editor with a magazine. Over the years, he has accumulated 25 years in the media working with a number of brands. This is what he had to say:

The right email to the right reporter will get you coverage. That said, any author can find media coverage.

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Lisa Tener on Publishing, Platform and Book Marketing

Lisa Tener bring-your-book-to-lifeI met Lisa Tener at the San Francisco Writers Conference in February and was immediately impressed by her presence. She’s a sought-after book coach who has helped authors such as Deb Scott, Carrie Barron, MD, Anne Burnett and others secure big publishing contracts. Despite Lisa’s accomplishments, she’s one of the most humble – and talented – book coaching and publishing experts I’ve met. Here’s Lisa in her own words on coaching, nonfiction publishing, platform building, and the benefits of devoting time to book marketing.

I’ve read your bio but I want to hear from you how you rose in your career to become such a talented and coveted book coach?

Wow, thank you for saying that. It was a circuitous path. I knew I’d grow up to be a writer since first grade—just didn’t know what kind. And coming from a family of educators, teaching is in my blood. I majored in management and minored in writing at MIT—and I got to study with some amazing writing teachers, including Frank Conroy who went on to become the Director of the famed Iowa Writers Workshop.

I started out in technical jobs (programming related), but even in that first job, we developed courses and manuals for internal clients, so I’ve always been teaching and writing. I did lots of writing as a nonprofit executive.

Who do you work with and what do you help them accomplish?

I work mostly with people who have expertise in a certain field—coaching, medicine, therapy, business, consulting, healing arts, educators, and others—but who are not usually professional writers. The majority of my clients are writing how-to or self-help books or other types of nonfiction.

Some want to traditionally publish and I am guide them through that entire process—from fine tuning their book idea, to generating the platform to developing a first class book proposal, which includes polished, compelling sample chapters.

Others self-publish and then it’s more about writing the book—again, I help them with their book concept, I edit and I guide them to resources to help them with other aspects of their plan.

How can you tell when a book is right for a major publisher?

Major publishers are looking for 3 main things:

1. A large potential audience: they want to be able to sell a lot of books!

2. A new angle or fresh voice or new perspective on a topic that is already selling: So new, but not so new that it’s an unproven market

3. An author with a platform: It’s crucial to publishers nowadays to know that the author already has a pent up demand for the book—that there are people the author currently reaches who will buy this book when it comes out. And that the author can build on that reach to sell books to even more people. Publishers are risk averse in this current environment. The author can’t look like a risk.

Yes, they’re looking for compelling writing, but if the concept and platform are attractive and there’s a big audience, they might recommend a ghostwriter or co-writer.

Lisa TenerWhat role does marketing – especially social media marketing – play in helping a self-published author rise from obscurity?

Marketing is crucial for both traditionally- and self-published authors. You need a plan to sell books. And social media is taking a bigger and bigger role in helping authors get known. Through social media, people get to know authors, so there’s this attractive piece about connecting with your audience. In addition, people use social media to recommend books to others—so social media helps books take off.

How important is it today for authors to have large followings on social media? Do publishers really make it a numbers game?

No question that social media is playing a bigger and bigger role in publishing and book sales. So publishers are much more compelled to want to see a significant audience. But they also want to see engagement. So what if you somehow got 30,000 followers who are not engaged with you?

While numbers are an important factor, I would not say it’s a numbers game per se—so many factors go into a book deal. To give you an example, I have a client who blogs for Psychology Today and also gets picked up by the Huffington Post. He’s excellent with Twitter. He’d good about retweeting other relevant information, supporting his colleagues—he’s a team player.  He has a bit over 14,000 followers. So a nice number but nothing blockbuster on Twitter. However, his posts for PT and HP often get a lot of play. Two different major publishers approached him about writing books and he got a six-figure book deal. So, certainly his engaged presence on digital media played a major role in getting his book deal. But it’s not like there is a magic number that made it happen. Just that the engagement and reach were high.

What are the traits of a bestseller, whether it is a work of fiction or nonfiction?

Well, I specialize in nonfiction, so I’ll focus there. And I specialize in self-help and how-to. There’s some part strategy and some part magic, so I can’t give you a formula but here are some of the usual ingredients: Something fresh about it, even if it’s a popular topic; relevant to a large audience; a compelling and fresh-sounding title definitely helps—it should give a sense of benefits or potential results of reading the book; well written; entertaining—often it’s fun to read—there’s a strong voice and maybe the voice is even playful or sassy or smart or very humorous; well-organized—easy to read. But a book can have all these things and not be a bestseller. Much has to do with what the author does to get the word out. I think one of the biggest keys to success is persistence and believing in your book—being willing to do whatever it takes to get the word out. You will hit challenges and the bestselling authors see those challenges as opportunities.

What advice on marketing do you give the authors who work with you?

Take marketing seriously! And have a marketing plan that generates money from things other than book sales. If it’s all about book sales, you can invest a great deal of time and money to generate a small amount of money, but if you have something else to sell—online courses, consulting, coaching, seminars, speaking gigs, etc.—then one book sale can generate a great deal of income and you can, in turn, continue to invest some of that money back into marketing and promoting the book.

I also advise authors to blog. A blog gives you a home base where people can find you and connect and, hopefully, sign up to hear more from you so they stay in touch. A blog also helps with Google and other search engines. And it helps you engage in your communities with something to offer. Then, other social media is important for connecting with new people and expanding the reach of that blog.

Lisa Tener quickstartWhat is your favorite part of coaching?

I love the variety, so it’s a bit hard to pick one. I do love starting with an author who is at the beginning stages and still shaping the book, because we can be very creative and at the same time responsive to the marketing aspects from the get-go. I personally enjoy finding the synergy between marketing/business/publishing and the creative inner voice and inner knowing of what I refer to as the muse. I like to work with the left brain aspects of a book and then see what the muse has to say. I have an exercise I take people through, I call it “Meet Your Muse” that facilitates access to that inner muse for clarity in making creative decisions—and any decisions—about the book. Readers can access it here: Meet Your Muse Visualization.

What is the most difficult element to being a book coach?

When someone is uncoachable it can be incredibly frustrating. They want to get an agent but they’re not willing to grow their platform. Or maybe they don’t even want to build a website—that’s a nonstarter! I’ve been in the business long enough to know when it’s not a good fit for me. I’m pretty lucky. I get to work with amazing people.

I’d say once in a while I hear from someone who has a full first draft complete or a large section complete and I know it needs reorganization, yet for some reason it’s a complex book or it’s just not clear to me how to structure the material, and I feel overwhelmed, I know it’s time to bring in a colleague who specializes in that. So, it’s helpful to know your limits and when something is not playing to your strengths or it’s just not a good match (maybe not for the whole project but certainly for that aspect). Again, I’m lucky to have amazing colleagues I can call on if I get stumped on a particular book, which happens maybe once a year, if that.

Can you highlight the benefits and differences in your different coaching programs?

I tend to customize work with clients but the main things I do are:

 1. Book proposal coaching: this is for someone who wants a traditional publisher. It includes guidance on developing the book concept and structure, making the proposal highly marketable, and often on platform building as well. I will contact agents I know who seem a good match for the book. If we don’t get an agent (or if the author is not interested in much platform building, or the topic doesn’t lend itself to a publisher big enough to interest an agent), then I either help guide the author to query individual publishers or in some cases I contact smaller publishers whom I know and think are a good fit.

2. Book writing coaching: we can do this on an individual, customized basis or authors can join my annual Award-winning Bring Your Book to Life® Program to write a first draft in 8-12 weeks. We can then work on editing to complete the book for self-publishing or switch to working on the proposal.

3. Individual Consultations: These can focus on the publishing decision, platform building, next steps, or a book concept consultation. For the latter, I might recommend someone work through my “Quick Start to Kick Start Your Book” program which is $97 or $116, depending on whether digital or hard copy. It guides writers through developing the book concept and structure before diving into the writing.

4. Editing: Generally, I only have time to edit for someone who has gone through one of my programs above, but for the right project I have been known to take on someone new. I also have some skilled colleagues I recommend for editing, as part of the services I offer.

There are a lot of book coaches. What distinguishes your coaching from other professionals?

Probably the most important feature to someone looking for a coach is the results my clients get. Many have been published by—or recently signed deals with—major publishing houses including Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Beyond Words, Hay House, Yale University Press, New World Library, New Harbinger and more. And others choose to self-publish, many of who have won multiple book awards.

I have both a marketing background (and won a Gold Stevie Award for Marketer of the Year-media) and strong writing training. I am a traditionally published author myself. I have two business degrees from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. I serve on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s publishing course. So I bring to the table all the pieces that help make an author successful—the writing, the business and marketing aspects and an understanding of the industry coupled with strong contacts in the industry, including the agents and publishers who serve with me as faculty for the Harvard Medical School Course.

I’ve won multiple awards for my work, and the fact that I teach at various writers conferences, plus on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s publishing course all speak to a certain quality.

Clients tell me they value my ability to help them access their creative and intuitive abilities which are critical to writing a great—and successful—book that helps them actualize their potential.

Probably more than half of the people who contact me already know I’m the book coach for them and they want to hire me. I think some of that is word of mouth, but the majority is from the testimonials they read on my website. I think those testimonials give people a sense of what I bring to the table so it automatically attracts the people who need what I have to offer. I’m not going to be the perfect book coach for everyone—but I seem to be ideal for those people whom I work with and who value the items I just mentioned.

Lisa Tener inspiration-to-authorYour 8-week signature Bring Your Book to Life® Teleclass has helped a number of authors write their books, navigate the publishing world, and enjoy tremendous success in terms of publishing deals and awards. What are the keys to their eventual success and how does your program help them?

Wow, I could say a lot about that. I guess one key is that the program focuses on having them have a very strong start so they likely have clarity on the book concept and structure before our teleseminars begin (there’s pre-work they complete beforehand, including one-on-one work with me). In that pre-work we work together to capture what that author has to offer that makes the book special and marketable and resonate deeply for their audience. It’s fun work. It’s creative, and I so enjoy that one-on-one which is often crucial for writing the best book you can.

Then, the program has quite a bit of built-in accountability so its structured to keep you on track—and most people complete a remarkable amount of work in the 8 weeks of teleseminars—often completing a first draft or first draft with a few holes (of a book or book proposal), in that relatively short time. And yet, because of the pre-work and the material we cover, as well as the feedback from me, the books are also high quality.

Avoid Social Media Time SuckAbout the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of  Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter and the San Francisco Writers Conference. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web

4 Tips for Managing Your Author Platform in 30 Minutes a Day

Social Media Time Suck Final 380I am excited to announce that my newest book, Avoid Social Media Time Suck, is available for purchase on Kindle. In a few weeks, it will also be available in paperback form. I wrote this book to address writers’  dilemma of  time management when using social media.

Authors tell me that they find social media marketing so time-consuming that it leaves them less time to do what they love most: write. In response to this complaint, I wrote this book.

This is what you’ll learn from this book: my four-step formula that will reduce the time you’ll need to spend when using your preferred social media networks, information on numerous applications that will make you more efficient when engaging on the social web, applications that will turn off your social media networks when it’s time to sit and write, blogging tips, and suggestions for introverted marketers.

Frances Caballo’s Avoid Social Media Time Suck provides an indispensable resource for every serious writer who knows they must spend time online to achieve publishing success. This book covers a huge range of topics including how to create a brand, build author platform and solve a variety of common social media issues. Most important, it provides a cure to the black hole social media can become in an author’s schedule: four steps to make time online effective and efficient. This book is a must-have for any writer who wants to sell books to a worldwide audience and still have time to write. ~~ Nina Amir, blogger, editor, book and author coach, and author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual


He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.

—Victor Hugo, French poet, novelist, dramatist

People often ask me, “How much time do you spend on social media every day?” I tell them the truth, 30 to 45 minutes. There are days when it takes me five minutes to curate and schedule my tweets, shares, and posts for the day. Other times, it may take me twenty minutes but on average I don’t spend more than fifteen minutes in the mornings.

I never vary my schedule. Starting at 5 am, I scan my Twitter lists, review stories on, and navigate over to my Twylah Brand Builder assessment. These are all the sources I need to discover the newest, hottest content in my niche, social media for writers.

At every step, I’m aware of my brand, and I endeavor to represent it as best I can through my content. Then I turn to my marketing platform to disseminate information that others will not only want to read, but need to read.

What is an Author Platform?

Michael Hyatt answers this question best with this quote from his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World:

The means by which you connect with your existing and potential readers.

Think of an author marketing platform as a means by which you can more easily be seen and heard, and can converse with your readers. Think of it as a stage that allows you to see and talk with your audience. A platform, like a stage, makes you more visible to the demographic you are trying to reach.

There is confusion about what an author brand is. Here’s an easy answer: You are your brand. Everything your write, post, tweet and share should further your brand, which can also be defined as a lasting impression you want to leave with your writers.

Four-Step Cure to Social Media Time Suck

You may think that you don’t have time to maintain a social media marketing platform, but you do provided you follow this formula.

1.    Curate every morning.

2.    Schedule every morning.

3.    Socialize every afternoon.

4.    Analyze every week.

What is Curation?

Each day you need to search for great content that is relevant to your readers. Use the websites and applications noted below.


Scheduling your content is your next step. You will need to find an application that fits your budget and has the features you want, for example, HootSuite and SocialOomph are solid applications to use.


To be successful on social media, you will need to allocate time in the day to be social. You can fit this into your schedule in a variety of ways: while waiting for a friend at a café, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or browsing your social networks on your smartphone or mobile device while relaxing on the couch at night.


You can tackle the final step—analyzing your metrics—on a weekly or monthly basis. This step is the crux for how you will continue to develop your social media marketing strategy. Every once in a while you will need to clear a few minutes to check your Insights (Facebook’s free analytics tool) to determine what content resonates the most with your fans. Are your fans sharing your content? Was there a post that didn’t generate a single Like? On Twitter, take a look at your retweets and mentions. Are they dropping or climbing? Compare the content you tweet against the metrics.

Applications to Ease Your Social Media Marketing

Curation Applications


Created by social media megastar and venture capitalist Guy Kawa- saki, this is the mother of all curation websites. You’ll find the day’s top articles here in every possible niche.

Have you ever wanted to publish your own magazine? Now you can with In addition to scouring the web to find the best articles it can on the topics you select, enables you to publish regularly an online magazine featuring the top articles you found. You can also use this application to find great content to post.

Google Trends

Type in any topic and Google Trends will let you know whether it is trending up, or down—and provide you with great statistics on the topics you write about for your next blog post.

Check your Twitter news feed too.

Scheduling Applications


SocialOomph is a scheduler on steroids. It will allow you to schedule your social media posts, set up recurring tweets and LinkedIn posts, find new followers, and track your click-through rates and keywords. It also provides limited analytics and will find new friends for you to follow.


An application designed just for Facebook, PostPlanner enables you to schedule your status updates. It has additional features that are tempting on its $19/month plan: this application will show you the newest content trending in your niche, help you target your readers, and provide you with real-time analytics. It also has a cache of thousands of updates that you can select from on those days when you can’t think of anything to say.

Pluggio and Tweetdeck are great tools, but you can only use it for Twitter.

Analyze Your Metrics


All you need to do is type in the web address of your Facebook page (not your profile) and this free program will analyze your engagement. Your score will be somewhere between 1 and 100. The higher your score, the better your page is performing. This application will rate your growth in page Likes, rank your score against similar pages, measure your response time to comments left by fans, determine whether you are asking questions often enough, and remind you to denote more milestones. Basically, it provides an at-a-glance look at the areas you excel in and the areas that need improvement. Every-one with a Facebook page should take advantage of this free analytics program.


To discover how your page fares compared to similar pages, type in your Facebook URL. If you want to know which pages are trending on Facebook, you can also find that information on this free informational site.


For $39/month, SproutSocial will analyze your Facebook and Twitter accounts. The analytics are comprehensive, and in addition to a PDF report, you can download an Excel spreadsheet that examines your click-through rates on a day-by-day basis. It provides in-depth demographics and measures tweets, retweets, follows, mentions, re- plies, and direct messages. It will also measure how social you are and determine your influence. You can also use this application to schedule your posts, unfollow users, and, at the premium level, it will determine your best posting times.

What’s the most difficult part of maintaining your social media marketing strategy?


Social Media Time Suck Final 200About the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of  Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+.

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web