Building a Memoir Writing Platform: What Is Your Message? (Part 2)

by Kendra Bonnett on February 28, 2010

Book Business PaperclipPost #30 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Business – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

In Part 1 of this post about building a platform for your memoir writing, summer-cottageI looked at the What? questions for my hypothetical memoir, All For the Sake of Cheap Lobster. Most specifically, I asked, What is my message?

What Is My Message?

At first, I thought my message was simply one of culture clash–that I was chronicling the difference between living in a small, rural town in the way north, way eastern seaboard and the cosmopolitan, bedroom community for New York City in Fairfield County, Connecticut, that I left behind. All of that is true and anecdotally amusing, but it’s not instructive or inspirational or spiritually uplifting. And it’s not going to bring me closer to finding a platform…unless I plan to sell my book to supercilious, urbane, metrosexual types who want to believe they are superior to everyone else.

lighthouseFirst, the market isn’t that big. Second, who cares. And third, my Maine village is not something to be ridiculed. I needed to dig into my motivations for moving to Maine and consider all the events in the years leading up to my decision to uproot. My reasons are many and somewhat complicated and personal, but the shorthand version is that I sought a simpler life. I needed to get away from the metropolitan corridor that stretches from Boston to Washington, DC. For that I could have just as easily chosen a small town in Wyoming, North Carolina or New Mexico. I went to Maine because I connected with my childhood memories made so many years before during that special trip I took with my parents.

Now I was getting somewhere. I can’t be the only person in the United States who has “had it,” is tired of the rat race, yearns for a simpler life or just simply feels like opting out for awhile. Stop the world, I want to get off. And, of course, I’m not. A quick Google session proved it. Here is a small sampling of what I found:

I have the beginnings of a platform. Not only are there my kindred spirits–the people who have already made the change–but (I suspect) there is a base of wannabes that’s even larger. My hypothetical memoir, with anecdotes to entertain, can serve both as a point of comparison for my fellow uprooted urban dwellers and as a guide for preparing mind and soul for the culture shock–for those still dreaming of getting away from it all: what to expect, how to fit in, what to drive, things to bring, things to leave behind, etc.

Your Memoir May Reach Multiple Platforms

This is progress, but I’m not done yet. What? has yielded some fertile fields to cultivate, but I still have to answer my who, where, when, why and how questions. And this, I think, is important. Don’t assume you have only one platform or that only one of our questions will guide you to your audience. Take the time to complete the exercise. Be thorough and see where your investigation takes you.

Creating a Marketing Strategy and Sales Tactics

Finding a platform for your memoir is a pointless exercise…unless you begin crafting a marketing strategy and a set of sales tactics. My strategy is two-fold:

  1. Use the Internet to build awareness for my subject and, eventually, my book, to connect with prospective readers, and to attract them to my website/blog.
  2. Leverage my offline network of friends, business contacts, organizations, charities, libraries, social groups, etc. to reach larger numbers of prospective readers than I could reach by myself.

Tactic #1: Create a blog as the centerpiece of my website. I’m starting with my blog because it takes Mainetime and effort to get established. My goal is to get my blog listed on page one of Google for the keywords that are most often searched, and that’s not going to happen overnight. I still have to pick my keywords, and I’ll use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool for that; it’s free.

To get started, I’ll need a URL (a domain name), which I can buy through Go Daddy for around $10. I’ll select WordPress as my blog publishing platform; it’s free and quite versatile. I’ll require a hosting service, which is the company that provides the central servers with enough disk space, bandwidth (speed), guaranteed uptime and technical support to get my blog up and running. This will cost me, depending on the plan I choose, less than $80 a year.

And that’s it. Of course, I still need to create my blog. Because it will be more than a year (and closer to two, I suspect) before my book is written and published, I want to keep my expenses low. I’ll choose a free theme for my blog. This will provide me with a page layout, color scheme, font selection and simple masthead design. Now all I have to do is come up with a clever name for my blog, a blogging strategy (topics I plan to write about) and a schedule:

  • I decide to call my blog “Leaving Downtown for Downeast;” my URL is a little different (and shorter) and speaks to my intention. I’ll buy www.LeaveTheCityBehind.com .
  • Because I want to paint a realistic picture of country life vs. city life, I decide to alternate my blog posts between the pros and cons of getting off the beaten path and moving to the house at the end of the gravel lane. This will give me the opportunity to write about the realities of moving to the country–what you gain as well as what you lose. I can talk about my daily activities and experiences (even funny anecdotes) without cribbing from my book. The days of book deals for turning a bunch of blog posts into a book are gone. No one wants to read what’s already been published online. So I have to keep my blog copy fresh, allude to my book and never write about an event that I plan to put in the book.
  • Finally, I need to set a schedule for my blogging. I want to commit myself to enough frequency that I quickly build a large body of content. At the same time, I think it’s wise for me to ease into this blogging thing. As the saying goes, don’t bite off more than you can chew. That goes double for blogging. As as I get into the habit of blogging, I can always increase my frequency. Better to add rather than cut back. For now, I decide to blog twice a week–Mondays and Thursdays.

waterfrontSo, you may still be wondering why I decided to start with a blog. It’s simple really. My blog is my online platform. The sooner I start posting, the sooner I start moving up the ranks on Google. Remember, my goal is to reach page one on Google. Also, as I begin to join Facebook Fan Pages, as I start commenting on other blogs, as I get involved in discussions on the online forums…as I make a name for myself…I need a platform where my new fans can come to learn more about me (and my book). Just call me the Pied Piper of Downeast Living.

In my next post, I’ll ask the question Why? Stay tuned and start thinking about a platform for your own writing.







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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Emma March 1, 2010 at

Kendra,
Thanks for demystifying this platform building process. I look forward to the rest of the posts. You say to buy a domain and use Wordpress on it. I don’t feel that committed yet and live on a shoe string budget. Woudl it work to use a free site on Wordpress or Blogger?

Kendra Bonnett March 1, 2010 at

Hi Emma,

Your most welcome. I’ll tell you, the more I get into this, the more I can see that it’s a subject that requires demystifying. As to your question about buying a WordPress.org domain and hosting it yourself…yes, this is the ideal way to go. It’s not expensive, but if you are on a shoestring and can’t afford to go that route, I suggest you get a WordPress.com account. It’s free and hosted by WordPress. There is an upgrade path to WordPress.org when you’re ready. I haven’t actually tried this myself, but I know people who have. There’s nothing wrong with Blogger, but I’m partial to WordPress because you can move to WordPress.org when you’re ready. Hope this helps.

Sam March 1, 2010 at

Thanks for linking to my blog! It sounds like you have the makings of a memoir that I’d pay to read. Good luck!

Katrina Masterson March 6, 2010 at

Hi Kendra,

Thank you, thank you, and thank you! Thank you for sharing your practical advice and experience. I am learning so much from you! Thank you for your wonderful writing style, too. You entertain me every day with your funny stories, and with your unique way of seeing the world. I’ll buy your memoir because you are so funny and make me laugh – I know I’m guaranteed a great read! And thank you for being so generous with your time and your knowledge; words can’t express my appreciation, which is why I will acknowledge you in the credits of my memoir. I’ve been telling everyone about your web site, blog, and feeds; I tell my friends that even with my crazy schedule – yes I live on the eastern corridor that you escaped – I make time to read your feeds every day! Again, thank you so very mucg!

Sincerely,
Katrina

Kendra Bonnett March 7, 2010 at

Thank you, Katrina, for you very kind words. You turn my head! As a person who reads Women’s Memoirs often, you can see the time and effort Matilda and I put into this…effort. I was searching for the right word, but it is, in fact, an effort. It also happens to be a labor of love. We love the writing, we love working with women writers all over the country, and we love sharing what we’ve learned. Business gurus will tell you to follow your passion. So true, so true.

You’re the third person to say they’d buy my memoir…should I write it. Maybe one of these days the hypothetical will become actual. In the meantime, Matilda and I are finishing up our Writing Alchemy book, and we’ve already lined up three or four more projects for ourselves. I guess I don’t have to worry about having a job (or losing it) when I can stack up projects like cord wood.

Sorry you haven’t escaped the Eastern corridor…yet. It’s a madhouse down there. Connecticut isn’t the same place I grew up, and I went to school in Virginia. It used to take seven hours to drive between school and my parents’ home. Today, well, let’s just say I avoid I-95 all together. Here in Downeast Maine, believe it or not, I can drive some 30 miles in any direction (well not east or I’d end up in the drink) to even see a stoplight! That’s recommendation enough.

Katrina, I hope you’ll not only keep reading but put some of our writing and marketing tips into practice. Good luck to you, and stay in touch.

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