Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: Building an Author Platform That Can Launch Anything by Toby Neal

I hope.

That’s the last line from Stephen King’s wonderful novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. It also happens to be my favorite line in all of English literature. Those are the words of an ex-convict who has spent his entire adult life behind bars, where hope was a scarce commodity indeed. He is paroled near the end of the story, and with that freedom comes the pure joy of finally looking forward to a future that seems infinitely brighter than his past.

Today’s publishing industry has bred an entire generation of writers who have also spent years in a prison of sorts. For the longest time the seemingly impregnable gates of the big publishing companies admitted only the fortunate few. Millions of novel manuscripts lay hidden away in dark drawers. The authors had little hope their words would ever see the light of day.

Then along came ebooks, print-on-demand, and the publishing tour de force that is Amazon. Suddenly there was hope. Anyone could polish off that book, apply a bit of formatting, click a few Amazon website buttons, and kazam … they had the book live and for sale within hours.

That’s quite a happy ending, right?

Except it isn’t, not for most of those newly liberated writers. According to the New York Times, the vast majority of self publishers never sell more than 100 to 150 books. Even truly talented indie authors who produce professional quality work often struggle to be found amidst a deluge of inexpensive books.

“Go online then,” became the battle cry, “that’s where the readers are.” So authors flocked to Facebook and Twitter in an effort to be heard. Unfortunately most authors find their social network marketing efforts have little discernable impact on sales. There are only so many times you can tweet ”My book is great – you should buy it” before the people on the other end of that seller / consumer relationship simply tune out the message.

All of which leaves a legion of authors feeling imprisoned and hopeless once again, only this time due to the difficulties of standing out among 2 million+ competitive titles offered by Amazon.

But just like the select few authors who found a way past the doors of the big publishing houses, another small group has cracked the code for what it takes to succeed in a big way as an indie author. Toby Neal is one such success story.

Toby's journey into publishing began like most indie authors. She wrote the best book she could, made it available to the world, and hoped it would catch on. And catch on it did. After months of respectable sales and gathering deservedly great reviews, Toby ran a promotion that resulted in 45,000 downloads and pushed Blood Orchids into the number one Kindle Free spot on Amazon. She was able to attract the attention of large numbers of people who were interested in a delightful police procedural mystery set in beautiful Hawaii.

She followed this success by releasing three more entries in the Lei Crime series. All four of these wonderful mysteries currently have Amazon sales ranks that would be the envy of most indie authors. Each is ranked in the top 100 in various Amazon sales categories.

How did she accomplish all this? Well that’s where I can offer the best piece of good news yet, because she wrote it all down in a book entitled Building an Author Platform That Can Launch Anything.

And here’s an even better piece of news. Every step of her success story is repeatable. You can do this. You don’t have to hope that you’ve written the perfect book. You don’t have to hope to get lucky and catch some mystical trend of book buyer desire at just the right time. You do, however, have to download this book and follow her advice. Believe me, for only 99 cents this is one of the best investments in your writing career you will ever make.

Toby Neal reveals a solid strategy for developing valuable online relationships with large numbers of reading fans, whom she calls Book Lovers. She explains the principles on which this strategy is based, which actually have a solid foundation in social psychology.

Here’s an example. She suggests authors should build online relationships with Book Lovers by first being good citizens and injecting value. The example I gave above – ”My book is great – you should buy it” – doesn’t do this. It’s a straight sales pitch at too early a point in the relationship.

Think about another seller / consumer relationship in which most of us have been involved, that of a young man trying to sell a young lady on the idea of going out with him. Let’s suppose his approach is to swagger up to each new girl he meets and immediately say, “I’m great – you should go out with me.”

You’re wincing, right? Most of the time he’s going down in flames, and I’m being gentle with the word ‘most.’ He’d be better off to simply be himself for a while with the new girl, give her a chance to discover for herself that he has some qualities she admires. Then when he gets around to asking her out with humble confidence, there’s a better chance she’ll be inclined to say yes.

It’s the same with potential book buyers. Authors today have an amazing opportunity to interact in a wide variety of online forums. The trick is to do so in such a way that shows you’re willing to support others, rather than always asking people to do something for you.

How do you accomplish that? You get yourself a copy of Toby Neal’s book and follow her advice. I found I was already following several of her principles, but she still pointed out plenty of ideas that hadn’t occurred to me. I’ve started applying her tips and I’m already enjoying the results.

Toby Neal’s advice on building an author platform is authoritative and specific. She describes exactly what you should be doing if you want to achieve the kind of Amazon sales success she is currently enjoying.

Thanks in part to Toby’s book, I no longer feel imprisoned by today's fiercely competitive market. Instead, I find I am excited about the future. In the words of Stephen King, ‘I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man starting a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.’

I hope I can apply the principles from Toby Neal’s book with the same professionalism and class she has demonstrated.

I hope I can offer something valuable to each and every new online friend I meet.

I hope readers will continue to enjoy my work.

I hope.

Next Week: Drop by to learn all the details of Andrew’s upcoming Reader Appreciation Promotion, during which Amazon top-rated thriller Unauthorized Access will be available FREE for three days.


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Andrew! I certainly will look into Toby Neal's book and I am ready to learn.

    There is so much information, so much experience out there, and by sharing it and exchanging our views, we grow together!

    To our success!


    1. Absolutely Tom - to shared success! Good luck pulling all that information together.
      - Andrew

  2. Dear Andrew,
    As I told you on Twitter I was thinking of pulling the book, as it's a little dated in that I've written four in the series now and am really rolling on my own platform. Writing it was never about making money--writing it was about PIF for other indie writers, helping them navigate the sloughs of social media. It's not a comprehensive like The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe, or even truly original (like John Locke's book I recommend buying--though a lot of that is self promo, he's the one who developed the idea of capturing your readers and cultivating them)but it does hit the sweet spot for people who just need effective ideas for implementing a social media strategy. Not every reviewer "got it" like you did, and I worried it made me try to seem like some sort of social media expert which was the last thing I've wanted to become.
    But, because you let me know, in such a clear and vocal way that the book made a difference to you, I'm going to keep it out there for awhile longer. How's that for adding value? *wink*
    You really made my day!
    Much aloha
    Toby Neal

    1. Hi Toby,
      To me, it clearly came through in the book that you were simply trying to share your experience in the hopes that it would prove helpful for some people. If some reviewers took a different message from it ... well, there are haters in the world. All we can do is continue doing the right thing and know that most people will see that. Thanks again.
      I hope!

  3. Thanks for the great review and highlighting the book so well, Andrew. I'm getting ready to release book 13-but my first indie release and I've been puzzling my way through all sorts of promotion advice. Toby is so right. It is a different world out there. When you really think about how you find books, you realize the "buy my book" promo is not a smart strategy.

    1. Pauline, I know what you mean. Google searches for various aspects of book promotion yield astonishingly long lists of advice to wade through. I believe it makes sense to listen to those who have succeeded, which is why I wrote the review. Thanks for dropping by and the very best wishes for Lucky Book #13!


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