How a platform got Andy Weir published

Andy Weir is the author behind the book behind the film “The Martian”. The film contract was agreed within four days of the print contract. This is how Andy Weir did that.

There is a video coming up with Andy Weir talking about how he got started. As we are talking about author platforms I am going to focus on Andy Weir’s platform building.

Andy Weir spent 10 years building a relationship with 3,000 subscribed readers. So when he released “The Martian” on Kindle for $0.99 it shot up the ranking and hit the number one slot for Science Fiction.

That’s Andy Weir’s entire secret in one paragraph. That and just keep writing until you get good at it. As platforms go Weir’s one really sucks. Take a look at it and try to disagree. But that did not matter. It did not matter because the content was good.

Content is everything.

So without further ado, here is the video.

Notice the takeaways here:

  • Weir kept writing
  • Weir maintained a website and published regular content
  • Weir developed and sustained a relationship with readers
  • His relationship turned readers into fans
  • Fans buy stuff
  • Weir used his platform to get feedback from fans
  • Knowing who you are writing for matters

Knowing your readers

Andy Weir always had a love of science and wrote for people like him. People who also loved science. Weir let his passion direct his writing and when the book came out, others with the same passion caught the excitement.

There is no surprise that Adam Savage found the book exciting. If you are a geek like me, this interview will excite you. If you are not, you might want to skip on past it. But don’t. If you are a writer, this is one hour of a writer talking about how he works and that’s always good research for us.

One important note, Weir had thousands of regular readers before he started writing “The Martian”.

On of the things that Weir brings up in both videos is how he enthusiastically gave away his work. That giving away of work led to the sales that led to the contract that led to a film.

We sometimes get all het up about “protecting our copyright”. Yet serialising the story as he wrote it was what made things work for Andy Weir.

So that leads me to the new idea for today – give away your best work. It seems counter-intuitive. After all, wouldn’t that hurt future sales?

Writers Digest digs a little into this topic here. You can read that when you have a moment but the main point is that, as Seth Godin often points out, ideas that spread win. It worked for Andy Weir and it could work for you too.

Serialising your story

I want to take a quick look at the topic of telling your story in episodes. That seems like a great idea for building an audience while getting the work written.

It is not just Weir who has followed this path of serialised publication, Joanna Campbell Slan has blogged about doing that too.

Back in the day, I had a section on my website called Lord Matt Fiction. It got taken down in one of the server moves over the years and never went back up but I had a few stories that I was making up as I went (pantsing). I’ve got a hard drive full of supporting illustrations, story notes and all sorts that I could throw into such a project.

How to structure your project by Simon K Jones is a series about how to How to write serialised fiction. The whole series might be worth checking out if you like this serialisation idea.

How to Start a Web Serial by Jukepop Serials might be worth a read and will definitely sell you on some interesting ideas but, honestly, get a blog and start writing. Forbes has an article on the same subject that covers many of the same ideas. Forbes has a good reputation for offering excellent advice so, if you want to read a lot, go read this too.

If you are going to go down this route, and I am seriously considering doing that with one of my stories (that one with the cat in it), then you will want to read Zachary Bonelli’s Monetizing Serialized Fiction. After all, what we writers want more than anything else, is to get paid so we can do more writing.

Talking about getting paid, after realising that Weir was on to something with the whole serial thing (about halfway through this post), I checked out a post called How To Get Your Book Serialised in Newspapers and Glossy Magazines. Nice, I thought, Dickens (who has this huge Thanet connection himself) got started by doing just that. I’m not sure if getting published episodically in magazines is for me right now but it could be a good idea one day.

Over to you

This is the part of a blog post where I try to wrap everything up and hand off to you for comments. I really did not imagine I would take this post in exactly the direction it went in so appologies if I rambled a lot and didn’t talk about building a platform as much I suggested in the title. I hope you go something out of reading this anyway.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing in serial form?

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