Let’s talk about platforms. Do you already have a platform for your audience to hear your voice shouted from the mountain top? Have you started one but don’t have the followers you wish you had? Do you even know which social media outlets you should be targeting? If you have written your first or twelfth book, you need to muscle up your platform and get the word out to your readers. Here are a couple of articles to get you headed down the right path. As well as a short 45-minute FREE video course to get yourself acquainted with platform building and marketing. The course link is at the end of this blog, just click the link and start learning. In the meantime here is a short vlog on the platform building process😊
Many writers wait until they’ve completed a novel—or a screenplay or a short story or any other significant piece of work—before attempting to build an author platform. Here’s why you should make expanding your audience a daily practice.
There is a mentality that I see consistently with authors that always puzzles me. Maybe they’ve just finished a book. Or maybe they’ve signed with a literary agent. Or maybe they’ve just sold their novel to a publisher and they’re excited to get started on those edits. But the response is almost always the same when I ask them this question:
What’s your platform?
There’s usually a long pause, followed by the intention to begin building some form of author platform when they reach the next step in the process.
If they’ve just finished the novel, they’ll say they need to find an agent before they start marketing.
If they’ve found an agent, they’ll say they want their publishers help. Isn’t that the publishers area of expertise?
And if they’ve got their contract and advance, they’ll say once they finish their recent round of edits, or once they get their book cover in, they’ll cross over to that dark-side known as marketing.
It’s like, we have this idea of what it means to market a book, how to sell a lot of books, and most of our ideas are based on a fallacy—and a lot of negative connotations.
Learning about modern marketing has almost become its own kind of marketing. It has its own language and terminology. And for most writers, that language comes with some cringe-worthy baggage.
We hear “target audience” as “group of suckers who buy our books.”
We hear “branding” as “lying about how cool we are.”
We hear “building your audience on social media” as “blasting your book cover 100 times so all your friends buy it.”
But the real fallacy here, in my opinion, has a lot more to do with what we authors think success looks like. In our heads, success is something that just happens, like a lightning strike. It’s as if we think the Rowlings and the Kings of the world built their audiences in a few tiny moments of massive growth. They won the marketing lottery. One day they had no fans. And the next they had millions.
But the truth is, a following is built, quite literally, one person at a time. That isn’t to say there weren’t instances of large gains. But for most bestselling authors, the large increases alone wouldn’t have ever held sway if it weren’t for the daily small gains that built up over time.
You see, I’d argue that every bestselling novel that has ever existed had at least two things in common: A completed novel that is subjectively good, and a lot of people to buy it.
As authors, we tend to put the onus of the first on our shoulders and assume someone else will cover the second. But if we’re not passionate enough about our own work to make the small gains, how will anyone be passionate enough about it to put our book cover on the side of a bus or on a billboard in Times Square?
It is my opinion that doing just one of these two things, writing my book, is as silly a methodology as someone saying “today I will write my entire novel.” Novels are written one line at a time, not in a single day. So how silly it is to complete a novel and then say, “Today I will find my audience.”
Audiences are built one person at a time, one day at a time.
For most of us, writing never goes quite as we planned it. We expect our book will be done in six months, and it takes nine. We expect our edits will be done in three months and it takes six. That’s just part of the process of writing. But very rarely do I find a writer who uses that time to their advantage, no matter what stage of the publishing process they are in.
My last novel took me a year and a half to write, despite all my plans to finish it in six months. And when it was finished, I was confident that I had written something good enough to acquire representation. Here we are two years from that first sentence, and I still have not found the perfect fit. It’s possible I won’t. Of course, this won’t stop me. I’m hard at work on a new novel that will most certainly be the one! But what if I had used that time to build my author platform—to gain one new prospective fan a day?
It could be as simple as joining an X-Files forum, and just chatting with people about something I love. Or maybe joining a book club that focuses on thrillers, or perhaps a writing group.
Because those people, those individuals that you meet and befriend and connect with, those will be your first readers. They will be your champions. And if you’re not meeting those people now, while you’re still working on that novel, you’re still going to have to meet those champions later. And it will still take time and effort to meet them.
So take the time today, now, wherever you are, to meet people and engage with them. Not because you have some grand design to force them to buy your books. Just because you want to talk about The Expanse, or Artemis, or Iron Gold (holy cow I’m on a space kick right now). Take some time to deliberately meet one new person each day, and your publisher will be thrilled with you later.
Launching a career as an author is about more than writing a book. In today’s DIY multimedia world, authors are expected to be online personalities and savvy marketers. The truth is that, while some publishers provide a degree of marketing and publicity, it’s largely the domain of the author to promote their work and build a fanbase. This means that publishers are more likely to give coveted book contracts to writers with a proven track record of growing and engaging an audience.
When evaluating new authors, publishers look for several criteria in addition to writing talent and book ideas, including:
1) Size of email list
2) Number of social media followers
3) Influencer affiliations
4) Active online presence
5) Strong, consistent message
Before I landed my publishing contract with Hay House for my book Sh#t Your Ego Says, I was in the same position as most unpublished writers – full of ideas but without a clue about how to get myself out there. But I learned that a few strategic actions could make a big difference in growing my brand as a writer.
Create A Unique Brand Voice
You already have a voice as a writer. The next step is growing your voice as an online personality. There is no “right way” to brand yourself, as long as it’s unique and authentic. The first thing to consider is how you position yourself with a tagline or main message. What makes you different from others in your field? What single sentence cuts to the heart of your message? Keep it simple and memorable. Consider using a unique handle for your URL and social accounts. At first, I used to use my real name. I gained more traction when I started using my book title (Sh#t Your Ego Says) instead.
Your brand voice includes a visual presentation. Choose a distinct color palette, typography and logo. Have a professional headshot taken and use the same photo consistently across all touchpoints. Make it easy for your fans to recognize your brand from a mile away.
Launch Your Digital Home Base
Launching a website is the first step to building an online presence. It’s also the step that seems most daunting to beginners. Your website does not need to be fancy or feature-rich. The purpose of your website should be to have a digital home base, provide visitors with a way to contact you, and share long-form content with your audience. It is critical to optimize your site with best SEO practices (for example, including H1 keywords and article titles that include your name, industry, and main message) so people searching Google are more likely to find you.
Choose Your MIM (Most Important Metric)
It’s important to know what action you want your audience to take and gear your efforts toward that conversion. Having a large email list is the metric that publishers value most. Email lists are weighed heavier than social media followers because email is a more stable communication platform. Having an email newsletter creates a deeper relationship with your audience and is less likely to be ignored than social posts. Platforms such as Mailchimp make it easy to build and manage an email list.
Once you choose your MIM, sprinkle your website and social media accounts with calls-to-action toward this conversion. For example, install plugins on your website that allow your fans to subscribe to your email list or like your Facebook page. Provide incentives (such as a sample chapter) for signing up.
Gathering emails is not the only acceptable MIM. If your audience is more social, you might build an Instagram or YouTube following instead. Use whichever metric works best for your brand.
Get Serious About Social
Are you the type of person who comments on news and current events? Try doing so from the perspective of your personal brand. Is your book full of good quotes? Design quote posts and share them. Some authors thrive on camera and share video content. The point is to create and share content that makes you excited. I like to draw, so I chose Instagram as my platform of choice and share hand-drawn quotes and pictures.
Think of your audience as an extended friend group. It doesn’t matter what you share as long as it’s authentic to your brand and you post with enthusiasm and consistency.
Create A Content Funnel
It’s important to create content for everyone, from newcomers to superfans. A content funnel helps deepen relationships and push your fans toward conversions (such as newsletter sign up or ebook purchase). Social content is at the top of the funnel. It’s free, fast and available to everyone. Blog posts are one level deeper because they require people to visit your website. Toward the bottom of the funnel is “premium” content – such as e-books, video series, or workshops — that is gated behind a paywall or email submission form.
The more content you provide for free, the more fans will become familiar with your work and the more likely they will be to buy your books.
Build Relationships And Links
How can you drive traffic to your website and social channels when you have relatively few fans? One of the best tactics is reaching out to mid-sized online outlets in your field and pitching articles. There are plenty of websites without writing staffs who happily accept content from emerging writers. Add a bio to your article that includes links to your website and social accounts.
It also helps to proactively make “professional friendships” with influencers in your field. Send them emails and social messages, start a mutually-beneficial dialogue and grow your network by establishing relationships.
Show up for your audience, share valuable insights, be authentic, post with consistency, and have fun.
Here is a free 45-minute video class that cam be taken through IngramSpark Academy: