Developing an Author Platform

Author Platform : The Indie Author’s Holy Grail Or A Complete Waste Of Time?

So you’ve written your book, spent months revising and editing, and created an eye-catching cover. Now you’re ready to hit that publish button. But wait, how are you going to attract people to your book and get them to buy it?

The answer: develop an author platform.

But what exactly is an author platform?

A platform, simply put, is your visibility as an author. This includes social media outlets, a website, email, networks, and any other unique path you take to put yourself out there.

Building a platform it not about being the loudest self-promoter on the planet. It’s an ongoing process that allows you to stand out among other authors. The best way to do this is to focus on your audience, not on yourself. Your platform is about readership and audience development. It’s about offering new and interesting content. It’s about telling your story, a story that separates you from other writers. A powerful author platform represents an emotional connection between writer and reader.

To become a successful indie author, you have to actively work on building your platform. It takes time, but it is invaluable.

A successful author platform consists of many elements, including but not limited to:

  • A website
  • Focused, quality content, such as a blog or podcasts
  • Social media
  • Associations with writing groups and other authors (your network)
  • Speaking engagements and author appearances
  • Your email list

This foundation is important in productive platform building. As an author, you have to open the funnel and try to capture as many potential readers as possible. Figure out what works for you and what is sustainable then flow with it.

Start with content.

Content refers to print books, ebooks, your website, online courses, live webinars, magazine articles, blog posts, digital downloads, podcasts, videos, and events. Quantity can help you. The more content you have, the more options you have available.

There are many ways to attract new fans. One way is to consider offers people can easily say “yes” to. These might include:

  • giveaways
  • discounts
  • free e-books
  • the first book in a series
  • free workshops
  • free downloadable guides

Freeloaders will never pay for anything, but superfans will pay everything. Everyone else is at some level in between. Offering giveaways and discounts will attract readers from all ends of the spectrum, and could potentially lead to book sales.

If you’re short on content, join forces with other authors, preferably in your genre, to create bundles and box sets or collaborative blog posts.

 

Image result for author platform

(Image from Authors-Platform.com)

While we’re on the topic of blog posts, as an author, you should have an author website. However, your website should not be separate from your blog. Your blog needs to be part of your website. Your website is a central hub of information and a place for you to guide your readers. Lure them in with your blog.

Your website should have a clear identity that not only evokes who you are as an author, but also showcases your work.

Your website should include the following:

  • a page dedicated to all of your books
  • individual book pages that feature the cover, a brief description of the book, and purchase links
  • a mailing list sign up form
  • links to social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Youtube, LinkedIn, etc…)
  • about me author page (bio)
  • current blog posts

As far as your blog is concerned, develop a regular posting schedule and stick to it. Talk about what you love. Repurpose things you’ve shared on social media. Feature other writers or books. Be sure to include images that relate to your content. Engage with your audience and gain their attention.

You’ll have much more successful launches if you have an engaged audience. One of the best ways to get people to want to buy your books is to offer them sample sections. An alternative to providing samples is to create short stories or poems that are exclusive to your blog. When you have a book about to come out, show your appreciation by offering your readers a discount or some other promotion.

Along the same lines, set up a newsletter email list. Your email list primarily builds through your website. Offer ebook giveaways where readers have to give their email address to get the free book. Newsletters are much more successful, however, if you offer content other than just book promotion. Post something interesting at least once per month.

People want to hear from you. One of the best ways to do this is through social media. Start an account on each major social media network even if you’re not active on it. Be consistent in how you describe yourself across these accounts.

Social media is about showing up, day in and day out, and sharing who you are to your audience. Share something in your life you do creatively. Offer a snippet for free and include images. Share blog posts on topics of interest. Interact with your followers and comment on their posts. If social media overwhelms you, choose one or two social networks to focus on, and enjoy them.

An author platform isn’t just about establishing an online presence so people buy your books. It’s about making connections. Even though some people may not interact with you or like your posts, they are still watching and will support you.

A successful author platform is the combination of small efforts that are sustainable and purposeful. Build your body of work. Establish a website and an email newsletter. Look for collaborative opportunities and partnerships. Create a network and make connections. Always think about how to get new people in and how to move them to be loyal fans.

Most importantly, be patient. Your platform won’t build overnight; it takes time.

 

Book Marketing 101 For Dummies

marketing-101You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe even years writing your book.  You’ve revised and edited so it is polished.  Your editor has torn it apart and made more changes.  You’ve designed an awesome cover, written a compelling synopsis, composed your author bio, and have e-books and paperbacks ready to go on sale.  So now what?

Marketing.

Marketing my book is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.   I don’t know very much about this aspect of the writing business and wish now that I would have taken Marketing 101 in college.  I have been soaking up advice from other authors to gain more knowledge and hopefully discover creative ways to accomplish this herculean task.

I learned a great deal from my first book signing event, which was during the San Antonio Indie Book Fest back in July.  This book fest was beneficial in many ways.  11169895_1434440400191039_5756242862306343813_nAside from the experience this event offered, I also gained membership in the Texas Association of Authors and had the opportunity to meet and network with fellow writers to see how they go about marketing their books.  The first thing I noticed the minute I walked in the door was all of the authors at this event had banners and posters and business cards and bookmarks to promote themselves and their books.  I’m not one who likes to toot my own horn, so all of this was a bit overwhelming at first.   Being the new kid on the block, many authors offered their advice and I left this event with a few valuable insights.

  1. Eye catching displays draw people in.
  2. Be accessible through social media.
  3. Give away free stuff.
  4. Think outside the box as far as book signings go.  Check out holiday bazaars, church bazaars, and local library events.
  5. The more books you have published, the more books you will sell.

lpSince this book festival, I have invested in a banner, poster, and business cards, all of which are color coordinated and have information about my blog site, Facebook page, and Amazon author page.   I have recently set up a Twitter account as well, and all of my social media sites are connected with each other.  I follow several writing blogs and writing pages and am the member of four different social media writing groups.

Fellow authors and marketing experts post articles offering advice about book promotion, social media, and author’s platform.  Since all of this marketing stuff is new to me, I heed the words of those who know more about it than I do.  I’ve read many articles about this topic, and through my reading several things stood out.

  1. Be consistent.  Use the same profile picture on each social media site.  Post consistently and post similar content throughout.
  2. Promote other authors, like their pages, and follow their blogs.  Contribute to the writing community.
  3. Don’t post the same thing 24/7.  In other words, don’t shove your book in their face.  Not only is that annoying, it also makes you look like an amateur.  Focus on your followers and give them interesting content they will want to read.
  4. Connect with your followers, but be mindful that you will never keep up with every post, comment, or e-mail.  Respond when appropriate and comment on things that interest you.  As an author, you need to update your readers and followers regularly, but you should not be spending all of your time on social media.  Your time should be dedicated to writing.
  5. You will not increase book sales by advertising through social media.  Social media is a platform you use to sell yourself.  If you sell yourself well, book sales will follow.

All of my social media sites contain similar content — I write, post, tweet, and share jokes, advice, quotes, and articles about writing and books.  I share other things too but that it my theme, so to speak.  On Twitter, I make it a point to retweet other authors and promote their books, websites, and blog pages for them.  This has led to them doing the same for me.  I am following other author’s Facebook pages, which has resulted in a few of them following mine.   I’ve made many connections with fellow writers and authors and have gained advice from them.  In return I have offered some of my insights and thoughts to them.   As writers, we need to learn from and promote each other.

Book signings are a great promotion tool.  They help you gain exposure and connect whitejazz_logoyou to potential readers within the community.  I recently set up my second book signing at a local book shop that supports indie authors.  Not only is this book shop (The Twig) sponsoring this signing for me, they are also promoting the event and selling my book in their store on consignment.  The Twig Book Shop has advertised the event on their web page, in The Current (the local San Antonio events calendar), and on Texas Public Radio.  I had to do some promoting myself as well, so I e-mailed every local newspaper, magazine, current events calendar, and creative arts magazine in the city and added my book signing event to their calendar of events.  I queried Get Creative San Antonio who also added me to their upcoming events calendar.  I have sent out personal e-mails inviting people to this event and have spread the word through social media and word-of-mouth.  I am hopeful that I will sell at least a few books during this event and maybe gain a few new followers.  If nothing else, I will meet and connect with interesting people within my city.

Other marketing avenues I have pursued or am pursuing:

  1. A potential interview with Texas Public Radio.
  2. The possibility of putting my book in circulation in the local library.
  3. Library book fests.
  4. Attempting to get independent Texas children’s authors into my school and school district.
  5. Once I get my second book out, lowering the price of the first one and offering free or $0.99 days.  I will have to discuss that with my distributor.
  6. Constant word of mouth.
  7. Handing out business cards to family and fiends, who in turn give them to their friends.
  8. Renting a booth at a holiday bazaar or local flea market.
  9. An article about my book in the Arts section of the local newspaper.

With millions of books out there, making your name and your book known to others is a trying task.  And since I have a full-time career, finding time to do all of this is often challenging.  I’m learning and discovering new things as I go and am always open to suggestions.  My first novel has been a learning experience on many levels.  Things can only go up from here.