As an author, your platform is essential to your success. When it comes to traditional publishers, they don’t care about how good your book is, they care about how many books you can sell which is entirely dependent on your platform! As an interdependent author your platform is just as important.
What is an Author Platform?
A platform is sort of like a home base for everything pertaining to you as an author. Your platform is the base from which you launch your books and marketing plan. It may sound small when defined simply, but your platform will be a large part of bookselling and the volume of books you are able to sell.
What’s in a Platform?
We’re only going to cover the bare minimum here, but your platform can be as large or as small as you choose. Obviously, the larger your platform, the more time you will need to invest.
The basic elements of your platform should include:
- A website with blog
- An email list of targeted readers and customers
- A strong Social Media presence
You may already be overwhelmed. If you are starting from scratch, practicing some basic goal-setting will help you immensely. Take it slow and take it one thing at a time. You are building for quality here, not quantity. That will come later.
Building Your Platform From Scratch
Define your audience and message – Who are you trying to reach and what do you want to tell them? Establishing your message as a writer is a process. It’s akin to the atmosphere you create when your friends come to your home. Create that atmosphere in a virtual setting using words. Every part of your platform should play a part in conveying your message.
Establish your brand – No, you’re not Pepsi trying to make people drink you, but you are a writer who wants people to read you. Your brand is established in how you communicate with your readership. As an author, your brand might pertain to your genre or it may just be your name. Regardless, create it and hang it on everything you do.
Launch your website – Unless you already have knowledge of WordPress, you’ll need to engage your learning curve here. It will be to your advantage to learn WordPress now. It’s really the only choice for your website/blog and a solid platform to launch your…well, platform. Put your research skills to work and you’ll find that your every step of this process is thoroughly documented online.
Write – It would seem to go without saying, but this one really can’t be emphasized enough. Creating your platform will entail a lot of writing. It would be to your benefit to create a loose schedule to work by because of the sheer amount of writing you need to pull this off:
- Sales Pages
- Follow-up Emails
Oh my! If you weren’t overwhelmed before, you probably are now. Remember, slow and steady gets the job done.
Network – You’ve got a headstart on this one. How so? You have family and friends, don’t you? Instant network. Still, you will need to expand this exponentially as a part of your platform. There are a lot of ways to go about this but a good start is inviting your existing network to your burgeoning platform. Invite them to your website. Connect with them online. Ask them to share you with their friends. Take it further by actively networking online by commenting on other blogs, forums, and engaging in conversations.
Engage your audience on Social Media – You knew it was coming. Sending social signals throughout your network through the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Using these sites allows you to interact personally with your community which is essential to the growth of your platform. You don’t have to master every social media outlet, but It would be well worth your while to learn how to market to, and build, your audience with at least one or two of these valuable tools.
Stay Focused – Don’t lose sight of your message or your goals. Don’t get distracted from what you are trying to accomplish. Expect setbacks from time to time and work through them. Everything that you do is another brick in the foundation of what you’ve set out to do. Your platform is a creation that is never complete. Own it.
Fiction Vs. Non-Fiction
If you are a fiction writer, you may feel that having a platform is less important. After all, you need a message, but what might that be if you create an alternate reality on a daily basis? Every writer has a message. Every writer needs a platform. Come on, play along like you believe it.
View your platform as a pie equal to 100%. You should have the following elements in these percent amounts to complete your platform:
10% Social Media
10% Previous Writing (articles, blogs, papers, etc.)
10% Published Books
You may feel that say, your expertise, doesn’t apply in the fiction piece you are writing. You would be wrong. Every author writes from their own experience and, yes, expertise.
Developing Your Marketing Plan
A marketing plan!?! Yes. As an author, it’s up to you to effectively get your book in front of your intended audience. Your job requires many hats and sometimes more than one. You want to start marketing your book before you publish it, and possibly before you’ve even written the first word. It sounds hectic, but connecting with people through marketing while committing the often solitary act of authoring can be a great thing.
Share new book ideas with your audience through your blog and social media profiles. Share the journey with them as your write. Engage them in the process by asking them to contribute. For example, you might consider running a social media campaign to name one of your characters. Little things like this make your audience a part of what you are doing and will pay off at publishing time.
Don’t be frugal when it comes to the cover and editing. Invest in your work. Yes, you can do the entire project yourself, but it’s not recommended. Consider hiring professionals for your cover and editing. When you create the sales page for your book on Amazon, follow these simple guidelines:
List it in the right category
Include a hook and quotes from reviews in your description
Price it realistically – most ebooks cost under $9.99
Do not stop writing. As soon as you publish, get to work on the next one. Most independent authors making a good living full-time have a minimum of five books under their belt.
Build an email list. You can go about this a few ways:
1. Create a short ebook you can give away free in exchange for an email address
2. Offer a valuable piece of content enticing readers to subscribe then follow up with more value, engaging content, and offers over time.
3. Both of the above
The money is not in your book, it’s in your list of contacts! When you have an email list built, and you publish a new book, you can notify your list to go and buy it which will help you to climb towards the best-seller ranking.
Get reviews. Ask your audience to give you an honest review via Amazon, your website, or on social media. Do not buy fake reviews EVER.
Use the promo tools available through Amazon. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing has a program called KDP Select where you can list your book for up to 5 days free in the Kindle Store. This can kickstart your reviews, you can also set up a Kindle Countdown deal to offer your book on SALE to increase sales, generate more reviews, and climb in the rankings.
Things to Consider
Keep in mind that creating your platform is a process. If you glazed over at “website and blog”, thinking “Do I really have to do all this just be a published author?” Don’t lose heart. Slow and steady gets the job done.
Sometimes it feels as if the movie premiered last year, and you’re just now seeing it for the first time. This will lessen the more you work on your platform. Remember the three basic elements we discussed at the beginning? Focus your attention there, and don’t stop until you are strong in all three. Then you can expand as you go. Remember that you bring something unique to the table. The desire to write is in you for a purpose and with words comes great responsibility. Happy authoring!