An author platform is where and how the right people (readers, fellow authors and potential collaborators, influencers) can find you, learn about you, and fall in love with you. It’s the engine of your author career.
It’s also a commitment. As you’ll appreciate by the end of this post, creating a fully realized author platform is an organic process that takes work and steady commitment over a long period of time. The good news is that once you get into the habit, it doesn’t take up that much of your time. And it becomes fun!
What it’s not
It is not a place to do hard selling, endless self-promotion, fan your ego, toot your own horn, rant about your favorite pet peeves (unless they’re an integral part of your brand, of course) etc. It’s also not for extroverts only—in fact, and on-line platform is the goddess’ gift to introverted authors (and there may be one or two of us!).
Why do it?
Unless you’re writing novels just for personal enjoyment, sooner or later you’re going to need to reach out and connect with readers. And if your want to turn your writing work into a revenue stream, you’re going to need a way to turn those readers into an appreciative and paying audience.
There’s no more effective had to accomplish that than a robust author platform.
A lot of work? Yes. But here’s some good news. Most authors I’ve run across have, once they’ve gotten their platform off to a good start, found the ongoing maintenance to be rewarding, effective, and even fun. That’s certainly true for me.
The goal of your author platform is simple: to attract your ideal readers and sustain a vibrant relationship with them. That’s it. Everything on your platform should have that goal as it’s primary focus. This is the “find you, learn about you, fall in love with you” part.
As a practical matter, there is nothing, nothing, like a cadre of few hundred loyal readers (read: advocates, ambassadors) to help your sales numbers take off. They tell their friends (who tell their friends), repost and retweet your thoughts, review your books – you get the idea.
But if you start by marketing to them, you’ll lose them. Instead, share with them, engage with them. Love them and they’ll love you back. Eventually you’ll offer books and other services for money, but by showing that you’re willing to give first and ask later, your “marketing” will be one trusted friend talking to another. Much different.
And having a goal of sharing and loving is a whole lot more fun and rewarding for you than a goal of selling and marketing, no?
What do I need?
Remember that your platform is where and how your readers find you. Simply put, the “where” is your website and the “how” is social interaction (virtual and actual). And don’t forget the who – your ideal readers.
Where: Your Website
Your website is the beating heart of your author platform. It’s the primary place that your readers (after finding you) “learn about you and fall in love with you.” If you keep those two things in mind as you create it, your website will serve you very well.
The ongoing task is to keep that heart “beating.” You do this by regularly adding new content, by keeping that content interesting and interactive (and largely free), by being quickly responsive to reader/visitor comments and suggestions, and by having a positive and upbeat attitude about it all.
At the functional level, your website needs to have three things: a “site” (a group of semi-fixed pages that contain everything anyone needs to know about you as an author), a blog (a page within the site that you are updating with new, dynamic content at least once a week), and an easy way for your visitors to give you their email addresses.
How: Social interaction
There is no doubt whatsoever that social media is the more effective and efficient way to find and attract new readers to the fold and engage with the ones you have. Note: I’m focusing on on-line interaction here, but your speaking, signing, and panel activities count for social interaction too!
Your goals in social media are:
- Keep in touch with your existing reader base, offering them goodies and in the process reminding them that you’re there. Offering them goodies should be 70% or so of your posts/tweets
- Providing ways for new readers to find you. One excellent way is to add #hashtags to your posts (hashtags now work on almost every social media venue).
- Supporting fellow authors in their social media outreach. Help them and they will help you by opening up theirreaders to you. You can do this by interviewing them, sharing their content, and guest-posting on their blogs.
What social media should I be in?
This can vary a little by the “genre” you write in and the audience you’re writing for, but for sure:
Facebook: Have an official “fan” page separate from your personal page (note: there are exceptions, but start with this) and keep those two lives (and groups) separate.
Google Plus: Second largest group out there—and has many advantages over Facebook when it comes to finding new fans: you can find people by what they are interested in, not who you know. This platform is especially powerful for non-fiction writers, but every author should create an account – once you do, anything you post on G+ gets primo attention by Google Search.
Twitter: Often disparaged or overlooked by authors—and who has the time to engage that many times every day??— it is statistically the best “discovery” vehicle out there. There are ways to make this process efficient. Don’t bypass this one.
Pinterest: Very good at generating web traffic, and especially if a big part of your audience is women
There are other social media platforms out there that are worth a try, but get established in the big four first. Get those updates down to a habit, and you’ll find that adding one or two more channels won’t be that big a deal.
Who: Attract the right people
Finally, as an author, you shouldn’t be too hung up on the raw numbers of people you get to like your page, or the raw number of visitors to your website. It’s a race not worth running in.
The name of the game in building your author platform is quality. You are cultivating a loyal following that will not only buy your wisdom products but promote them willingly in their circles.
The absolute best way to attract the right people is by putting out really good content—and by really good content I meant posts/tweets that fully reflect your author style, that provide help or entertainment, that reveal the person behind the author.