Why do I need a platform?
In the 21st century, if you expect your books to sell well at all, you need one. Word of mouth is still the best way to get the word out about your books, and there is no more effective and inexpensive way to find and nurture that core group of loyal readers who will be the foundation of that word of mouth campaign than a robust, online author platform.
Why do I need a website?
When your primary public presence is on other peoples’ websites (Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon), then those other people get to decide how you can present yourself and your books. All of them have restrictions (size and type of graphics, word counts, how the page looks, whether you can sell or have giveaways, etc, etc, etc.). And in the worst case scenario, any one of those entities can kick you off their site for some reason, or go out of business, or (as Facebook is famously doing) increasingly restrict your ability to reach your readers unless you pay a fee.
When you have your own website, you are in control of all those things. You can design the look to fit your brand (the look and feel of your books), you can put any kind of content you want up there, you can sell books, sell other things, promote, run specials, have giveaways with whatever rules you like – in short, you’re the boss of your primary reader connection.
Why do I need a blog?
Your readers connect to you primarily for your writing. Your books are the main writing they are interested in, but publishing books takes a long time and that’s a long time for your readers to go between connections. Creating other writing pieces to offer them during the long space between books is the best way to keep their interest fires lit. And the best way to create, curate, present and store these interim writing pieces (or at least most of them) is a blog.
Organizing your reader content on a blog has numbers advantages, including: An automatic and effective boost to your website’s visibility to search engines, a reason for your readers to check back on your site often, a built in way to organizing your content for readers to browse (categories and tags), and blog content is easily shared and reshared on social media by both you and your readers.
Why do I need to collect email addresses?
Two main reasons:
1. You want a way to directly contact your readers on your own terms. The same reasoning for why you have to have your own website applies to having your own email list (and not depending on Facebook fans or Twitter followers or your publisher’s marketing lists): when other people maintain your lists, they own them. They set the rules for how you can interact with your readers and, if they go out of business, you’re sunk.
2. Research has shown that there is still, even in this era of social media worship, no better way to connect with “customers” than through email. Emails are more personal, more flexible, more format-able. And you can put whatever you want in them.
This is so important that one of the absolute best things you can do for your platform is remember to collect email addresses at every opportunity, and that means at a minimum that there’s a way for people to sign up everywhere you have a presence.
Why do I need to be on Social Media?
While your website, blog and email programs are, at heart, your main tools for nurturing your existing readership, social media is the most efficient way to find new ones. As mentioned in the intro, word of mouth (which in todays world means the various ways of online sharing: reposting content, sharing emails, reviewing and recommending books) is still the best way to sell books and, more importantly, grow your readership base. Of course, all these things work together, and you can certainly do a fair amount of readership nurturing via social media, think of it primarily as a way to help new readers find you. One of the most powerful ways to find new readers is to ally with other, similar authors and tap into their readerships, and the most effective way to do that is through social media sharing partnerships.