Have You Built Your Author Platform?

March 29, 2017

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Ever had trouble getting someone’s attention in a particularly noisy public place? If you’re an indie author trying to promote your book, you’re going to find yourself in the midst of that noisy place.

Even with a fabulous story, the competition for notice is fierce, and that’s exactly what it’s like … screaming in a crowd.

Without a dedicated platform, you may never rise above the noise.

Your job in creating that platform, which even the big publishing houses will expect you to do, is to provide support for influencers in the media, trust with booksellers and libraries and, most of all, help build demand for your book(s) with future readers.

Here’s what it takes:

#1) You Need an Author Hub
It’s essential to have your own, personal space on the web. Not a social media profile … as helpful as they can be. You need a page on the web with a URL that you control … your author website or blog … to serve as the central hub of your online presence.

Build it on your own land. Building your author platform on someone else’s space is not a good idea. You need to connect with your audience in such a way it doesn’t matter if Amazon falls, Facebook goes dark and everyone suddenly switches from Google to some other search service … you’ve still got a way to find new readers.

If the platform is your own, all that other stuff can go away and you’ll still be able to reach them.

Think of it as your online headquarters. Your web site is the center for your author presence, with information about your books and links to your publicity materials. It doesn’t need to be complicated … but it does need to be yours.

#2) Treat Your Other Profiles as Branch Offices
All the other places to find you online should be treated as branch offices. Just like the relationship in an actual company, the home office establishes the brand, and the branches carry out the brand’s mission in different localities.

Your social media profiles allow you to connect and engage with your readers where they are, but never forget each of those branch offices need to line up with the brand … and never confuse your social media following as your reachable audience.

They aren’t.

Looking for opportunities to reinforce my brand, it’s hard not to fall into the trap of thinking I need a profile on every kind of social media that comes along, but that’s a recipe for failure and burnout. If you spend all your time marketing, when are you ever going to write?

My best advice? Be where you enjoy being, and where your target readers are. If you can accomplish that with only one or two social media accounts, there’s no reason you should feel compelled to add more to the list.

However, retail sites are important. You DO want to maximize your opportunities with retailers … because those are the places most people buy your books. Your website should point to all relevant retail sites where your works are sold.

Be sure to link directly to your book. Don’t just send people to a site’s home page and hope they’ll go to the trouble of hunting for you.

Your content and appearances on other venues is important, too. This can range from being the subject of an interview (see the link to my recent radio interview on my home page), to writing a guest post for a fellow author’s blog.

#3) You Need to Build Your Mailing List
Still, I can’t stress enough how much you need to be able to access people. If you don’t have access to your readers, you don’t have a fully working platform. The best way to make sure you can reach someone is to get his or her email address. I haven’t done this very well yet myself.

For instance, look at how many followers I have to this blog … 50,000, which is flattering and nice to know … but I can’t reach them individually to ask why they’re not all buying my books … and I know they’re not.

If they were, I’d be on the best-seller list.

Now, having a mailing list is not a perfect system … but it’s way more efficient than trying to connect with followers through social media you can’t control.

Whenever you have something new to share, you can leverage the media attention when you share it with your email list. The more people who see it, knowing who you are, the more likely it is that another media outlet will find it as well (see Earned Media tag below).

To build that leverage, you need an email list of engaged readers, followers, and fans. Even a small list that’s engaged is more powerful than a bloated list of people who don’t understand how they ended up on your site in the first place.

So, how do you build your email list?

Get an email service provider. The most inexpensive options include MailChimp, Aweber, and Vertical Measures. Build your list on your web site or blog. You’ll need two things to make this work:

a) An opt-in box. For someone to give you his or her email address, there needs to a box to type in that address. There are different ways to include this on your website … including a box in the sidebar, a box at the end of your blog articles, or a box that pops up.

Most email service providers offer a way to create one of these, which you can then add to your website. You can also put one of these boxes on your Facebook profile.

b) A “lead magnet.” This is something you offer for free in exchange for those email addresses. It needs to be something relevant to your brand, so the people who want that free thing are your prospective readers. It doesn’t need to be complicated.

In fact, experts suggest that the simpler you can make your free offer, the better. Some suggestions include: a free flash fiction short story; a checklist or a chart; or free writing tips/training.

Once you have your email service provider and your opt-in sequence in place, be sure to create an opt-in form on a dedicated landing page. That way, you can link to that page and invite your followers over from Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, or any of your other branch offices. I’ve used one before, and my permanent one is coming soon. You can also include a link from inside your books.

Once you begin to build your list, you can keep in touch with your readers. Depending on what is consistent with your brand, you can email out reviews of books you enjoyed; send out samples; send out a newsletter; or simply collect the email addresses and wait until it’s time to announce your next book when it’s ready for pre-order.

#4) You Need a Press Kit
It sounds like you’re already expected to do a lot, but it would be difficult to overstate the value of a quality press kit on your website. It can make all the difference in growing your author platform. A good author press kit is going to build bridges between you, the media and your future readers.

I have my media pages on a separate site, that I link everywhere.

When people come to your author website, particularly journalists and book-bloggers, you only have a matter of seconds to show them what they’re looking for, before they bounce off to find another author instead.

Most of them won’t go to the trouble of contacting you for more information. They don’t have time to waste tracking down the simple details you should have posted.

Having it readily available establishes your credibility. It explains who you are as an author, what you write, and why you write it. It helps convince them that you are worth interviewing, writing about, carrying on their shelves and reading.

So, what are the most important elements of an author press kit?

First, you need to create a series of materials explaining who you are as a writer. Second, you need to explain your book and why it’s important. The third category is images … at least one strong author photo, and an image of your book cover(s).

Another reason the complete press kit (or at least a link to it) needs to appear on your website … some members of the media might be swinging by at all hours of the day or night, and they don’t have time to wait for you to check your email or to get home from that trip to reply to a message. They need what they need right now.

So, your press kit needs to be complete and available for their use when and if they show up. It’s kind of like insurance … if you wait until you need it, you’re too late.

#5) You Need to Build Your Authority
Once the foundation is in place … your author website; the ability to collect reader emails; and the press kit to support your brand … the next stage in building your author platform is to grow the number of people who visit your website and sign up for your mailing list.

We’ll talk next time on how to do that.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Visit my web site to hear the remarkable interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show. By the way, “Blood Lake” was just selected as a 2016 Forward INDIES Book of the Year Finalist!

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I will be attending the Rochester Writers’ Spring Conference at Oakland University on Saturday, April 1, 2017. On April 30, I will participate in a book-signing event by local authors at the eclectic store, Leon & Lulu.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

What’s a Writers’ Platform Again?

March 18, 2017

Photo by Christian Betrand, courtesy Shutterstock

About ten years ago, the publishing industry starting tossing out the word “platform” like confetti during a rock concert. Major publishers started expecting authors to have an existing platform, because they were far easier to promote.

Soon everyone, including indie authors, used the new “platform” buzz word, but few really understood what it was or why they needed it.

Cycle forward ten years. Everything has changed. Not only do we live in a world where anyone can publish, but in order to gain any kind of attention for your book, you must have one.

A platform, that is (there’s that word again).

So, what does it really take to build one? Surprisingly, not much, but sometimes it’s easier to understand what it isn’t.

Having “no platform” means you have very little presence in any existing social media, do little or no blogging and, in some cases, have no web site.

Feel like you belong to this crowd? You’re in good company.

Many new authors, not just those who are indies, are like this. Their lack of understanding often brings inaction or, in some cases, the wrong action.

Who Knows You?
In essence, a platform is not who you know, but who knows you. Simple, right? A platform is really the series of actions that put you in front of your reader.

Apparently, what you really need to do is run ads.

Good luck.

I can’t comment on the effectiveness of ads without knowing your particular market and your budget but, regardless of genre, if you have the kind of budget it actually takes, you don’t need the rest of this article.

However, if your budgets are more like mine (read almost non-existent) you’ll understand why I favor earned media. As I’ve mentioned before, earned media is organic … it’s when a reader finds your content naturally, instead of having it pushed on them in the form of an ad.

(Check out the “earned media” tags at the end of the post to find more about it).

Social Media
Organic discovery could come from a blog post you wrote, or something in your social media platform (there’s that word again).

Now, to do it right, social media requires work … but most authors misunderstand what I mean by “work.”

It doesn’t mean you need to participate on every social media site in existence. Quite the contrary, it means you need to find the ones that best serve your market … and use them consistently.

And by consistently, I don’t mean incessantly.

Don’t overdo it. Post in the specific places you choose and move on.

Social media doesn’t require the kind of time you might think. While I do have a limited presence on Linked-In, Pinterest, Goodreads and Instagram, I basically use The Twitter and The Book of Face.

I post every day or two in those areas, but I’m not one of the social media trolls who hangs around all day commenting on anything and everything. Trust me, more isn’t necessarily better, it’s just more. Being productive and busy aren’t the same things.

Blogging
Here’s another, often misunderstood marketing tool. Blogging can be the single best way to grow your platform.

Why?

It’s your voice and your expertise on your site. Do you need to blog daily? No. Want proof? Look at my blog following. I only blog about twice a month.

But I try to make it content that’s helpful.

The problem with trying to throw out content just for the sake of pushing volume is simple … most of it is garbage.

People are writing lots of stuff but, sadly, much of it isn’t worth your time. I’ve unfollowed blogs who seem to think posting twelve times a day is the right output … regardless of what they have to say.

Don’t be one of those people.

When it comes to blogging, less can be more. If you’re writing something that’s incredibly helpful, insightful, or engaging but feel you can only do that twice a month, that’s just fine. Frankly, I’d rather look forward to one thing that totally inspires me, instead of ten things that bore me to tears.

For fiction authors, you can write in character if you want, discuss some unique ways to do book research or talk about the publishing industry, because so many of your readers may be writers, too.

Events
Speaking is a fantastic way to draw in an audience, but bookstore venues are shrinking. I spoke a couple of years ago at a local writers’ conference, but if you aren’t on the speaking circuit and don’t know places where you can do events or talks, keep your eyes open for special book events.

I participated in several book-signings last year, including one at a well-known local design store last fall and one at my local public library … I did so well at the design store (for both of us) I’ve been invited to sign books April 30 of this year at the same place.

Website
Everyone who writes a book needs a website. Period, end of story. If you think your book will sell well without one, you’re mistaken.

Your website doesn’t have to be mega-fantastic, but it should be easy to navigate and the best ones will have a mailing list sign-up (mine is in the works).

You may have a million reasons why you don’t want one (most of them I’ve used myself), but I’ll give you one major reason why you should: Platform (I bet you saw that coming, didn’t you?)

How will you get your reader to remember you?

I never do a signing without bringing a mailing-list sign-up sheet and encouraging folks to give me their email address. I don’t have to hard-sell to get it. I offer them something as an incentive. I give one lucky winner, chosen at random, one of my signed books free to encourage getting their email address.

When you capture emails with your website and/or blog, you are making those sites work for you. They become your 24/7 sales and re-marketing tool.

My free newsletter (which I’ve been developing for years, and actually tested once or twice) goes live in May. If everything works the way I hope it will, it could become one of my best ways to market. I can get in front of my readers every few weeks with helpful information … and hopefully they’ll remember me long enough to buy my books.

Reader engagement is crucial. Now, more than ever, you must learn to engage your reader. You can do that via your blog, on social media sites, in places like Library Thing and Goodreads … and with your mailing list.

In other words, developing your platform is a fancy way of saying: “Get in front of your reader as often as you can.” Figure out how to reach them, and you’ve figured out how to build your platform.

In an age where everyone can publish (and it sometimes seems everyone is) the thing that will define you, and separate your message from the noise, will be your platform.

Without it, yours may be the best book that no one has ever read.

**********

My books have all garnered some terrific reviews and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow
some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.
 

**********

Visit my web site to hear the remarkable interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show. By the way, “Blood Lake” was just selected as a 2016 Indie Book of the Year Finalist!

**********

My next blog post will outline the 5 ESSENTIAL steps to building your author platform.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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