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