One Dutch Editor, One Nomad Writer

Build Your Author Platform

And why you really need one

Whether it’s asking for a raise, speaking up when we need help, or championing ourselves, too many authors don’t do it enough. Case and point: author platforms. These are how readers find you, buy your books, and where they point people to. Yet many writers don’t have a platform, making them hard to find or discover. If you don’t have an author platform by the time you’re published, you’re behind! So let’s talk about the basics of building one.

Why You Want an Author Platform:

There are plenty of reasons why people haven’t made or don’t update their platforms. They’re too busy, they don’t know how, it’s scary… It’s alright to feel nervous or overwhelmed. I once was. I grew up with my mother telling me to be afraid of social media, to never venture onto YouTube, and heaven forbid I ever made a Facebook account.

So there I was, asking agents, editors, anyone who would listen if I really needed a platform. If I wrote a good enough book, wouldn’t people find it? No. Plenty of amazing books are lost to the annals of the unknown. Only a fraction of book sales come from stumbling upon a book in a store. Foot traffic is caused by followers, advertisements, guest appearances, and everything else that falls under self-marketing, aka your author platform. Even when you get traditionally published, the publishing house will expect you to self-market.

Where do you start?

If you are brand new to self-marketing, start with social media. Build your account followings. Once you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, you can use them to advertize any blogs or videos you make. Famous authors often have very large followings on social media platforms, some platforms more than others depending on the age group and genre. Instagram is very popular with the rising YA crowd and comic writers, for instance. Facebook is holding strong with the women’s fiction and romance readers. Now does this mean you shouldn’t have a Facebook account if you write MG or YA? Of course you should have one, but don’t be worried if your following isn’t as big as on other social media sites.

It’s never too early to start.

You don’t need to be published to build your author platform. If you’ve got Twitter down, branch out to Instagram or make a blog. Ask other bloggers to feature you, or see if you can write some freelance articles. Keep growing your numbers. Don’t be too hard on yourself if they come slowly at first, just keep at it. If people don’t follow you back or aren’t featuring guests on their blog right now, that’s not a permanently closed door. It’s okay if not everyone wants you right away.

Your social media account will grow exponentially. It’ll most likely be slow at first— it took me a whole month to get to 100 followers on Twitter— but it’ll speed up. You can increase your growth rate by being active daily, but you’ll grow steadily so long as you’re active a couple times a week. Plus, the more people who follow you, the more they’ll share you with their own audiences and the faster you’ll grow.

What do you post?

Here’s the neat part: what you say on your author platform is up to you. Each author’s will be unique. What’s important is that you pick how you’re unique and stick with it. This is called your brand. A brand is a social media presence where:

–        People get a feel for your personality

–        You’re consistent

–        You’re expectable

This brand applies to all aspects of your author platform, from your social media presence to your website. For instance, if you just started blogging, you’d want your blog to be about something you could write about for years. Otherwise, if you pick a niche topic, you’ll run out of ways to talk about it sooner or later.

Ask yourself what your personal rules are and stick to them. Will you be a silly writer? Serious? Would you ever mention politics? Is your blog a mixture of personal and writing topics, or strictly business? Write out what you want to be and stick to it. People are much more likely to come back if they know what to expect. They’ll return more often if they know when to expect new posts. Tell your readers/viewers when you post, how to stay in touch with you, and how to be the first to know when you post.

And so that you know when to expect new posts from the Red Penpals, we have new blogs every Tuesday. You can find myself and Saskia on Twitter, and you can get our blog summaries, contest alerts, and publication news by signing up for our newsletter. Next week, we’ll cover Quick Twitter Success for your author platform. Thank you for dealing with that almost-smooth transition and we’ll see you next week.

In the meantime, see our previous blog posts on giving and receiving critiques on your writing. Let us know what you want us to cover next in the comments below.

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