Contrary to popular belief, building your author platform is not the same thing as marketing. It’s all about networking and creating a community of people who believe in the same things your book is saying. If you were to write a young adult contemporary romance, your community might contain young adults with a belief in love at first sight or a weakness for a good ol’ fashioned love story, publishing professionals who specialize in young adult romances, and other authors in the same genre.
When agents or editors are looking at your author platform, we are basically just looking at how visible you are to your target audience. No matter how outgoing you are on social media, if your followers are all outside of this group, it won’t help you sell more books. Ask yourself who you know who will be most interested in your book? Publishing professionals? Other authors? What media outlets are you connected with? Blogs? Newspapers? TV? Radio?
Growing your network
When I was first trying to break into publishing I had no solid connections to draw on. Being from middle of nowhere, USA, I had to get creative in finding ways to reach my goal of becoming an agent. After dozens of internship applications proved fruitless, I went through the list of people I already knew to see how I could use the connections I already had to find work in editing. Long story short, I ended up working as the editorial intern at a special needs nonprofit, which gave me the much needed experience on my resume to land me my first internship at an agency. If you’re feeling like you have no connections to draw on, I definitely suggest trying something similar.
Are you part of a writers group? Who do you know at your local bookstore? Library? School? There’s no harm in asking friends and family if they know of anyone you’d be able to connect with. Finding out that your aunt’s co-worker’s cousin published a novel in a genre similar to yours could lead to a fantastic connection for your platform, and a mentor to help you through the publishing process.
Make every effort to attend conferences and talks in your area. You’ll meet some awesome people who will, more than likely, support you as you move through the publishing process. You might also learn about writing organizations that connect writers and will help and support you as well.
Once you have a book published, make it your goal to get out and communicate with your target audience. Book signings at your local bookstore, talks at community venues, and interacting with readers on social media are all great options for being accessible to your readers.
Your online presence
If you do not have a book published yet, it can be hard to create an online presence as an author, however you can establish yourself as a writer. Start out by finding two social media outlets that you enjoy being on. While Twitter is the major social media outlet for publishing, you do not want to select a certain social media outlet only to let it lapse because you do not enjoy spending time on it.
And while it may be tempting, do not post covers, excerpts or titles of your work-in-progress. Once sold, a cover will be created for you, your title may change as well as some of your content. You do not want to post a rough draft of your work online for your readers before your work is ready.
But do write about your writing process and journey to publication.
You will also want to create a website or blog to link your social media profiles to. If you are concerned with content for your website, try starting a blog. If you do not have a book published yet, write about what interests you, or write about subjects that will be featured in your book.
For published authors, a blog is a great place to express your thoughts related to your book, writing, publishing, or whatever topics you want to write about. For example, if your book is centered around food, post your favorite recipes, review your local restaurants… or interview local chefs. If your book is sports related, share interesting sports news and your thoughts on what’s happening. Content ideas for your blog is only limited by what you can imagine.
Every author platform is different, find what works for you and run with it.
Consistency is key
No matter what you’re doing with your author platform, you have to remember that it isn’t something you build in a month or two and then leave alone. Maintaining your platform is part of your job as a writer and so my suggestion is to schedule it into your day as you do with writing or other tasks. Yes, adding yet another thing to your daily to do list sounds daunting, but its a necessary task for getting your message out.
Get your name out there
So, you have some wonderful social media profiles and a website or blog, but how do you draw people to them? Here’s where your connections will really come in handy. Partnering with another author in your genre is a great way for both of you to extend your visibility. You can boost each other’s posts on social media or guest post on each other’s blogs. Your readers can see her name and her readers are introduced to you.
If your book has a set release day, contact your old schools or other places who might benefit from the publicity that comes with having a published author listed among their ranks. Another great option to make sure you’re open to is other media outlets such as interviews, radio, or television. Get creative in utilizing your connections to get in touch with your target audience.
A solid author platform can give you that boost to make agents or editors say yes to your story. Publishing is a business and so if a book or author doesn’t show promise for sales, it’s less likely to be published by a large publishing house. Whether you’re already published or just starting your journey, you can always benefit in building a solid platform through professional networking, social media, fan engagement and online presence.