Book marketing is a key element to any successful book launch. The foundation of any book promotion is called an Author Platform. Unfortunately, many new authors usually start thinking about their Author Platform either while they’re writing their first book or once they’ve written the book and wonder how they’re going to sell it.
Don’t Wait That Long!
Wherever you are on your writing journey, the day to start nailing down your author platform is… TODAY.
What is a Writer platform?
An author platform (or writer platform) is simply the means you will use to reach people who are interested to buy your books. It’s your network.
Most authors mistakenly think that once they write their book, it will sell itself. In all honesty, most probably imagine it flying off the shelves. After all, it’s a great idea and an amazing storyline, right?
But the shelves are overflowing with books from independent authors. There are over 8 million books listed on Amazon, for example. Your book will get lost in the abyss unless you do something to get it the attention it deserves. This is why your writer platform is so critical. You need people who CARE about your book.
Author platform examples
There’s no magic formula for what your writer platform should be. What works for someone else may not work for you. So you need to figure out what makes the most sense for building your network. Considerations include what your genre is, who your target customers are, what people/groups you already know, what social media you enjoy, etc.
Here are a few Author Platform examples:
- A podcaster/blogger/vlogger with an engaged audience.
- A children’s book author who has connections in schools.
- A religious book author who’s a minister of a church.
- A business book writer who owns a consulting business.
These are only a few examples to show the concept. Most authors don’t have a large built-in network, and that’s why taking time to develop an audience before your book is published is worthwhile. It takes time!
How to build an author platform (aka, book marketing outlet)
Most authors use their social media accounts to promote their books but that will only take you so far. Yes, social media is generally a critical aspect of a writer platform, but it needs to extend beyond your family and friends.
Building your network sets the foundation for your future. You can save a lot of time (and money) by thinking through a plan NOW instead of “winging it”. Figuring out your best path now puts you on the path to the greatest success.
Here are some Author Platform 101 key steps:
1. Figure out your long-term plan
What is your purpose for writing your book? Are you planning to write just one book? What makes yours different? How will writing figure into your full-time job? What genre will you write or are you planning multiple genres? Is writing part of a bigger-picture business plan?
2. Define your target customer
Your book has a target audience. That audience is more specific than “everyone” or “women” or “parents” or “romance readers”. Nail down your target customer because this will help you figure out how to find your potential customers and how/where to market to them. Define your customer down to the most detailed level that you can. Is she a working mom (aged 30-40) who’s divorced with young children? Maybe he’s a married 40-something businessman who loves hunting, thrillers, and sci-fi. When you start defining your customer this way, you can almost visualize them. It makes finding places (social media or physical places) where they hang out easier. It makes writing content they’re interested to read easier.
3. Decide How You’ll Reach Your Target Customer
If you already have a means for reaching your audience, like the examples I gave earlier, then you’re all set. But if you’re starting from scratch, this is where you really should spend some time soul searching. When you made the decision to write a book, you also decided to become a small business owner. In order to be successful, you need to make a serious commitment to growing your audience, so you want it to be well thought out.
Social media is the method that nearly 100% of authors use to grow their audience. Which one or two platforms would you use? Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the most common but LinkedIn and Pinterest are also options. How could you utilize video – maybe a YouTube account or Tik Tok? Would you set up an account based on yourself as an author or create one related to your genre instead? Each of these choices warrants consideration based on the pros and cons.
Many people choose to blog to reach target customers. But blogging for the sake of blogging isn’t a solid plan. It’s a big undertaking – remember, you’re also trying to write a book and probably have another full-time job. If you choose to start a blog, it needs to be thought out and not taken lightly. (There are tons of online resources where you can learn everything you need to know about blogging.) I’ll simply say that if you choose to blog, then getting educated in SEO is one of the keys to success. Don’t skip that step. People won’t find your blog by accident.
4. Start Reaching Out to Your Target Customer Now!
Once you decide how you’ll grow your audience, get to work! How do you begin when you don’t have a book to sell? You begin by engaging in the forums that you’ve selected. Get established as someone known for your genre. Set up your website, blog, or YouTube channel and start creating content that your target customer would be interested to see. Start making connections in schools or community groups that are relevant to your genre.
5. Keep it Real
As you start to grow your audience, you’ll encounter people and groups who want to grow faster with the “If you like mine, I’ll like yours” method. Fake growth might make you feel good, but if those members care nothing about what you have to say or will never engage with you, they’re really of no value. Having 100 engaged followers is more valuable than having 1,000 who aren’t interested in your posts or emails or videos. Spend your valuable time on activities that will help you grow a genuine audience and not just one with a lot of members who don’t care about your message.
6. Get Educated!
As a new author, you’ll be faced with a mountain of new things to learn in regards to writing and publishing your book, let alone getting your author platform established. Joining online forums for writers allows you to ask questions of seasoned writers who can help point you in the right direction whenever you get stuck. You’ll also find guidance galore online, but be careful to use sources you trust.
7. Never Stop Learning and Growing
Building your audience is a long-term commitment. It can take a lot of trial and error and require course corrections. It doesn’t end when your book is published. Technology changes at warp speed. New social media pops up and the old fades away. Stay committed to learning and changing and growing.
I hope this Author Platform 101 overview motivated you! Once you start thinking of being an author as being a business owner, you’ll find your path forward easier to see.
FAQ’s For Author Platform
I’m hoping to publish through a traditional publisher. Do I still need a writer platform?
Yes! Don’t assume you don’t need a platform if you plan to publish through a traditional publisher. Yes, the publisher has an audience, but they expect you to have one also. Think about it from the publisher’s perspective… The author who has the biggest audience gives the publisher the best chance of selling more books. Most traditional publishers will request your audience statistics as part of their query process.
What is the best platform for writers?
There is no best platform! A platform is part networking, part grit and determination, and part luck. Go back through the points I’ve listed above and create a plan for each of the points and then start working your plan. Change course as needed, but most importantly, just keep moving forward.
Do I need a Website?
Any serious author will have a website. It might be associated with their name, a topic related to their genre, or have some other theme. However, a website isn’t a critical first step. What’s critical is that people will be able to find you once your book is published. You can accomplish that through your social media channels and the author profile you’ll set up on Amazon (this is a MUST DO step but you don’t have to worry about it until your book is ready to be published.)
Do writers need to be on Twitter?
Writers don’t need to be anywhere (One exception is that authors need to be on Amazon. Not literally, but it’s definitely a best practice to publish to Amazon.) Social media will likely be part of your writer platform, but you can decide which one or two make the most sense for you.
Can you help me figure out my author platform?
Yes! Figuring out your author platform can be confusing and intimidating. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all method, it’s hard to learn by watching or mimicking what other authors have done. Your situation is unique. Your long-term plans, genre, current network connections, and family or business situation, your strengths and skills, your technical know-how, and your financial situation all play a role in the best plan for YOU.
How does it work?
I help people talk through their circumstances and figure out a platform plan! After you complete a questionnaire to let me know about your background, writing plans, and future plans, we’ll schedule a one-hour one-on-one video call (or phone call) in which we talk through your specific circumstances and come up with plan for your author platform. Once you’ve had a chance to absorb and start putting your plan in place, we can schedule an optional 30-minute follow-up call that puts the finishing touches on your plan.
What if you need more coaching? Sure! I offer book coaching or author platform coaching by the hour, too. Payable through Paypal (with credit card or PayPal account) prior to each call.
Questions? Ready to Go? Send me an email at Shirley@FindingGodAmongUs.com. I’m ready and waiting for you!
Let me tell you about Corinne. Corinne contacted me for coaching on her second book. But the minute she started telling me her background and her writing plans, I could tell her author platform was a shambles. She has a small business that she was purposefully keeping separate from her author business and the genre of her first book was different than the second book she was working on and different from the third book she had planned. Her only marketing plan was to keep writing. (Which is a valid plan, by the way.)
Instead of plowing forward on her next book, Corinne allowed me to circle her back to her author platform. After just one in-depth discussion, she had a completely new plan. Her business was now connected to her books and she was testing a different social media than she had been using. Her blog had a new focus that tied her business and her books together and she had begun using SEO to help ensure her blog posts reached readers.
Here’s what Corinne had to say as we worked through setting up her platform:
Wow. Thank you for all that advice and for sending me those suggestions. I have had a lot to think about… I have also been thinking about SEO… I did write a blog, and have an idea for another, that would begin to pull my book and my [business] together.From Corinne’s emails, Aug 2020
Who the Heck is Shirley Alarie?
Let me tell you a little about myself! I’m a blogger and independently published author of nine books. They include adult narrative nonfiction (inspirational true stories) and children’s picture books. My primary platform is my blog, which I grow using SEO, and my secondary platform is Pinterest.
With the experience I’ve gained over the past eight years of self-publishing, I now help new authors navigate the indie publishing world. Part of my book coaching involves Author Platform because I don’t think it’s prudent to write a book without developing a platform to give the book the visibility it deserves. Writing the book is the easy part. The platform development and marketing are where the real challenges lie and this is the focus I try to instill in new authors.