First, what is an author platform? In essence, it’s a way for you to reach your potential readers, fans, followers, and ultimately sell your books. There are all kinds of ways to engage your audience. And that is the key to building a successful author platform: ENGAGEMENT.
You’re a new author in a sea of roughly 15,000 other new authors that post their books for sale daily, on retailers like Kobo, Amazon, or iTunes. No one knows who you are or anything about you. You need to think about how to stand out without just shouting me, me, look at me.
If you already have a large following on social media, then you’re all set. But what if you don’t? What if you have never been on social media; what the hell do you do then?
When I first started out as an indie author, I wasn’t even on social media. I’ll share a secret, I loathe social media. Not so much now, but I did not come willingly. All I wanted to do was write my stories. But, how was I going to sell any books, if no one knew who I was? And to be honest, no one cares about you as a new author. Not at first. They don’t know you yet. You have to build trust with your community, like any new business. (And yes, as an indie author you are a business.)
So how did I start to build my author platform?
I started with a website. Actually, a blog/author website, I combined the two. How do you use a blog to build a following of readers or fans that you hope buy your book(s)? Give them something useful. Something they need. Something they feel they can’t live without.
I’m not a great parent. I have two teens, I don’t really like them all the time, so I’m not the best at giving parental advice. I am definitely not an expert at parenting. But I do know writing and publishing. That is where my expertise lies. So that’s what I give other writers—helpful ideas that show them how to navigate the world of indie publishing. It is also my passion, which makes it super easy to share my struggles, my accomplishments, and information.
At the same time as I was building my blog, I was also building my social media presence and linking back to my website.
I started with Twitter. I hated it. It was hard to get followers and I just couldn’t seem to find my rhythm. I struggled with what to say and I felt like an intruder in other people’s conversations. After the first month, I deactivated my Twitter account and cried. I vowed never to get on social media again. I also said I was never writing another book, that it was all just too hard. I moped around for about a week. Then I reinstated my account and continued the process.
The key to Twitter is interaction. You follow other people, retweet their posts, comment on their tweets, and share your own relevant posts that will interest others. It’s all about conversations.
Facebook is also an excellent outlet for authors. It allows for a direct connection to your fans. I have a personal profile and an author page. On my author page, I post my blogs, info about my books, trailers for my books, and information about the business side of writing. My page is more professional than my personal profile.
My profile is more about me. My sarcastic sense of humour. I chat with my followers about how I came up with my characters, or I ask them who I should kill next. I might post something about how I stayed in my pyjamas all day and didn’t write one damn word in a story; but spent the whole day on Pinterest instead. I make those who add me feel like friends. I recently asked all my newest friends to “like” my page. I jumped from 275 to 500 page followers in about two days, which was more than I had gotten over the last six months. And why? Because I am building relationships with them and they want to support me. That is the best foundation when building your platform: start by building relationships.
Through trial and error you will figure out which platform works for you. One may not give you the same result as another. For example, I was on Instagram for a while, but I had a hard time engaging my audience. I gained a lot of followers fast, but I never had much interaction with them. I’m not big on taking pictures of myself or my family, and my followers didn’t respond well to my posts about my writing or books . . . It just wasn’t a fit for me. Other authors do well on there. Especially poets, who can use the visual format to display their work.
I swapped out Instagram for Vero. Vero allows linking to outside web pages so I can engage other authors on there with my blog posts, which Instagram doesn’t. I can post my sarcastic memes alongside pictures of my dog. It fits me and my personality. That is the key to finding the right platform: you must be yourself. Find what fits and don’t be afraid to leave a platform that isn’t working.
Just remember, whichever you choose, will require work to build a following. That is why I suggest starting with two.
The process of building your author platform will take time. This is not for the faint of heart. You will struggle; you may cry. The more books you put out, the more blogs you post, the more you engage with your readers online. . . this will all help you to gain traction. It doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s okay if your platform changes over time. Mine is entirely different now than when I started. You will rebrand yourself as you move through your writing career. But start with a good foundation, and that is building relationships. The rest will come. I promise.
Victoria M. Patton is forced to share her home with a husband, two teenagers, three dogs, and a cat. If she isn’t plotting her escape, she uses her Search and Rescue/Law Enforcement skills from the Coast Guard and her BS in Forensic Chemistry to figure out the best way to hide all the bodies and write amazing stories. If she has any free time she drinks copious amounts of whiskey and binge watches Netflix. Check out her blog Whiskey and Writing where she tries to help new authors navigate the Indie Publishing world. If all else fails, she provides great whiskey recipes. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is on most social media outlets, type in her name, you’ll find her.