A lot of writers dream about getting their books published and becoming best-selling authors. But that’s not all you need to do to get your name out there and start making money! There are many other steps. Alas, most writers have no idea how to build an audience of readers who will buy their books and spread the word about them. Mastering author marketing and building your online platform is vital if you want to build a successful book-based career.
The internet has changed the writing game, and authors are expected to have an online presence for their work to be seen. Most literary agents will not even look at your manuscript if they can’t find you on Google. And some readers feel the same way.
An online platform allows you to connect with your target market, grow a community around your book(s), and sell more copies of it. It’s also important for building credibility as an authority in your niche so that people are willing to pay attention when you share valuable advice or write new books.
In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to set up your online platform so that people will find you online when they search for your book. I’ll cover the practical foundations that I wish someone had given me when I first began building my author career.
What is an author platform?
Ask any two people and you’ll get two answers to that question. However, no matter how you define it, what an author’s platform boils down to is the ability to market one’s work. Therefore, one author’s platform may be comprised of a large and engaged following on social media, while another’s is through their email newsletter and yet another author’s platform is a patchwork of several online audiences.
That said, if you want to have a trustworthy author platform that you can control, that is less likely to be pulled out from under you by the whims of chance or some tech wizard, then your email list is your best way to build your author platform.
Why is an author platform important?
If you are going to put the effort into writing a book, you probably want to sell a few copies, right? That’s what an author platform is for!
Alas, uploading your book to Amazon, Smashwords, and any other book distribution or retail site without being able to let people know about it is there is not going to result in more than a handful of sales — if that many.
Therefore, you need to invest the time and energy in building an author platform so that you will have people — fans, ideal readers — to notify each time you publish a new title.
How to build an online author platform
Building an author platform is a multi-step process and is a journey that takes time. It goes beyond the scope of this post to go into too much detail here, but I will provide a high-level overview and over time link to other articles on this website that will go into more detail on each point.
So here is the basic overview of the process:
Step 1: Get clear on your author brand. For some authors, this may mean forming a single cohesive brand and only writing books that fit that one brand. For others, that may mean having a set of several brands that either relate and interlock or not. Only you can decide what works best for you and what your goals as an author are. But I can tell you that doing this branding work upfront — even if it changes later — will make your life so much easier. I did not do this work, and it has presented me with many challenges that I’m still trying to work out!
Step 2: Get clear on who your ideal readers are. You need to understand the type of people who will read the books you will be writing so that you can not only write better books that appeal to them and are more marketable but also so that you can know how to market to them and where to market to them. Without this knowledge, or being fuzzy on who they are, your marketing will be ineffective and you won’t reach your book sales goals.
Step 3: Develop a plan of action for building your author platform. Which strategies will you use to grow your email list? You want to find those methods that are in the sweet spot where there is an overlap between what resonates well with your ideal readers and what you enjoy doing so that you’ll doing it consistently.
Step 4: Implement that plan. Start taking action, even if it is imperfect action. Do what you can do from where you are right now. You can always build and grow later. If your plan doesn’t work the way you thought it would after at least three months of consistent implementation, then you can revisit and tweak it to improve it.
The Two Most Important Tools for Building Your Author Marketing Platform
Now that you have an overview of the process, let’s get into some of the specifics. The two most important tools you’ll need to build your author platform are your email list and your website.
Your Email List
Do not use your personal email! Not only will it be too hard to manage, but it may also get you into legal trouble. Use one of the email marketing software applications available on the market. There are many of them. I use Aweber and highly recommend it because it has a lot of powerful features beyond promoting through email alone. In addition, they have a free trial version so that you can try it out. MailChimp is also a good option, however, I’ve found them to be a little bit harder to use and their landing page function isn’t as elegant as Aweber’s.
To build an email list you’ll need a few things:
- An opt-in incentive — this is a free gift that you give your subscriber in exchange for their email address and the right to send them emails.
- An opt-in form — this is a form they fill out to request your incentive and be added to your list. Your email marketing software will create it for you.
- Landing pages — You’ll need several of them, some of them optional, some of them generated by your email marketing software. I explain this system in this blog post.
- A welcome sequence of emails — This can be as simple as one email, or as complex as several emails in a row. Aweber comes pre-loaded with suggestions.
Then you’ll need to decide how often you’ll email your list and what you will email them, which is outside the scope of this blog post.
Your Author Website
Although you can post your opt-in offer on social media, as well as within your books, your best place to post it is on your website. Your website is the hub of your online presence. All mentions of you should eventually point toward your website. Take control of this asset and create a website that you own, not rent.
That means don’t make your “home on the web” be a page on someone else’s platform. Get your own domain and host your own website.
More Tools and Strategies to Support Your Platform Building
After you have your website and your email marketing in place and you are feeling comfortable and confident with those tools, you can start layering on additional author platform-building tools. In this section, I’ll provide a broad overview of the more common ones.
If you’re not careful, social media marketing can take over your day and even your life. So be strategic about it. Ask yourself these questions when selecting the social media platforms you’ll use to grow your author platform:
- Do you ideal readers hang out there? If not, you don’t need to either.
- Do you enjoy hanging out on the platform? If not, don’t — even if your ideal readers are there. Your “negative energy,” not to mention natural inconsistency will undermine your marketing in that space.
In general, Facebook is usually a safe bet for marketing books. Depending on your audience, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are also good platforms to explore. If you have the time, definitely check out GoodReads and BookBub, as well. Both those platforms were created for readers, so you are more likely to find your audience there if you know how to use the platform. Twitter is best used for building relationships with the media, however, some authors have found their readers on that platform, as well.
Video marketing is becoming increasingly important. More and more social media platforms allowing you to post pre-recorded video, as well as record live video. And, because video encourages people to stay on the platform longer, those platforms tend to encourage video. So, if you have the right equipment and lighting, explore video marking on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. If you have a professional audience, LinkedIn is a good place to go, as well.
Marketing with Articles
If you’ve read this far, then my efforts at marketing with articles have worked! Basically, this technique consists of these two steps:
- Write an article that is relevant to your topic and of interest to your ideal readers
- Post it online somewhere that it can be found
That second step can mean many different things. You can post articles on your blog, as I did with this article. You can have an article published on someone else’s blog—that’s called guest blogging. You can even take guest blogging up to the next level and have articles you’ve written posted to the websites of newspapers, magazines, and trade publications. That, of course, is a bit more challenging, but it can be within reach if you have the right pitch, sufficient time, and a touch of tenacity.
That leads me to public relations, which is basically working with members of the media to get stories about you placed in newspapers, magazines, radio, and television—both online and offline. You can also post press releases online, however that rarely gets you media placements and is used primarily for search engine optimization.
Connecting Offline and Public Speaking
At some point, you’ll want to take your author platform-building efforts offline and out into the world. That’s when you can start attending conferences, conventions, meetings, and other events. Even better — get booked to speak at them! Do book signing events, as well. And don’t limit yourself to book stores and libraries. Find other venues that might go well with your book’s theme. For example, I had a client who did a book launch event at a travel store because her book involved travel!
Prizes and Competitions
One final tip, another feather in your cap that can support all your author platform-building efforts is an award-winning book. So, when you can, go for prizes and enter competitions. Being an award-winning author is a great feeling!
Your Author Platform Is Unique
Author platforms are an integral part of any author career. They can help them increase their visibility in both traditional media outlets as well as online.
Every author’s platform is unique, and it is important to find your own. Your platform should reflect your brand and the kind of content that you create for your readers. As you can see, there are many aspects to building an author platform. The most important aspect is that you must be consistent in how you approach your marketing and branding efforts.
If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry–I’m here to help! Bookmark this blog post so when things start getting busy again you’ll have all these tips ready within clicking distance.
This article has introduced some great ways to build your own online author platform, but if you want more information on how I can help you develop your Author Brand check out my Author Brand coaching calls on Superpeer!