Once you start writing, you quickly learn that writing isn’t just writing. You find out there’s more to the craft than just putting words on a page, and you have to wear many hats on your way to meeting your writing goal. Assuming your goal is to be published, one thing you will need to be able to do is to market your work regardless of whether you self-publish or are picked up by a publisher.
Building an author platform is one critical step to helping you market your work. You can start building your platform right now even if you aren’t published–yet. Launching your platform before you are published is actually to your advantage.
What is an Author Platform & Why Do You Need One?
Simply put, your author platform is your online presence. It can include social media, a website, a blog, a newsletter, a mailing list, or whatever fits your style and target audience. It is the place where you can share what you are learning, what you are writing about, the writing class you are taking, or anything else that influences you as a writer. Your platform should be a way for you to connect with other people who might be interested in your work.
Having a platform for your work isn’t required. It is something else that you have to learn to work into your schedule, but the time you spend engaging with others will pay off in the long run. Self-publishing comes with a need to be a self-promoter to market your book and being able to show a local bookstore owner that you have 200 local followers who might want your book is a powerful motivator to put your book on their shelf.
Benefits of Building an Author Platform
Aside from the potential sales avenue, a platform has several other benefits too. Writing can be a lonely task. Your followers give you an outlet to connect to other writers and readers alike. As you share more insights or snippets of your work, the positive reactions and “where can I read more” are great morale boosters. By starting early, you can test what works and what doesn’t to make adjustments before you ever have a book out in the world.
You can also use your platform to take your readers on the writing journey. There will be people who follow you who are readers only and some of them may be reading a book or two a week–or more! Very few readers realize the book they just finished in 24 hours, may have taken the author five or more YEARS to write. Use your platform to talk about the writing process from start to finish.
Using Social Media
Your readers and followers will come from all walks of life. Social media will likely make up a part of your author platform. Where possible, try to separate your personal accounts and your author accounts, even if you are using your name as your author name. For example, you can have your personal profile on Facebook and keep it limited to people you know in real life, and build a fan Page for your author profile. Both may have your name, but the Page allows people to follow your writing updates without needing to become your “friend” to view your posts. Also, using two or more different social media sites can help you reach a broader audience as you are starting. Then you can narrow your scope to your target audience and adjust to the site they seem to favor. For example, if you are writing Young Adult, you may want to be more active on Instagram or Snapchat (as of this post anyway). If you are writing Women’s Lit, Facebook is where you may want to be more active.
Regardless of which sites you choose, use the features on each site to your advantage. Each site should have some performance measurements you can use. Check the analytics details every two weeks or at least once a month. The data can help you determine what posts get the most interaction and what posts fall flat. You can also get data that shows when your followers are online the most, and so much more.
Plan What You Post
Using social media tools to your advantage can help you save time. Another great time-saver is planning what you post and where you want to post it. Could you imagine trying to read this article on Facebook or Twitter? It wouldn’t work–this is way too long for those sites. Yes, this will be linked on a Facebook page with a preview, but you still have to come here to read the full thing.
Take some time to write down the dates you want to posts, where you want to post, and what you want to post. This list is called your editorial calendar. You can have a theme if you wish to or share information. Anything that draws your reader in and gets them to interact with you can be a social media post or blog post.
One word of caution, if you choose to share your actual writing–your short stories, poems, novels, etc.–some publishers and journals consider that to be “published.” Posting your actual work can impact your eligibility for contests, prizes, or an agent/editor picking up your work. Be highly selective in what works you share.
Building an author platform does take time to start and maintain. You have to put time into getting followers, posting engaging content, and interacting with your new-found fans. It can seem like it is taking away from your writing time, but by using built-in time savers on the sites you use and planning what you post, you can build a robust platform. Start those conversations with your fans now, well before your first (or next) book is released.