Hi, writer! Welcome back to the Indie Publishing Roadmap series.
This week, we’re talking about building your author platform. If you haven’t read the other posts in the series, be sure to do so!
*Don’t forget to grab your free self-publishing guide at the end of this post!
What is your author platform?
Your author platform encompasses everything from your website to your email list to your social media accounts.
Your author platform is crucial for building your audience and connecting with said audience.
Where do you start?
If you haven’t already started building your author platform, don’t worry. It’s easy to get started.
- Pick a name/handle. Try to be consistent across all outlets, like I am with @btleditorial.
- Design an author brand. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.
- Set up your email list so people can sign up.
- Pick one or two social media platforms. Don’t overwhelm yourself.
Items three and four on that list can be reversed, too. What’s important is that you do have an email list and at least one social media channel.
Whether you’re writing for a hobby or have a business mindset, having an author brand is important. This helps people recognize your work.
What goes into an author brand? I could dedicate several posts to author branding, but here’s what you need to know to get started:
- Use your name consistently (as mentioned in the last section) so people always know where to find you.
- Decide on a few themes you’ll definitely craft posts around, like “Fandom Friday,” novel updates, and brief personal updates.
- Pick colors that you like and that match your genre. If you need some ideas, look at other authors who write in your genre as well as covers for popular books.
You don’t need to worry about having a really fancy logo, business cards, and website right away. Start with the basics and be consistent.
How can you use your platform to build your audience?
Your platform is all about connecting with your audience, and your first instinct shouldn’t be, “I need to sell books to everyone.”
Your audience should be filled with your ideal readers. Instead of focusing on sales, you want to build a relationship with them. You don’t need to be best friends with your audience, but you should want to connect with them because they like what you produce, not because they will spend money.
Disclaimer: Make your money! Artists, including authors, should be paid for what they create. But if you’re only trying to connect with people for money, they’re going to know you’re just there for a quick sale.
So, what can you do to build your audience? I could write multiple posts on this, so I’ll boil it down to the basics for today’s post:
Your Email List
Your email list is crucial for sales. It’s a direct line to an audience who has given away their contact information, meaning they want to hear from you.
But how do you actually get people on your list?
The best way is to provide a reader magnet, which is some kind of free gift they receive for signing up. Since you’re a writer, a great way to get sign-ups would be to offer a short story or deleted scene from your novel.
You could also consider offering a “world guide” if you wrote a fantasy or sci-fi novel, something with more information about the larger world your story is set in. Anything that’s related to your book and genre would make a great reader magnet, and they’re easy to share as PDFs. Your email newsletter provider should have a guide on exactly how to offer this to readers.
Once you have people on your list, you want to stay engaged with them. This might be sending one newsletter per month with info and updates. It might be once a quarter. However you plan to stay in touch (besides launch dates and campaigns), just let your subscribers know how often they can expect to hear from you!
Your Social Media
On social media, use hashtags to categorize your posts. Readers will be able to find you through things like #fantasyauthor if that’s your genre.
You’ll also want to respond to comments and DMs. Not every comment or DM warrants a response, but it’s important that you engage with your followers. The algorithms reward interaction like this, which can expose your account to more people. More importantly, though, it builds trust and loyalty with your existing fans.
Ask questions in your posts. Things like, “What’s your favorite trope in fantasy?” should yield more comments than “Loved my coffee today!”
Post things from your novel that you want people to be excited for. If you don’t know what that content might be, just look at other authors’ accounts. Do they share teasers? Moodboards? Quotes? Reviews? Gather ideas this way.
Most importantly, be consistent. Growing your social media may be slow at first, but that’s okay. Slow and steady growth wins the race. On that note, don’t participate in follow-for-follow loops. They inflate your numbers, which may be nice to see on your profile, but you won’t get sincere engagement or fans this way, and that can actually hurt you in the long run.
Common Author Platform Mistakes
Building an author platform doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are a lot of traps and false promises along the way. Here are six common mistakes to avoid:
- Mistake #1: Only focusing on social media. This is good for connection and building buzz but not great for sales. You have to compete so hard on the algorithm to get a reader’s attention; and with how the algorithm prioritizes posts, only ¼ of your followers might even see your new post. Social media is fun but don’t count on it as your main source of sales.
- Mistake #2: Not building an email list. You can’t control algorithms on Amazon or Instagram, but you can control your email list. If you aren’t building an email list, you’re 100% at the mercy of algorithms, and you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket.
- Mistake #3: Not emailing your list. This is an audience who has asked to hear from you. They want your stories! You should let them know how often they can expect updates from you, then do your best to stick to that schedule. Once at the end of the month, every month, is better than never.
- Mistake #4: Thinking you don’t need a platform. I’ve heard “I don’t like social media” or “I’m not good at marketing” a lot from authors, and then they complain when their books don’t sell. Most people aren’t naturally inclined to market themselves, but it’s a skill you can learn. Very few readers will find your book on their own simply because there are SO many books out there. You need to connect with potential readers.
- Mistake #5: Targeting other authors on social media. I see this all the time on author blogs and on Instagram: authors targeting other authors with things like writing advice. While there may be some writers in your ideal audience, your audience should mostly be readers. Keep your content focused on the books you’re writing!
- Mistake #6: Only talking about the personal. Readers will appreciate the occasional update from your life. Most of us like a glimpse into the lives of those we follow. But only sharing slightly grainy pictures of your dog? That’s not going to make readers want to engage with you.
Remember, these are guidelines!
At the end of the day, these are just guidelines. What your followers want to see from you will vary by genre, age group, etc. That’s why identifying your ideal reader is so important.
You’ll probably have to experiment with different types of posts, hashtags, and emails until you find the content your readers respond to. That’s okay! Have fun and don’t be afraid to try new things.
Also, don’t feel like you have to implement all of these pieces of your author platform at once. You don’t need an Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest up and running immediately. Choose one social media platform you’re comfortable with, and then focus on growing that and your email list. You can always create the profiles on the other platforms, but wait to post until you feel comfortable with this new part of authorship.
Questions? Leave a comment or contact me!
Thank you for this. You are always dishing out values. I always love to read from you.
Do you have any recommendations on what platform to use for a newsletter?
Hi Elizabeth! Yes, there are some great platforms out there.
I personally use ConvertKit, but it comes at a monthly cost. All newsletter services require you to pay at some point, but most offer your first 500-1,000 subscribers for free.
If you want to explore some free options, MailChimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers, and MailerLite is free up to 1,000 subscribers. They’re two of the most popular options. Check those out! 🙂
Thanks for this article. Great tips!