The author platform—a long-range career growth tool

If you are like many of us, you have recently published a book. Congratulations! Whether you self-published or went with traditional  publication, you now need to market your book. You sent out an email to everyone you know telling them of your accomplishment. Having a little social media savvy, you told everyone on Facebook or Google+. You may even have tweeted a link to your book. But, what do you do if your sales are not ramping up the way you would like. What next? What do you do to gain more visibility, become recognized as an authority, and increase your audience?

The way you become more visible, gain influence, and develop a readership is called your writer’s platform. It involves more than self-promotion. It is developing a persona, a presence, a brand that is you. For a better understand of what an author’s platform is, see Jane Friedman’s article, “A Definition of Author Platform.”

Developing a platform is not a one-time effort. It is an ongoing process. So as not to become overwhelmed, especially if you are new to social media, start slowly. As you gain confidence and skill with one aspect of the platform, add another. Each challenge will present new possibilities for growth.

Develop your presence both online and off. Don’t forgot the more traditional route: press releases, book tours, and radio and TV interviews. Make presentations and, especially for the non-fiction author, be on panels and discussion groups. All of these venues will help increase your audience and authority. The more visible you are, the more chances you have of making contact with your readers.

Another way to build your platform is by writing. Maintaining a website, guest blogging, tweeting, etc all take time. You are foremost a writer. To not become a “one-book wonder”, that author with only one book, you need to write more. Series writers build a following. Some, such as Michael R. Hicks, give away the first book in the series. As a result of this giveaway, I have purchased the “In Her Name Trilogy” and most of his novels. Look how Mr. Hicks has branded his books with theme and cover jackets. In addition, his inviting tagline, “I enjoy writing so you can enjoy reading!” all make a great presence—a powerful author platform.

If you want to spend more time writing and less time marketing, consider hiring someone to do part or all of the marketing. Book agents may help with promoting and platform development; consider if the cost is worth your hiring them and who will have the final say in the development of your author’s presence. At minimum, maintain active communication with your readers: answer comments or write postings. Some authors, such as Adam Nathan, print excerpts from their upcoming book and send a weekly email. Look at what other authors are doing and develop your own style. You are unique, let this uniqueness speak for itself.

How to build the author platform

  1. Be authentic. People can tell if you are sincere. Don’t make your blog, emails, tweets, etc about you. It is all about the reader.
  2. Don’t be a hard-sell. Constantly promoting your book can be a turn-off. People want to know what is it in for them; so be generous.
  3. Be flexible, there is no one right way to do this. Make your own way. Decide if you will blog or not, if you will have a Facebook presence or not,  or if you will specialize in one media such as Pinterest and ignore the rest.
  4. Be consistent. Be there for your readers. Reward them for following you by being there for them. Be engaging.
  5. Don’t forget the writer’s community. Make friends with other writers and exchange ideas. Join local author groups or meet up with them online. I like LinkedIn where there are many groups and discussions. This is a place not only to learn from others but also to develop your authority through comments or discussions you start.

Consider the development of your author platform as a long-range career growth tool. As with any career, you need to learn the craft and the management of that craft. Additionally, you need to be adaptable. It seems as if each week something new is happening in the digital world; try to keep up with the changes, most likely your readers will.

What new idea have you brought to your author platform? Which aspect of the author platform do you enjoy/dislike the most and why?

Author: Jane V. Blanchard

Adventurer, Author, Blogger, and Public Speaker. I was born in Hartford Connecticut and now live in Sarasota, Florida.

16 thoughts on “The author platform—a long-range career growth tool”

  1. Jane,

    Thank you so much for the post. Woo! The right one at the right time. That little graphic you have at the start of this post visually nails precisely how I’ve been feeling. Whirlwind, on a merry-go-round of what to do next, how much, and then how much online on the “ground” such as some of the in-person, live activities you mentioned. And in the midst of it all, write dame good books! Yikes a rooni. I am saving this blog post in my email folder called book marketing because its so rich with information, I’ll want to refer to it repeatedly as I pick and choose what to do next. I have written and published seven books to date, and whenever non-writers ask me, “How do you market your book?” I want to pull my hair out because IT DEPENDS ON THE BOOK. Each book has its own market bec. I write cross genre and that’s another thing that makes my head spin. Anyhoo, I really like seeing the authors you posted as examples to potentially emulate. The idea of branding VISUALLY is important.

    In connection to that, I’m wondering if you’d say more (in a future post) on what seems to me to be the whole TRILOGY craze. I’m thinking it really took on steam with The Dragon Tattoo series and as you mentioned in your post, intuitively it seems to me to be a great way to attract new readers and draft them through three books with cliffhangers and so forth.

    Thanks again, for an excellent and useful post!

    1. Gina,

      First, congratulations on publishing seven books.

      I am learning from reading and speaking with other writers that there is no best way. What works for one author may not work for another. Some people are very analytical, looking at the numbers and putting all their efforts in what has the best shot for success. For them, its all about the number of sales, the number of contacts, etc. Others are more social and develop an author persona based on interaction and engagement with the reader. For these authors, it is more about the message and the way it is delivered. For many, its a little bit of both styles. Deciding which way to go all depends on one’s comfort zone; sometimes it pays off to stretch and try something new. Just remember, you don’t have to try it all at once.

      Writing cross genre can be part of your writer’s platform, attracting a wide range of readers versus one type of reader. Have you determined if including snippets or excerpts from books of a different genre entice your readers to read another type of your books? I am curious to know.

  2. You asked: “Have you determined if including snippets or excerpts from books of a different genre entice your readers to read another type of your books? I am curious to know.”

    Yes, I have and the answer is, it doesn’t. By including excerpts from books on SIMILAR SUBJECTS I can draft wind (book sales) from one book to another but when the genres are too dissimilar that does not seem to work as a general measure.

    If folks have purchased and read one of my TRAVEL books, they are more inclined to read my next TRAVEL book vs. a book on marathoning or personal growth or a memoir about my childhood.

    While drafting wind across genres is certainly a possibility and it may happen in ways that I cannot know or measure, that was never my intent with the cross genre strategy. I’m trying to build readership in all genres for which I have something legitimate to offer (business, exercise physiology, travel) so that within EACH genre I can cross promote similar thematic books. If they cross pollinate great! But I’ve not seen any significant numbers in that regard.

  3. Gina,

    Thank you for explaining. I have a better understanding of the work involved in promoting books across genres. Promoting one genre is time consuming, I can’t imagine the effort you must put into promoting several.

  4. Like Gina, I appreciate your post! Very clear, very wise. From what I’ve gathered so far it seems to be a slow journey to build up a following. I had a 10 year gap in publishing novels, so it’s like starting all over – and certainly starting in a new digital world!
    It’s a challenge, but one I’m keen to embrace.
    Thanks for you advice – I shall keep it handy!


    1. Ann, Best wishes on your journey into the digital marketing world. I am slowing finding my way. My waymarkers are webinars, various bloggers, and authors. After six months of trying this and that, I am starting to define my platform. I am sure that you too will succeed: you already know the basics having been published; all you need to do is learn the new tools.

  5. Jane, you have my admiration.
    I have read a number of ways to sell a book. All it does is depress me. I love writing. I love doing the research as something comes up in the plot and this triggers ideas and it builds. I get excited reviewing what I have written and polishing it and feeding in quirks and amusing twists. I love the characters and have no idea where they come from and when I start down one route and end up being diverted down another I feel great about it and I am surprized when it hangs together almost as if somebody else has been using me to write. I want others to read what I have written and I am amazed and pleased that they have enjoyed it. Perhaps I am just selfish writing for my fulfilment and pleased that others get some enjoyment. Imagine the horror of writing just to earn a living and not love what you are doing. Reading about social networking and pouring energy into building contacts and all the other things about marketing makes my heart just sinks. Words like, Twitter and Facebook and Blog and, and, and – are like knives plunging into my soul. As is written in the Bible, O grave where is your victory, O death where is thy sting, – I know where it is, not writing and trying to sell what I have written.

  6. Barry,

    I feel your pain! I too love the writing process, the research, and losing of the self in the creation of the work. Like you, I want others to read what I have written; I enjoy receiving feedback from the readers, knowing that I have made that connection with them and perhaps made a difference. As with you, I wrote because the book inside me was demanding that I write it. Other books are calling to me.

    A writer once told me that the purpose of the writer is to write, not to market the books. He felt that the mail objective was to create books that would attract the readers. A sort of build them and they will come attitude. I must admit that the more books one produces, the greater the odds of having repeat readers. My concern is, as a relatively unknown indie publisher, how to create this initial following of readers.

    The only way I can see doing that is to market the book. Finding the balance between writing and marketing is crux to success. If you absolutely hate spending time marketing, create a marketing plan or writer’s platform that uses others to do most of the work. Check out book marketing and publisher services. Hire someone to run your website, automate you tweets, set up the Pinterest accounts, or whatever you choose for your platform. Check out Fiverr, an online marketplace offering tasks and services starting at $5. Perhaps you can contract with them to routinely post or tweet on your behalf. If others can take the drudgery out of the marketing work, perhaps it will lessen the sting.

    Barry, However you decide to market your book, create a plan that is right for you, one that is fun, not daggers to the heart.

  7. Thank you so much for this article Jane. It’s really helpful. I’m about to publish my third book so this year the focus will be on marketing this one and the previous two. I find Facebook works for me quite well. I love it, so that certainly helps a lot. All the very best with your books!


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