Creating a strong author platform
Building an author platform, or any platform, is not what some people think it is: It isn’t quantitative. If you see a fellow writer with thousands of likes, look at how much activity their page has. It might be flooded with likes and comments and shares, or it might be empty of all except what the owner posts. That content interaction is what you want for your page and your platform, and that’s what we’ll discuss.
What is a platform?
I’ll break for a second to define this a bit because some beginning writers aren’t sure what this entails. Basically, your platform is your brand. It’s who you are as the writer, editor, designer, etc. It consists of those who follow you, as well as those you follow. Your platform can be digital and physical, but you’re best building in both directions.
Building a platform isn’t about how many likes you get on your social media pages. Those like-for-like posts? Trash. The “follow me and I’ll follow you” inquiries? Garbage. What about those writer groups where you can advertise your book? Pointless.
These building things seem easy and productive because that number of likes seems large, and that group you’re advertising in has tens of thousands of members. There’s something wrong with all that, though. What did you join that group to do? Do you plan on looking at all those pages you liked so they’d like yours in return? Chances are your answer is the same as the majority of everyone else’s. So, what’s the point in those numbers if your real fans are drowning in the algorithms that seek to give visitors what they want instead of what they initially asked for?
Social media sites know you click on stuff just to click on stuff, and they know you linger on things you truly care for. They record those moments, those seconds, and they apply it to your daily thread. If you’re liking pages, you’re receiving those posts for a short amount of time until those algorithms spin gears and move along to the next group of people who clicked. So, those who were actually interested don’t get those updates. Why? Because the flurry of likes coming in distract the formula from what comes after the equals sign: the reader.
I won’t claim to be a platform-building guru—I haven’t taken many steps to build my own. But, I know what not to do, and I know many authors who fall into the trap of numbers that usually brings their following down even if their platform looks up.
I’m going to discuss a few things that will help your platform, and these steps will work for you as much as you work with it. Building a platform isn’t a two-step process. It takes time and effort, and these things will help you build it.
I’m mentioning this first because, well, I’m writing a post on one. Blogs give your prospective visitor something immediately, whether it’s information, a story, a challenge, or simply a few words of wisdom. The audience you seek will come if you have the right blog set up.
How do I know what to write in my blog?
What kind of audience do you want? If you’re a children’s book writer, you won’t likely draw kids to your blog because of the age group. So, that means your audience is mom and dad. What’s your story about? What message do you deliver? Use questions like that to figure out what to write in your blog.
If you’re a fantasy writer, you can write about your characters as individuals, write updates on your story, provide information about the world you’ve created, or you can simply write about your personal life if it’s something your readers would care about.
If you’re a non-fiction writer, you have the easy choice of writing about your profession if that’s what your book deals with, or you can write about yourself.
The topics are endless, and nothing I mentioned is limited to the type of writing I brought up. Those are just good places to start, and you can seek topics by looking at what other authors do in their blogs if you want.
How will that build my platform?
You’re giving visitors a product. The real question is how to get visitors to come. Slowly. My audience is you, the writer. You came because I offered you something, and I’m offering you something because, as an editor, I am constantly offering something to writers. That’s part of my job. So, it makes sense.
Yes, this is a thing. Writing guest posts, taking part in interviews or book tours or giveaways, and even hosting other people on your blog can be helpful.
That’s how you get your visitors. And this is the place where traps await hungry writers. Don’t fall into that trap (I mentioned it at the beginning of this post.) and don’t lay the trap for others. Posting your blog post or items of interest like GIFs, images, video clips, book quotes (either yours or another as long as the quote is appropriately attributed), and more. Share them to your page, and share that to your personal page. Capture your most eager audience, first: family, friends, and all those high school buddies you don’t talk to but added anyway.
Just like Facebook, post your blog, GIFs, images, etc. Use the hashtag system with every post. Hashtags are a great way for writers to specify the type of posts they want to see, and from there, they’ll find you. #amwriting #writerslife #fantasy #writerproblems #editing #writing
There are so many hashtag phrases being used already. Those odd hashtags that you have to read slowly? That’s ignorant usage of hashtags. #Ihateignorantuseofhashtags
No one will look that up. Ever. If they do, they’ll find a years-old post that might have one like. So, use hashtags wisely. Don’t waste words.
Also, there are yearly pitch wars and events that occur, and publishers and agents look for good stories. Check it out. You might find yourself on Twitter all day for one of these.
This isn’t the best platform builder, but it could be for the right writer. If you’re a nutritionist or DIY person or something like that, and that’s the audience you’re seeking, images and videos will help you get there! Post things that give someone something. Inspiration, tips, visually appealing images, etc. are all great ways to build your audience, and hashtags are a thing here, too.
Similar to Instagram, but this audience is enormous. You can post blog posts here, too. The problem with Pinterest, though, is it takes a while to get a return on what you give.
This professional platform will allow you to build your portfolio and, although I don’t suggest it for simple platform building, it’s a good place to make connections. You can do this on Twitter, too, but publishing houses usually have blogs of their own you can follow, and you can also see updates on what’s happening on their side of the media.
There are tons of social media accounts you can create, but these are the most popular. I can answer any questions you have on them, but I’m moving on for now.
This isn’t first because I consider a website to be the hub. If I’m talking in terms of a plant, the website is the root, and the above-mentioned things are the branches. People see the branches before they see the root, so I wanted you to understand that, first.
The website, as well as your Facebook page, is where all your information should be stored—your website especially. If a writer finds you on Twitter, they can follow the provided link to your website and find your writing, your Facebook page, and your blog. What you put on Twitter won’t be the same as what you put on Facebook, so having that branch guide a prospective visitor to your website will be the key to having a loyal fan.
Your website should have everything, simple. If you’re going to an event, it should be on your website. Upcoming books or projects should all be there. Widgets to your social media pages should be there, and everything you’ve created to help your platform grow. Yeah, all there.
Use your website as the place that holds every part of your platform, and of you. Also, make sure every branch in your platform has a link that allows your visitor to find your site.
Take advantage of this. I can’t stress that enough, but I won’t continue elaborating on it. However . . .
Get your domain name now
A domain is what your website is named, basically. Mine is cayceberryman.com. My name is uncommon, so it was easy to get it. Your name may not be. If you don’t already have your domain name, someone might. You don’t have to buy your domain name to own it. Simply start a website on Wix or WordPress or something, and get it. Even if you don’t use it yet, get the domain name you want, and if it’s taken, try other names.
If someone took mine, I’d try variations of either my name, my title, or my genre (if I were creating a writing website). Do that, and find one that is easy for people to remember and understand.
Cberryman128.com is not a domain I should try. What’s the 128? What’s the “C” if I’m not going by my initials? This isn’t a username. It’s a website.
Memberships and interaction
I’m part of the Editorial Freelancers Association. This is a membership that allows me to seek authors in need of an editor, and it also provides authors a place to find me.
The reason you should get on social media is because those places are familiar to people. People know how to find what they want there. And, like social media, some memberships and organizations allow you to find a community where a lot of people search, specifically, for people like you.
Magazines and anthologies aren’t organizations or memberships, but if your writing is published in one and a fan of that publication reads your work, they’ll be able to find more of your work.
Public events are the same. If you write about the Renaissance, going to a Renaissance festival will lead you to a lot of interested readers, possibly. If you write about working out and eating healthy, going to expos and wherever healthy-food seekers go is a good place to start a small fan base.
Word of mouth
Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. You’re building a brand, and that brand is you. There are tons of things you can do to expand your platform, but the fastest way you’ll do it is word of mouth, a powerful platform-builder that many overlook.
Word of mouth will get you far, but you have to have people with mouths to get you there. That means you have to interact with them, too. Interact, be present everywhere, and seek the audience you need, but don’t seek them in numbers; seek the loyalty.
You can’t take your following for granted. Just because you post something doesn’t mean people will read it. For example, every post I write has a graphic, subheads, and sub-subheads so those who read are more likely to 1. click on the post and 2. read it all the way through.
I don’t expect my following to click on something because I created it. I’m using my tools to give them a reason to go where I want or need them (you) to, and from there, I let them (you) do the rest. The hope is that, in addition to my shares to my platform branches, my visitors will share to theirs. This is how people grow their platform. If someone reads a good book, they tell their friends, who in turn will tell their friends, and so on.
Your word is valuable
Earlier, I mentioned that you don’t want to share with other authors because they’re not your audience. This doesn’t mean you disregard them. Communicating and interacting with other people, in addition to your audience, allows you to have the opportunity to reach out to their platform-base.
This isn’t stealing. You can call it sharing. If I interview someone, their information is shared on all my social media sites. I’m not losing followers by doing this, but I might open the door for the person I interviewed to have a few more, and if they share their interview, they might open the door for me, too.
Interacting with connections is important. So, do that. Share posts that aren’t yours and interact with the connections you have. Encourage them to do the same for you.
You build your fan base by working at it, and it’ll grow as long as you’re willing to put in the effort. There’s no sure way to get there because some people have wider doors than others, and that’s not a bad thing. Just keep at it, and don’t let the number of followers discourage you. Remember, it’s not about the number; it’s about the loyalty.