Building the Foundation of your Author Platform

Eeva Lancaster, Author PlatformYou might have heard from the grapevine that you need to build an author platform and you're wondering if what you've done so far is enough. You heard right. If you're serious about your writing career, like any business, building a platform which will be the basis of your personal brand... is crucial to your success.

Some authors say this is not important - well, there's a lot of debate going on and you can read all about it by searching on Google. Personally, I think it's important. Publishing books is a business and when you went into self publishing, you entered a very competitive industry.

Before you start, it is important that you understand what an author platform is and why you need one. Otherwise, it's just a waste of time, and you'll be going through the motions mimicking what other people are doing, without knowing why you are doing it.

Your Author Platform, in a nutshell, is a representation of you and your business (your books or whatever service you're offering) Kinda like your CV. But unlike a CV, it is not tangible. It's the sum total of your efforts to: build your professional reputation, enhance your public image, promote and market your product, grow your network, and increase your influence in the industry. It's the consolidated answer to the following questions:
  • Who are you?
  • What are you known for?
  • What do you offer?
  • What is your expertise?
  • What is your marketing strategy?
  • What is the extent of your influence?
  • How far is your reach?
  • How visible are you?

THE FOUNDATION of your AUTHOR PLATFORM

An author platform is a combination of many factors, not just one. It takes planning and effort to build one that is solid and robust enough to be the foundation of your online business. Remember that all of this is a process - it can't be done in a day. Don't start freaking out and getting overwhelmed. You can't do it all at once, and you shouldn't expect to see quantifiable results immediately. 

Your platform needs time to grow and mature, like you, and it's to your advantage to start as early as possible.

The term is awfully misunderstood which could be the reason why many authors think it's not important. So, read more about what it takes to build a strong author platform and gain a deeper understanding of its purpose. Don't exhibit an entitled attitude where you think that writing is all you need to do. If you want to be taken seriously as an author, you need this. Unless you've landed a publishing contract and you have an agent who will do this for you.

Here's what you need to do:

WRITE and EXHIBIT HIGH QUALITY CONTENT

Whether you're a writer, a blogger, an author - Content is King. You're a great storyteller and writer? Your books are worth reading? Prove it - not just to your readers but also to your peers. Take care that you're not publishing anything that is below quality - people are judging your product when they read the words coming out of you (no pressure!). Your content should be relevant and touch people's lives and emotions in some way. If it doesn't, don't waste your time. This means that even your regular blog post should be given some thought. 

Authors who would like to establish their credibility as good writers should showcase their writing every chance they get. How?

  • Create your own website
  • Update your blog regularly (weekly, semi monthly, monthly - up to you - but be consistent)
  • Guest Post (Post relevant articles on other blogs.)
  • Write Professionally - Being paid to write gives you credibility (and extra income!) If you are credited for your work, much better.

COMPLETE YOUR MEDIA KIT

Everything you need to promote yourself, I call a Media Kit. Having a media kit ready makes it easy for you to create online profiles, promote yourself, and build your image. What can be found on your author kit?
  • Your Photo (choose a good one that best represents you) - this is what you will use for your back covers, author pages, social media profile, press releases and anywhere your image is needed.
  • Your Biography - have one in 3rd person and one in 1st person. A biography is a summary of who you are and your purpose. That's why it's so hard to write one. 
  • A List of your Links - Social Media Links, Book Links, Website Link, etc.
  • Images of your Books, Logo and Banners - File these for easy access
PUBLISH CONSISTENTLY

Write and write some more and publish consistently. Fiction writers can release short stories in between novels. Offer giveaways or free books so people can sample your writing. Get your work out there where people can see and always link back to your other stuff. Strive for maximum exposure. Put the spotlight on you and your writing. Keep the buzz going. People have very short memories nowadays. 

BUILD SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

This means posting relevant and interesting things that will entice people to follow you. Many people think that their social media following is a measure of popularity and presence. It's not. So, don't buy Likes and Follows just to see your number of followers increase. What you want is to have REAL followers who are interested in your work. People who are engaged with you and will endorse you to their own networks. Don't cheat.
  • Twitter - Come up with a professional looking banner for your Twitter profile, one that represents what you do. Put images of your books on your banner, show your genre, share your website address and use a nice image of you. Tweet regularly and not just about yourself. Retweet other people's campaigns, choose the people you follow and use images on your tweets as much as possible.Write good sales copy. Every tweet is a sales copy, believe it. With so few words allowed in a post, it's a challenge to create interesting posts. Learn how.
  • Facebook - Create a separate personal account and an Author Page. Join Facebook Groups relevant to your niche. Like other people's posts and share your friend's promos and campaigns.
  • Google+ - No other platform improves your visibility better than Google. Every time you post on Google+, you improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Of course, the search bots will crawl their own first. Learn about using KEYWORDS on your posts.
  • LinkedIn - A professional website that is more businesslike as compared to the other social media sites. Posts here should be less aggressive and career related.
  • Pinterest - Another great way to collect and share content. Create boards and pin your articles, book pages, author pages. 
The secret to building social media presence is to offer value in some way. Help others and most of the time, they will be more than happy to return the favor. Like I mentioned in another article, we all have the same goals - the success of our books. Understand what people are trying to do and find a way to help them out. You will build a loyal and engaged following this way.

DEVELOP YOUR BOOKS

Your book still needs a lot of things from you after you bleed it into existence and before you can release it to the world. That is, if you want to give it a chance to compete. Self publishing doesn't excuse us from our responsibilities.
  • COVER DESIGN - Give your book a great cover that is readable and looks good even as a thumbnail. Don't clutter the cover with too many images and font types. Make sure the image you're using is royalty-free - and don't do it yourself if you don't know anything about design. The cover is your book's skin. It's the first thing that readers see. Make it nice.
  • BLURB / SYNOPSIS - Write blurbs that are catchy, intriguing and will entice people to buy. Imagine a potential buyer checking out your book... he's reading the synopsis... and got bored. He clicks the back button. You have just lost a potential sale because you're a poor copywriter. Blurbs should touch emotions and create intrigue. It's not a summary like you see on the back covers of print books. It's a sales copy. If you don't know how to make a sales pitch, have someone else do it PLEASE. This is very important.
  • BETA READERS - This group, which can be friends, fellow authors or a family member who loves to read - will be your test readers. Some authors get beta readers as early as the first draft, even when their books are not finished yet. Their feedback is crucial because unlike reviews, you can still adjust the content based on their reactions. Obviously, you need them before you publish your work.
  • PROOFREADING - Have it proofread to ensure that there are no technical errors. Nothing turns off readers more than a sloppy manuscript peppered with spelling errors and missing or double words or what have you. It reeks of arrogance and gives a bad reputation to other self published books. Write in whatever style you want, about whatever topic you want... but write it properly. If you can't, no big deal. There's a whole industry of proofreaders who can help you out. Choose a good one.
  • EDITING - Have the content edited, if needed. Many storytellers are poor technical writers. It's not a weakness, it's just the way it is. Authors are too close to their work to see it objectively and usually, by the time they're done, they don't even want to look at the manuscript again. That is why Editors exist. Used to be, it would be too costly to find an editor, that's why self published authors try to get away with an unedited manuscript. But nowadays, there are many authors and freelancers venturing into the field, and you can find affordable but good editors if you look hard enough. Be wary of editors who just use spell check on your manuscript. Check their edits too.
  • REVIEWS - Get reviewers for your book at least 2 weeks before you release it or make it available for pre-order. If you are building your reputation, you must do the same for your book - and that's what the reviews are for. Readers will look for them when they visit your book page. A book without a review is a lonely book indeed.
  • CREATE BOOK PAGES - You can do this within your website or use sites like Booklaunch.io. If you have an author page, the idea is the same. This page is where you will direct everyone to entice them to buy your book. It should contain a powerful blurb/synopsis, a book trailer (if you have one), reviews, images, etc. It should have all the information a reader needs to get to know your book better... and buy. Remember that this is a sales page - don't make it boring.
  • BOOK TRAILERS - It's a world of visual advertising. You may want to create book trailers for your book launches to build more hype. Then post it on You Tube.
NETWORK

On one blog post, the writer mentioned that Self Publishing is a Contact Sport. That it is.
It's what separates the little leaguers from the big boys.
It's all about your NETWORK.

The publishing world is an industry made up of authors, publishers, editors, designers, bloggers, marketers and anyone else involved with books. Make a name for yourself and introduce yourself to your colleagues. A self published author cannot make it alone in this industry - not if you want good results. You can't be a recluse and insist that you don't need anyone. 

Build a network, not just on social media but elsewhere. Find your audience, your readers and connect with them. Where are they hiding out? Build relationships, personal or professional. Join communities and help where you can. A group of authors promoting each other is a powerful force and will have a wider reach. They can give a book more exposure with a few posts than you could, even if you sat and promoted on your own the whole day. So, make friends. It's not just about you. Get away from the Me, Me, Me attitude. Get involved with other author's campaigns.

MARKETING and PROMOTION

Authors hate marketing... many just want to write. Understandable but unacceptable in self-publishing. Who are you again? You've published? What books do you have out there? Where? Oh they're buried in the millions of books on Amazon? Poor book. And that's because you didn't want to make an effort.

Marketing takes time, so you should promote with a purpose. Don't waste hours just tweeting uselessly or posting stuff that do not help build your author platform. Use strong sales copy on your posts. Improve your SEO. Drive traffic to your website and book pages. Make new connections. Help someone out. Do this all in just 2 hours max. Create a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Be consistent.

*******

I would equate the term Author Platform with Online Presence - reason why that wasn't included in the list. If you have a robust platform, it follows that you will have a strong presence online. You'll be everywhere if someone decides to Google you or your books.

If you really have no patience to do all this yourself, and you just want to write, there are online publishers like BookTrope who can take these tasks off your shoulders. You will no longer be called a Self Published Author, you'll be an Indie. They will edit, do your cover, and do everything else for your book. In exchange, your book will be exclusive to them for xxx years. If you don't care about rights, by all means take advantage of it. Then, you can just enjoy writing. But do take note, that online publishers also outsource these services. and you will still need to promote from your end. There's just no escaping it huh? You don't get any advance royalty from the online publishers, so... weigh your options.

My advise? If you're planning to be in this industry a long time, find the people who can help you out early on, and keep the rights to your books.

Ok, this post has dragged on! Sorry for that. But I wanted to run by this real quick, so I can discuss the list in more detail on other posts.

Hope this gave you an idea of what an author platform means. I'm sure there are still many things that can be added to this list, but this is a good start. When things are laid out like this, it becomes less overwhelming. Better than not knowing what you're supposed to do, but feeling like you need to be doing more.

With a good author platform, who knows what opportunities will open up for you? Invest in yourself and your books, and continue to improve your craft. In time, your credibility, value and work quality will convince people to make an investment in you. Wouldn't that be awesome? Surely.


What other activities are you involved with as an author? Share your proven methods with us. Feel free to leave a comment below. I'd like to hear from you.


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