You’ve no doubt heard the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it also takes a village to write a book. Or rather, it takes a village to sell a book.
We say it all the time but self-published authors these days have to be more than just good writers. They also have to know how to build and utilize their author network if they want to keep writing and selling books. And unless you have a traditional publishing deal and a PR firm at your disposal, you will have to build your author network yourself.
But don’t let that stress you out! We help authors build their networks every day and here are some of our favorite tips.
But before we begin:
What is an Author Platform?
An author platform is exactly what it sounds like: it is a place where you have an engaged audience that you can interact with and, ultimately, sell books to. While the word “platform” might be a bit old fashioned because, let’s face it, most self-published authors aren’t standing on a platform talking directly to their audience, the idea is still the same.
Nowadays platforms are created both online and offline using a combination of websites, newsletters, social media, traditional media, speaking engagements, in-person events, and more.
Each author platform might looks different than another, but they all are working to accomplish the same things:
- Create visibility for your brand/author name
- Make it easier for readers to find and connect with you
- Engage in an authentic way with your current audience and attract new audience members
- Increase book sales
- In some cases, support your book launch
How to Build your Author Platform
Now that you know what an author platform is, how can you go about building one for yourself? Here are some of our favorite tips for building your platform:
Build a Website.
If you want people to take you seriously as an author then you need a professional website. Your author website should be a reflection of your author brand and your book. If you don’t have an established author brand yet you can use your book cover as inspiration.
As far as platform building goes, your website is the only place you have 100 percent control over your brand and messaging. Your goal should always be to get people to visit your website to learn more about who you are, find your books, read your blog, and sign up for your newsletter. All of these pieces of building your author platform stem from this one spot, so start here.
Once you have a website it is important to use it. Unlike static displays like billboards where you hope people happen to drive by and see it, websites are living and breathing and need activity to stay relevant. Inorder to generate traffic to your website you need to generate content. The most effective way to do this is by starting a blog and posting content regularly.
What does regularly mean? Ideally once a week, but if that feels like too much at first find a pace that you can be consistent with. We also recommend creating a content strategy and planning your posts in advance so that you aren’t left wondering what to write about each week.
Pick a theme and plan out 3-4 blog posts around that theme. Your first post should be your anchor article, and then your remaining articles support this main point and can link back to it when appropriate using well-placed keywords. This helps build your authority on a subject and encourages follow through readers.
Blogging can feel discouraging at first because it seems like no one is reading or appreciating your effort, but overtime with consistent effort and utilizing specific keywords you can start to find your readers. So don’t give up!
Build an Email List.
Another great use of your website is to build your email list. Almost every successful author out there has an email list that they connect with consistently through personal newsletters and emails.
As you start to get subscribers to your list you can send them your blog posts every week, or a compilation once a month. This is just another way to use all that content you created and capture more readers, and drive traffic back to your website, which will help your search rankings.
Whatever you decide to send to your subscriber list again, just be consistent. They signed up because they want to hear from you so give them content either weekly or monthly that will keep them engaged. Remember to only deliver content that is valuable and relevant to your brand. Subscribers are wary of newsletters that suddenly change scope or direction, so stick with your original theme and find ways to deliver content relevant to that.
To build your subscribers consider creating some sort of lead generator, like a free piece of content that you offer to people when they sign up. Once they sign up you can use an email provider like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or Convert kit – all of which have free options to start with, as a way to create professional looking newsletters for your subscribers.
Social media can be a valuable tool for building your author network. At a minimum consider starting an author profile on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can invest in content management systems like HootSuite or Cloud Campaign to help you manage your content and maximize the time you need to spend posting content.
And if you haven’t picked up on this already: consistency is key. Once you create your social channels you will want to start posting content right away and – you guessed it – regularly, to keep your audience engaged.
We like Facebook in particular for growing your author brand because of Facebook Ads. Even if your budget is small, you can set up ads on Facebook to grow your following for a few cents per fan.
You can also boost posts on Facebook and Instagram to increase their reach and engagement, all things that can help you capture more of your audience. Just make sure you respond to comments, and thank people for sharing your content.
Run a Marketing Outreach Campaign
Another way to increase your platform is to run a marketing outreach campaign. Put simply, this is where you curate a list of every podcast, blog, magazine, influencer, organization and publication that has a connection to your book and your mission.
Then, you send them a pitch email about yourself and your book and either ask to be a guest on their show, or post an article by you. This method works best for non-fiction authors, but fiction writers might find it valuable as well. If you’re not sure how to get started, we have an entire course about how to run these kinds of campaigns. You can check it out here.
Platform building doesn’t just happen online. There are plenty of ways to build your platform, earn newsletter subscribers and followers that don’t happen behind a screen.
Some ideas include book signing events at your local library or bookstore; tabling at your local farmers market; attending local writing conferences and events; and utilizing your local media for basic coverage. Send your local newspaper a press release about your latest book or book signing event. If your local chamber of commerce has a networking event consider going and bringing some books with you to leave behind.
When it comes to building your author platform every little bit counts.
If you need help, schedule a free consultation with our CEO Joel Pitney about how we can help you build your author platform.