Somewhere in your journey to become a published author, you’ve probably heard two words that fill with you with dread, but are said to be of great importance in your quest for an agent or publisher.
In it’s simplest definition, an author platform is the stage from which you are seen. It’s where readers, agents, media, publishers, etc. learn more about who you are, what you know, and what you’re working on, and in this day and age, who’s following you.
Now, there are many industry folks that want to see an author, even a debut author, have a following of 1,000 or even 5,000 before they’ll offer a contract. I have a very strong opinion about that, but suffice to say that having some type of platform is important and can not only land you a deal, it can help you sell books. However, I don’t believe it should make or break a partnership with an author, especially someone who is being published for the first time.
On that note, I do think that there are five foundational pieces that an author should start with when building their platform, five key items that can go a long way to impressing an agent or editor, and five specific things I recommend to every author I speak to or choose to sign.
Website–You need a website. Period. End of story. But, where some authors trip up is that they think they can “just have any website” and they’re done. Wrong. You need a website that is built for your audience. A website that is user-friendly and easy to navigate. A website that shares who you are and what you have to offer. Yes, there are so many different ways to set up a website and host it, but if you don’t have a website that connects you to your readers, then you’ve missed the point.
Blog–I know there’s a rumor going around that blogs are no longer as useful as they once were because there are so many folks writing one. But, here’s the thing: A blog is a starting point. You don’t have to blog every day to have a strong or entertaining blog, but you do need to be consistent, original, and professional. If done right, a blog does the following three things for authors:
- It’s a starting place for your audience to get to know you.
- It’s a great way to elaborate on something shared via social media.
- It’s a searchable conversation.
Social Media–There are so many to choose from nowadays and I know everyone wishes they had a million followers on them all, but anyone who tells you that you HAVE to be on all of them, well, they are not being realistic nor do they have your best interest at heart. What I tell authors regularly is that if they’ll choose two to three sites to be actively involved with or actively posting on about your theme, your book, your life, then that’s really all they need. No one has enough time in their day to be everywhere, and if you try to be, you’ll burn out fast. So, just choose a few from what’s out there, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, or YouTube. Then, be involved in building an audience, conversing with your followers, etc.
Memberships–The best way for you to gain knowledge as well as network is to join writing groups and associations that focus on your genre and age group. Most organizations have a designated website, share webinars or podcasts, host conferences, spotlight members, etc. Some memberships are free, most have fees. The best thing you can do as an author is research an association you’re interested in, chat with other members, follow them on social media, attend meetings, and then incorporate what best fits you, your style, your work, and your life.
Network–The old saying of “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is an unfortunate reality, and when it comes to you and your title, it’s actually quite important. As you begin to build your platform, it’s a good idea to start making a list of those who’ve helped you get where you are, who’ve mentored you, who’ve worked with you, etc. Then, when it comes time to market your book, you already have a starting place for endorsements, reviews, beta readers, partnerships, moral support and more. For example, maybe you write romantic fiction and know someone who has a small business crafting jewelry that might partner with you for a special giveaway. Or, maybe you know someone in the field you wrote your non-fiction book about and they’d be willing to be quoted inside or endorse it to their clients and customers. No one is saying that you should look at your relationships only through a business lens, but you should be looking at your writing as a business and decide who you are willing to fold into your tribe.
Every writer needs an author platform, and it shouldn’t be viewed as painful or negative. An author platform is your investment in yourself and when you view it as such, you are giving yourself, and your readers, avenues to connect.