• Terri Lyon

Not a Weekend Project: How to Build an Author Platform, Part 1


If you self-publish, you won't make many sales without an author platform. If you want a contract with an agent or a publisher, they will first check to see if you have a platform. Pre-orders help with sales rankings, but without a platform, you won't get any.

I know, I am a self-published author and here’s my story.

The life of a writer, especially a part-time one like me, is not glamorous. I spend so much time in front of my computer that I use an alarm called Stretchly to make me stand up occasionally. Otherwise, I'd plant myself in my chair and keep chugging along, gradually getting stooped over and as gnarly as a bonsai tree.

Oh, it's not writing books that keeps me in my chair. It is all the tasks associated with being an author—maintaining my author platform.

What is an Author Platform?

An author platform is the social media, brand, and presence you use to market your book. As James McCrae says, "In today's DIY multimedia world, authors are expected to be online personalities and savvy marketers."

I am not a personality or a savvy marketer. But I have a platform. My focus is on being the go-to person for my book topic, activism.

Mistake #1: Starting Late

When I wrote my first book, What's On Your Sign? How to focus your passion and change the world, I had no idea I'd need an author platform. A few months into the writing process, I read an author platform article, which advised me to start building my presence three years before I publish. Rats. Mistake #1. Here I sat, two years and four months too late.

Mistake #2: Continued Procrastination

Then I made Mistake #2. I should have started my author platform that instant. But I didn't. Since I was already late, I decided I might as well get the book finished. I was way more motivated to do that anyway. Starting my author platform motivated me about as much as cleaning the kitchen sink drain.

I was wrong. Take my advice. Stop reading this blog post and start your author platform. Now. Bye!

The only reason you should be reading this sentence is that you already have an author platform.

Start Your Author Platform Now

You’re still here. Fine. Let’s get busy. Getting your author platform up and running is critical; better late than never. I'm not gonna lie—it isn't that much fun. But once it is up and running, keeping it vibrant and up to date is pretty straightforward.

Excellent articles about what elements should be part of your author platform can be found at here. So, instead of discussing those, I want to tell you why it takes three years to get up and running, so I can convince you to stop reading this darn post and get started.

Elements of an Author Platform

The goal of an author platform is to find people who will:

  1. buy your book,

  2. encourage others to buy your book,

  3. share your posts, and

  4. recognize your name as the go-to person for your topic.

You do these by creating a platform using these elements: a good brand, blog, social media presence, and in-person event. Let’s look at these.

Blog

“What, I have to write more, every week?” Yep. Your blog is part of your brand, and you'll use it to attract readers to your website and send them to purchase your book. If you wrote a book about clothing in the Middle Ages, you want people who Google "clothing in the Middle Ages" to see your website pop up on the first results page. Google will only put you on their first page if you are a reliable provider of information on clothing in the Middle Ages. That is what takes years to develop.

When you are planning your blog, start with your expertise. Be clear about what topics you will be the go-to person for. Women's clothing in the Middle Ages. Men's clothing in the Middle Ages. Cloth making in the Middle Ages. You get the picture.

When you have enough posts on a subject, you can tie them together into a resource page called a pillar post. Yours will be "Clothing in the Middle Ages." This post will provide a summary of the amazing content you have available on your website. And scattered throughout will be buttons your website visitors can use to buy your book, subscribe to your email list, and connect with you on your social media channels. Keep grouping your content around pillar posts. For example, your pillar post on "Women's Clothing in the Middle Ages" will list your posts that contain more detailed information. What women wore on their heads. Women's underwear. Footwear.

Planning your content this way will save you from veering off into posts that are unrelated to your brand, like recent fun vacations, a child's graduation, or getting a new puppy. You know, life.

Social Media

There are many excellent articles about which social media platforms are right for you. My focus is on getting you to start. Right. Now. It takes years to build a social media presence.

For example, on Twitter you find people who might want your book and follow them. Twitter etiquette means they will probably follow you back. Find 20 people a day who might want your book and follow them. Start interacting with your new followers by liking, commenting, and retweeting. At least three interactions per day. Tweet your blog posts and cool information about clothing in the Middle Ages.

Facebook does not let you advertise or sell, so you'll open a Facebook business page. Here you can post neat information about your book. You'll build a following here by asking people to follow your business page. Having lots of regular Facebook friends helps in this regard, so start friending people who might buy your book, and then ask them to follow your business page.

I've found success with blog parties. These are places where you share your blog post with a group and then read and comment on others' posts. I've met some neat people, discovered great blogs, and learned a lot. Try Esme's Senior Salon and Blogger's Pit Stop.

Next week, Part 2 will discuss how to track your platform's analytics (that's a dirty word to some). And evaluate how well -- or not -- you are performing.


Resources·

A Definition of an Author Platform by Jane Friedman

Google Alerts. Use this tool to set alerts on content you wish to follow.

Feedly is a content manager for blogs and RSS feeds.

Buffer. Manage your social media posts in one place.

Terri Lyon is the author of “What’s on Your Sign? How to focus your passion and change the world” and The What’s On Your Sign? Workbook.” Available where books are sold. Terri is also a teacher, psychologist, activist, and animal lover.

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