The Author Platform: 6 Steps you Should Take

One of the most mysterious subjects I’ve every tried to find information on was the Author platform. There is a plethora of information on what it is and some articles on creating one, but they’re really vague. I’m sure my list isn’t much better, but I thought I would introduce you to the mystery that is the author’s platform.

While the below points are great ideas for getting you started, there are the few authors who take it too far. They stalk their readers, sending meaningless newsletters and emails inviting them to buy their book, or join their group, or come to their signings, when the reader doesn’t do what they want, they become belligerent. This is not the norm. My favorite authors follow the points below.

1. Author/Product Branding

There are two ways to do branding, you can brand your books or you can brand your author name. I suggest branding your author name over your books. It means less work later.

Figure out which you want to do. Now write down your goals for your books and your author name. What do you want your author’s name to mean to others. What genre do you plan to write and what books do you plan to write under that name. Do you plan to put everything under one name or have pen names for your other books and do you plan to share that name.

2. Create a Writer’s Website

Once you figure out your brand, create a website to encompass that brand. Website design in as important as your book covers. Keep it up-to-date. Be sure to make it inviting, presentable, and easily navigated. This will be some people’s first contact with you and you’ll want to make a great impression. A website allows people to find you 24/7 and it doesn’t need sleep.

3. Email promotion

This is my least favorite unless it’s used for newsletters and blog subscriptions. Email promotion gives you a way to promote you writing business, connect with your network, and provide great content for your readers. However, if you flood people’s inbox with static information that doesn’t benefit them in some way, they will move on.

4. Blogging

Everyone has their ideas of what authors do all day. A blog can be used to reach out to, promote your latest book, enhance your online presence, and get you name out there. The best way to do this is comment on blogs that interest you, but that is an article for another day.

The best advice I’ve heard on blogging is to create entertaining, helpful content. Many writer’s create writing blogs, which while interesting to writer’s will probably turn the non-writer reader away. Think of your readers and create content for them too.

5. Social Networking

If you are out to get numbers, you’ll miss the opportunity to make friends, and possibly ostracize your fans; however, if you are out to make friends, you’re not going to have time to write. You need a healthy balance.

6. Newsletters and E-zines

Offer a free author’s newsletter that offers important information about your books as well as your writing. I’m not sure about you, but when I subscribe to a newsletter or blog, I don’t subscribe to be bombarded by emails geared toward selling their book. As a rule of thumb, if it annoys you, it will annoy your reader and they will drop you for a less intrusive author. Don’t be pushy.

In the next few days, we’re going to go into greater detail on each of these points. Now you don’t need all six of these to create a successful platform as an author. But a few would help. Anyone want to add any more tips to creating an Author Platform?

10 thoughts on “The Author Platform: 6 Steps you Should Take

  1. Books & Art - Spirit & Soul July 13, 2012 / 12:35 pm

    I re-read your first couple of paragraphs and know exactly what you are referring to. Over-zealous may be the word for some authors. I don’t like to get bombarded either and agree with branding your name or in my case my company name (which is a representation of who I am).

    It is a fact that some bombardment is needed in order to be remembered – a person has to see your title, cover, name, interviews etc. a minimum 7 times for it to stick. Conversely, if someone sees the same 100 times the very opposite effect will take place as you suggest, they will move on (QUickity Quick).
    As far as social media contacts go though I do believe in keeping the numbers high with Twitter, Facebook and even Blog followers (who don’t receive your posts via email) for instance as at any one time you do not have the attention of many (unless all of your contacts are on the Internet all of the time) – but that is just my take on it.

    I enjoyed the simplicity of this post. It focuses on the stronger needs of an author’s platform. Being thrown all over the map is so time consuming and taxing!

    Lesley Fletcher

    • Stephannie Beman July 13, 2012 / 4:26 pm

      Over-zealous is a good name for it. I don’t mind hearing from someone who has something to say once a day. Especially if what they say helps me. 2 to 6 times a day and I’m running for the unsubscribe button I don’t care what they are emailing me.

      The thing with social networking is balance. They say 20/80 or even 10/90. 80% of your posting should be sharing great posts and article links that have to do with your brand from someone else other than you. 20% of your posting should be status updates, links to your content, and links to buying your books, etc. Mix all this together and people will hear about you.The one exception is the social networker who only posts twice a day. And then that content had better be damned important for people to seek it out.

      If all you discuss is yourself, people head for someone who can give them more. People are basically selfish. They want something that is beneficial to them. If you don’t give them something that helps them, feeds their need to be entertained, or speaks to them, they move one to some who can.

  2. Ruth Ann Nordin July 14, 2012 / 10:52 pm

    I have yet to see evidence that acquiring a high number on Twitter, Facebook, etc benefits the author in the long run. I think you just end up being one of many in a sea of faceless people. To connect with your target audience, you need to offer them something they are looking for, which is why you can’t reach out to everyone. Everyone isn’t your audience. Too many authors think their books will appeal to every single person on this planet. They follow and friend people at random, and it’s annoying. I don’t think it’s a good practice to friend or follow people on social sites just to get a sale. People want to be valued for being people, not for a sale. If someone falls in love with your books and wants to get more updates from you, they’ll follow your blog, follow you on Twitter, friend you on Facebook, etc. I’d err on the side of letting the readers seek you on social sites instead of seeking them. Then you can announce your upcoming books when they’re published, and they will run to buy them. But I would only let them know when a new book is out when it is live on Amazon, B&N, etc., not bring it up over and over again. I’d also avoid mentioning reviews and sales numbers. You want to attract readers, not repel them, and I’ve unfriended and unfollowed a lot of authors because they were constantly on the “review, I got a book, and here’s my sales” train. Part of author platform is also how you treat your readers. When you make posts boating about yourself, you tell your readers they’re nothing more than a someone there to buy your books.

    Also, in my experience, most readers aren’t interested in seeking an author out beyond what other books they have. I think the website if the key tool in an author’s arsenal. Blogging is great for communicating with readers to find out what they want, but it will only be a small sample of all of your readers. I definitely agree with branding the author name. There can be a common thread in all the books you write. Mine is no sex before marriage. That brand has become so familiar to my readers that they know ahead of time what they can expect, regardless of the genre I write. Whatever the common thread is, I’d stay with it because that’s part of the brand. Another thread might be humor. Another might be the heroine overcoming something in her life to become a stronger person. Whatever it is, that can be the key thread that attracts your readers.

    This is an awesome post. Thanks for mentioning the fact that authors shouldn’t be pushy. I wish they’d take that advice to heart.

    • Stephannie Beman July 15, 2012 / 4:30 pm

      I agree with everything you just said, Ruth. I love Twitter. But I use it to find blogs and articles on writing, publishing, personal growth and overcoming hardships, sex tips, and anything eles that tickles my fancy. I unfollow or ignore ads. Any books I’ve bought 2 books that were advertised on Twitter feeds. Neither pushed or published by the Tweeter. And both from authors who I respect. I love sharing articles and blogs I like and think helpful. I very rarely share share ad links to my own books, though I do share my posts. I figure if people like what I have to say they’ll check out my books. If not, oh well.

      Using your brand to attract readers doesn’t mean bombarding them with sales links. It can be as little as “Making a romantic candlelit dinner for two.” And a link to a great recipe online. Or an old blog post you think people will enjoy.

      I think you have a good brand and people who like it. It’s one of those brands that cross genres with ease.

  3. Rose Gordon July 15, 2012 / 2:17 pm

    Ruth made most of the points I thought when I first read this. I hate spam. I hate getting those DMs on Twitter telling me to check out someone’s book who followed me only the day before. I hate status updates every 15 minutes on Facebook about a latest book. I hate being automatically signed up for someone’s email notifications just because I once wrote to them (or they once wrote to me!). I hate reading blog posts where authors share their sales numbers or rant and rave about their reviews–good and bad. All of this stuff bothers me to look at, so keeping in mind that I don’t like to see it, I try to be very cautious about what I post and the frequency. Sure you want to be seen, but how do you want to be seen: as a tactful author with a good book or as an annoyance?

    Now, about blogging… I struggle with blogging almost every day. I *know* it’s important to blog. Not only does it get your name out there, but I think it’s crucial in building relationships with readers. It’s that little piece of you they can relate to. I’ve gone in cycles of what I blog about. Sometimes it’s character interviews. Sometimes it’s stories about my kids and husband. Sometimes it’s an excerpt from upcoming book or a fundraiser I’m involved in. And recently, I have tried to incorporate something for writers in it, but in a way that holds the attention (I hope) of strictly readers, too. But because my posts are so varied, I don’t think anyone can look at my blog and know what to expect from day to day. And while I struggle with my “blog identity” and what followers can expect to read from me there, I think the randomness of it is probably what they do expect… I personally think blogging needs to be engaging if you want long-term followers/readers. It’s finding a way to do that that’s the trick.

    Do you have any suggestions for what should go into a newsletter? I’ve seen/heard a lot of debate on how frequently one should go out. I’ve decided on once a month as I don’t feel they should be any more frequent. At the same time, sending one out only every time you have a new book out isn’t very flattering to the reader. At that point, you’re just telling them you only care about them when it’s time to open their pocketbook. I hate that as both a reader and as an author. I won’t do that. Instead, I have an “notify me” list where people can opt in to be sent a notification of a new release with direct links to the book. If they sign up for this, then I don’t feel awkward sending a short note with nothing more than a cover image, description and links. But I hate it when my newsletter consists of nothing other than “buy my book” material. Any ideas?

    • Stephannie Beman July 15, 2012 / 5:00 pm

      Newsletters are tricky things. You don’t want to piss off the readers and you don’t want them to forget you exist. 😀

      I like monthly or every other month newsletter depending on the information the author sends out. I’ve seen authors who post excerpt from their latest book, what they are working on, what’s coming out next, a serial story that is just for the subcribers of their newsletter, codes for % off a book, link to their best post(s) of the month, books that you’ve read and recommend to readers, etc. I’ve seen writers join forces and create an ezine with all the stuff in a newsletter for each athuor plus articles for writers and articles for readers about the characters in the books, the time period, etc. A lot depends on the time and effort you want to place into the newsletter.

      Keep in mind too, that most people subscribe to author newsletters because they want to know about new releases, coming soon, what the writer is working on, and more about the worlds they love.

      As for blogging, while people will advocate frequent posting, no one can seem to agree how frequent. Some say once week, others five times a week. An idea I’ve thought about is making my blog the newsletter since I’m not much of a blogger. Then readers get everything they like about newsletter (the actually news) plus the fun stuff and the frequency can be once or twice a week. Enough to keep your content fresh and in the search engines, and your name in the minds of your readers.

  4. williamkendall1 July 16, 2012 / 11:31 pm

    I know I’ve been turned away by overzealous writers who are bombarding with email notices about themselves… it just feels to me like who has the time for that?

    So like you, email promotion tends to be a sticking point for me.

  5. Jessica Wakefield Veter July 19, 2012 / 6:42 pm

    Fantastic information here. And let’s all exclaim ‘huzzah!’ loudly for discussing the overzealous ‘elephant in the room’.

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