Essential elements to building your author platform
There is much talk about authors needing to build a platform and lots of discussion about exactly what's involved. There is no definitive answer. It is also something that can't be done overnight. Your book(s) being available through as many channels as possible is your starting point. In my mind, your author platform involves elements that happen in real life; speaking at events and festivals, publicity, school visits and the like. Then there is the online marketing & engagement platform. This is what I'm going to focus on here. Your starting point is creating a presence where readers, schools, libraries, agents, journalists and publishers can find out about your books and how to get in contact with you. Over time, marketing, engagement, content creation and your books, of course will attract more people to you and give them more reasons to want to connect with you and ultimately buy your books. This would be my take on what makes an effective author marketing platform and enable you to be active online. (If you are writing and not yet published, I would recommend you still consider spending some of your time working on 1 or 2 of these elements). Having a platform and an engaged audience CAN help you find an agent, but there are many examples of authors with no platform at all who are hugely successful.
At the very least your website should be your online business card, a place where readers, bookshops, schools, journalists & libraries can find your contact details. Obviously a website can do a lot more than that and can become a valuable tool for your books and business.
Websites do not need to be complicated and building your own website is pretty easy or of course you can pay for a web developer. If you have a publisher, they may build it for you. If you are contemplating building your own website, I'd recommend Wordpress or SquareSpace (this website was built using SquareSpace).
I plan to write a more comprehensive post about author websites, but here are a few worth checking out:
These author websites are stylistically different, but all pretty simple with a few common areas. The essential elements of your author website are:
Newsletter sign up
Links to social media accounts
Your home page needs to work hard for you. Ask yourself what you would like to convey about you and your books and what would you like visitors to do - sign up to your newsletter, find your social media links, email you etc. My personal view is, If you can give something away for free in return for a reader's email address, then do so.
I would recommend you build an email list and commit to producing a regular newsletter. In my opinion, this is often either overlooked or considered too much effort - but has many benefits. The main one being you can develop a one-to-one relationship with your readers and other valued contacts. Of all the digital marketing tools available, email marketing has a proved itself to sell books, people respond to email, they really do. Also, you can measure every element of an email marketing campaign, tweak it and improve results.
Here are some examples of author newsletters:-
https://www.ianrankin.net (scroll down)
https://www.cecelia-ahern.com (scroll to the bottom)
The 3 mail email services I'd recommend for authors are:-
(I use Mailchimp for Lounge Marketing & Lounge Books newsletters - I find it incredibly intuitive and effective - plus it's free until you go over 2000 subscribers).
Amazon will probably be your largest sales channel, especially if you have chosen to self-published through KDP. Having all of your books here is critical to your success. Amazon offers all kinds of promotional opportunities to ensure your' books reach readers' hands. I will write a much fuller post about using Amazon effectively and exploiting opportunities, you can get a huge amount of information at Author Central. All authors keep a very close eye on Amazon for obvious reasons - book sales, charts, reviews and to follow competitors.
Building a good Facebook presence has all kinds of benefits - a relationship and dialogue with your readers, librarians, booksellers and publishing folk. By liking your Facebook page, your fans have shown that they are interested in what you have to say, they have qualified themselves by their actions & therefore very valuable to you. (Why follow an author page, unless you love the author and or your books?). As well as building an engaged community with your fans on Facebook, there are other benefits too. There are the paid-for advertising opportunities on Facebook where you can promote your books to incredibly targeted audiences, measure effectiveness and sell books. I will write more in-depth posts to help you build a great Facebook page AND understand all of the opportunities.
Here are some great example of author Facebook pages;
My personal view is that authors should own and build their own Facebook (& all social media) communities i.e. do take advice from your publishers, but do not let them own the page and the relationship with your fans - they will NEVER do as good a job as you do, plus if you move publishers, you take your social media accounts and communities with you. This is also true of your website and newsletter email list.
Like Facebook, Twitter is an essential tool in every author's platform. It offers many of the same benefits as Facebook in terms of connecting with your readers and other useful folk, it just requires a different approach, etiquette to ensure you exploit it its full potential. I have spent many years encouraging people in the book industry to embrace Twitter, in fact I put @thebookseller on the platform 9 years ago. Since then, I genuinely believe that Twitter is the home of the most vibrant conversation around books. I will talk a lot about using Twitter, but here are a few posts to get you started: Twitter for absolutely beginners and Twitter at intermediary level and 15 authors to follow.
Goodreads is a social media platform exclusively for book-lovers. It is US-based, but has expanded globally and has over 30 million registered users. In my mind every author should have a presence here. The most basic thing Goodreads offers you (& all of the book-lovers on the site) is an ability to load all of the books you have read, are reading and plan to read onto a virtual bookshelf. You can then compare your bookshelf with others. Users of the site can set a reading challenge for themselves and also vote for their favourite books, among many other things. 30+ million book-lovers discussing & reviewing books is obviously an essential place for you to have a presence. You can connect with me on Goodreads, here.
As I build the content on this site, I will add step-by-step guides to all of the elements of your author platform - tips and advice whatever stage you're at. Lots of this content will be free, however if you become a member you will get access to experts in all areas of publishing for you to ask your specific questions.
If you found this post useful and would like more, then sign up to my free newsletter, here.