In the past, authors built their platform—a base of readers and fans eager to read their work—primarily by publishing widely in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals. Today, authors do it online, through active, direct interaction on blogs, websites, and social networking platforms, building and nurturing a genuine connection with their followers.
This direct connection to readers—the author’s platform—is a powerful sales tool! No, not by begging online contacts to buy, buy, buy—aggressive sales tactics typically backfire—but by engaging with people and building relationships. If people are drawn to an author’s personality, like what he or she has to say and feel like valued members of the author’s community, they’re more likely—without prompting—to read the author’s work. Some indie authors have been so successful that they’ve propelled their book onto major bestseller lists like USA Today and the New York Times, an impossible feat just a few years ago.
Here is an easy-to-follow 4-step plan for building a solid author platform. It’s not necessary to do all these things—and there are many other things you could do, if you so choose. This simple plan is designed to introduce the basics, provide ideas, and help you get on your way!
JOIN SOCIAL NETWORKS—engage and share
With over 140,000,000 users, this micro-blogging tool provides a powerful way to reach out and connect with readers and fans. Twitter users build relationships by reaching out to and corresponding with other users. Used sparingly, a linked tweet can reach thousands of potential readers, exponentially increasing visibility of a blog, article, event or launch.
FACEBOOK, G+, LINKEDIN
On Twitter, with its micro-posts and dizzying feed, long conversations are easily lost; the goal is to reach a wide audience via retweets and, often, to redirect people to another site. On Facebook, G+ and LinkedIn, intriguing posts often result in extended discussions, with dozens or even hundreds of responses. With more space and longer threads, these platforms are ideal for sharing news, asking questions, and seeking advice.
With its visual platform, Pinterest is one of the more enjoyable—some say addictive—social networking sites. Users “pin” images that are meaningful to them. Images may be photos of people, places or events, pictures of food (links to recipes are very popular), images of beloved books and so on. With Pinterest, a picture truly does say a thousand words! Your images give followers a glimpse of you as a person—in a way that’s unobtrusive and fun.
BUILD COMMUNITY—talk, interact, share ideas, have fun
This reader-centric book review site gives authors and readers a chance to meet and interact. Authors can participate in reading and discussion groups (assuming authors are welcome), thus engaging readers. Authors can stream their blog; sponsor giveaways, which increase a book’s visibility and give the book a shot at being added to reader lists; and invite friends and fans to launches, tours, and events such as online or in-person readings.
Blogs are a great way to share information and introduce yourself and your work to readers on a more intimate level. Blogging gives authors a chance to share interests, opinions, and personal stories. The best blogs create value for others—i.e., the author reaches out and tries to connect as opposed to posting solipsistic meanderings. Popular author posts include short stories, works-in-progress, book info, info on the writing process, posts explaining craft; readers also enjoy book reviews, author interviews, and industry news and events.
CREATE A NEWSLETTER
Newsletters can be automatically generated by adding a free plug-in to the blog platform. Automated newsletters are typically sent daily or weekly and contain teasers with links to the original post/s. Readily available plug-ins also enable bloggers to build back-end mailing lists, add social network sharing widgets, run contests, and do a host of other fun things to interest and engage readers.
BE A CONTRIBUTING MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY
WRITE GUEST POSTS
Any regular blogger knows how hard it is to generate interesting content day after day, week after week. Offering to write a relevant guest post is a great way to spread goodwill while subtly, yet effectively, promoting your work. Most bloggers optimize their sites for search engine visibility; optimized posts often show up at the top of searches, increasing the author’s Web presence. If you’ve gone to the trouble to write an informative post, most bloggers are more than happy to include a link to your site and/or my book’s sales page.
Visit other blogs as time allows. Be a good neighbor. Show your support by reading and commenting on posts and interacting with the blogger and other visitors. When a blogger is kind enough to invite you to post—or to review your book or host an author interview—be sure to show your gratitude by stopping by the blog, saying thank you, and responding to comments.
JOIN AUTHOR GROUPS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Groups such as The Indie Exchange, the Independent Authors Network, the Alliance of Independent Authors, and the Association of Independent Authors give authors visibility and build community through postings and interactions with fellow members.
Like bloggers, e-zine editors struggle to fill their site with appropriate, interesting content. If you have expertise in a particular area that is relevant to a reader or industry site, query the editor with an offer to write an article. You’re likely to encounter a thankful editor as well as a welcoming audience.
WORK WITH AND SUPPORT OTHER AUTHORS
Co-promotions extend your platform by introducing you to your partner’s or partners’ fan base/s. Because all parties promote the event through their networks, you reach many more people than you could on your own. Working together builds a wonderful, supportive community. If you have questions or problems—or good news—you have people to turn to. And when you launch a book or host an event, you have a team to help you promote it.
Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the novel In Leah’s Wake. Her life outside of books is devoted to her family. In her free time, she enjoys walking, traveling, and listening to music. True to her Italian-American heritage, she’s an enthusiastic cook. In an alternate reality, she might be an international food writer. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College.
In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel.
For more details about Terri and her book events, please visit her website: www.tglong.com, www.tglong.com/blog, Or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter: @tglong