It doesn’t matter if you are planning on self-publishing or taking the traditional publishing route by finding a literary agent. You are going to need to build an author platform.
Literary agents and publishing houses today are not only looking for great writers, but also for authors who can market themselves.
Of course, if you take the self-publishing route, you are on your own, so your marketing strategies are imperative.
If you have already published, and don’t have a clear idea of how to market yourself and your books, it is time to play catch up.
Build your platform
Writing books and marketing are two skill sets.
They are so far opposed that many authors shudder at the thought of having to turn themselves into salespeople.
But trying to get people to read your books by using imperatives is not what it takes to create an effective platform.
What it takes is planning, time management, and a good dose of determination and patience.
The first base for action for building your author platform is your blog. Do not even think of using a static author website.
The graphic below illustrates how fundamental a blog is to the movement of information between other platforms on the Internet.
A blog is alive, ever-changing, flexible, and extremely communicative.
Your blog is your home base, and from there, you can start to build your author platform.
Every article that you post on your blog is one additional communicative element.
It then feeds into your social media channels and search engines.
It gives pathways for people to buy your books. But most importantly of all, it is your conduit for building a mailing list.
It is the real pot of gold, and what a good marketing platform needs to be building all the time.
Always give a blog visitor a way to subscribe so you can collect their email address.
As old-fashioned as email is, it is still the most powerful means of getting your message out to your target audience.
One hundred Facebook posts don’t come close to having the same effect as one well written and targeted email.
It was a lesson I learned the hard way.
I was too lazy, thinking it was all too difficult to build my email list. Instead, I concentrated all my efforts on social media.
More fool me, and a waste of a few years. Please don’t make my mistake.
But many other providers work very well too.
When you release a new book or have a promotion or free days on Amazon, your email list is what will make these events a success.
Choosing your blogging platform
As far as which blogging platform is best, I have to say that WordPress is the leader without a doubt.
You can choose wordpress.com, which is a free online platform and very easy to set up.
Or you can opt for a self-hosted WordPress site, which is definitely not for those without some technical ability.
However, if you are serious about blogging, learning how to use a self-hosted WordPress site is the way to go in the end.
There are so many more functions, features, and plugins available to help you find more potential readers.
The one platform I would advise against using now is Google’s Blogger.
Google is phasing out or losing interest in many of its RSS based projects, such as Reader and Feedburner.
This may not bode well for the future of Blogger.
With whichever platform you use, posting regularly on your blog is the primary way to generate traffic and, therefore, interest in you and your books.
It doesn’t mean writing until your fingers bleed and posting four times a day.
Once or twice a week is ample, so long as you make the most of each post.
One other option is for you to accept guest posts on your blog. It can help you build content a little quicker.
But simply publishing articles on your blog is not enough.
But you have to spread the word quite aggressively about every blog post you write.
Write great content
The adage that content is king is very true when it comes to blogging, social media, and building a loyal following.
You need to focus your articles on topics that are related to your author brand that you are building.
For example, if you are a science fiction author, write blog articles that are related to space, science, physics, technology, and of perhaps, other science fiction authors.
Starting your blog and writing regular posts is about your passion.
Once you have a reasonable collection of blog posts, say fifty or so, you can recycle them all over again on Twitter and Facebook for your new followers to read.
Your blog posts will also attract people from search engines like Google and Bing.
So make sure you have prominent Twitter, and Facebook follow buttons on your blog. It lets people who stumble on you this way, follow you quickly and easily.
Over time, you will become a source of informative content.
Your articles will then have a very good chance of being shared or re-tweeted, and your reach will expand and grow.
If you write historical fiction, use the same logic. Post content that is related to the historical period or geographical area that you are writing about.
No matter what your writing genre, there will be a focused topic for you to use to build an audience.
It’s also important to remember that once your books are published, they will appear in search engines.
It is because Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, B&N, and other online publishers all make sure their products are listed on search engines.
Once people start to know your name, finding your books is easy for someone who is genuinely interested in knowing more about you and your books.
Always, and I mean always, add your blog post to every single social media platform that you can find.
Use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Digg, Reddit, and any more you can find.
It is a case of enough is never enough. I recently had one blog post that went viral.
By this, I mean over 7,000 page views in one day.
My average day’s page views are 500.
It took me a little while to find out that it was all due to a Twitter follower posting one of my blog articles on Flipboard.
Never underestimate the power of social media.
But, you have to write a great blog post first to make it happen.
In the graphic above, you can see that there is a reciprocal movement between your blog, social media, search, and even your buy pages.
When your blog post goes to Google to be listed in Google search, people can find your listing and visit your blog.
People you follow you on social media visit your blog and discover your post, while others discover your post and then follow you on social media.
Some might stumble on your Amazon buy page, then want to know more about you. So they click on your Amazon Author Page and then end up on your Twitter page or blog.
It’s all a never-ending circle.
So make sure you have all the elements in place for your circle, which is, in fact, your author platform.
The Internet is called the Web for a reason
It is a web that leads to and from many points.
Your task is to build as many points as you can on the Web that lead back to you, your published books, and, most importantly, your blog.
Building an author platform will reap the rewards for you in the long term and is not as difficult as it first seems.
Have a blog and post regularly, leverage social media to the maximum, and always keep building your email list.
Once you set it up, it will take at most a few hours of work each week to keep your author platform working hard for you.
Unless you are a celebrity, selling books is hard work.
But if you can build your author platform and audience, you can grow and create recognition of your author brand and books over time.
It is not such a difficult task now. Social media and the Internet have allowed anyone to create a following and build a successful means of promotion.
However, many make the mistake of thinking that it is merely a matter of opening a Twitter or Facebook account.
Then following a few people and posting hundreds of messages with links about where to buy their book.
Or worse, thinking that the killer phrase of, check out my book, is all that is needed to start books sales rolling in.
Not only will sales fail to eventuate, but this approach will also drive people away in droves.
It will fail to build what you really need, which is your author platform and audience.