by Eldred "Bob" Bird
It’s springtime and we’re all stuck inside for the most part. Sure, you can step out into your own yard and do a little gardening, but I’ve also been using this time to tend a different garden that’s been sadly neglected—my author platform.
In simple terms, “Author Platform” is a way to describe your visibility, authority and ability to reach a target audience. It’s also the public face that represents who you are and you what want to say. In other words –
IT’S YOUR BRAND!
Like every writer, every author platform is be different. The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Who am I trying to reach?” Readers? Agents? Publishers? Hollywood producers? (Hey, it could happen!) Maybe you’re looking to book workshops or speaking engagements. Answering this question will help you focus your efforts in the right areas.
Your author platform is built on two main structures:
Sadly, most of our offline options are on hold at the moment, so let’s talk about our online platform. We’ll save offline until we’re free to move about country.
Visibility relates to how easy you are to find. In the same way a physical platform lifts you up above the crowd, so does your author platform. Ask yourself these questions:
Websites are a great home base for authors. When designed well and maintained, they give a clear picture of what you, the author, are all about. At the very least they should include a bio, links to your work, and contact information. You may also choose to include a blog, pictures, videos and links to your social media. Jane Friedman has a great article on how the build your author website.
Social media is a great way to raise your visibility and connect with readers and other writers, but beware; it can also lead you down rabbit holes and suck up all of your time if you’re not careful. Cultivate your online community, but put a clock on it. Check out this WITS post for tips and tricks on using social media.
One way to put your visibility to the test is to put your name into your favorite search engine. Are you on the first page? Third page? Can’t find yourself at all? It’s time to look at Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Check out Jenny Hansen’s post on SEO for Authors to learn how to improve your ranking.
The second leg on your author platform is authority. What is it that gives you credibility in your space? This is especially important if you write non-fiction. People want to know why they should read your book, rather than someone else’s. Here are some questions to help you decide what to include in your platform:
Being a published author, traditional or self-published, shows you have what it takes to finish a project. If you’ve got good reviews, flaunt them. Anthologies, magazines, online journal and blogs (like WITS) count toward your publishing credits, too!
Awards go a long way toward establishing your authority and credibility. Don’t just include book awards, but also things like service and humanitarian awards as well. Community involvement shows strength of character.
If you’ve taught classes or been invited to speak to groups, play it up! Workshops and public speaking may appear to be off the table right now, but not so. Many authors and educators are turning to the web to deliver their content. Whether you chose live streaming over social media, video conferencing, or posting videos Youtube, there are alternative methods to bring your content to the masses. Hosting or guest spots on podcasts and vlogs can also increase you authority.
Reach is exactly what it sounds like—your ability to reach your target audience. It also includes whether or not that audience responds to your calls to action.
Email addresses are like gold to publishers, but also to independent authors. Every address is a potential buyer for your next book. This is one part of our gardens we should all put time into cultivating. Ask for addresses any chance you get, and offer something in return. For example, if you sign up on my website, you get a free short story.
What do you do with those addresses? Send out a newsletter. Even if you have nothing new to offer, you can keep potential readers up to date and build excitement for your next release. Encourage your subscribers to forward the email to friends who might enjoy what you have to offer.
While not as valuable email addresses, don’t discount social media followers. Word of mouth, so to speak, spreads faster than wildfire on the web. Bad news does have a tendency to travel faster than good, so be mindful of your content. Keep control of your brand.
Most forms of social media have a way for you to track you stats. Pay close attention to what gains traction and what doesn’t. It does no good to shout into the void if no one hears you!
Check out the platforms of some of your favorite authors, especially if they are in your genre. What draws you in? What turns you off? Where are they focusing their efforts?
One thing to keep in mind is the focus of your author platform is to sell YOU, the author, not your books. Your marketing plan is about book sales. When used in harmony, the two platforms will raise each other up. The more your target audience learns about you, the author, the more likely they will be to respond to you marketing.
Like the proverbial garden, our author platforms need constant upkeep and attention. If we ignore them, they can become overgrown, out of control, or simple die on the vine.
If something’s not working, be willing to pull the weeds and replant. If you feed your author platform garden on a regular basis, you’ll be surprised at how it will flourish!
What parts of your author platform do you love working on? Which parts, if any, do you detest? What has made the most difference, either in the strength of your platform or in how you feel about it? Share with us down in the comments!
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Eldred Bird writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and personal essays. He has spent a great deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his home state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing Karma, Catching Karma, and the soon to be released Cold Karma, reflect this love of the Grand Canyon State even as his character solves mysteries amidst danger. Eldred explores the boundaries of short fiction in his stories, The Waking Room, Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.
When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time cycling, hiking and juggling (yes, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives). His passion for photography allows him to record his travels. He can be found on Twitter or Facebook, or at his website.
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