April 10th, 2020

Grow a More Fertile Author Platform

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.

What is an 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.

Platform Basics

Your author platform is built on two main structures:

  • Your online platform - websites, blogs, social media, podcasts, etc.
  • Your offline platform – conferences, workshops, book signings, book fairs, etc.

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.

The Three Legs of Your Platform

Visibility

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:

  • Do you have a website?

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.

  • Do you use social media?

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.

  • Where do you rank on search engines?

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.

Authority

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:

  • Are you published?

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!

  • Do you have any awards?

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.

  • Do you teach workshops or speak?

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

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.

  • Do you have an email list? How many subscribers?

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.

  • Do you send out a newsletter?

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.

  • How many followers do you have on social media?

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.

  • How many impressions do your posts get? How many direct responses?

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!

Some Final Thoughts

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!

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Eldred

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 KarmaCatching 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 RoomTreble 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.

Top photo image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

21 responses to “Grow a More Fertile Author Platform”

  1. LauraDrake says:

    Bravo, Bob! Great primer on how to do it right. I love this part of the business (oh come on, you knew I was weird before this). It gives me an outlet to be creative when I can't write, and it's helping my career at the same time - WIN-WIN!

    • Eldred Bird says:

      Laura, in this business weird is good! I'll admit that when it comes to gardening, I have a black thumb. That seems to have also have carried over in to tending my author garden as well, but no more! I think I'll take some inspiration from you and redirect some the the weird into my platform as well.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      It does help so much that you're an extrovert, Laura. That means the reaching out portion of social media is incredibly energizing for you. It is for me too, for the most part. But we are weird among writers.

  2. carolynmcb says:

    A timely, and wise, reminder. Thank you!

    • Eldred Bird says:

      Thanks Carolyn. I figured we all need a something else to focus on right now, so why not do something productive with the time?

  3. You just prompted a lightbulb moment for me, Bob. In February, I taught a live workshop on overcoming people-pleasing, the main theme of my writing. It was very well received, so I pitched it to local library systems, and got another workshop lined up for May. Well, that's not going to happen. I LOVE facilitating in person, and hope that opportunity returns. But, in the meantime, I can offer to teach virtually, which then means it can travel beyond my local community. A coronavirus silver lining!

    • Eldred Bird says:

      Glad I could turn on the light!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Karen, I saw an amazing statistic that 90% of speaking engagements were still running...virtually rather than live. Knowing that they HAVE to connect that way is making a lot more people step out of their comfort zone and learn how to connect that way. That is a huge win in the long run for authors.

      • Eldred Bird says:

        Agreed that it a big win, Jenny. I'm sure it's a trend that will continue even after we're all released back into the real world. Once people figure out they can reach a much wider audience (like Karen pointed out), more will leverage it. I'm sure virtual speaking will never replace live face-to-face events, but more people will be adding it to their platforms.

  4. Jean J. Zelka says:

    This post has perfect timing for me--I'm planning on launching my author platform before my first published novel. Thank you for the motivation and resources, fellow Arizonan!

  5. ecellenb says:

    Now I have guilt. LOL. I am seriously remiss with my website. Too much else going on. I really should get back to it. Thanks, Bob!

    • Eldred Bird says:

      In your defence, life has been a little crazy for the thas year or so. Now that your settled (and have your manuscript back from the editor) it's a great time to start putting yourself back out there. Give those agents something to find when they Google you!

  6. dholcomb1 says:

    I don't have a website yet, but I do have a strong social media presence. I don't know my exact rankings on all of my sites, but I do on others. Since I don't have a website, I don't have a newsletter. My goal is when I secure a contract, I will make it a priority to do both. I need to manage my money and investment carefully. Social media engagement is much easier and free.

    denise

    • Eldred Bird says:

      Denise, a solid author platform can help you get that contract. It's never too early to start building. Your WordPress site is a great start. As for the newsletter and email list, you don't have to have a website. You can get a free email management account with MailChimp or MailerLite (my preference). Neither charge until your list grows beyond a certain point. Both will give to sign-up links you can share on social media and blog posts.

  7. dholcomb1 says:

    Thank you for making me aware of that.

    Denise

  8. […] open up again it’s time to look at the other side of the coin—the Offline Platform. Take a look here for a refresher on what makes up your Online Author Platform in Part 1. If you are ready to […]

  9. […] my last two posts here on WITS I talked in general terms about building your author platform, both online and offline. Today I’m going to dig a little deeper into building a long-term relationship with […]

  10. […] the Storm is because of a Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference from four years ago where I met Eldred, Jenny, Kris, and Miffie. I suggested we begin a writer's group online and we, along with Ellen […]

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