Once upon a time, you can become a successful author as long as you have good writing skills and can get a publishing contract.
But today, it takes a lot more than that.
You need to have an author platform, if you want to sell a lot of your books and become successful, either through self-publishing a book or even through traditional publishing.
And in case you haven’t heard, traditional publishers won’t give you a contract these days, unless they’re convinced you have a solid author platform.
But do you know the good news?
You can build your author platform one step at a time, and we’ll teach you how.
Because it’s a long-term process that doesn’t end, you can move at your own pace, using only those tools and strategies you feel comfortable with.
So, whether you’re a first-time author or an aspiring author or maybe you’ve even published once or twice without any platform, it’s not too late to start.
Here are 8 actionable steps to build your author platform:
- Know your target readers
- Identify and define your brand
- Create a website
- Start blogging consistently
- Build an email list
- Write guest posts
- Connect offline
- Use social media wisely
What is an Author Platform?
Let’s face it, different people define an author platform in many different ways but according to Jane Friedman, an author platform can be defined as the ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.
An author platform can be described as everything you’re doing online and offline, to create awareness about who you are and what you do, so you can boost your brand visibility and make it easier and faster for your target audience and even the general public, to discover and connect with your brand and books.
[Pssst! If you want to check out some of our Students’ books, check out the SPS Library!]
Benefits of Having an Author Platform
Without an author platform, most likely, only your family, friends and associates will know about your books and everything you do as an author.
But with an author platform, you can:
- Help your target readers and the general public to discover your books easily
- Attract new readers on a regular basis so you can connect with them
- Engage existing readers, retain them and ultimately convert them to raving fans that buy from you
- Boost your credibility as an author and earn the trust of your target readers because once they do, they’ll be more likely to buy your books
- Build meaningful relationships with influencers and other relevant groups of people who can help promote your brand further
- Sell more books on a regular and consistent basis
At the end of the day, your author platform makes it possible for you to build relationships with a diverse group of people online and offline so you and your books can get noticed quickly.
How to Build An Author Platform With 8 Steps
Now that you know what an author platform is and why you need one, let’s look at the steps you can take to build your own:
#1 – Know your target readers
To build an author platform that will help you succeed, it’s important for you to know everything about your target audience and be able to answer the following questions:
- Who are they?
- What do they do for a living?
- What’s their age, sex, marital status, and location?
- What are their hobbies, interests, and motivation?
- What challenges and problems do they struggle with?
- What makes them happy and unhappy?
- Where do they spend their time online and offline?
When you know who your target audience is, it helps you learn where to focus your time and energy and on who.
And here are some tips to help you identify your target readers:
- Use Google to search for blogs, forums, and communities where your audience may be active e.g. blogs within your niche, websites of authors with similar books, etc.
- Look for books similar to yours and take note of the kind of people reading them because they might be your target readers also
- Use key details about your book to identify the specific type of people that usually buy such books, e.g. book format, book genre, price, number of pages, etc.
- Do research on social media for groups interested in books similar to yours
When you know your target readers, you can apply that knowledge to everything you’re doing and build an author platform that draws and engages the right audience successfully.
#2 – Identify and define your brand
Your brand helps people to recognize you and form an opinion about you and your books, through your personality, your values, your voice, your promise to your readers and even the feelings you stir up in them, every time they read your books or come across your website and social media profiles.
Your brand is what makes you unique so you can stand out among others.
To identify and define your brand, consider the following:
- Decide if you’re going to use your real name or a pen name. Whatever you decide, use it consistently
- Use only one professional headshot everywhere so you can be easily recognized
- Come up with a one-sentence tagline that communicates the uniqueness of what you’re offering
- Choose words and phrases that best describe your brand and use them in all your communication
- Identify colors and fonts that fit with your brand and limit yourself to them
- Use all the above points consistently on your website, social accounts and also in your emails, email signature, author bios and so on
When you take the time to identify and define your brand, you can influence people’s impressions and opinions about you to your advantage and create a solid foundation for your author platform.
⟶ Related Read: How to Build Your Author Brand
#3 – Create a website
One of the best tools you need to build your author platform is a website.
And it should be a website with a modern and attractive look plus a functional design so that everyone that visits the website can have a great user experience at all times.
Here are a few ways your website can help build your author platform:
- Your website is one place where you can showcase your brand as much as you want, using your brand colors, tagline, headshot and so on
- A website makes you appear more professional and credible and boosts your chances of gaining the trust of your target audience
- Because your website is your business headquarters, you can remain open for business 24 hours a day seven days a week
- With a website, you and your books can be found easily by your target audience and the general public
- On your website, your target readers can learn about your books at their convenience, irrespective of their time zone or location, all over the world
- You have 100% control over your website so it cannot be taken away from you without notice, unlike your social media accounts
- You can use your author website to sell your books directly to anyone who is ready to buy
To be able to enjoy all these benefits from your website, it’s important to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly, contains content that’s easy to read and scan, loads quickly, is easy to navigate, and is also accessible from any browser.
Bottomline, avoid website mistakes that can drive people away from your website.
#4 – Start blogging consistently
Blogging is a way for you to share pieces of your writing with the public, in the form of blog posts and articles published on your blog.
Even though it’s not compulsory to have a blog on your website, it can help build your author platform in the following ways:
- Blogging consistently compels you to write on a regular basis which helps to improve your writing
- When you publish content regularly on your blog, you’ll attract more people to your site
- As long as you produce quality and valuable content, blogging can position you as an authority and expert on your subject, which increases your credibility
- Blogging makes it possible for you to have a two-way conversation with your readers because they can respond by commenting. This can help you build a community or a tribe of loyal fans (that can leave you those 5-star reviews!)
- Blogging can help you connect and build strong relationships with other bloggers, influencers, authors, the media and so on
To build your platform through blogging, it’s important to write for your audience and always provide value.
Also, don’t forget to observe blogging best practices like adding images and graphics, optimizing your posts, writing magnetic headlines, and publishing consistently, maybe once or twice a week or every two weeks or monthly and so on.
#5 – Build an email list
Your email list is a list of people who gave you permission to send emails to them regularly when they signed up on your website and gave you their email address.
One key advantage of having an email list is that no one can take it away from you.
Here’s how to build your email list:
- Choose an email service provider like Convertkit, Aweber, Mailchimp, etc.
- Create a sign-up form on your website
- Make available a thank you gift, also known as a lead magnet or reader magnet, for people that sign up
- Decide how often you’re going to send emails to your list and be consistent about it. This could be weekly, biweekly, monthly and so on
- Ensure you always send personalized emails that provide value
- Avoid buying a list or putting people on your list manually
- Remember to provide a way for people to unsubscribe easily from your emails
With an email list, you now have people that are interested in your brand and can be reached directly through emails, one on one.
You can use this unique opportunity to share relevant information about you or your new releases, when you’re ready for a launch team, to sell your books or provide information about your book launch or events, or to even sell directly to them, from time to time.
Check out this interview video with Chandler Bolt and Nick Stephenson that goes over how to build your audience as an author:
Just in case you’re not aware, email marketing is known to be one of the most effective marketing strategies with a whopping 3800% return on investment.
Remember, it’s okay to start with nobody on your list because that’s where most people start from but with time, persistence and best practices, you can grow your email list which helps to build your writer platform
#6 – Write guest posts
A guest post is a blog post or an article that you write and publish on another person’s site.
This can help you:
- Introduce your brand to a new group of people
- Direct more traffic to your website
- Attract new people to your email list
- Boost the SEO of your website so it can show up in search engine results
- Develop relationships with other bloggers, authors, influencers and so on
For you to successfully build your platform through your guest posting effort, don’t forget to:
- Research and confirm that the blog you’re interested in accept guest posts, allows an author bio with links back to your site and have an audience that matches the type of audience you want to attract
- Read their guidelines and follow them
- Pitch an original post title that has not been written before on their site or anywhere else
- Respond to comments once your post is published
#7 – Connect offline
While it’s true that a lot of your author platform building activities will be done online, there are some steps you can also take offline, to connect with your target audience and build your author platform.
Here are some ways to connect offline:
- Inform family, friends, neighbors, and other groups in your community about what you do
- Create business cards that has your website information, using your brand color, font, logo, etc and share them everywhere you go
- Join author groups and associations in your local community and beyond
- Attend writers conferences and events
- Accept speaking engagements
- Support your local libraries and bookstores and participate in some of their activities
- Become a guest on a podcast or on radio or television
⟶ Related Read: How to Market Your Book Effectively in 2019
#8 – Use social media wisely
Having a presence and being active on social media can put your brand in front of a large number of people that you may not have the opportunity to connect with anywhere else, which goes a long way to increase your brand visibility and build your author platform.
Examples of such social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and many others.
Here are some simple tips for using social media as an author:
- Identify all the social media platforms where your target readers can be found
- Choose one or two that you like and are comfortable with and learn everything about them
- Come up with a strategy on how you will use each social media platform to achieve your goal
- Decide in advance how much time you can afford to spend on social media daily and keep to it
- Create a profile and start posting, using the strategy you came up with
Even though social media can be used effectively to build your author platform, almost everyone agrees that it can take up a lot of your time if you’re not careful, so remember to take preventive steps to avoid that.
⟶ Related Read: How to Use Instagram for Authors
Actionable Steps to Build Your Author Platform
Now that you know all the steps you can take to build your author platform, come up with your own plan of action by identifying the step you want to start with and those you can even do at the same time.
Remember, building an author platform takes time and cannot be done overnight so the earlier you start, the better.