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By Mari Selby
Before you have even finished writing your book, you need to build your author platform as part of your marketing efforts. Today, all authors, whether they are published by traditional publishers, co-op publishers, or have created their own imprint, have to market themselves to generate awareness of their books. Platform is more than a buzzword the publishing industry is fond of batting around. It’s actually building your audience and developing their awareness to sell your books. With hundreds of thousands of books being released this year, you have to stand out from the crowd. Having a platform that represents you and your book is one way to be noticed.
First, I want to clarify what an author platform is not.
It is not a stage, though you, as an author, may speak from one. It is not a political statement, though you may have a message you want to convey. It is not a level floor to stand on, but it will be the springboard from which to launch. And, though you don’t need saws, hammers, and nails, you do need to build a relationship with your readers and followers and determine how you want your book perceived in the world.
A platform involves several components:
Author Expertise: While you are writing a book, you need to get comfortable with the idea of you being an expert. Whether you are a memoirist who has lived through an experience or a nonfiction writer who did research for your book, or a novelist, you can translate your expertise into building your platform. Ask yourself why you are the one to be writing this book. Clarify it so, by the time the book comes out, you can effortlessly talk about your inspiration and why you are qualified to write the book.
Contacts: Who do you know? Everyone you know is a contact. The more people you know, the greater is your influence. However, your reach is extended exponentially by who your contacts know. There could be six degrees of separation between you and someone who is an influencer that would tip your book over the edge. Developing your email list will take time, but those on the list will be your true fans—the people who will actually buy your book when it’s released.
Social Media: Pick a network or two. If you like creating videos, then work with YouTube. If your book is very visual, then use Pinterest. If you want to be involved with your followers, use Facebook. Experiment with networks to find the one that fits you and your book. And be consistent in your posting, in your responses to those who comment on your comments, and in developing your connections. Developing followers takes time. Engage with people, they really do want to know who you are.
Previous Media Experience: Have you been interviewed by a local paper or been on local TV or radio? Even if you haven’t, you can create videos of you speaking about your message or book and post them on YouTube. Or if you are shy about being on video, you can create audio recordings and post them on your website. Or you can develop a relationship with a local newspaper reporter and offer a story that informs your local community.
Previous Books Written: Even if this is your first book, you can remedy the “never been published” before by excerpting from your book or compile articles you have written and create eBooks. If you have written books in genres different from the genre you currently work in, that’s great. You will still have an Amazon presence or a way of setting yourself apart from the crowd of newbies coming along. Use all your published work as a way of opening doors for the media to know about you.
Author’s Personality: Who are you in all your authenticity? How does that come across to your followers? The beauty of social media and building a platform is that you can interact and engage with your networks. Your story is unique to you, and yet there are more people than you may know who will identify with your story. You can develop a persona or share intimate details of your life. Choose what works for your material. If you are memoirist, you may want to be more vulnerable and share who you are. If you are mystery writer, being enigmatic may be your ticket.
Ability to Show Up and Execute: Can you set a commitment and follow through? Can you be ready for your interviews, discussions, and promised articles? Consistency is a key to building trust with your followers and developing awareness. Offer quality work and people will notice. Sometimes we just have to show up, even if we think no one is listening, because, actually, you never know who is present.
Building your author platform takes discipline, time, and hard work. The way you treat your platform will be an indication of how you treat your book campaign. Give yourself a break and pace yourself. Find some joy in your endeavors. You can find the joy when you receive a great piece of feedback, a spike in engagement with your followers, or your email list grows in unexpected ways. Or you may just find joy in interacting with people. Sharing our stories does make a difference in people’s lives, and you sharing your story may make a difference in our world. And building your author platform will definitely make a difference in your sales!
© Mari Selby, November, 2016
MARI SELBY founded Selby ink in 1998 after working for a small publisher where she was successful in improving their sales from 20,000 books to over 100,000 books in one year. Prior to being a publicist Mari was a family therapist in private practice for almost 20 years.
City Book Review is the publisher of San Francisco Book Review, Seattle Book Review, Manhattan Book Review, and Kids’ BookBuzz. Since 2008, we’ve been helping readers find their next favorite book. We’re proud to be deeply involved with the indie writers community. We are one of the few national book review magazines to review and promote self-published books. We also work with publicists from around the world to bring you the latest books. To round out our services, we also offer authors and publicists assistance with promoting their books through book review videos, book cover design, blogger outreach, social media marketing, and press releases. If you’re interested in getting your book reviewed by us, please see our How to Get Your Book Reviewed page.