11 March, 2014

Building an Author Platform

A year or so ago, if you'd mentioned 'author platform' to me, I would've pictured an elaborate treehouse where a writer might work on their latest project. It probably would've had cute windows, a sturdy wooden ladder, quite possible a porch. Turns out an author platform is something quite different. And it's something I could do with knowing more about!

Here is a useful article by Jane Friedman defining what an author platform is (and isn't), but essentially it's all about visibility and connection. How do you reach people? Are you reaching the right people? How credible is your public face as a writer?

This is, of course, vitally important. Those authors lucky enough to have made a name for themselves before these crazy days of social media, might get away without putting effort into building their visibility and credibility to new readers, but most of us either have to commit our time to it, or accept serious limitations on our prospects as published writers. It would be a rare - perhaps unique - publishing house now that didn't expect their new authors to be doing some combination of blogging, tweeting, live readings, sending out newsletters and writing guest posts and articles. (And, of course, if you self-publish, this is even more of a big deal).

What then, should I be doing? I write this blog, and read many others. I dabble in Twitter and I enjoy Facebook (though mainly for catching up with friends and family rather than as a writer). Occasionally I branch out into guest posts on other blogs, and I will shortly be appearing on a podcast about novel writing with a very talented musician, Steve Dunne (more later!). I know I could do more to create new connections, but what should I be focussing on? It's not enough to have a blog and expect that to bring you a higher profile, without promoting it in any way; it's not enough to be nice to a couple of people on Twitter and expect news about your brilliance to spread!

The idea of an author platform isn't to push your own work so hard nobody wants to ever hear from you again, nor is it about blogging and tweeting etc. in itself. The whole point is connection; building relationships with potential readers - "incremental improvements in extending your network" as Jane Friedman puts it. Building a platform shouldn't be a chore to be tacked on to the end of a working day - it should be part of your creativity as a writer across the years. It is from this platform that you can launch any marketing campaigns and advertising for your work you feel appropriate - they are not part of the platform in themselves.What would you say are the most important ways to create connections with potential readers? 

I think my biggest fear when trying to reach out to other writers and readers is coming across as purely self-interested or as a dodgy salesman. Of course one day I'd love to be selling well, but I haven't had anything to sell for the first years of my writing, and I've still enjoyed connecting with people. I spend a lot more time commenting on other people's blogs and following their progress than writing on this one! If I was to compile a list of things I definitely shouldn't do, when it comes to making connections (or once I've made them), what do you think should be on it?

I know author platforms are unique to the author in question, but I'd be interested in hearing about how you've gone about building a network of people around you, or - as a reader - what puts you off connecting with writers in the real world or online.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to my treehouse.

7 comments:

  1. I don't feel I can comment as an author but I really struggle with how I use facebook as a platform for promoting our blog. I find myself worried that all I do is "link spam" my friends, but then several of them tell me when I don't post for a while they forget to look at it and encourage me to post more. It's a fine line to tread!
    It is important to remember it only works as a marketing tool if people haven't blocked you because all you do is advertise something. I have a couple of people who I have now blocked because their facebook was never about them, only about their product and although I want to support them I get fed up of only ever seeing marketing! It is probably true of some of the biggest celebrities on social media - they are real people on it as well as self promoters.

    so do: "Keep it real".
    so don't: turn your social media account into nothing but blatant self promotion.

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    1. I realise I am a classic example of my own problem here - although I will pick up your blog later on my feed reader I only came to comment because I read it at the right time from facebook!

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    2. My blog hits are SO much lower if I don't post a link on facebook! I guess a lot of people don't use readers at all, but because I read lots of blogs I can't imagine not using one!

      I think a blog like yours has an advantage in that you post about gardens, chickens, cooking and various crafts with lots of pretty picture potentia - so it always seems interestingl. I feel as if virtually nobody will be interested in ANOTHER post about writing! I confess I do sometimes unfriend people who only post on one subject - not always self-promotion but promoting one particular opinion or political cause etc. It's a tricky line to walk...

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    3. Our stats are much lower without Facebook too. I also wonder whether posting all our blog links means that people skip over them more - too common. As you both said though - there's a good handful who love looking at the blog but only come because they see it on Facebook, and they tend to be people who mean more to me than the more casual acquaintances who might be annoyed at the spamming.

      You only have to look at some of the discussions that happen on FB around your blog postings to see that there's quite a few who enjoy "yet another post about writing", so I wouldn't worry about that!

      As to other methods of promotion, I'm all out of ideas. It's getting your author platform outside of the influence of family and friends that's the tricky bit, isn't it. I can't think of any books I've read because of a connection with an author and so can't offer advice from a readers perspective (though one or two bloggers I follow have written books that look good and I may read one day so I guess that counts).

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  2. Whatever strategies you use to launch a platform, make sure you keep your own unique voice. I had a very useful blog assessment done, but the feedback suggested I need to write 'killer headlines'. Interesting, but not quite me.

    Also, remember that a platform is not a static thing (pardon the pun), so experiment with different social media tools and approaches. Play with ideas, engage authentically with your readers and never forget that the writing comes first!

    Oh, one more thing - don't be shy about asking fellow writers to help you fly the flag for your work. Speaking of which, let me know if you'd like a blog interview around the time your novel is launched.

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    1. Thanks, Derek. I'll certainly be asking for help - I'm going to need it! A blog interview would be great, thanks. I'll let you know when I have a publication date.

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  3. I'm no expert Chloe, but having had a blog that didn't 'work' for nearly two years, I refreshed the entire thing to start this year with a new look and new theory. My website is about my writing and artwork, and my blog is about writing in general. Apart from the writing aspect, the one thing they have in common is that I post information that will help other writers. In less than three months I've managed to gain 32 followers on my 'new' blog. I'm also keeping the numbers low for those that I follow - so that it doesn't become a task. It's why I'm here today; on my weekly blog patrol. I like your honesty and the diversity of your posts. Keep it YOU.

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