Libertad and I have both realized, it has taken us months to do Part II in “Building Your Author Platform”. Last time we talked about the excuses we all make in appearing committed to our blogs. There is so much to know on the independent side of publishing, let alone what you must know if you are traditionally published. There may be a Part III to come, but the industry is often changing with technology, with what is popular at the moment, and many other factors, that one person cant possibly hope to address in just one or two blog posts.
After weeks of organizing our thoughts, we figured we would go into the next subject. What an Author Platform is, what it can do for you, and the reasons one should maintain one. So, here goes.
In the simplest terms, an Author Platform is a collection of ways one can introduce themselves, and their work to a potential audience. Even a traditionally published author will tell you, as far as the budget for promotion and marketing for an author’s book, quite a bit of the marketing a publishing house will expect you to do on your own. It isn’t that they aren’t putting ANY money into the promotion into your book. It’s just a responsibility of your own to take charge of your own promotion. Between a website, a personal blog, a social network presence, organizing book tours or signings, taking part of local author showcases and obviously life(because I don’t know many writers personally whom are truly making a real earnest living on merely writing alone) we all may ask “Geez, I have to do all this AND WRITE? It’s like I have to be Wonder Woman/Super Man. Mind you, all steps are not necessary to have a fulfilling writing career. But one can not sit and expect things to come without the footwork being involved to achieve the goal. No one goes into a job interview and expects a company to hire them based off their resume. An interview is often a key factor in the hiring process, so that a company can see if you are a good fit for their company. Your novel is your resume. So your Author Platform should be your interview.
First, let’s take a step back. One should know, that there is a difference between promoting yourself, and an author platform. Do not feel silly or uneducated for believing these are the same thing. Many authors self publish, or get lucky and get picked up by a publishing house, and don’t know these things. Promotional activities are used to sell your book. One may guest post on a blog or website, be a part of a virtual blog tour, or even use a giveaway to promote the release of their book. Promotion is often a limited scope or duration. A platform, however, is an ongoing presence that has no start or end date.
Promotional activities are often a way of gaining fans or admirers of your work. An author brand is about building a community of fans, like minds or admirers of your work. Promotional activities, even with a genuine interest in the reader, is often to benefit the author. An author platform benefits the author, but through communicating with the audience, benefits your audience as well.
In March we attended a local Author’s Showcase, promoting several local authors whom reside in our state. All different genres, walk of lives, ages. There was even a 15 year old high school student whom had published her book at 13 years of age. More 100 people showed up, which was more than the event expected, since it was the first time it’d been done in the area it was being held. The minute the floor opened for questions, Libby and I were literally the first to stand and raise our hands. We had too many questions for the authors to answer in time without taking the floor from someone else, so we asked the most important one. “What are some of the ways you used your Author Platform to build your brand as a writer?”
*Crickets* “Excuse me, what?” We thought perhaps under all the commotion, our question had been misinterpreted. “You know? Your Author Platform?” Queue to authors “Ohhhhhh….”*Crickets* Of all the seven authors, only one was familiar with an author platform. She had a blog, a website and used twitter on a regular basis. The rest had no knowledge of an author platform whatsoever. These authors are not bad people. They’re not bad writers. They’re probably not bad anything. But one can only assume if they’re waiting around for people to buy their books without any knowledge of them, they will most likely be disappointed.
Visibility is key. For those of you who have figured out social networking, an author website or author blog, you’ve found out amazing ways to engage a reader. While nothing makes your work more visible than a blog or website, we’ve found that social networks such as LinkedIn(really, LinkedIn. You’d be surprised, it’s actually a great traffic driver to a website or blog)Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and other great social networks are a great place to start. One can understand if a part of you as an author wants to keep your brand and your general “self” separate. But social media has become a common way of interaction in this generation. And unfortunately it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Audiences are becoming the type of groups who want to feel invested in their authors, and want their favorite authors to feel invested in them.
While there definitely is a downside to social media, it can be a great tool in creating your author brand. The number one rule is that you have to genuinely be invested in social media, without talking about your book. This hurts even my feelings, but no one wants to hear about a book we’re writing, nor will they want to when it’s published. Why should they? They know nothing about us. Or do they? Recently, we had the opportunity to be apart of the #DiversityinSFF on twitter. There were dozens of writers, readers, authors both traditionally published and self published tweeting what they had to say on the subject. They weren’t talking about their books. But you know what? I looked up half these authors, and WANTED to research their work. The passion of seeing like minds, communities with the same vision as you. Actively looking for Diversity in Speculative Fiction is real work. If anything as an audience for this, I will be able tell when you are not being genuine. And so will others.
Social media is however, not to be abused. If you know you’re more constructive at creating communities on Facebook,screw Twitter. If Twitter is your niche, “Facebook, it’s not you, it’s me.” If you do well on most social networks, I say the more the merrier. But use only sites you can genuinely be yourself, without the need to promote your work. Do not use it to monitor followers closely, or to comment on their every review you receive(good or bad), or use it every chance you get to insult your audience. You’re very welcome to. But I can guarantee someone may blog about you, or do an article of author behaving badly. You may surprise yourself if your name makes the cut for their infamous lists.
I’ve found that I’ve touched bases when it comes an author platform is or at least should be for an author. Two last pieces of advice(which everyone can do what they want with. It’s mainly opinion, not fact. So if you feel like none of these tips work for you, they probably just don’t work for you).
If you aren’t published, do not, I repeat DO NOT be in a rush to publish your book. especially if you are self publishing. I know it is extremely tempting to finish your manuscript and hit “publish” with these great(and not so great) self publishing options. Know, learn and engage your audience. First! Would you rather be a published author that joins the vast sea of independently published authors just for the sake of being published?
Relax. The writing is over. The hardest part is out of the way. Most individuals never finish their work. If you can afford it, take the time to hire a reputable editor in your price range. Research them. Make sure they have references. The biggest difference between self published and the traditionally published is often the editing process. I know some disagree with editing. It can get pricey, and these individuals are human, so they will miss things too. But they will miss a lot less than you. More than likely, they will miss less than what your eyes deem as perfection. Writers, to make us sound arrogant, we are mainly the talent. We have the brilliant ideas, but we often do not have the ability to be critical of our own work. We set up the story, the plot, the imagination, and we even have it in us to engage a reader. But with that being said, most of us are dreamers. Editors are critical, realistic, logically engineered drones. They are paid to catch your mistakes. Let them XD If you’re a writer, you’re a reader. I do not think we would allow a book to have a couple “errors” which to some people could be their entire body of work. Let them help you. If you cant afford them, consider a part time job. I suggest the job, because borrowing money, or taking out a loan, while an investment, will only be another bill to pay. A temporary job, that is part time will always be a better option in terms of making debt for yourself.
And with that, hopefully you will see us in Part III.