Guest Post originally published on Writing and Wellness Site
Building and maintaining an author platform is a must for today’s successful author.
We know it, but it can get tough to fit it all in.
I didn’t start building my own platform until after I published my first novel. I realized that to sell books I needed to treat publishing like a business.
I found it very hard to do, though, as I didn’t know much about publishing let alone business; it felt so overwhelming that I didn’t know where to begin. I struggled to even set up a website after moving from free WordPress to self-hosted.
Once I got my website going and started doing more research about the publishing business and platform building, I still felt overwhelmed. There were so many people saying “do this” and “do that,” like have an email list, do paid advertising, etc.
I didn’t even know what an email list was back then, let alone how to use one! And after losing a lot of money to a dodgy editor, I had nothing left to spend on any kind of advertising.
My inspiration for writing Building an Author Platform actually came from the bad experience I had publishing my first novel. I decided I wanted to help other writers so they wouldn’t have to go through the same things I did.
It’s hard enough being an author without getting overwhelmed by platform building!
What Is an Author Platform?
An author platform is the launch site from where all your book marketing takes place.
It includes your author website, blog, newsletter, and social media accounts. Think of it as a kind of soapbox you use to announce yourself and your books. It’s your direct link to your readers.
Does Every Author Need a Platform?
Yes! If you don’t have a platform, how are you going to reach your readers? How are you going to let people know that your book exists?
New and experienced authors need a strategy by which to launch a book and create hype for it. Without any kind of strategy, it will be much harder for you to sell books, get yourself noticed as an author, or gain any real readers and long-time fans.
Whether you decide to self publish or traditionally publish, it’s important to have an established platform in place before you even start writing your book. I made the mistake of not bothering when I published my first novel in 2015.
After experiencing a rough road to publication, I sold only a handful of copies of my novel. This was a big wake up call for me. I realized no one was going to buy my book unless they actually knew about it!
After doing some research about what I should be doing to get noticed as an author, though, I didn’t know where to begin.
Building your platform after you’ve published your first book is a lot harder, and it makes it more difficult for you to get yourself noticed. I quickly realized I should have done a lot of things before publication.
That put more pressure on me to start building my platform straightaway, and to start doing it right, which only made it feel more overwhelming.
My advice? Wherever you are in your writing career, start building your author platform now.
Three Things You Need to Get Started with Your Author Platform
Ideally, it’s best to start building your platform before you even publish your first book. But if you’re already published, that’s okay—just get started as soon as possible.
A great starting point is to set up your own blog or website. This is the main hub of your author platform.
There are a lot of free ways to do this. You can use WordPress.com or Blogger, for example, but I recommend getting your own self-hosted website.
With a free website you have very limited control and it can be taken away from you if you accidently break the hosting provider’s rules, or if they decide to do something different. I recommend using self-hosted WordPress. Once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly easy to use and setup.
Once you have your website, start blogging. If you aren’t sure what to write about, try writing about your experience of becoming an author, or talk about some themes that exist in your work.
Next, you’ll want to start an email list. It will give you a direct way to communicate with your readers, and to update them on any news related to your books.
Social media is also an important part of your platform, but be careful not to let it take over. It’s a great way to make connections, which can help you down the road, but don’t expect it to necessarily increase your sales directly.
Of course, I’m assuming your using it as a way to connect with readers and other writers—not a way to spam people about your new book!
Once You Get Your Platform Going—How to Avoid Becoming Overwhelmed
Building a platform takes time. Maintaining it can take even more time. How can authors manage it all and keep writing regularly?
When I find myself getting overwhelmed I step back and reassess my goals:
- Am I trying to do a project all at once that could be broken down into smaller parts?
- Am I setting myself an unrealistic deadline that could spread over a few weeks rather than days?
- Am I trying to do everything myself when I could get someone else to do some things for me?
Let’s look at each of these individually.
1. Break Down Each Project Into Smaller Chunks
After doing a lot of research, I tried doing everything all at once, from setting up my website to being active on social media to trying to write my next book to building an email list…all at the same time.
That quickly became overwhelming, so I broke it down into three main parts that I consider to be the most important.
- My author website and blog. I had my website all set up, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I did occasionally blog about writing and added excerpts from my novel on there, but I knew it needed to be more than that.
- An email list. I signed up with Mailchimp and started building an email list by offering a free book for subscribers who signed up.
- Social media. I chose to focus on just two social media platforms: Twitter and Facebook. I was most active on these two, and it’s where most of my readers liked to hang out.
I then broke these tasks down even further by using a spreadsheet. There, I listed the most important tasks in one column, and then moved onto less important tasks in the next column.
Once I had it all laid out in front of me, I started to do a little bit each day. For example, one day, I worked on my website for a couple of hours. The next day, I set up and sent out my first newsletter. The next day, I scheduled social media posts for the coming week.
Writing everything down on a to-do list really helped me focus on what was most important, and what other things could wait a little longer.
2. Set More Realistic Deadlines
I wasted a lot of time by setting unrealistic deadlines and thinking I could do everything all at once.
A good example: I thought I could write my second novel within a couple of months, edit it, and do all the promotion myself—while doing all of my other platform building stuff.
Okay, I learned.
Trying to do everything stressed me out and made me feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere. At times, I even felt like giving up, and like I wasn’t cut out to be an author.
Eventually I realized that I have only a limited amount of time during the day to focus on my writing and platform-building, so I had to spend my time wisely.
Doing a little bit of platform building each day and having a dedicated hour just for writing time helped to keep me focused.
I later started using different tools such as Buffer and Coschedule to help me with the publishing side of my business. These tools help automate my social media posts and blog, which was really helpful in promotion when I had a book coming out.
Coschedule also helps me to organise blog posts, social media posts, and other content in one big editorial calendar.
3. Delegate When You Can
With my last book, I hired a tour to company to handle the promotion side of things.
I’d already completed two successful blog tours by myself for my two novels, so I knew the amount of work it took. Because I was also freelance writing, however, I decided shake things up a bit and try a tour company for the first time.
It felt very strange handing over part of the promotional side of things someone else. I’m quite a control freak and used to being in control of everything that happens to my books. I received some good results from the tour, though, and it allowed me to connect with a completely different audience.
Although it can be tempting to try and do everything yourself from writing, editing, formatting, publication, and promotion, it’s a good idea get others to help you. That way you’re much less likely to get overwhelmed by everything.
Don’t Wait to Start Building Your Author Platform
This is a quick overview of platform building. You can find a lot more information in my book (below), and via other resources on the Internet.
My main goal is to encourage you o spend must a little time each day on the tasks that are most important. You’ll see gradual progress without getting overwhelmed, and you’ll be better able to protect your writing time.