When an author submits his or her manuscript to a publisher, there are several things to go into their decision on whether or not to publish the author’s work. First, of course, is “Is this a well-written book that people will want to read?” The very next question is “what is this author’s platform?”
What is an Author Platform?
An author platform is a suite of sites, tools or outlets through which an author can assist the publisher in creating sales for his or her book.
The publisher wants a partner in the author.
- A speaking tour with sales opportunities at the back of the room is considered a potential platform.
- A regular radio show with national distribution or being a frequent guest expert on a national television show is considered a piece of a sales driving platform.
- Being a previous bestseller is also a part of an author platform.
- Having a very large e-mail database with a healthy “open rate” could be the type of platform item that could convince a publisher to publish a book.
- And, so could a large and engaged social media following.
But, building a loyal, engaged fan base takes time and commitment. Ideally authors would begin building that fan base during the writing process so they could share their journey with the growing fan base, and they’d be able to present the potential publisher with some impressive social statistics from their platform.
Besides writing the book, building a platform is the author’s second most important job. For most authors, a large speaking tour, a national television show or regular radio interviews is something that may come in the future but might not be in their platform as they pitch their book to publishers.
But a large social media following and a good-sized e-mail list is something most authors can accomplish with some strategy, consistency and focus.
7 Ways to Build an Author Platform through Social Media
The elements of a good social media platform will vary based on the book, the author and the time available to build a following. Below are the social networks I most often recommend to authors for building a strong social following:
1. A Facebook profile: Every author should have a personal profile on Facebook, in their own name.
I know many authors are concerned about privacy, but there are ways to live your digital life in public and keep some things private. One caveat, however. Because you’re building a public facing personae, please be cautious about what you post. Don’t post things you wouldn’t want the public to see, even if you think they’re private. We’ve all seen how vulnerable anyone can be if there is some sort of leak. That said, unless you’re an author who wants to foster controversy and gossip, think of Facebook profiles as a garden party, at your home. You’ve invited the public to view your gardens and talk to you about your books, but at the end of the day, you’ll say good bye, shut the garden gate and talk to your nearest and dearest in private.
The main reason I want you to consider having a more public profile is search. People who hear about you and your books will be searching for you by name. Don’t let a potential book buyer sit outside your garden gate. Invite them in and eventually you’ll invite them to also join you on your business page. Also, building a following on Facebook starts with your inner circle and grows. Only a personal profile account can invite other people to “Like” a business page. The more connects you have on your personal profile, the more people you can invite to engage with you on your business page. Inviting those closest to you, the author, is the ideal place to start spreading the word about your book.
Finally, unless you have a personal profile, you won’t be able to use all of the customization strategies available to a business page, such as custom apps to sell your book. Allow people to find you in a search and connect with you on your Facebook profile as you begin to build an author brand.
2. A Facebook fan page: There are many applications and bells and whistles that can only be used on a Fan or Business Page.
A Facebook fan page is indexed by Google and is, therefore, a powerful opportunity to increase the author’s ability to be found in a search — both for his or her name and for the topic and keywords that best those who know you best describe the book. Live links to the author’s website, on the About page can direct fans toward the home base.
Custom designed apps or tabs can be used to create a rich experience, including selling the book directly from Facebook, offering live author chats, showcasing rave reviews, and featuring an author’s Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest feeds. Think of a Facebook business page as a mini website that increases an author’s visibility on the largest social network around.
3. A Twitter account: I prefer that most authors open a Twitter account in the author’s name.
Twitter is a broadcasting and engagement platform that helps introduce an author to a large audience and invite them back to the author’s home base for a deeper conversation and for links to buy the book.
4. A YouTube Channel: A YouTube Channel, in the author’s name, becomes a digital television station.
YouTube is owned by Google, reason enough to start a YouTube Channel for increased author brand awareness. Authors can record video messages to fans, reports from the book tour, other short videos that help the fan or reader feel as though they have a relationship with the author.
In addition to recording a video and uploading it to YouTube, getting comfortable using video apps like Vine, Instagram, and live streaming options such as Periscope, Blab and Meerkat, authors can become video savvy easily. They can even make their digital photos into short, professional videos using a free and easy to use service called Animoto. Note: Upload your short video messages directly to Facebook for better reach and then upload the same video to YouTube for the added search benefits of that platform.
5. Instagram: If a book or topic lends itself to visual storytelling, then Instagram is a terrific author platform.
Fitness authors are using this platform to enormous success, as are travel authors and cookbook authors. Using hashtags as a way to help followers connect, Instagram has a language all it’s own and a passionate, massive following, all of whom want to connect with authors who share their passions visually.
6. Pinterest: Pinterest, a digital scrapbooking platform, is less social interaction than some other platforms but drives a significant percentage of website visits for authors.
One author tells me she gets more than 22% of her website traffic and books sales from Pinterest. With a user base focused on enthusiasts, it’s no surprise Pinterest attracts readers who like to “pin” their favorite books and direct people back to websites where they can learn more and buy books.
7. A blogsite or website.
The blog or website is the home base and all of an author’s interactions on other social sites should eventually invite the author back to that home base to take an action. That action can be purchase the book, sign up for the newsletter, check out the live events calendar or leave a comment with a question. Here authors can run contests, giveaways, and increase interactions with fans to build a strong subscriber base. Using multimedia such as video or audio messages combined with photography will increase fan engagement and help create a desire to revisit the site often.
The key to platform building is consistency, authenticity, value and creativity.
Authors should strive to:
- Post daily. Share your personality.
- Give readers something they can’t get elsewhere — your work.
- Make fans and followers feel as though they’re in a special club. Call them by name when responding to their comments.
- Thank them for taking the time to comment. Let them know they’ve been seen and heard them. In other words, building a social platform is similar to building a friendship circle.
Authors, keep writing, and add some social posts to your daily activities to create a vibrant fan base of readers eagerly waiting for your book.
If you’ve begun to build a social media platform, I’d love to take a look. Why not leave your Facebook business page URL below so other authors, and readers, can find and follow you.
Building an author platform that includes a large and engaged social following can help you interest publishers and agents in working with you, and can help you nurture a community that is interested in your work, and is eagerly awaiting your next book.