Whether you are preparing to launch your new book, still writing the manuscript, or marketing your book a year after its release, you can’t ignore the importance of your author platform for your success as an author.
Today you need to demonstrate to a publisher you have built a big enough platform to sell a sufficient number of books before they’ll offer you a contract. And if you pursue self-publishing, it is even more important. How else will readers find your book?
An author platform isn’t measured by the number of followers on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but on the size and scope of readers who know you already and are interested in what you have to say.
Taking stock of your efforts to attract readers will help you determine where to put your efforts into growing your customer base. Building your author platform requires a consistent, focused effort to make incremental improvements in extending your reach through expanding your social networks.
Whether you use an Excel or Google spreadsheet, or a whiteboard on your wall, create a grid for assessing your current author platform.
Channels: Make a list of all the ways you communicate with (potential) readers and places where you can be reached by someone who is trying to connect with you
Agent’s contact information
Publisher’s contact information
Publicist’s contact information
Facebook Page and/or personal profile
Previous publications at journals, magazines, newspapers
Speaking engagements at conferences or workshops
You may have other places online where you have a presence. Think about organizations to which you belong. Do you have member profiles online? Authors Guild, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, Romance Writers of America, National Academy of Sciences, Connecticut Press Club, or the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Add them to your list.
Google yourself. If you don’t find much there, then you have work to do. More likely, you’ll find other places where you are featured online that you have forgotten. Add them to the list, too.
The list, if you are using a spreadsheet, is in the left-hand column. To the right of the list you will have several columns for your audit.
Connections: For each listing, identify those places which you rely on most to communicate with your audience and check them off in the second column. Mark the top three. Now identify all of those which your audience uses most often to contact you in the third column. Do they match up?
Focus your social media marketing efforts on those platforms where your readers come looking to connect with you. If you aren’t getting much engagement on Twitter, then don’t invest much time there. If Twitter is where your audience is, then focus your efforts there.
There are some channels you have which delivers information to your audience that may not be intended to generate direct responses from your readers. For example, a newsletter lets readers know when your next events are scheduled or your book cover reveal. Recognize these are valuable sources of information for your readers that are cost-efficient. You don’t have to contact each individual audience member with this information and if they contact you requesting this information, you can quickly send them a link to your newsletter (or blog, or website, bookstore event page, or conference site with details on your presentation).
In the fourth column, record for each listing how often you use the channel to communicate with readers. Reflect on how you spend your time on these channels and whether they match up to the channels where audiences reach out to you. See if you can strategize on how you can connect with people in more meaningful ways using these channels.
Audit your listings.
Is the information at each listing current? Do you need to update your author bio or headshot? Is it time for a website makeover? Do you have consistent branding across each of these channels? Does your Amazon profile include incorrect or outdated information? Have you updated your LinkedIn profile recently? Is your pinned tweet more than three months old? At each place, make sure you are putting forth the most current and compelling information. You don’t want your website homepage to ask visitors to pre-order your new book if the book is already out.
Consistency in branding is critical. Use the same author bio, same headshot and same book description across all channels. Create an aesthetic look for your author persona that is seamless across all forms of communication.
Optimize your efforts.
Make sure you take advantage of features on those social media platforms you have a presence. For example, if you have a Goodreads or Amazon Author Page, are you feeding your blog posts and Twitter feed to the page? Have you listed your events there? Do you have video you can upload? Are there new editorial reviews to be added? Have you checked your sales data?
If you’re on Twitter, have you checked your analytics there? Do you thank those who retweet you? Do you engage with those who respond to your tweets? Do you respond to others’ tweets? Remember, it’s not a megaphone and you can’t gain traction there unless you engage with readers there. When was the last time you changed your pinned tweet?
While you’re at it, make sure you change your passwords. Always a good practice to avoid getting hacked.
Second list: advance marketing team
Make a list of all your professional collaborators. Your editor, agent, website designer, photographer, illustrator, contributors, and contacts in the marketing department of your publisher. Make a list of your beta-readers, your friends, your cheerleaders and those who have expressed support for your publishing efforts. Send each one of them a full accounting of your contact information that includes links to all of your channels. They are part of your marketing team and you want them to have these connections to you available in one easy to find place.
Make a list of professional colleagues who support writers and books. Booksellers at your favorite indie bookstores, librarians, book clubs, writing groups, friends who are reader advocates. Include those who have endorsed your book or offered to write a review. Refer to this list when you have good news to share. Email is the most effective way to communicate and be sure to include links to those channels of communication so they can help your audience connect to you.
Clean up your email lists
Don’t underestimate the power of email. It’s an effective tool in your marketing toolkit. If you are using MailChimp or Constant Contact for your newsletters, press releases, or targeted email lists, then make sure the templates mirror the look of your website and other social media platforms.
When you attend a conference, or a workshop, you meet new people with whom you make good connections. Add them to your email list. When you visit an archive, library, or bookstore and meet people who offer to help, don’t forget to add them to your list.
Managing your Contact Relations Management (CRM) database is essential. I recommend LessAnnoyingCRM to authors because it synchs your MailChimp or Constant Contact, your WordPress website/blog, and your email account as well as allows you to create targeted lists for specific purposes (list for press releases, list for newsletter, list for friends and family, etc.). Email marketing programs like MailChimp and Constant Contact have automated systems for keeping your email lists clean; they delete email addresses that are no longer active or if someone opts out of receiving your messages.
In your email account, update your signature tags. Make sure you include a link to purchase your new book. Share your website address and links to social media channels.
Conducting an audit of your author platform will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in communicating with your audiences. Leverage your strengths to ramp up your platform. Identify weaknesses to focus your time and energy.