7 Tips for Building a Solid Author Platform
As most literary agents will tell their writers, a platform can help your career if done well. But first things first: what is a platform? A platform is simply equated to your ability to reach an audience. Imagine if a person with a following of 2 million women wrote a women’s lit book. How much more eager would publishers be to publish it knowing there’s potential buy-in they don’t have to pay for?
A platform can mean a CEO of a major company writing a book (look how much media exposure they get!), or someone with a substantial YouTube following doing the same. It’s free marketing for the publisher, and it’s a solid reason for an agent to represent the author, knowing the publisher will be excited about the sales potential.
Authors do not need platforms to be successful. Let’s say that again for the Scribblers in the back: You do not need a platform. But if you’re looking for a way to make your submission stand out in an editor’s or agent’s inbox, who – I can assure you – has dozens of similar stories, building a platform and showing that you’re willing to contribute to your book’s success can give you a competitive edge in landing that first book deal. Or, if you decide to self-publish (rock on with your bad self), it’ll make your chances at success that much better when you push “publish.”
So let’s dive into my best quick and dirty platform tips:
1. Who Are You Writing For?
Decide what genre and age range you want to write in / for. This will help you decide how to build your platform.
2. Where Are Your Potential Readers?
Writing an adult sci-fi? You might find those followers on Facebook. Penning a future bestselling YA novel? Try creating a YouTube channel or Instagram account.
3. Why Are They Following You?
If you aren’t already a famous author, then readers don’t have a reason to follow you just because you’re you. So give them a reason. Create a newsletter with the best fantasy reads, build that following, and then – bam! – promote your own fantasy book once you’ve published it. On our Scribbler Instagram account, for example, we don’t talk nonstop about our company. Instead, we provide content writers want – giveaways, writing contests, editing tips, and more. Then, when we do promote something we’re selling, we have an engaged audience who’s happy to listen.
4. How Do You Scale?
Starting a platform is cake but scaling it (making it large and in charge) is difficult. This takes constant trial and error. Seeing what your followers respond to and delivering more of that. You should aim for delivering 75% of what you know your followers like, with the other 25% being trial. The biggest takeaway here is time. Be prepared to spend several hours a week on your platform and know it may take years to build something substantial.
5. What Are Your Competitors Doing? Now that you’ve chosen a platform (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Newsletter, Blog, etc.), you can start monitoring others who have scaled their platform in the same place. If you have a blog, what do other successful blogs have that you don’t? Can you imitate in a budget-friendly way?
6. How Do You Stand Out?
Having a large platform is one thing, but getting your platform mentioned by media takes having a unique voice. This can mean saying things others won’t or being a voice for an underrepresented group of people. When I created Scribbler VI., I challenged myself and my content writers to stop trying to please everyone. It wasn’t until we got the first email response saying we’d offended them that I knew we were taking enough risks. If you don’t ever take a stand on anything or say things that are terrifying – knowing full well it may upset some people or embarrass you – then your account will only grow so large. Full stop.
7. How Do You Stay Authentic?
News flash: you don’t have to be. Do you think Kim Kardashian is a vixen every moment of her life? Nope. She takes sexy selfies because it’s her brand. It’s how she’s created a platform for the products she sells (makeup, endorsements, a TV show deal, etc.). I’m not saying you should use sex to sell, but I am saying it’s okay to create a persona others respond to. There’s the high moral road (“I’ll never not be me!”), and there’s being a business person (“I’ll offer people a version of myself that readers are interested in, because this is my job.”). Do you think lifestyle bloggers always have a perfect home, perfect children, perfect hair? No, but it sure is interesting to sift through their photos, huh? Do you think plus-sized models that embrace their curves (hell, yeah!) never have a self-conscious day? Of course they do! But their brand is confidence, and so that’s what you’ll (mostly) see.
Now get out there and create a killer platform, Scribbler, and sell the hell out of that manuscript. Because you are a brilliant writer, but you’re also business savvy AF.