One of the questions I get asked most is how to build an author platform. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and there multiple ways to approach it. In this post, I’m going to be sharing general advice on how to build an author platform to attract your ideal audience.
Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash
Right out of the gate, I would like to state for the record that I wasn’t born blogging or making YouTube videos.
I’ll be 35 in two months, and I remember with fondness things like rotary phones, full-service filling stations, and using a VCR to record miniseries based on Stephen King novels.
(Remember trying to pause the VCR recording to cut out the commercials so you could have a commercial-free movie when you were done? There is no stress on that level. I think watching my mom try to do that is why I have such intense anxiety as an adult.)
What I’m saying here is that I had to learn to do all this online stuff. Nothing rankles me more than when an older person pretends I know how to do this because I’m young. My parents didn’t get a computer until I was in high school and even then, the internet was nothing like it is now and Web 2.0 stuff like social media wasn’t a thing. I mean, there were places like Xanga and Geocities. But those are nothing like social media today.
The reason I know how to do the stuff I know how to do is because of two reasons:
- I took the time to learn. Seriously. I spent a lot of time Googling and investing in eCourses to teach me how to do SEO and social media as a brand.
- I had a ton of jobs after college and grad school where I would’ve been fired if I didn’t teach myself how to use HTML and all manner of WYSIWYG editors. My bosses assumed that since I was young, I could learn it more easily. And it wasn’t easy. I just made myself do it because I knew if I didn’t, all those companies would fire me and hire someone else who could learn on the fly.
What I’m saying is that all of this is stuff that you can teach yourself. And you don’t really have to be techy anymore.
(Side note: I don’t know the definition of techy. It’s 2020, and literally everyone is walking around with an affordable pocket-sized computer in their jeans. A large portion of the population has access to the internet and social media almost 100% of the time, and people create online content while they’re driving or sitting on the toilet. So like, techy isn’t a blip on the radar these days.)Guess what? You don't have to be techy to build an author platform. Click To Tweet
All of that is to say that anyone can do this. You just have to make the time to do it.
Yes, I’m relatively young, at least in the publishing world.
Yes, I’ve been doing this for a long time.
Yes, you can start now and some day you will realize you’ve been doing it for a long time too.
So, hopefully I’ve dispelled the main myth that I run into when it comes to building an author platform. With that, let’s talk about how to build one.
How to Build an Author Platform
001: Get your author website.
I recommend to all writers to own your name as a website domain.
Not only does this ensure that no one can use that domain for weird stuff, but it lends some legitimacy to you as a writer. You look really professional if a website pops up when someone Googles your name.
Now, as the only Marisa Mohi in the US, I get that I’m lucky. I know not everyone is going to be able to purchase their name as their website domain. But you can easily add words like “writer” or “author” to the front or back of your name, and see if those things are available.
It may take some playing around to get the name you desire, but it’s totally worth it.
From there, you can decide how you want to use your site. You don’t have to blog, but it’s a good way to build up your website ranking on Google. (That just means that Google will view your website as a more legitimate site, and will be more likely to put it up to at the top of the search when someone searches for you.)
If you know you want to blog, check out this post on how to write a blog post.
If you choose not to blog, you want to make sure you have pages dedicated to all the ways people can find you on social or subscribe to your newsletter. And you definitely need a page that lists all your books with links to buy them.
002: Make some content that showcases who you are as a writer.
The purpose of an author platform is so people can get to know you as a writer. At the end of the day, people want to know who you are as a human, and the more they like you, the more likely they are to enjoy your books.
So create some online content.
I’m a fan of blogging and creating YouTube videos, but I will say it does take a lot of time and it’s not necessarily something that you have to do.
(Though, if you want to start a YouTube channel, check out this post on how to build your author platform with a YouTube channel.)
You can use social media platforms to create engaging content. Think of Instagram as your microblog where your captions get to be as long or as short as you want.
Your newsletter can be a place where you share some really deep stuff and only your subscribers get to see.
And you can create long threads on Twitter where you share about yourself and give links to more information, if that’s your style.
Basically, I’m saying you can create whatever you want. You can put that content anywhere you want. You really just want to put some stuff out there to attract people.
Again, I will say that blogging is great, and it’s a good way to bring people to your site, especially if you learn a little search engine optimization.
(Think of it this way: Did you get here because you were already following me? Some people did. But a lot of you will have found me because I targeted the keyword phrase “how to build an author platform” and from there, you found me, either through a Google or Pinterest search.)Making online content is crucial when it comes to creating an online author platform. Click To Tweet
003: Use social media channels that your readers use.
Okay. So. Here’s the thing.
Not all social media is created equal. In fact, a lot of it is straight up trash for business purposes.
When it comes to selecting social media platforms, remember, you aren’t a passive user. You’re not there to lurk and just enjoy what others create. You’re creating stuff so that people will come to your website and eventually buy your books.
So, you need to be on the social media sites that your readers are using.
Think about your target reader. You need to know their age, their income level, and what they do in their free time. You don’t have to do any sort of real demographic research. Instead, think broad strokes here.
If your readers are teen girls, then you need to think of what age. There’s a wide chasm between 13 and 18. From there, think about how much money they have. Are they middle class teens or working class teens? Then, think about what they do for fun. Are they in a more rural area where kids still drag Main Street or are they in big cities where kids have access to world-class museums that let them in for free when they flash a student ID?
Knowing this will help you find where your readers are hanging on social media. It will also help you know what kind of things they’re looking for online, and the hashtags that attract them.
Every thing you post doesn’t have to target them. But if you’re struggling to find readers, start here. And if you want your platform to grow, figure out who you need to attract and get to work.
004: Be consistent and stay professional.
Okay. So once you get a little bit of content out there, you can rest on your laurels, right?
Here’s the thing with building a platform: The first couple of years are CRUCIAL. You have to be consistent. And you’re going to create more online content than you actually want to create.
I’m sorry. It sucks. I wish it wasn’t such a hustle, but I don’t know how to make the internet like you without the hustle.
I recommend creating content ahead of time and scheduling it to go live at regular intervals. That has worked for me for a very long time, though I’m abandoning the regular posting schedule in favor of creating more specific and well-researched content.
Anyway, what I’m saying is that you should figure out the industry standard for your platform. For YouTube, it’s 1-3 videos a week. That’s a lot, but it’s doable if you make time.
For a blog, it’s once a week when you’re building, and whenever the hell you feel like it when it’s built. (I’m serious. Look at some of the big name bloggers out there. That’s how they did it.)
Social media like Instagram and Facebook usually prefers posting once a day.
It’s a lot of work. But again, if you take a couple of days a month to create all your content, then you can easily get ahead.
I take one day a month and take about 20 pictures and create about 10 graphics. Then, I upload them to Tailwind so that I can schedule a photo to go live on Instagram once a day.
When I was posting a blog once a week, I’d take one day a month and write 4-5 blog posts so I had them all ready to go throughout the month.
Working ahead makes it so much easier to stay on task. And it keeps you on your A-game.Pro tip: Get ahead when it comes to your author platform. Make your content ahead of time so it's ready to go when you need it. Click To Tweet
About the Evergreen Author Platform Bundle…
Okay. So. If you read all that and you aren’t terrified, I’ve got a deal for you.
I created The Evergreen Author Platform Bundle to help writers build their author platforms quickly and easily.
Remember that story at the top of the post about how you have to make time to learn how to do this stuff? Well. Basically, I’ve put all the stuff I’ve learned into a bundle so you can buy it, learn it, and hit the ground running with the your author platform.
The bundle contains:
- SEO Basics for Authors, an eBook that shows you how to find keywords and where to put them.
- The Instagram Hashtag Swipe File, so that your photos don’t get lost in the Instagram algorithm.
- 365 Content Prompts, so you have a year’s worth of posting ideas for your author platform.
- The Content Posting Checklist, so you don’t miss a step when it comes to posting to your author platform.
If this sounds like a steal of a deal, or you just want to know more about it, you can check it out here.
Okay. That’s All on Author Platforms for Now
This post is a beast, but y’all know me. I’m passionate about creating an online presence.
I’d love to hear how you built your author platform, or for you to share any tips you have in the comments!