One does not obtain a creative writing degree simply because they need it. They get one because they want it, because it will be like it says on the brochure, hopefully teach them how to write a highly successful non-fiction/fiction book. But as an author, you don’t just get on the paying side of the fence just like that.
In the digital age we live in, building a pure and wonderful relationship with others has also become equally important. So, how does one get there?
What is an Author’s Platform and How Do You Build One?
Having a ‘platform’ is often times hard to explain, but publishers and agents prefer that authors have one.
“So, what is this platform?” you ask. Michael Hyatt, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today & Amazon Bestselling Author of: “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World“ explains it this way:
Very simply, a platform is the thing you have to stand on to get heard. It’s your stage. But unlike a stage in the theater, today’s platform is built of people. Contacts. Connections. Followers.
It’s basically the author’s ability to have visibility and exposure, which will help them reach out to an audience and share their message with them.
So What’s the Big Deal!
Let’s be honest for a sec. The internet is made up by writers, even the videos and audios found online were written by some writer in a dark and dank corner somewhere. What this means is that we’re basically everywhere, just like roaches in a pizza joint (“wroches”!!). So, with so many of us vibrating out there, what makes you so special? Having an author platform helps you get the necessary exposure that is needed even if you’re not that good.
How Do You Create a Platform?
Here is another useful definition of what an “author platform” is:
A platform communicates your expertise to others. It includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. – Christina Katz, author of: “Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform“.
Your platform starts with YOU and knowing your audience that you are sharing your message with.
So, now that we have got that out of the way, the following are some of the steps you can take to create a formidable author platform and ramp up your writing career.
1 – Define & Develop Your Message
It’s not enough to say that you have a platform or a built-in readership. It is important to find your voice, and the only way of doing that is by writing, editing and re-writing your works of art. A platform is not about self-promotion, hard-selling or annoying people. It is however, all about putting in a consistent effort of softly promoting yourself, which will help you during the course of your writing career.
Define your core message. I know, I know, it sounds so corporate, and we’re artists, right? But your core message should inform every medium you use and pervade every bit of content you produce. It’s the experience you want to create whenever people come over to your house. I spent a lot of thoughts on what my core message would be, and it influences everything I try to write. Yours should be your own, and it’s essential to have. – Chris Tomlinson, author of: “Crave: Wanting So Much More of God“.
2 – Create Valuable Content You Are Willing to Give Away for Free
The word “Free” alone is enough to put a smile to anyone’s face. Since people love free, be willing to part with an article piece, a Manifesto, a How-to eBook, an audio file, etc., which you actually had the intention of selling in the first place. If you can, make it known on your website as well as via social media platforms that whatever you’ve decided to create is available for free, so all those who are interested in reading or listening to it, they can get it from you.
The objective is to give away something of value, something you know your audience would appreciate and would even be willing to purchase from you if that option was available to them.
Every Writer Wants his message to be heard. A platform gives you visibility for an audience, an opportunity to reach more people than you would reach on your own. You need to serve your way into influence. Generosity will get you noticed. If you provide something of value for free, this will provide you with valuable feedback. Because most writers do not think this way, you will be set apart, unique. You will earn the right to be heard. – Jeff Goins, GoinsWriter.
3 – Connect, Interact and Engage With Your Tribe
Needless to say, social media is a great way of connecting, interacting and engaging with people who are already your subscribers and those who are still thinking about it. While there are dozens of social media platforms available for interacting with your fans, some of the more well known sites include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Most people feel they are wasting time on social media or in developing their audience because they aren’t focusing on the right people, on the right milestones, and don’t understand how building an audience actually HELPS your writing progress. People feel overwhelmed by all of this because they have no plan, no strategy. An author platform is about making hard choices on where to focus your energy, and is as much about what you DON’T do, as what you do. This is a process of refinement, focused intently on your goals as a writer. – Dan Blank, We Grow Media.
4 – Build & Nurture Your List
Getting people to subscribe to a monthly update, newsletter, blog post about your next book-in-progress is the best that could happen for any up and coming author. An effective way of getting people to do that is by giving an opt-in option on your blog or website. Since most people are comfortable with using emails, they will be more than happy to subscribe to your monthly newsletter or blog posts, that is, if they like your content.
There are a million ways to drive people to your email list. Most often, it involves some variable of creating valuable content, then adding an opt-in form on a landing page, web-page or blog page and relying on some combination of advertising, organic search and social media to drive traffic to the page with the form. The value and relevance of your content, bundled with a strongly worded offer and even a relevant giveaway to incentivize subscribing will build a nice sized, genuinely interested list. But, it’ll take time. – Jonathan Fields, author of: “Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love Tribal Author”.
5 – Grow Your Influence by learning what Folks Want – then Deliver it
This could easily have been the first step in the process, but clarifying what sort of readers you want to connect to is extremely important if you want to be a successful writer/author. As a writer, you will need to deliver every time, to do that you will need to jot down a quick list of all the types of readers you have had in the past and what they enjoyed reading. Then you will have to decide which groups you would be able to connect to and make them your keepers.
Nobody who changed the world did it by waiting for an audience. – Jeff Goins, GoinsWriter.
6 – Publish Your Bestseller
The best way of grabbing the attention of your audience is by making sure that all those who discover your work for the first time go straight to your best work which has passed the test of time. If not, then chances are, your work along with your name is only going to get buried under your latest efforts. To avoid that from happening, always make it perfectly clear to your visitors, fans and/or tribe how they can get it by directing them to specific places on your website/blog, or use hyperlinks to alternate sites. You can also use pre-installed widgets on your blog to send fans straight to your best work.
Whether you publish a bestseller or you share valuable content, there are a number of compelling reasons why it’s beneficial to share with your audience/tribe:
- It’ll create personal satisfaction
- Increases your credibility
- Help build/grow your business
- You’ll become a leading authority in your niche/industry
- You’ll attract media attention
- It could help you become a speaker
- It’ll help develop your Personal Brand
- It’ll help spread your message
- And most importantly . . . it’ll help you grow your platform
People with their own platforms can write and create high quality books, self-publish them and succeed. – Guy Kawasaki, Guy Kawasaki.
7 – Expand Your Reach & Profit
So you are a great writer, but you can use some promotion too. You can always write for publications and websites related to your market niche in order to build your credibility. What this means is, try to be seen and heard everywhere. “How do you do that?” you ask. Whether you decide to publish Traditionally or Indie Publish (self-publish), the author is responsible for marketing, no matter what.
Many folks think that if you publish Traditionally, that the publishers will market for you. But unfortunately for the most part this is a myth! It’s the responsibility of the author.
Developing a platform is extremely important for the success of any book (whether it’s published Traditionally or it’s Self-published), and this includes developing a thorough & comprehensive marketing plan and then following it (and making adjustments to your strategies as time moves forward).
The marketing power is in the hands of the ‘owner’/author.
By putting effort into your marketing campaign, you will eventually see results . . . but like with most things, if you don’t put any effort into something, you will not get anything out!
3 Steps You Can Take To Get Started Now!
An effective author’s platform can consist of a large mailing list (or a smaller but higher quality list), a large number of followers (or less but very engaged) on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., and an impressive number of readers and visitors on their blog or website.
Here is a quick 3-step action guide (this can be used as a simple starting point) for the folks who want to get started NOW by showing off their James-Deanian like potential to the masses:
Set Up a Website/Blog
What is a great website or blog made up of? Well, one thing for sure is that you will need to keep things interesting for all those who visit. That means making sure that you update your content on a regular basis, so that the content remains fresh and interesting for the readers. For those who are hosting blogs, it should be less about pitching that new book of yours, and more about sparking a conversation or contributing to a discussion.
The following article titled: “How to Launch a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes or Less” is an excellent resource on how to get your blog up and running if you haven’t already done so.
Start Building Your Opt-in List
If you are in the marketing field you have probably heard of the term opt-in, if not then you are going to hear it again. An opt-in list is necessary if you want the people who frequently visit your website or blog hooked on a newsletter program. An opt-in list is important for all those who are interested in your work because it gives them the opportunity to access information about you and your blog on a regular basis after they have signed up for your newsletter.
Secondly, if an opt-in receives your email, chances are they will be buying something from you somewhere down the road (a book perhaps!). Having a large subscriber base, will only increase your chances of remaining afloat in an intensely competitive market.
The following article by Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger titled: “7 Steps to an Email Opt-in Page That Works”, will help you get started on creating your own Opt-in Page in order to start building a database for your audience.
Engage Your Tribe/Audience via Social Media
To prevent from getting overwhelmed, pick 1 or 2 social media sites you are most comfortable with and schedule quality time to interact with your audience, tribe & or fans. You can choose from any number of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and so forth. The bottom line is that in the digital age in which we live in, using a combination of your own website and a variety of social media platforms will provide you with the foundation you will need to grow as a writer. With the proper investment of your time participating in a number of social media platforms, you’ll open up new literary avenues and directions of opportunity that you could never have thought existed.
So, there you have it, the top-shelf, high-octane tips that will prove to be the magical Wonka ticket for all you Messengers & Creative, Wordsmithy folks out there . . . But don’t forget, your taste, the stuff that got you in the game in the first place, is still killer!
Note: This is the entire article that was first published back in May 2014 (where it appeared in an abridged format).