If you’re an aspiring author, you might have thought this at one point in your career: “An author platform? Publishers aren’t interested in that. They’re interested in reading my book.”
Whilst it's undeniable that the most important part is, well, the writing, publishers and literary agents are increasingly interested in your author platform. This is particularly true if you're a non-fiction author pitching a book proposal.
Why's that? An author platform tells publishers that you can reach an audience and sell books. It signals that you've got:
If your goal is to publish a book, these are advantages that you want to have. But what if you're a first-time author starting completely from scratch? You're not alone. Everyone has to begin somewhere. Here are five foolproof tips that will give you a boost in the right direction.
You might think that brands are for corporates, such as Burger King, Coca-Cola, or United Airlines: companies that have a product to sell. But a book is a product. John Grisham attracts a certain set of readers. So does Ta-Nehisi Coates. Their brands differentiate them from the rest of the pack and help them stand out to audiences.
So it goes without saying that a brand is powerful. It works for companies and products, and it can work for you as an author if you build it with care.
To go about identifying your author brand, first ask yourself: How do you want to be known? When a non-reader hears your name for the first time in a conversation, what do you want to be said?
Your voice is one of the most crucial elements of your writing and you don't want to stray too far from it in the public sphere. If you're writing a dark horror book in the ilk of Stephen King, try not to use heart emojis excessively when you're communicating with fans, for instance.
Above all, keep it consistent. Make it easy for a ready to recognise you and your work.
An author website is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to author platforms. Through it, you can:
It's a worthwhile investment to make - especially if you're building an author platform from scratch. This is because it gives you a chance to put a sign-up form on your author website early on.
This sign-up form is key if you want to begin collecting your readers' email addresses - with their permission of course! Email marketing is one of the oldest methods in the marketing book for a simple reason. It works. It grands you a direct line into reader's online nerve centres: their inboxes.
Every person who visits your website becomes a potential reader. The math is simple: the more time that a sign-up form is on your website, the more readers you can get. Draw upon this to build the audience that your author platform needs by sending them personalised content or exclusive short stories to whet their appetite.
Pro-tip: Need inspiration for an author website? Here are examples of twelve author websites that work.
By 'engage,' I'm not saying that you should just churn out a tweet every five minutes about your new book 'OMG, Go read and buy it here! #amwriting #thankyou.'
Don't do that. Social media is an opportunity to create meaningful interactions with your readers. To take advantage of it properly, talk with your followers and establish friendly, relationships. Use your social media channels to remind people that there's a real person behind the stock author photo.
Pro-tip: Feel free to think outside of the usual suspects (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). Youtube, for instance, has a burgeoning community of passionate readers. If you have an interest in video recording, why not build upon your strengths and try to create a following there? Experiment to see which social media channel allows you to gain the most traction.
This might seem like it's common sense, but you'd be surprised at how many authors ignore this part of the process. You should be known to the people in your field - and the best way to establish yourself in this community is to interact with this.
No-one become an authority in a field by publishing a book and then staying in his or her own corner. Even if they don’t come to you at first, you should make the effort to go to them.
Ready? Here comes our biggest tip of all: start now. If you don't have an author platform at the moment, that's okay. But you need to start building one now.
You might point to writer who do have huge author platforms and say, "I can't possibly match up to the platforms of bestselling authors!" But other people's platforms didn't magically Apparate, Harry Potter-style, either. They also had to begin from somewhere.
You're not special in that respect. Everybody starts from zero - and everyone has the potential to hit the jackpot. It's called an author platform because it's just that: a raised surface on which you can stand and talk. And it's up to you to build it, plank by plank.
So if you're starting from scratch, remember these five tips - experience with them! - and begin assembling your platform!
Martin Cavannagh is a writer for Reedsy, the world's largest marketplace of professional editors, book designers and ghostwriters. He also curates a series of free webinars and online courses designed to teach writers how to create and publish better books.