When I started my author platform in October 2012, I had no idea of what I was doing. With only 20 Twitter followers and 5 Likes on facebook, I was desperate to find readers. I read as much as I could find regarding the importance of building an author platform. I searched for ideas on how to expand that platform. After reading countless articles that were either a copy/paste of other articles or complete contradictions of what I had previously read, I came to the conclusion that there is no single method to building a platform. I was on my own to figure it out. A few months and 15,000+ followers later, I feel as though I am headed in the right direction (still a long way to go though). Below are my top 10 recommendations for building an author platform.
1. Don’t spend more time on your platform than you spend on your writing.
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of social networking. Some people will praise your work, which makes you want to interact more. Some are hurtful which motivates defensive responses. Either way, the social interactions are important, but don’t lose sight of why you have a social media presence. You want to share your work with readers. If you don’t spend time writing, you will have nothing to share.
2. Share your work.
Once you have written your novel, make sure it is professionally edited and then share it. Whether self-published or traditional published, an unshared book will never be read.
3. Don’t price yourself too high.
This is an ongoing debate amongst self-published authors worthy of another blog post. Although most authors feel that their works are just as good at the NY Times Bestsellers who charge $15-$20 per book, the reality is that few readers are willing to risk that kind of cash on an unknown author. Build your reader base with low priced books $0.99 – $2.99 and then increase your future book prices as your readership grows. Even free copies of your book provide value through reviews and word-of-mouth advertising.
4. Quality over quantity.
With over 500 million users, Twitter offers an incredible method for reaching readers. Unfortunately, there are millions of accounts that don’t care about reading or writing. Don’t follow people just to follow them. Follow people with similar interests, interesting tweets, or potential to retweet your messages to a larger audience. Don’t get caught up in the followback crowd who are just building a large audience of people who don’t engage.
5. Follow other authors.
Authors are very easy to identify on Twitter. Follow them and you will learn from them. They may also lead readers to you. Don’t get hung up on following a specific genre of authors. Although an author writes historical fiction, he/she may still read your genre. You can always learn from authors who write other types of books.
6. Don’t be afraid to follow.
Following people on Twitter is a sure path to finding readers and writers. Look at the Lists of other authors (from their profile, click Lists). There is a wealth of qualified readers and writers identified by other authors. Use their research to find your next followers. Be careful not to follow too many though. Twitter has a rule once you follow 2,000 people. You can only follow 10% more people than the number of followers that you have. This subject is worthy of its own blog post, but understand that in order for you to grow past 2,000 followers, quality over quantity becomes even more important.
This is where most Twitter users fail. People are afraid to tweet because they may offend someone or write something stupid. If you don't engage, people will assume your account to be inactive and they will unfollow you. Write about your current project. Promote your existing works. Promote other authors you follow. Mix in some everyday life to remind people that you are a real person.
8. Build an author page.
This means different things to different people. Your page could be announcements about your book. It could be used to give snippets of information regarding your inspirations. It could be an extension of your blog. However you plan to use your facebook page, be sure to build one and dedicate time to it.
Just like Twitter, you need to engage your facebook friends and those who have Liked your page with content. A facebook page with a thousand Likes and no content is useless. Invite people to Like your page and dedicate time each week or possibly everyday to update your page.
10. Create a blog.
Blogging is a great way to expand upon your facebook and twitter messages. You can blog about anything that is important to you. You can use it to provide samples of your work. You can run contests from your blog. You can announce new releases. You can use it to provide tips for other authors. You can use it for author interviews. The uses are limitless. Don’t be discouraged by lack of interaction on your blog. You control the content and as your readership grows, so will the interaction level of your blog.
11. Build a website
Buy the domain that will represent your work. Many people purchase their name as their domain. Example: Stephen King has the site http://www.stephenking.com. If you are writing a series, you can buy the domain for your series. Mine is the Franky O’Connell series so I bought http://www.FrankyOConnell.com. Use your website to promote your book(s), provide sample content, tell about yourself, etc. Even if you don’t have a web hosting provider to host your website, buy your desired domain while it is still available. You don’t want to become a bestseller and then find that someone else bought your domain out from under you.
12. Join author communities.
There are countless online communities where authors come together to collaborate about their craft. Joining these communities will offer you an ability to learn from other authors. Many times you can critique the work of other authors in exchange for their critique of your work. This allows you to sharpen your skills and form friendships with authors who may help you promote your works.
OK, I couldn't restrict my top 10 list to only 10 items. While there are hundreds of tips for building an effective author’s platform, I believe the ones in this post are a good starting point. If you have additional tips for aspiring authors, please leave comments below. Thank you and good luck with your writing!