Building an author platform is undoubtedly a daunting task. KJ Waters has been a familiar face around here, and I am continually grateful for the relationship we have fostered, first as Twitter friends, then as editor and author. In the world of independent publishing, supporting each other’s creative endeavors and sharing knowledge to help others counts for so much.
Building an Author Platform in 5 Easy Steps
In 2012 I had been writing my book for seven years and really had no endgame in sight. That year I was facing a major life changing injury and potential surgery. It was an excellent time to pause and focus on where I wanted to go with my writing life.
During the rest and recovery period I spent a lot of time on the couch not able to do a lot but watch TV and write. This was the defining moment when I started on the path to being an author, not just some schlep writing a book.
In this delicate state I joined Twitter, created a Facebook author page, and began the serious work of building an author platform. I felt completely overwhelmed by everything I was doing but slowly I grew a following by providing good content, interacting with followers, and struggling to find ways to promote a book I hadn’t finished yet.
I made some really dumb moves along the way but offset them with a few smart ones, and I’m here to tell you that it was all worth it.
Here are the steps I took that led me to Authordom.
1. Blog: I started a blog called Blondie in the Water where I told short stories with a watery travel theme. This was the beginning of my brand that included the name ‘Blondie’ and the water element born from my name (Waters) and my love of all things watery. The blog allowed me to connect with readers before I had a book to sell. I now have over 114,000 visitors and just had my best month yet with almost 7,000 hits. I share these posts as a big part of my social media plan.
Tip: Post frequently (once a week) to get the most engagement. Share older posts a few times a day on social media to bring people to your site.
2. Twitter: When I joined Twitter I really had no clue what I was doing. I think the one thing I did by accident but really works for engaging your audience was being authentic. I shared parts of my soul with people by engaging in conversations, sharing funny quotes, and building my brand. I also met some great authors and reader friends that became crucial to my success. This is where I met Suzanne Kelman in the spring of 2012 and over the next few years we stayed in touch. She asked me to create a book cover for her and now she is my co-host of Blondie and the Brit Podcast (see below.) Over the last month I had more than 10,000 impressions per day on Twitter. Over my four accounts I have nearly 30,000 followers. I notice the days I don’t post on Twitter my ranking on Amazon tanks.
Tip: I currently use the 2:1:1 ratio to share my content on Twitter with great success. Two content posts to engage my target market, one post to promote my book, and one post that is a soft sell that promotes my brand (i.e. blog, interview about me, or podcast.)
3. Facebook: I created a Facebook page and an author page. This is where I spend most of my social media time and I’ve grown a following of readers, potential readers, and other writers. Every week I meet someone who buys my book, or reaches out to me about a podcast, asks me to write a guest blog post or create a book cover for them, or just chat about book marketing. I now have four Facebook accounts plus my personal one covering my podcast, author page, and book cover business.
Tip: I post mostly non-book content on the main page and post occasional book reviews, podcast posts, and other promotional posts on the Author page. The main focus is to spend time creating relationships that hopefully will lead to sales.
4. Other Social Media Sites: After becoming comfortable with these two platforms, I have also created Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google Plus accounts. Snapchat is growing by leaps and bound so I may dip my toe over there.
Tip: Use scheduling tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to manage content on each platform. Do a little research on where your target market likes to spend most of their time and focus on those platforms. For example if you’re a Young Adult author you should be in Instagram and Snapchat.
5. Podcast: A newer development in the last year that has been an exceptional way to connect with other authors is podcasting. I created Blondie and the Brit (sticking with my Blondie branding) with Suzanne Kelman. We just celebrated our first year with an Audience Choice Awards contest and recently honored Jeri with a Best Professional Publishing Tip.
Tip: Think of other creative ways you can add value to your fans and ways to connect with others in your genre. The podcast was perfect for us because we love helping authors learn ways to market their books. In the process we’ve made some priceless connections and learned so much from the authors who have been on the show.
What benefits have I reaped from the four year investment?
Book Launch Boost: It has taken four and a half years to grow my author platform to a point where I can launch a new book and see great results. For example, last April I released a short story called “Blow” at the end of a Facebook party for a friend’s book launch. The next day Blow was at #60 in mystery and suspense on Amazon. By the end of the week I got it to #8 and top 20 in all three of my categories. How? I have nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter, over 4,000 on Facebook and several thousand on the others and I used these platforms to help promote it.
Amazon Rankings: I tested my author platform again this summer with a bid to get my, Stealing Time, to the number one spot in the time travel category. Using the advice I’d gotten from many authors I thought I’d try a weekend where I offer it for free. I used a list of free sites and promoted the heck out of it over a long weekend (coinciding the date Hurricane Charley hit that is featured in the novel) on my author platform and I made it to number one. I paid for a twitter and a Facebook ad, but the rest was leveraging my platform to work for me. I’m hoping to keep growing my platform so I have even more success when Shattering Time comes out next spring.
What do you find most exciting or stressful about building an author platform or establishing an online presence?
You might also be interested in KJ’s other Word Bank guest posts: 5 Awesome Reasons for Going Indie, 6 Hot Trends in Indie Book Marketing, and 4 Invaluable Tips for Indie Authors. KJ has also appeared here in an author interview, and don’t miss Suzanne Kelman’s advice on author’s having a podcast as well as my podcast interview with Blondie & the Brit.
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.