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How to Build an Author Platform to Showcase and Market Your Writing

Building an author platform is essential to your writing career.

Back in the day, publishers would market books, sending review copies, setting up author tours, organizing interviews, and more. Now, except for the most popular authors, it’s up to you to do much of this yourself. Your publisher may have a publicist who can do some of the promotion for you, but if you want to ensure that you get the most exposure, you need to create a platform so potential readers and journalists can find out about you and your books, and so your fans can keep up with what’s new.

Building a platform to highlight your work is essential for any author. The goal of an author platform is to allow readers to learn more about you and your books, provide information for fans, and present yourself to influencers (those on social media, as well as editors commissioning book reviews). In some cases, if you self publish, your author platform could be your storefront, and could be a stepping stone toward finding an agent or a traditional publisher.

In this article, I’m going to discuss the type of author platforms you can use, and in future articles, I’ll look more closely at some of these, and discuss how you can set them up and manage them.

What are your goals as a writer?

Before setting up a writer’s platform, you should consider what your goals are as a writer. If you plan to write the “great American novel,” then you shouldn’t worry; your work will be so great that you won’t need to market it, and you will never need to give interviews. (Yes, there are some authors who have done this: J. D. Salinger, Harper Lee, and Thomas Pynchon come to mind.) But, given the way publishing works today, and the fragmentation in the book market, it’s unlikely that we’ll see many more examples like these.

At the other end of the spectrum is the author who enjoys writing, but doesn’t plan to give up their day job. Writing for them is more of a hobby, and, even if they sell a fair number of books, they don’t plan to make writing a full-time job. For these authors, an online presence is essential.

In between those two extremes are authors who either write full time or are hoping to do so. These writers may self publish, or they may be seeking traditional publishing contracts. No matter what their hopes and plans, it is best to provide information so people can learn about their work, and maintain links with their fans.

It’s all about the internet

While not all book marketing takes place on the internet, it’s the way most people find out about books. If readers are looking for new authors, they check out blogs that point them toward books in their favorite genres. If a journalist is looking for authors to interview, they’ll search the internet, and they’ll often contact authors via their websites. You can’t start out on a writing career these days without developing your online persona and building a following.

The strict minimum for an author is to have a website with information about the author, a list of their books, and contact information. In some cases, the contacts could be publicists or agents; some authors don’t want to be contacted directly. But many authors want to hear from fans and journalists, so they provide an email address or contact form.

Your website can contain a lot more content than just the essentials. J.T. Ellison is a great example of an author who has built a multi-faceted platform to showcase her work. (I talked with her on this episode of the Write Now with Scrivener Podcast.) Her website contains the following:

  • A biography
  • Her blog, where she writes articles regularly, and also links to her literary TV show
  • A list of her books
  • A Media link, where she has a press kit, an FAQ, and contact information
  • An Events page
  • A Newsletter sign-up and archive page
  • Links to Other Ventures
  • And a section with articles for writers

It also has links to her presence on social media at the bottom of the page.

What’s your genre?

Different genres have different norms for the way authors present their books, and the best way to build your platform is to look at authors you admire, and learn from what they have done. There is a huge difference in the way crime fiction and children’s books are presented; science fiction and literary fiction use different approaches; and non-fiction books lead to a number of different types of author platforms.

Look up the authors you like, in the genre in which you write, and examine their platforms. Authors in the same genre may have platforms that are quite different, but there will be similarities in the type of information they present. Not all authors will have the same amount of content, but this will give you an idea of what you can include on your platform.

The many options to explore

Your author platform can be made up of many elements. Some are relatively static, such as your website, and others, like your social media presence, are dynamic. You can use some or all of the following to promote your work:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Mailing list or newsletter
  • Goodreads profile
  • Amazon profile
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
  • Tumblr

Other things you can do is offer to be a guest on podcasts; contact book clubs to talk about your books, especially now that video conferencing with Zoom or Skype is so common; and contribute guest articles to blogs.

Much of what needs to be done to build a platform is accessible to those without technical know-how. It’s easy to build a website, set up social media accounts, and build your profile on sites like Goodreads and Amazon, but it’s important to maintain them and provide new content regularly.

In future articles, I’ll look at creating websites, setting up and using social media, and I’ll discuss outreach, such as contacting book clubs, podcasts, book bloggers, and more.

Kirk McElhearn is a writer, podcaster, and photographer. He is the author of Take Control of Scrivener, and host of the podcast Write Now with Scrivener.

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