If you close your eyes and try to imagine a successful author, you might conjure up the image of someone ensconced in their study at home, writing. Someone who would reasonably expect to have others sell their books for them. Someone who would never be recognized in photos, or on the streets, by their readers. But times have changed and that image no longer holds true for most.
Today’s authors, both new and experienced alike, cannot afford to be invisible if they want their books to be bought and read. Authors now need to be front and center, giving potential readers a compelling enough reason to buy and read their book. And that reason will come from the author’s platform. But what exactly is an author platform?
In a nutshell, an “author platform” is all of the visibility and influence that you possess to get your book into receptive hands. For example, do you have a large consulting practice? Do you write a popular blog or newsletter? Do you teach? Are you a regular conference speaker? Are you a well-known personality in your community? These are just some of the planks that people have used to help build their author platforms. And you?
Today I’d like to show you some of the steps that you can take to start building your own author platform from scratch today.
Choose Your Big Idea
What do you want to become known for?
If you’re reading this, then there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re a complex, multidimensional person with lots of ideas and opinions. You’re someone who has had many experiences and played many roles in your life. But your author platform isn’t the place to showcase all that complexity. On the contrary, your author platform should be a distillation of your singular message, your big idea.
That’s why you first need to decide on what your big idea is. It should be big enough that you don’t quickly run out of things to say or become bored by it, but small enough that you can become associated with it and become the go-to person for that topic.
Help other people find you. Constantly.
The Internet can be a vast place, full of detours and dangers, but to save you time, I’d recommend focusing your efforts on these three steps:
#1. Get a website: A website lets the world know that you exist and that you’re someone to take seriously. It’s your showcase, the place to explain and promote what you’re all about.
Try a website builder for a simple DIY option. Otherwise, you can pay someone to help you create something more unique or complex.
#2. Cultivate an email list: Now that you have a website, add a form to it that lets people sign up for your email list. That way you can easily keep in touch with the people who want to hear more of what you have to say and keep tabs on what you’re doing.
#3. Be present on one or two social media platforms: Social media can help people to exchange ideas and keep in closer contact. Since it takes time to learn about social media and build up a following, I’d recommend concentrating your efforts on just one or two.
Choose from among the following: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn or YouTube. Regularly post some content and engage with others, but as you do so, think of this audience like a new group of friends. And don’t forget to encourage them to join your email list.
Be Present, Build Relationships
It’s time to start showing up again and again.
Regularly consider what you can do to reach more people and win them over. And then do it!
If you’re a natural extrovert or networker, then you already have a leg up. But if you’re not, please bear with me here. Introverts can still be very successful authors who enjoy large author platforms; they just have to be more strategic in how they get there. After all, you don’t have to be the next Oprah, but you do have to take note of how good Oprah makes people feel.
Now think about how you can be more visible and provide more value to others. For example, consider joining some local groups, participating in relevant online forums, participating in panel discussions and asking your connections to introduce you to some of their most relevant connections.
No matter how you ultimately decide to build these relationships though, you will need to commit to the process. No form of networking or relationship building can provide instant results, but it will bear fruit over time.
You’ve probably been doing this for longer than you realize, however. Think about all of the connections you’ve made in your life, online and off. Think about all the places where your presence is known and all the places that you belong. Think about all the people you’re visible to and all the people that you have some influence over. Enjoy what you build, but also enjoy what you’ve already built!
You can never have enough friends. And at the end of the day, an author platform is simply about cultivating more goodwill and name recognition, and then harnessing it to sell more copies of your book.