Self Publishing Tips: Should You Build Your Author Platform or Publish First?
What is an Author Platform?
You can think of an author platform as a stage. (A stage IS a platform, right?) It's those places and things, both online and offline, where you connect with your reader audience. Examples of platform elements can include many or all of the following, depending on your market:
- Blog (your own blog or guest blog posts)
- Email newsletters
- Speaking engagements, workshops, events, book signings, etc. (live, recorded or virtual)
- Social media channels
- Online videos (including book trailers)
- Appearances on or in the mass media (television, radio, newspapers, podcasts, etc.)
Authors who hope that simply having a book will automatically and magically connect them with eager readers are fooling themselves. A writing career is a marketing career. You are always selling stories or ideas.
Having an established presence in the market demographic, niche or community you want to reach can be a great selling point if you decide to pursue traditional publishers for a book deal as opposed to self publishing. But regardless of how your book gets published, you will need some type of author platform which connects you with your reading public.
A writing career is a marketing career. You are always selling stories and ideas.— Heidi Thorne
What Readers Really Buy When They Buy (or Read) Your Book
To focus purely on book sales is like selling a book as if it's a can of peas. Customers don't search through bookstores or Amazon and decide whether to read something purely on the book's physical size or price. You would likely never boast that your book has 620 pages versus your competition's book which is only 575 pages. There's no comparison.
Readers buy YOU, your message and backstory. Your book is merely another channel through which you reach your fans. Plus, true fans are less price sensitive. They want what you're selling, regardless of price.
But it is nearly impossible to sell you and your book to potential readers who do not know you, don't care about you or who cannot find you.
Readers buy YOU, your message and backstory. Your book is merely another channel through which you reach your fans.— Heidi Thorne
How to Build an Author Platform
Whether you have a book completed yet or not, you want to start building a following of "friendlies" that will be interested in you and your writing. You need to establish your presence in communities of target readers for your work. Example: If your passion is writing Christian fiction for women, you want to get known in and participate in faith-based women's communities. But this requires knowing who your readers really are.
Caution! If you're only participating in a community to get sales or speaking gigs, and then plan to exit until your next selling need, you will be seen as opportunistic and inauthentic. Building an author platform is a continuous give-to-get effort. Plus, you want to be seen as THE expert or best-in-class for whatever it is you write. Genuine and consistent involvement, authority and visibility in a target community helps make that possible.
This is what I call in my book, Business Competitive Advantage, the "3 Fs" to being competitive: Always be looking for ways to become friended, famous and found.
Building an author platform is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. You usually need to have written something to start building a fan base. But ideally you want to have an audience of fans already hungry to consume your book because they know about you and your message already.
Some authors post parts of their books as blog posts to give readers a taste of what's going to be in their books, in addition to getting a pulse on whether the work is resonating with an audience (by measuring traffic, comments, etc.). Alternatively, they might offer free sample chapters to readers who opt-in to their email list.
Pro Tip: ALWAYS be looking for ways to build your fan email list. Social media is great, but results can be impacted by every little change in a social network's feed algorithm. But almost everyone gets email. Plus, having your own email list doesn't lock you into using any particular social media site.
Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.
© 2016 Heidi Thorne