The one piece of advice I feel qualified to give

The advice I feel qualified to give today is this: Don’t run a competition. Actually, that’s not entirely true – competitions are fun but they are also taxing and this week’s theme is up late.

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 24th.

The one piece of advice that
I feel qualified to give

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

Details

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but there will not be a winner for the most comments. Instead, there will be a “most votes on Reddit” section. This week, the Reddit section will be Writers of Thanet. Entries that take part in this new section will be given preference in the event of a tie (and let’s be honest, you are all very good). You will need a Reddit account for the grand finish so if you have not yet joined, it might be time to push yourself again.

Just like last week, to get “best post” you need to have linked to this post (unless you write something which is unequivocally orders of magnitude better than all the rest combined. If you need help with links see this post and if you need general WordPress help see this post.

Five things authors can do to build a platform

Building a platform worthy of attracting publisher attention is no small feat. Here are five easy tasks that will get you in the right direction.

If you have never heard of an Authorial Platform (an author’s platform) before then I highly recommend that you read What is an Author Platform. You might also want to keep the Platform Building Jargon buster handy

1. Have a good blog

A blog or a full website can easily form the foundation of your platform.

Ideally, you should have your own website with your own domain name where you can publish whatever you want (including running a blog).

When you are just starting out, this is often a bit much to ask. Often because of the technical requirements that you have to reach. That said there are some excellent hosting services with very good customer support that will help you through almost all of the steps. So this is less of a barrier if you have a little cash to throw at the problem.

A blog, such as WordPressTumblrmblR or similar can be a good enough place to start. Best of all it they are free and fairly easy to set up. So if you are not yet ready to set up a full website a free blog can be just as good.

All you need to do is decide how many times a week you are going to publish and keep to that. If you only publish once a week (not a bad start) then pick a day for the content to go live. Try and write your post some time before publication day so it is ready when the time arrives.

For ideas of things to talk about, see our platform building themes from the competition we have been running.

2. Connect with others

Almost all of the remaining tips there are to give are in some way social. The first step after setting up your blog is to connect with other bloggers. There are a few ways to connect but they all boil down to showing some attention and communicating:

  • Talk on local forums of Facebook groups
  • Comment on other author’s blogs
  • Chat via email
  • Connect of Facebook
  • Follow on WordPress

Connecting with others gives you a loose assosiation fo fellow writers to bounce ideas off of, to read and get ideas from, and to trade comments with. Think of your network of fellow writer-bloggers as a writers group online.

This community is the first seeds of the community and following that you are trying to build arround yourself.

3. Get the word out

Now you have your community foundation in place it is time to get the word out. There are many different ways to do that and what works for you really depends on who you are and where the kind of people taht are interested in you and your writing might be found.

The only way to figure that out, sometimes, is to suck it and see.

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook (page not group)
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit

Each of those places that you can promote your content has different requirements for success and differing levels of commitment. For example, a Facebook page should have a solid piece of content every single day for maximum effect. When you are just starting out forming a small public group for writers to share their blog posts with each other might be a better way to go; or it might be a terrible idea. These things are not cut and dry by any means.

Figure out what works for you and stick to it.

4. Link yourself up

One trick authors often miss is that they write great content which then vanishes into the archives never to be seen again. Don’t let that be you.

Instead, revisit the themes you have touched on in the past.

Once you have been going a year, if you find yourself short of ideas to write about, look back one year and publish a revised and updated look at the same topic. Not only will most of your readers have missed the first one but the idea itself will be fresh again.

Link readers back to the older stuff when you mention it as part of your new content. The chances are that at least half of your readers will have never seen what you published six months or a year ago.

By linking to other content you provide your readers with somewhere to go after they are done with the page they are currently reading. Why do you think wikis, which do this all the time, are so popular? You can browse those all day, jumping from topic to topic.

5. Don’t stop.

Whatever you do, don’t stop. Keep going.

Platforms take time to establish. That hard work can drain away if you leave your blog or soical media outposts without fresh updates. When you are knee deep in novel creation, you might only manage an update saying how many hours, words, or pages you managed. That’s fine for a while.

If you are working hard for a longer period of time there arre some other ways to keep those plates spinning.

  • Pay an assistant writer to publish content for you
  • Ask your community of fellow writers to provide guest posts
  • Build up a backlog of extra posts for times when you are busy
  • Publish a list of your posts about a single theme
  • Take a few pictures of your pet and post them

There are many one-off posts that have very littleto do with you and your writing and readers will happily accept one or two highly off topic posts every now and then without complaint. The rule of thumb is the 80:20 rule or about 1 off topic post for every 4 on topic posts.

Some writers, when they are working on a new novel will publish excerpts fromt he novel that they are very proud of. Others will grab a camera and read a page or two and put up a video.

There are many ways to turn what you are doing into more content.

Keep going.

Over to you

  • What are your tips for keeping going or platform building?
  • Have you tried something and it just did not work at all?
  • Have you found anything that works really well for you?

Tell us in the comments sections below.

What stops me writing?

This week our competition hits the half way mark and comes with a twist in the tale. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

As with every week, there is a theme. As with every week, there will be three winners. This week, however, things change a little.

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but there will not be a winner for the most comments. Instead, it is time for us to push ourselves and enhance the platform we have been building with our blogs. Entries that take part in this new section will be given preference in the event of a tie (and let’s be honest, you are all very good).

Additionally, to get “best post” you need to have linked to this post (unless you write something which is unequivocally orders of magnitude better than all the rest combined. If you need help with links see this post and if you need general WordPress help see this post.

But first the theme, this one is a sequal:

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 17th.

What stops me writing?

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to.

A bonus will be awarded to any writer that manages to link back to their own “What gets me writing” post (week one) in a way that fits with the post and seems natural. If judging is as hard as it normally is, that bonus could help.

How to really win this week

In preparation to our big finish, you will need to step out of your comfort zone once more. This time, however, it is not such a big step. If you can sign up for Facebook, then you can do this too.

Have you ever used Reddit? You will need an account there. It is free to sign up and free to use (just like Facebook or Twitter).

On Reddit is a section called Thanet Blogs. I created it a few months ago and it has been mostly dormant for a while now. That makes it perfect for our new competition element.

Once you have published your blog post, you will need to post a link to the Reddit. WordPress users, that means making sure you post the public URL and not your private one.

The winner will be the post with the most up votes (down voting by competition entrants is not allowed). Aside from us, anyone who uses Reddit could come and vote. You could, for example, get your friends to come and vote for you. You might want to be sporting and vote for each other too.

If you use WordPress (or Google analytics on Blogger) you may see traffic (that is visitors) being sent to you from Reddit. This is good. Once you are comfortable posting on Reddit you might feel like extending out from the sandbox of this particular subreddit and finding larger communities. Writers of Thanet, for example, or the global Writers, if you are feeling brave. There is even a Thanet Creative Writers (which is just about Thanet Creative Writers).

Getting your links out into relevant places is part of establishing and growing your platform. (The opposite of getting your link in irrelevant places – which is spam).

The answer to the question “what stops me writing?” might now be “reading reddit”. You have been warned.

You will be needed your Reddit account for the total lack of grand prize and the Overall Winner selection at the end.

Why I write in my genre

Here is this week’s theme for the writing competition that also builds your author platform. For full details please see week one’s post.

Week Four: Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 27th.

Why I write in my genre

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. Bonus points (which don’t count towards anything other than enhanced bragging rights) if you can include both the original Greek classification system and the art history usage of Genre Paintings without it seemingly the least bit forced.

Ideas

This theme was designed to give you an opportunity to share your love of your preferred genre (or genres) with your readers. Talking about the general classification of your work can help you show up on the radar of the type of people that want to read that sort of work. However, feel free to argue that genres are a terrible idea, and show why your genre-busting novel is amazing without them. Or, you know, find some awesome way to spin a fiction around the theme. It’s your blog after all

However, feel free to argue that genres are a terrible idea, and show why your genre-busting novel is amazing without them. Or, you know, find some awesome way to spin a fiction around the theme. It’s your blog after all.

You can probably guess my favourite genre from the picture I chose this week. It was that or an image of zombies.

Don’t forget

Don’t forget to link to this week’s post so your entry is (much) easier to discover. You may find it easier to get more comments if you also share your post to your Facebook friends or on Twitter. There is now a guide to linking (and link sharing), if you need it.

WordPress Help for Thanet’s Writers

By Othmanhlallouch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Most of our competition participants have chosen WordPress.com to host their entries; a good idea I think. Here is a collection of, what I hope are, helpful resources.

However far along the path of learning about publishing your own content online, I hope this post can prove useful.

Getting fully setup on WordPress.com

Set Up Your Blog in Five Steps is a WordPress guide to the five steps that you will probably want to follow to get fully set up.

While most of you will have done at least four of those steps it might be worth looking at the section on widgets. Widgets are those elements that allow you to show custom text, links, social integration and other features.

The basics of WordPress.com

My problem is that, for me, it is all the basics. I’ve been blogging and doing web things for over thirteen years. Try as I might it is very hard for me to imagine myself as a person just getting started.

That’s why I’ve taken the time to find other people’s posts and videos that do a better job than I might.

As far as general overview videos go this one is pretty good.

How to use the make and edit blog posts

Blog posts (sometimes called blogs by people) and pages seem very similar on WordPress. Blog posts are the things you will post most often. Skip on down a bit if you want to learn about pages.

I watched a lot of how to videos on to make this post for you. This was the best video about creating blog posts on WordPress.com that I could find.

That said I strongly disagree with one of the things that she says in this WordPress video. Blockquote is not for making a paragraph “stand out”. It does do that but blockquote is a semantic tag which means that it means something when you use it; it means that you are quoting someone else.

I would also add that although you have a lot of formatting options the best thing to do is use them sparingly. Inline formats are like exclamation marks – they are most powerful when they are rare.

WordPress Pages: What are they?

So you want to know about pages on WordPress? Great, keep reading.

Pages are a great way to add sections to your site that do not change very often. You WordPress.com blog comes with a few already.

We here at Thanet Creative Writers have used pages for the many different types of forms that we have. Forms for reporting problems, forms for asking questions, forms for asking to join the Thanet Creative Writers charity, and so forth.

There is a page which carries our list of projects and another for the blog listing.

You get the idea.

Typical uses of a page on a writer’s blog might be:

  • About the author
  • For books they have published
  • Press coverage and positive mentions
  • Images and useful information for the press to use
  • Upcoming appearances and book signings
  • A booking form
  • Upcoming releases

Embedding a video in WordPress.com

If you search, you will find a lot of advice on how to embed a video in your post. They are almost all wrong!

The reason that most advice is wrong is that the self hosted WordPress and premium WordPress differ significantly from the free hosting WordPress.

The way to embed a video from YouTube that works with a free WordPress.com account is to copy the address (aka URL) of the video from the title bar of your browser.

If you look up, right now, you should see a thin box at the top which starts “https://thanetcreativewriters.wordpress.com/” that text is the address of the page.

Paste the YouTube address, which begins “https://www.youtube.com/” on a line all by itself. When you publish (or save and preview) there will be a video there. Not just any video but the one you were just looking at on youtube.

I spend hours figuring that out and got very frustrated. I hope that tip saves you some tears.

WordPress Projects

This is a slightly more advanced part of WordPress. The chances are, you will not want to play with this yet. But if you do this is something you may find useful.

If this section is not for you, skip it.

Before you try WordPress Projects

Projects are best saved for when you have at least one book or article accepted by a publication.

That said, it never hurts to play with things.

If you feel ready to start

First dive into your settings and have a good look round. You will find that you can enable projects. I’ve deliberately not told you where because you will should have enough confidence in your own ability to find it by yourself if you are going to do this.

Now you will have a projects option under pages (which is under posts). Click add and add a project. Notice how much it is like adding a page or a post.

Use your projects to add your published books and stories. One per project.

Now create a page and use the shortcode (I did say this was advanced) to create a projects listing page. Now you have a page of your books (or whatever) that you can add new items to whenever you wish.

More advanced uses would be to set categories for books, short story and anthology, and speaking engagements. You could create a page for each one and show only that category on the page by editing the short code.

Over to you

I hope that something in this post was helpful. There is a lot more that I could explain about using WordPress.com but this blog, as a whole, was never meant to be the WordPress fan club and at some point you will want to get back to writing.

  • What tips or hints might you add?
  • What is your advice to WordPress using writers?
  • How have you been getting on with your blog?

Platform Building Jargon Buster

Helping people get set up for the writing contest has caused me to realise just how much I take for granted. Not everyone knows what I know, which should be obvious.

The aim of this post is just to help you navigate what can be some confusion terminology for something that should otherwise be quite a lot of fun.

Author Platform

This is the sum total of all the people paying attention to you. Your audience, in other words. Not to be confused with your blog or website.

Blogging Platform

Blogging platform has to be the most confusing name anyone gave anything. This is just your blog, or rather, the technology that runs your blog.

I try to avoid using the phrase “Blogging Platform”. Instead, I like to call it blogging software or blog system which is a bit easier to understand.

Reach

This is usually a measure of the number of people you can reach. Also known as your audience. Some places, such as Facebook, have their own spin on what it means.

URL aka URI aka link

At the top of your screen is an address bar. It probably says something like http://www.example.com/stuff… most of the time. If you are asked to post a link, that is what you are being asked to share.

To share a link to a post, for example. Navigate to the public version of that post (WordPress and other systems often have a private version for you to edit and so forth). Then copy and paste the text from the address bar.

To add to the confusion, links my be referred to by any of the following names:

  • URL or URI
  • Link
  • (Web) Address
  • Web link
  • Web path

Whatever word you prefer it all amounts to the same thing.

Comment love

Comment love is a term bloggers often use which means to show appreciation for a blog post by posting a good comment. It can also mean to get traffic back (through the link your comment makes) due to leaving a good comment.

Leaving helpful comments that add value to a post can be a good way to grow your readership (and thus your author platform). Try to move beyond saying “nice post” to actually explaining what you liked or engaging the topic and other commenters in a discussion.

These days it is very easy to keep your comments to facebook but taking a moment to post directly on a blog is a way to show love and appreciation for the writer.

Pings and trackbacks

This is not one thing, but rather a bunch of technologies that do more or less the same thing. It is a way of saying “hey, I mentioned you”.

If you are using WordPress the pingback settings are found under settings, in the Discussion section and probably look something like this.

ping-backs

The exact system differs from system to system. For example, in NucleusCMS (which I use for my personal sites) this is an added feature which requires a plugin.

Like comments, pingbacks and trackbacks often need to be manually accepted on most sites. Which can mean that they take a little while to show up. Not all blogging systems support them and those that do might not send them. If yours does not, it is not the end of the world and I really would not worry too much about it.

For example, Tumblr and Blogger accounts generally don’t have that (they may have similar systems for internal use).

SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. To be honest, until you are comfortable just writing good content and publishing it, don’t worry about SEO. SEO, is for the most part, about creating quality content.

There is a bit more to SEO than that, but quality content is the cornerstone of all SEO.

  • I have written a lot more about SEO here.

Guest Blogging

Again this is something that you don’t want to get stuck into until your own blog is well established. Once you are well established occasionally writing for another reputable blog, or having a blogger of good reputation write for you, can be a nice change of pace.

Outposts

Some experts describe things like your social media presence (pages, twitter accounts, profiles, etc) as your social media outposts. This is a way of simply recognising that your social media is not the centre of your platform but more like an outpost on foregn soil.

Thus, it follows, your best stuff should always be saved for serving to your own guests, at home. Most blog systems allow you to send a link out to your outposts when you publish. This can be very handy and cut down on your workload.

Spam

We all hate spam email but there are also spam comments and even spammy blog posts. They are just as devoid of value and reak of desperation. If what you were about to post feels “spammy” it might be time to rethink.

Spam is anything that is low quality and of no value to another human being. Spam is bad. Don’t do it.

Link love

Link love is a term bloggers often use when talking about linking to another blogger. Links are like votes to Google so by taking the time to link to another blog you are showing them some love by voting for them.

Link love is great and you should be fairly generous with it when you find a deserving blog or blog post. Don’t go silly. Remember, your readers need to understand why you posted that link and it needs to fit with what you are saying. However, spreading the love around makes the world a nicer place.

An appropriately placed link says to your readers, go here and read this. Make sure that is a deserved recommendation and your readers will thank you.

Bad neighbourhoods

This is a Google idea that has some merit. It is a way of describing those bits of the web which are low quality and spammy. You are unlikely to have to worry about bad neighbourhoods unless you being a bit shady yourself.

Your readers will not be happy if you link them to such nasty bits of the web and Google takes a dim view of it too. However, if you follow the recomendation to link to things that deserve it, you will almost never link to a bad neighbourhood.

Domains and Domain Names

Domain names are usually the part of a URL that you remember. Like facebook.com or thanetcreativewriters.wordpress.com. If you are willing to pay for it you can get a custom .com or .co.uk (or whatever).

Custom domain names are probably something you can leave until later. Unless, of course, you want to set up a custom website or self-host your blogging software.

Anything else?

Have I missed anything out? What else would you include in this list? Share your insights in the comments below.

Over to you.

What is an author platform?

Your author platform is what enables you to sell a lot of books, but what is it?

Very few agents know what an author platform is. Most publishers seem to be clueless about author platforms. Even successful authors are not always aware of their own platform or how they built it.

Over the course of this post I am going to explain what an author platform is and why it is so hard to explain.

I am also going to share the secret of a good authorial platform.

Defining an “Author Platform

Very few publishers truly understand the author platform. Even writers have a hard time explaining what one is.

It seems that even Jane Friedman, who has a very effective author website, has a hard a time as anyone defining what one is and she has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry behind her.

This difficulty is not a surprise. Author platforms are badly defined most of the time and most people only have a vague sense of what they are. This is because the idea of a platform is a marketing concept that has made a crude transition into the world of publishing.

As writers, we are often still trying to “get it”.

I have spent the last fifteen or so years in the world of marketing and SEO and might be one of the few writers that can explain author platforms to you properly.

What is a platform?

In marketing terms a platform is all the work you have done to get an audience. That audience is listening to you and while you have their attention – that is your platform.

If I had a hit chat show that I hosted, then that chat show would be my platform – millions of people would tune in each week and I could use that to push a message or promote something.

If I have any sense I would promote my product in such a way that I would gain rather than loose viewers. That gaining of viewers is know as building my platform.

A platform is the current attention that I have that I can use to address any topic I want.

A newspaper is a platform. Newspapers moguls often use that platform to play “kingmaker” in general elections.

A successful blog is a platform. Top bloggers often use their platform to make money and sell products or services.

Facebook and Google are a platforms, but they are not your platform. To use Facebook’s or Google’s platform you are going to have to pay money or be very good at viral marketing.

So what is an “Author Platform“?

When Jane Friedman defines an author platform as an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach, she pretty much summed it up.

An author platform is the platform (connection to a steady audience) that you have as an author.

That’s why blogs and social media play such a huge part in building an authorial platform. They enable you to address any topic you wish. Do that well, and your platform will grow.

There is a simple secret to all this.

Neil Gaiman’s “Author Platform

A perfect example of building a good author platform is Neil Gaiman. Mr Gaiman, aside from being an amazing writer and one of my literary heroes, is also genuinely interested in interacting with fans.

Neil Gaiman blogs about life, about writing, and about books that are coming out soon. When his beloved dog passed away millions of us mourned with him. Gaiman’s ability to put feelings into words let us share a personal moment with him; or at least feelt hat we did.

Not only does Neil Gaiman have his blog but he has a Tumblr account too. The by-line says The official Neil Gaiman Tumblr, but honestly no better than the unofficial Neil Gaiman Tumblrs out there. Will sometimes have stuff about my books or my wife in it.

Here, Gaiman will sometimes answer fan questions and give advice to young writers. That’s just the sort of awesome person he is.

Neil Gaiman’s platform is not the blog or the tumblr (although they are put of it). If they were to be deleted tomorrow he could set up shop somewhere else and still have the same platform.

Neil Gaiman’s platform is the loyalty and attention that he has earned from his fans and followers.

He got that by employing the one secret that I am going to share.

Your “Author Platform

When I wrote Setting Up Your Author Platform, I said that the core of your platform would be your own website. That’s because unless you are lucky enough to have a syndicated and popular chat show, a website (with a blog) is probably your best way to get started.

That’s not to say that your main presence might not be a Facebook page, a tumblr account, a youtube channel, a podcast, a web series, an endless series of speaking engagements, or something that no one has even invented yet. It might be any of those, or none of them.

There is also sorts of SEO, video editing, essay writing, networking, and social media management that can go into a good platform. But at the heart of it, the secret of a good authorial platform is so much simpler.

Want to know the secret?

The secret of a good authorial platform

Forbes tries, and makes a good effort, to explain what an author platform is. Read their explanation here. Yet even though they spend two pages explaining author platforms, they only skirt arround the issue.

Neil Gaiman instinctively employes the secret. If you study his platform you might work it out for yourself.

George R. R. Martin was given his platform by HBO (although, to be fair, he had one before that too).

The secret of a good authorial platform (aka your Author Platform) is this:

Give people a reason to spend their finite supply of attention on you, by providing value.

  • You provide value by being authentic.
  • You provide value by constantly connecting with people
  • You provide value by providing content that matters to the people you want to reach.

Neil Gaiman does this by being himself and connecting with other people who are like him. This works because those are exactly the sort of people that will want to read his books.

It helps that Gaiman has been writing a long time and his fans actively seek him out because they passionately love what he does. I know that because I am one of his fans.

George R. R. Martin’s platform works because there is a huge TV show based on his work and enough fans to remind the new fans that there are books they can read.

George R. R. Martin got there by writing solid books and working hard to build a fan base. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like he did that by being a regular guest at expos and festivals. That was what worked for him.

J. K. Rowling maintains a platform by being sassy on Twitter. The geekier news sites love her for it. Of course, it helps that she has a hit book series and a whole bunch of films to back her up. What Rowling is doing is capitalising on her success.

Rowling, Martin, and Gaiman have all found a way to give back to the people that love what they do. It is, very much, a two way relationship between author and fans.

These authors give people a reasons to invest attention on them by providing value.

Attention is finite – the last true limited resource. People do not give it away for no reason.

For example, the fact that you are still reading this article is evidence that I have been successful in sharing something that you have decided was worth your time to read. You are not reading this article because I have some magic way with words but because I have, I hope, shared something that you found helpful.

To make it as an author, we each need to provide a good reason why our content is worth other people’s attention.

Do that and then, when you have a book release coming up, there will be people that are willing to not only notice but care enough to go out and buy that book.

When you and the content you produce are worth attention, people will give it freely. The secret of keeping that attention is to keep giving value.

Of course, there are ways to leverage that attention and maximise your return from it but at the heart of it all is the simple fact – you need to be worth paying attention to.

That is your author platform in a nutshell.

Setting up your author platform

Nothing else will sell your book to an agent or publisher like the idea that you have already set up the marketing and they simply need to cash in on it.

When we talked about getting a good agent and took a look at the advice out there, one of the top points was building a platform. That means gathering prospective enthusiastic readers who would buy your book if it came out today.

A strong platform is like catnip to agents and publishers. It means ready success and, more importantly for everyone, profits.

Creating an author platform is no small task. However, long before your book is ready, there are some foundations you could be putting into place.

In a single post, I could not possibly cover even half of the basics so this is going to be a very broad strokes picture. I will go into more detail on specifics in the future and the chances are that sooner or later I will run a seminar or two on the subject.

So you do not miss out I suggest that you follow or bookmark this blog and like the Thanet Creative Writers page so that you get those updates as soon as they come out.

Building an author platform

This is perhaps the most important single nugget of advice that I can give you – start with something that you completely control.

Facebook, Twitter and all that are great but at the end of the day they are owned by someone else. If you spend all your effort building a platform in someone else’s sandbox and, one day, they close up shop then you have nothing.

There are two things you can control. One on-line and one off-line. Both have legal and security considerations and can carry a small cost but they are worth doing and doing right.

Building an online platform

An online platform should be founded on a website. From here you are going to build a presence as an author. I suggest a setup that allows people to subscribe and allows you to make regular updates.

Those updates are very important. Without them, your site will appear dead and your support will become stale and useless in a matter of months. A great example to follow is Neil Gaiman a popular author who maintains a very open dialogue with his fans.

As part of this site, you are going to need a unique domain name. such as, for example, amazingauthorbob.com (or whatever). I can help with that.

This website should be on hosting that you can directly control. Even if you don’t really understand the ins and outs of it all you, personally, should have access to the files and the database that make up the website.

Hosting is going to set you back a few quid a month. Best value comes from a Linux based hosting deal which offers FTP access, PHP and some sort of database (MySQL for preference). These technologies are likely to cost your host nothing at all so the price of your package will be low. Furthermore, you will be able to run a CMS (content management system) or blog platform (such as WordPress, Joomla, or WebGUI).

Before picking a platform, decide what you want to do with it and then select a platform that does those things really well. You can take a huge number of open source (free) solutions) for a spin at opensourcecms.com. Best of all most of these packages are entirely free if you host them yourself.

If you are not a technical person and find the thought of setting up your own website horrific, it may pay to hire a local geek to do that for you. The chances are, these days, that the average teenager could set that up for you with their eyes closed. Alternatively, some hosting packages come with the option to press a button and have the setup done for you.

The reason for suggesting a CMS or blogging system is that the interface for putting up content is a whole lot friendlier than doing it with raw HTML and CSS files. What’s more, you are in control of the content. Being in control of your own content means that you are free to work on things whenever you have time, rather than waiting for some busy designer to get back to you.

Using an online platform

Now that you have a website with a domain name of your own, you have something that you can put on business cards. Not only that but if you set things up right you also have a custom email address with that domain name in it. Custom email addresses look more professional and inspire trust.

I am sorry to say but from the moment that you launch this platform you are committing to putting out something fresh at least once a week.

Make friends a with a cheap digital camera as photos bring content to life.

If you are part of a local writer’s group, you might consider promoting them. This shows that you are active as a writer and also is reasonably pretty likely to result in reciprocal promotion down the line.

There is one more thing that you need to set up and promote on your site – a contact form. With this you will make connections with possible fans and, assuming you get permission, you will start to build your list.

Building an offline platform

Offline, your best platform is your author’s address book. In marketing terms, we call this your “list”. It is a list of people that you have permission to contact. Ideally, people that will be pleased to hear from you.

As a safety measure do not store this list only in your web hosting. If anything goes wrong with the hosting, you want to keep hold of the list.

I could write from now up to the end of the year about list building, about ways to get people to subscribe to your mailing list, of getting people to sign up for newsletters. Of all that. What it boils down to is networking your behind off.

When you have a book signing, after you are published. Being able to email local fans and get them there will impress the publisher (and your agent) and also get you a lot of credit with local bookshop owners who will be very pleased to have you back next time.

Extending your platform into social media

Now you have the foundations in place, it is time to look at social media. A well established social media outpost represents you, as an author, in the social space but also serves to point people back to your site (home).

Social media users are not at all tolerant of spam – spam in this instance is posting the same thing more than once and also posting very similar things. Mix it up and keep it interesting. Share pictures (use that camera I suggested) as well as links to your new content on-site.

Each site has different amounts of effort required to make it work. Twitter, for example, is somewhat over-posting tolerant and is highly forgiving if you take random days off. Facebook (pages), on the other hand, are extremely intolerant of over posting and goes stale if more than 24 hours are left between updates. Choose what works for you.

Ideally, you are looking to start, not with big numbers, but quality fans or followers. Quality here means: Reacts to and interacts with you.

Try to connect with communities that are interested in the type of book you are finishing.

Conclusion

I could easily write a book about each area that I just covered. There is just so much that could be said. The most important is that building a good platform will make your work easier to get published.

On a side note, you are already doing a lot of free work “for the exposure” so don’t let anyone take advantage of the fact that you are just starting out. Big operations and small will often try to get you to work for nothing more than a link home. You are a professional writer – or will be once published – professionals get paid or at least make an even trade.

Finally, do not let all this distract you from actually writing but try to make a little time to build a valuable platform. You will be glad that you did.

What tips would you add?

Do you have an author website – tell us about it?

Do you promote on social media? Which sites worked best for you?