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.

Writers Writing Update: Winners and links

I’ve restarted this opening paragraph a dozen or so times today. Even as I write I am also fighting the urge to delete what I have written and write something else instead.

I want to write a post that looks back on some of the highlights of the competition so far, link out to all the entries that I have found for this week and also brings you the winners from last week’s entries.

That is probably asking just a bit too much from myself. It’s been a busy week and this is the first day where I have had a chance to catch up with things. I’m also a bit torn because we’ve recently started publishing writing prompts and I want to go and play with them too.

If I had wings…

If I had wings, I would probably forget all this and take to the sky. Forget the ground, I’d be up there thinking “man this is so much fun but I need a thicker coat”. Our theme for this week is: If I had wings and could fly. The superhero I’ve daydreamed about being more often than any other is Angel (who does have wings and can fly).

My fantasies aside, let’s look at what you have been publishing.

As far as I can tell, that’s all the folks that have published for this week so far. At least, that was all the ones I found when I checked yesterday evening.

Who do I admire?

If you read the rambling that I write for Thanet Creative Writers, Thanet Star, The Fantastic site, and so forth, then you will probably know that I have a few writers that I utterly adore. Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Iain M Banks, Ted Dekker, and Anne Rice, to name but a few.

In cast you missed it: Last week’s theme was about admiration. Here are the winners.

But first, every last person who entered – just so you know that I did not (or maybe I did) miss anyone out.

Side note: Your blogs are starting to gain traction and I detected the first sniff of spam slipping past the filters. I’m going to write about spam comments soon, I think. Attracting spam, though bad, is often the first sign that you are reaching the world. Keep doing what you do.

We admire the participants

I’m guessing that this topic was not a hugely inspirational prompt for you wonderful writers. That’s a shame as influences are an important topic for writers to disclose but never mind, it’s all good. And I have less to try and pick a winner from (so that’s good for me).

The winners

Winners are found in three categories each week.

  1. Best post
  2. Most comments
  3. Best comment

This week we have one single winner. Which has forced me to go and do some editing to this finish. The awards for best post, best comment, and most comments goes to…

…profbenj.

I did not realise that we had just one winner until I looked at my notes and realised that all three sections had been given to the same person. I was tempted to give the best post to someone else just to split it up a bit but the truth is profbenj has written a most deserving post – “Whom do I admire?” is a newspaper quality personal story with a narrative that catches you up and takes you back through a memory. It also has a deservingly large collection of comments.

Likewise, the comment on Jess Joy’s post leapt out at me as an ideal comment. It showed that the comment poster had read and participated in the post they had read and yet raises interesting questions and adds, I feel, true value to the post. It was not the only comment to do that but this one struck me as saying a lot with a few words. I’m not even sure I can say what I liked so much about it but as soon as I read it I thought “this might be the winner”.

Congratulations to all who took part but particularly to last week’s winner. This week’s winner(s) are going to be just as hard to pick, I can tell that already. You only have a few days so if you have not yet posted. I’d not hang around much longer if I were you.

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.

Week One Winners

As I suspected, choosing the winners for this first week has been no easy task. I was assessing not only for writing style and content but the planning and execution of the very hard task of setting up a blog.

There were three winners to identify:

  1. Best Post
  2. Best Comment
  3. Most Commented upon

For best post, I decided to look at a number of criteria:

  • style
  • clarity
  • reading ease
  • inventiveness
  • novelty

As you all had to set up a blog I decided the only fair way to judge that aspect of the competition was to separate it out into an extra bonus section. This week only, there will be four winners. The fourth winner being:

  • Bonus #1: for making a great effort setting up a blog

Things that particularly impressed me

The thing that impressed me most was that you all managed to get set up somewhere to post your entries. For some of you, I know that this was not an easy first step. Just taking part demanded that you step up and get to grips with something new. You all deserve recognition for overcoming the barrier to entry in order to take part.

You have all created praise-worthy first-week entries and blogs. If I was to cover everything we would be here all day so I have focused on one or two things that most impressed me about each one. Forgive me for not linking to all the blogs again. There is a list of all participants here.

The Joy of Words hit the ground running and got their blog post out nice and quickly. This gave the post an enormous head start when it came to getting comments. From the names I saw here and nowhere else, I imagine that this post has been shared on the author’s Facebook timeline.

Braidy Spice mentioned a story she had written and then promised to share it one day soon. This is a great idea. It reassures readers that there is something to come back for and it gives you a game plan for what you are going to write next. I also have to say that her by-line made me chuckle – Writer Without a Clue: The Ramblings of Pantser.

Artimas Blake (Simon) knocked it out of the park with his easy-to-relate-to conversational style. There was a sparkling wit to the way he writes his entry which in many ways reminded me of the better sort of newspaper column. If he keeps up with that style of writing, Simon should have no trouble building a strong following for his Artimas Blake pen-name.

Irving Benjamin is clearly new to blogging software and yet powered through and adapted. Getting stuck in, making mistakes, and then learning from them is all part of the learning process. None of us would write anything if we let fear of spelling, grammar, or style mistakes stop us. Irving’s approach – of just getting in there and figuring it out – impressed me.

Kentish Rambler chose a no-frills blog theme. This can be a powerful choice when you want your content above all else to shine. She clearly has a good eye for what works. Despite a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get set up, she has done an exceptional job. Kentish Rambler has attacked a difficult task with great success. I also have to stop and give praise to a poem which really summed up writing and why I write. I found her post very easy to relate to.

Neil W included inline links in his post. These links were appropriate to and enhanced the context. His links take the reader to somewhere they can read up on the topics he mentions which is a great way to add value to a post. Good links, such as these, provide readers with a good experience. Linking out is a great skill to develop and a solid way of establishing what the connections of your post in the wider world.

Ansteysp, who has a user name I am not sure how to pronounce, chose a theme which is focused on reading above all else. Like Kentish Ramblers minimalist theme, this one too is fantastic for reading. Ease of reading is a big deal and can make it much easier for a blog to really take off and find a solid reader base. I think the big theme and dominant image matched the mood and style of the narrative form used for this post.

The Winners

When I say this was a hard choice, I am not being nice. This was one of the hardest choices I have ever had to make. Even after grading all the posts on a scale of 1 to 5 for different areas, I still had several joint first places. I took a long time over this. In the end, the winner of “Best Post” was a photo finish.

Week One Best Post: Kentish Rambler

When it comes to poetry I am very hard to please. Not only was this post expressive of the theme (as so many were), and not only did it resonate with me, but it was a poem. This post picked up bonus points for being a novel approach to the theme and managed, by a nose, to win out against some very stiff competition.

Week One Best Comment: Neil W

There were several strong contenders for best comment but Neil’s comment was a stand out winner for me. There were a lot of good comments but this one, in particular, I felt really epitomised what giving good feedback is all about. Neil’s comment, along with several others, added a great deal of value to both the blog post as well as, I feel, being good feedback for the writer.

Week One Most commented Upon Post

Here, at least, was a contest point that required only that I be able to count. Jess Joy’s post gathered a lot more comments than any other. I am pleased that I am able to write that this post is a winner because it was a very strong contester for the Best Post slot and, like all the posts this week, it deserved some love.

Bonus Winner: for making a great effort setting up a blog

When I wrote that we would have a bonus prize for best effort, I foolishly thought it would be easy to judge. This was not the case. However, there was one contest participant who I could see was making a lot of effort (and indeed I praised that effort). Irving Benjamin, this one is for you.

And Now: Week Two

Why not congratulate the winners (and other participants) by giving them some comment love.

Best of luck to everyone who takes part with this week’s theme. It’s not too late if you want to join in now – there are 11 themes left to go.

You can find out about Week Two’s theme here.

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.