PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2017
by Michele DeFilippo, Owner, 1106 Design —
With literally millions of books for sale online, a book marketing strategy is more important than ever. You should be thinking about marketing your book even as you finish up your manuscript, and your marketing plan should include building your author platform. An established platform makes authors more attractive to traditional publishers, but is essential for self-publishers.
What Is an Author Platform?
An author platform is a pool of potential book buyers: people to whom you are connected in some manner and who have cause to purchase your book. They are your community, your supporters, your tribe, and your future customers.
When to Build Your Author Platform
Just as anyone who has assembled a physical structure can attest, building takes time, and it’s no different for an author platform. An author who is working on a book but doesn’t yet have a platform should start nurturing an audience now. Don’t wait until the book is finished.
First, it’s critical to know who might buy your book; in fact, you should do this market research before starting to write so that you understand the demographics—the characteristics of those you are addressing—before putting pen to paper.
By knowing who they are, you will have a better idea of where they like to hang out. What social media do they use? What Facebook groups are they in? What blogs do they read? Where do they get their information? What conferences do they attend? What media do they follow?
Authors who have a platform before writing a book are in good shape. Perhaps you are considered an expert in your field and have a large pool of people who recognize your name and expertise and with whom you communicate on a regular basis. Bloggers, entrepreneurs, academics, and professionals in any field would fall into this category. Having an established platform is a good reason to write a book in the first place, because your followers are eager to hear more from you. For a breakdown of who your followers may include, click here.
Where to Start
Your author platform may be spread across many different groups. They need something or somewhere to coalesce—a central point where current information about you can be found.
Enter the author website.
We call these “author websites” because the focus is on you and your most current book and activities. Readers who enjoyed your first book will check back for future publications. All of your books, events, reviews, and other pertinent details should be on one website, preferably using your name as the URL. The site would include links to your social media pages, and is also a place where you can sell your books.
Thus, the author website is a good starting point for assembling your author platform, and you should create a website well before your book is published.
What to Include on Your Author Website
You have about three seconds to convince a website visitor to stay longer and explore. Visitors will quickly form an opinion about your site, your author credibility, and your book. Here is what we recommend to keep people on your site for longer than a few seconds.
A clear website identity and purpose: What is it and who are you? An author? A book? A business? A blog? The main purpose of your site should be identifiable without needing to scroll down the page. A well-designed graphic header catches the eye; include a logo and your name. Feature your latest book prominently on your home page. Include a call to action to encourage them to explore your site further.
A website structure that makes sense: Work with a web designer to map out the site structure so that any text you add, now or in the future, has a predetermined place. Steve Jobs famously said, “Design isn’t decoration; it’s communication.” The reader’s eye must be led from the most important information to the least important information in a logical way.
Great content: We recommend the following pages as a starting point, but your content depends largely on the purpose of your site. For example, if your book is meant to promote your consulting or other business services, include a page about the services you offer.
- Home page: Basic information about your book, plus images of the book, the author, and easy-to-find links to your bookselling page.
- Author bio: All about you, plus one or two photos.
- News and events: Links to interviews, scheduled author appearances, book signings, book fairs, and webinars.
- Buy the book: Links to your book seller pages on Amazon, etc., plus your own e-commerce if you are selling and shipping the book yourself. Don’t forget information for bulk purchases!
- Blog: Your blog gives readers an example of your writing so that they are more motivated to buy your book. The blog allows them to get to know you and what you stand for. Use your blog to keep readers in the loop about your book launch date and follow your progress as you write your book.
- Book overview: Typically the text from the back of your book, plus an image of your book cover.
- Book reviews: Your endorsements and links to online reviews of your book.
- Contact me: Typically a message form rather than your email address. If you are comfortable doing so, include your address and telephone number.
Social follow buttons: Where can your community find you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media hangouts? Make sure your social “follow” buttons are displayed prominently at the top and bottom of each web page.
Social share buttons: These buttons, typically located at the top and bottom of each page on your site allow readers to share your website with their own communities.
Google Analytics: Google Analytics provides essential information that guides you in tweaking your site to make it a better experience for your visitors and attract new ones. Include a Google Analytics tracking code on your site; sign up for Google Analytics via your Gmail account.
For inspiration, look at the websites of your favorite authors. Just as you would review bestselling books for guidance on cover design, the websites of bestselling authors will give you some inspiration for your own.
Putting Your Website to Work
Once you have an author website, it’s time to put it to work building your author platform.
First, start blogging. Changing the content on your website frequently is essential and creates a reason for people to visit your website regularly.
Then, let your fans know about your blog. A weekly or biweekly newsletter sent via email marketing programs such as MailChimp allows you to put your blog posts right in their email inbox, along with other information you think they might find useful. Include a “subscribe” box on your website so that people can sign up to receive your emails. There are online courses that teach you how to build your email list and how to best use it to your advantage.
Publish short papers as free downloads from your website. These papers provide more samples of your writing and evidence of your expertise. Short white papers, worksheets, checklists, or infographics can be used as giveaways to thank people for signing up to your mailing list.
Find opportunities to be a speaker on a webinar or at a conference. Include the link to the webinar or conference, and any recordings of you speaking, on your website.
Be a guest blogger on someone else’s blog, and include links to your website in your author bio.
Post all of the above to your social media accounts on a regular basis.
Before long, you should start to notice people following you, visiting and commenting on your blog, and joining your subscription list. Your platform is starting to grow!
Building enough of a following to sell books takes time. We can’t say it often enough: start building your platform while you are still writing your book. Let your new fans follow along as you write your book and prepare it for launch. The fascination with authors never goes away, and just about everyone is in awe of those who manage to publish a book—self-published or otherwise. Learn how to capitalize on nurturing that special relationship between the author and the reader, starting with your website, and you will be well on your way.
Michele DeFilippo owns 1106 Design, a Phoenix-based company that offers cover design, interior layout, manuscript editing, and more, with expert indie-publishing advice and hand-holding every step of the way.
Who’s with You?
- People who follow your blog
- Subscribers to your podcasts or videos
- Your clients and potential clients, if your book is in a field in which you are considered an expert
- Conference attendees, if you are regular speaker at events in your field
- If you run webinars on a particular topic, attendees are part of your platform
- Subscribers who have signed up to your e-mail subscription list and with whom you communicate regularly via a newsletter
- If your name appears in the media because you’re a go-to person for various topics or your activities are reported to the public (this is why celebrities are able to publish books!)
- Your followers on social media