You’ve decided to write a book.
There are several different reasons for this. You may have the urge to write due to one or more of them. Aside from the masochistic streak, of course.
I posted a poll in 2020 and got all kinds of answers as to why people write. Some wanted to get the story out of their head, some wanted the voices to be quiet, some wanted to write for themselves, some wanted to see their name in print, some wanted to make a business out of it.
This post is mostly for those that want to make a business out of it. Or at least sell a few copies of their book.
As I’ve discussed in other posts, you need to publish more (a lot more) than one book to make any money in the publishing business. You may go the route of stand-alone novels and build your name as your brand. You may go the route of a series of related but stand-alone novels, where both your name and a component of the books is the brand. You may go the route of writing an intimately related and connected book series, where the brand may be your name, the name of the series, the interconnecting thread of the series, characters, or any other element. Any way you choose, you must have several books out in the market place to make money.
And we arrive at the tricky part. Making money.
If you are a traditionally published author, you have to support your publisher in their effort to get your book out to the public. You may be thinking “Wait, if I’m traditionally published, I write the book and they do the rest, right?” Well, yes… and no. You see, they will help a lot. They will make sure your book is well-edited, all the different variants of editing, which is selfish to a point, they want it to be the best possible product. You, as the author, still have to clean it up, correct any mistakes or perform any adjustments, etc. but the editing will be provided. They will format the book for all pertinent presentations. They will choose and provide the cover. They will use their distribution network to get the book out and they will do a little to get the book promoted. As little as possible. They do this because they’ve already paid the author some money, the advance, and then the author will only receive any additional money once the book has sold enough that your author royalties have covered the advance. From here on, you get more money, true, but it is a steep hill to climb.
Most new authors in traditional publishing get very little in the way of marketing support from the publishers, you, as the author, have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Once you are notorious (not even famous) they pay a lot more attention and are willing to invest some more money in marketing your book because they know (hope, aspire, cross fingers, etc.) it will sell as well or better than the previous one and will also stimulate the sales of the backlist.
If you are an independent author, then you have to do everything, as I’ve discussed in other posts. Here you have to put all the investment yourself. I say investment because it can be money or it can be time. It will surely end up being both, but there will always be an emphasis on one of the two.
OK, what does any of this have to do with an Author’s Platform? Good of you to ask.
In order to successfully promote your book, whether through a traditional publisher or as an indie author, an author platform is a very important tool in your arsenal. I will break it down into three parts, not because that’s best, but because it was the easiest way for me to understand it.
You knew I was going to say that. And I knew you knew.
Which social media? Why?
It will depend on the moment you read this post.
At one point Facebook was king. If you weren’t on Facebook, you did not exist. Then it was Twitter, which was quick and snappy and the end-all. Snap Chat was big. YouTube is a great platform because of its flexibility. Instagram is big right now. Tic Toc too. I could go on.
Any social media where people go to exchange information, follow others, and join groups with similar tastes and preferences is a platform you want to be in. The flavor of the month, that’s the one you want to be on, without leaving the other popular ones out.
People have built careers and made a lot of money being “social media celebrities”. Social media is a great place to promote your books, but you have to be very careful about how you do it. If you go on social media, any social media, and all you post are variations of buy my book, do it now, it will not help you at all. It might hurt. A lot.
You have to join the community in whichever social media you choose, share there something about yourself and your work. Build, slowly over time, a group of people that enjoy your genre, usually, a year is a good time frame, but it may take longer. You share some of your plans, but also interact in terms of enjoying the current offer. Review with them different works, comment on the new releases, all of that, be an integral part of the group. Once you are well established as a member of the group, you can start promoting your work. Be it a first novel or your newest work. By then, the group will know you and will have a fair idea of what your work will be like, then you can promote it to them. If it all goes well, they will function as a resonance chamber and they will amplify your message, reaching many people in their social sphere, far outside yours.
Here you will need to place not just a blurb, but also a book trailer, which is always good, cover reveals, and all the other neat marketing tricks we talk about in other posts.
There are several downsides to social media.
It can get highjacked. A trend can be so intense and prevalent that drowns out everything else, like an election, for example.
A new rule or regulation may come out and block you from promoting your work.
The company might split or go out of business.
If it is an international company, it may be banned from a country or countries you want to promote your work in.
The most important observation about social media is that it’s not under your control. Say your account got hacked and the perpetrator did something wrong and your account got suspended. You lose all your work. All of it. You may create a new account, and you will have a head start, of course, but most of your work on the platform will be lost.
And, of course, the most dreaded and worst possible scenario: it goes out of fashion. You end up being the ruler of an empty realm. Not good.
There are many ways you can face catastrophe in social media, so, it’s a tool, but not the only tool and to be used as such.
A newsletter is a good tool. Some authors are excellent at using it and create a very loyal following.
A newsletter is a lot of work. Let me write that again, a newsletter is a lot of work.
It has to be consistent. If it’s once a week, once a month, once a quarter, it has to be out on time, every time.
It has to be engaging. The content has to be valuable. People must be anxious to get the next number. The content has to appeal to all your audience and be good enough to have it grow organically by having people recommend it to their friends and others.
It has to be geared to promoting your work. It has to have other things, many other things on it. But. It must be a showcase for your work. It can’t be the only thing on it, because people will get tired of it, but it has to be a natural conduit for it. If you write horror, your newsletter can not be about erotica, even if you get more people with that tag initially (I’m making this up, I don’t really know if more people will follow erotica than will follow horror).
The main virtue of your Newsletter is that it’s yours. It will not go away, can not be taken from you, and you have a treasure trove of email addresses of people that read your genre and your work and actually look forward to buying your book once it comes out.
AUTHOR’S WEB PAGE
My third component for the platform is going to be a web page.
Just like the newsletter, this is yours and yours alone.
It is the perfect place to test out some of your chapters (after they have been exhaustively edited for grammar and spelling – content you may be able to change… a little anyway), test your cover concepts, and make any other efforts to connect with your intended audience. Maybe some short stories, maybe your experience in your particular writing journey.
Your website has to be a showcase for you, for your book, or your series. Your website may contain a wiki for your world. It may contain character profiles. It can have any and all things that have to do with your writing that will interest your readers.
And, of course, it may have a store, both for your books and for any associated merchandise you may have.
So there you are, my take on an author’s platform. Did I miss a component you think is important? Essential? What is it? Did you like the breakdown? Let me know.
Thanks so much for reading and have a great day.