Fifty Ways to Build an Author Platform
Writing rules. Self-promotion drools. Isn’t this how most writers think?
But as long as you view your writing as art and your self-promotion efforts as the furthest thing from art, your chances of ramping up a successful 21st-century writing career are going to remain slim to none.
These days, there’s an art to writing and an art to self-promotion. From the moment you start putting words to the page, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to share them. And once you begin to see your writing and promotional efforts as equally artful, something wonderful starts to happen: You find readers.
Books aren’t written overnight — they’re developed one day at a time. And it’s the same with our platforms, which comprise all the ways we make ourselves visible to our readers. The idea that you need a platform might seem overwhelming at first. But if you consistently take small steps to put yourself out there, before you know it, you’ll have built a strong, sturdy foundation for your work.
So, if you’re the kind of writer who prefers being read to being unknown (who doesn’t?), here are 50 quick, simple ways to launch your platform into action. Think of each small step as a giant leap toward finding readers — and a fun, rewarding opportunity to share your hard-wrought words with others.
Listen & Learn
1. Find Your Keepers. Clarify the kinds of readers you want to connect with now, and you’ll be glad you did later. First, jot down a quick list of all the types of readers you’ve ever had. Now, decide which groups you want to stay connected with for the long haul, and make them your keepers.
2. Start Surveillance. Google Alerts (google.com/alerts) can help you become practically omnipresent in only a few clicks. Take five to set up alerts to notify you when your name, articles, book(s), Twitter handle, site URL and/or specialty topics pop up online. When you’re alerted to people promoting your name, supporting your work or sharing your ideas, stick out your virtual hand and say, “Hey, thanks! I appreciate that.”
3. Poll for Solutions. Ask questions. You’ll get answers. If you’re wondering which online photo hosting service to use, or if others are having the same server problems that you are, try posting the question on Facebook and Twitter. I do this often, and love coming back and reading what others have said. If it’s a decision you’re making, share which advice you followed.
4. Show Respect. On social networks, follow and friend folks in your field whom you admire. Steer clear of anyone shifty, clingy or shilling stuff all the time. A good rule of thumb: Don’t promote or forward the causes of anyone online who you wouldn’t in regular life. It takes time to get to know people, but it’s worth it when your reputation is on the line.
5. Study the Competition. Jump on a search engine and type in the keywords that describe what you write about. See who pops up on your radar. Don’t be afraid of the competition; study your competitors. What are they doing better than you? Add what you learn to your to-do list.
6. Introduce Yourself. Take a few minutes to write a brief bio you can use wherever your name appears online. Include your URL, relevant professional credentials, recent publications (online or off), significant self-published efforts and professional partnerships.
7. Show Yourself in Action. I’m willing to bet you have a whole bunch of photos of yourself out and about doing what you do. If some are shots of you writing, great. But even better if you have some decent-quality photos of you speaking, teaching a workshop, signing books or the like. Collect them, and use them to accompany your posts online.
8. Post Ads and Affiliate Links. You need to make money to invest money in your platform, so why not make the most of the resources and tools you already like? You won’t get rich from affiliate revenue, but it can add up over the course of a year and cover some of your ongoing platform expenses. It takes minutes to post an ad or affiliate link on your website or blog.
9. Hold an Event. Have an event with a time limit (like one week only, or 30 days). Create whatever type of environment is appropriate for what you write—perhaps an activity where something has to be completed in a certain amount of time so there is a ticking-clock factor (think NaNoWriMo). Create an environment that draws your tribe in, helps people interact and get to know one another, and converts folks into loyal fans who will keep coming back for more. Dream something up.
10. Grade Yourself. HubSpot makes free graders (grader.com) that can gauge the effectiveness of your website, blog, Google Alerts, Facebook page, Twitter account and more. Each grader takes less than five minutes to run. Do so periodically, and add its suggestions to your to-do list.
11. Give It Away. Spread the word across your social networks for everyone to come and get whatever you can give for free. If you already wrote an article that you don’t plan to sell, why not give it away? Maybe you created something inspirational or uplifting. Give it away. People love free.
12. Brainstorm 20 Ideas. If you don’t constantly ask yourself what new ideas you have, half of them will get away. And then you’ll have to read your idea on someone else’s blog, or in a magazine or newspaper with someone else’s byline. That’s how the zeitgeist works. So get in the habit of writing down your ideas, perhaps in a special idea journal. Drain your brain into it five minutes at a time.
13. Put Your Best Forward. Make sure people who are just discovering your offerings can go straight to some of your best online writing that has passed the test of time. Otherwise it’s just going to get buried under your latest efforts. Most blogs have widgets that will do the rounding up for you. Create a way to send fans and followers straight to your best posts.
14. Recycle. Take a few minutes to pitch content you’ve already written to a new outlet. Can you find a blog, forum or association newsletter that might be interested in your topic? Put some of your old writing to work all over again for fresh eyes.
15. Review Worthy Writers. Inquiring readers want to know what books you like and why. Briefly review books as you read them and post your insights on review sites (like GoodReads, Amazon.com and Red Room). For good karma, sing the praises of your all-time favorites, too.
16. Prompt a Response. A prompt is a suggestive word or theme that cues an interactive response from others. It can be as simple as a photo, symbol or word, or as complicated as a riddle. When hosting an annual book giveaway, I asked a question each day for a month, and everyone who answered was entered in the drawing. Participants loved the prompt more than the free books. It’s a fun way to interact with your growing online community.
17. Take Five to Interact. Reply to commenters on your blog. Thank people who used your free content. Think of three people to appreciate for any reason at all. Spend a little bit of time with those who’ve gone out of their way to care about you.
18. Make an Engaging Offer. If you’re working on a project and you need people to get involved, offer something—say, a discount or kickback—to the first 50 who express interest. Create excitement for those who are willing to work with you.
19. Form Strategic Partnerships. Who do you want to partner with? Being friendly and helpful should have no strings attached—but true partnerships are mutually beneficial, formal agreements in which each party is hoping to gain something specific. List three likely partners and reach out to them.
20. Create a Quickie Blogroll. Make a quick list of writers you admire. Then search for links to their blogs or sites to create your blogroll. Position your blog as an inspiring resource by going for quality, not quantity.
21. Be Yourself. Advice that tells authors to act like brands encourages us to forget to act like regular people. But social media is made for people, not robots. The fact that you’re a writer and a parent or an uncle and a Packers fan or a vegetarian makes you interesting. Your readers and fans want you to be personable, not a one-topic ever-plugging broken record. Spend five minutes making a profile more you.
22. Put Passion Into Action. Let’s say you write literary fiction. Isn’t that harder to build a platform around? Nope. Take your passion online and put it to work. Don’t assume no one cares. Assume there are a million people out there like you, and start connecting with them. Take five to write a quickie mission statement about why you’re on fire about your topic. Reread it every time you get online. It will help focus your efforts.
23. Get Together. Let folks know that you’ll be speaking or signing or teaching (or whatever else you do) near them when you travel. Make yourself accessible.
24. Spark Conversations. Other people are just as passionate about your topic as you are. So get on Google, do a Twitter search, visit forums where your topic is trending and spend five minutes participating in a chat. If nothing is happening, strike up your own conversation.
25. Share the Journey. I bet you have a lot going on right now. Surely some of it is interesting. Or perhaps you have a fresh take on what you have on your plate that others would find humorous or refreshing. Update others on what’s happening right now. Don’t try to keep your ups and downs a secret. Curious fans love to be treated like insiders.