How to build a solid writer’s platform?

By Joe Moore
@JoeMoore_writer

With the rapid growth of indie publishing, the responsibility of marketing and promotion falls even more on the shoulders of the author. One of the most important questions the indie author can ask is “Do I have a solid platform?” Writing a quality, professional manuscript properly edited and designed is a good start. But you also need to prepare a ready-made audience consisting of a fan base or at least a group of potential fans. And for new writers, this must be done BEFORE you publish your book. Even veteran, multi-book authors must have a solid, established platform. It should be part of your overall publishing business plan.

platform1What is a platform?

In a single word, your platform is your “brand”. Having a solid platform in the indie world is the foundation of selling more books.

How do you establish or build your platform? The quickest way is to start with the Internet. Here are a couple of methods to begin nailing your platform together.

Website. There was a time when a website was only for the rich and famous. Those days are long gone. A writer without a website is about as logical as a carpenter without a tool kit. The indie author’s website is the “first impression” a potential reader gets of your brand. It’s truly a no-brainer. Your website is your billboard, your advertisement, your calling card. And the potential for delivering a creative message is only limited to your imagination. Essential elements on your website must include: a method for contacting you; a method for purchasing your book(s); a method for the press to gain information (digital press kit); an incentive to linger or return such as a contest or free sample chapters; a method for you to track your website. Other considerations include continuity in your website colors and design that are in sync with your book covers or other branding elements, and a reasonable amount of interactivity such as a method of leaving comments or subscribing to newsletters and publication news, or RSS and other informational digital feeds.

Blogging. A blog is an online method of expressing your thoughts with a means for visitors to leave a comment or opinion. As a writer, your blog will probably be about your writing, your books, or some other connection to your craft and career. Some authors like to venture away from their books and discuss other topics such as politics, religion, economics, etc. A word of warning: You’ve worked hard to establish and build your “brand”. Don’t blow it by pissing off your readers. At some point they just might reject your next thriller or mystery because they don’t agree with your position on unrelated issues. A blog can easily turn into a slippery slope.

Newsletter. As previously mentioned, your website needs a method for your visitors and fans to subscribe to a newsletter or news bulletin. If they’re a fan, they want to know about you and your books. When is your next book coming out? When are you going to do a signing in their area? Will you be at a particular writer’s conference? They want the latest news. And the best and most economical way to get them what they want is an electronic newsletter. There are numerous email-generating newsletter sources that you can use to put together a value-filled publication. A few suggestions are Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Vertical Response.

Write some stuff. Any writing credit is a good writing credit, and it helps build your platform. No matter what you write, whether it’s for the local paper or a national magazine, you’re byline should contain a mention that you are a novelist. So if the reader likes your article or how-to piece, and they see you also write thrillers or mysteries, that’s a potential plank in your platform.

Book forums. There are a ton of forums out there dealing with readers and writers. A good resource to begin finding them is groups.yahoo.com/. Others include WritersNet, Backspace, and Absolute Write. Make yourself known on these and similar forums and you’ll be adding to your brand and platform.

Social Networks. Sites like LinkedIn.com, Facebook.com, Twitter.com, Goodreads, and countless others are perfect for building your brand. The only potential risk is the time you might spend on these sites instead of writing your book. But they are a terrific source of finding your dedicated or new fans. A word of caution: see the note on blogging above.

Additional platform-building tools include professional publicity photos of yourself and a strong press-ready biography. Also, memberships in writer organizations such as the International Thriller Writers or Mystery Writers of America help build your brand and platform among your colleagues and fans. The networking and connections made within these organizations and their subsequent writer conferences are invaluable.

Now it’s your turn, Zoners. What additional planks have you nailed into your writer’s platform?
rapsheet1———————————
Like your thrillers in French? No problem. THE BLADE and THE SHIELD have just been released in French.

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25 thoughts on “How to build a solid writer’s platform?

  1. Although it’s not necessarily part of one’s platform, a marketing guru said that a way to reach people who don’t already know you’re a writer is to have a “honeypot” page (or pages) on your website or blog. Something interesting which may or may not be related to your writing career. If people are searching that subject, they’ll find your article and then notice (one hopes) that you writes book, too. And maybe they’ll check them out. Kind of back door marketing. I’ll have to look into more book forums. I’ve got all the rest.

    • Terry, the honeypot idea is a good one. I’ve used it on my Facebook page to link to research articles used in my thrillers.

      • I get a lot of hits on my “What’s Cooking Wednesday” pages on my blog (which is connected to my website) as people search for recipes. The advice from that same guru was “get people to your website, not your social media sites.” You can engage them on Twitter or Facebook, but you convert them to buyers on your website or blog. His wording: “Don’t build your castle in someone else’s sandbox.”

  2. Timely advice, as I just renamed my blog and moved it to WordPress, and launched links to it on Facebook. It just wasn’t getting found where it was, although I have to admit the fault was mostly mine. I didn’t push it, and I wasn’t good about updating. Two, three, four posts in a row, then a few weeks or months away. That’ll never work. Consistency is an important part of the game. Have much, much more work to do in the coming months, but making sure I have something new to engage readers on a regular basis just can’t be ignored.

  3. All true, John. If someone walks past a department store window every day, and sees the same display, eventually they will stop looking.

  4. Joe,
    This is so timely. One hour ago, I finished incorporating proofreading edits into my manuscript. Next step is to build up my platform, so I’m printing out your article.

    Another marketing resource for me is my high school graduation class. Two years ago, we had a milestone reunion ( don’t have to say which one.). I told everyone I was writing a novel. Several people were interested in hearing or reading more about it, so I gave out cards with my blog address. We’re having another reunion in September. By then, I’ll have a published book, so maybe I’ll stash some books in the car trunk. Just in case…

  5. Find sales where ever you can. And there’s nothing wrong with selling out of your car trunk. I did it and so have many others. That’s the “business” side of writing. Good luck with your Sept launch.

  6. Thanks for a great post, Joe.

    So many good ideas. And so succinct. I’m printing it out.

    I don’t have any “planks to nail into writer’s platform,” except as you said to “find sales wherever you can.” At my day job, I have a poster and a monthly drawing for a free book – another social media like the Truant’s high school class.

    Thanks for the ideas.

  7. Great tips, Joe! I find being active and posting on Facebook and Twitter have really helped my visibility and sales. I joined LinkedIn but never use it, and have heard from other authors that they don’t find it all that helpful…? What do you and our readers think of LinkedIn? When I find some time, I’ll probably try Instagram and/or Pinterest. Have other authors found those sites useful?

    • Jodie, I agree. LinkedIn is geared more for building business connections although I have become friends with and received tech advice for my books from a number of my LinkedIn friends.

    • First, sorry I’m late with this, but I spent half of yesterday at the dentist, and the other recovering. As to LinkedIn, I joined it 10 years ago and still see no actual value. I know what they *say* it’s for, I just don’t see it. I joined as part of a diabolical plot to become the paid spokesman for Rogue Brewery’s Dead Guy Ale, or at least to get a couple of free cold ones from them. No luck so far, but we live in hope. Or in this case, we live in hops.

      • Better late than never, John. 10 years is a long time to wait for a free beer. Might want to cruise down to the 7-11. Just sayin’. Thanks for dropping by TKZ.

  8. Just finished sending in update and newsletter material to my web guru. Whew. Your metaphor about the department store window is well taken!

  9. Jodie, I find LinkedIn is a good place for your platform. You can have quite an extensive free author page, and there are a number of reading/writing Interest groups on board. As for Pinterest, I create story boards for my titles and those seem to draw viewers. View my sites here: http://pinterest.com/njcohen/

  10. Other tools I use include Rafflecopter Contests and Giveaways at Goodreads and LibraryThing. I have to plan these out now for the next four months. And I do my own book trailers. Yes, I know readers don’t buy books based on video trailers, but for me they’re fun. I use the same images on my Pinterest story boards. Plus, it’s another way to advertise your book. Right now, ALL I’m doing is marketing. But it takes advance planning for a new release. Oh, and I do Facebook new release parties, too. Do those people buy my book? Who knows? But it’s name recognition. And if they win a backlist title as a giveaway, maybe they’ll post a review.

  11. Excellent advice, Joe. When you start a blog, invite writers with good, solid platforms to guest blog, and ask if they or their publisher will give away a book. This helps bring eyes to your blog. The guest author should write in your sub-genre — suspense, or cozy or hardboiled. This makes their audience aware of your work.
    Join organizations — Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, etc. You need the help and support of your writing colleagues.

    • You’re right about the notable guests, Elaine. When we started TKZ in 2008, we had Sandra Brown and Steve Berry as guest bloggers. Gotta get those guys back.

  12. When you say book forums do you mean places like Goodreads and CrimeSpace? Because I’ve got those covered. I’ll look into the other sites you’ve mentioned as well. Thanks for the tip!

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