6 Ways to Strengthen Your Author Platform
I was once interviewed by the arts editor for my town’s weekly. I talked about the various books I had published, the writing process, and my philosophy on promotion. I believe I said, “Writing the book is only half of my job as the author. Promoting it is the other half.”
When the article came out, I felt that He Who Shall Not Be Named had skewed my comments to portray me as a hack, as someone who churned out marketable books without craft or care. During the interview, I had tried to make the point that being an author is a job, that publishing is a business, and that we as writers have to do our part to ensure a successful venture for everyone involved.
That was 2007 and my, how times have changed. These days, if you’re an author and not promoting your book on social networks, through brick-and-mortar stores, via your contacts and other channels, you are setting yourself up to fail. You will have a challenging time getting published through traditional outlets, and you’ll have virtually no chance of selling any self-published project.
That’s not my opinion. That’s just a fact. When talking with my agent or publishing colleagues, the importance of a strong author platform is driven home again and again. “The first thing we do when considering a book is to look at an author’s digital footprint,” said one high-level publishing executive. In other words, they Google you.
So while it’d be nice to think that your writing can stand on its own, editors and agents are looking for authors who can write, yes, but who can also sell their book idea and themselves. When you pitch your book proposal, you want to highlight your terrific writing plus the connections you have to personally help sell and promote the book. Here are some simple ways to start beefing up your author platform, starting right now.
1. Have a blog—but don’t give away the farm.
If you have the bandwidth to maintain a blog, go for it. Think about showcasing your writing style and themes related to your book, without quoting it verbatim. Posts don’t have to be long, so a blog can be a place for brief pieces that don’t fit into your longer work. A blog is an excellent and obvious way to increase your web presence (tagging posts, using keywords, and learning SEO tips will also help you get the biggest bang for your blog buck).
2. Offer your services.
Does your book topic lend itself to lectures to nonprofit groups or other outreach into your community? Could you volunteer for an organization that relates to your topic? Might you read your children’s book at libraries or schools, or serve on a panel at a writing conference? All of these simple efforts increase your exposure.
3. Become an expert.
You should know your book topic better than anyone. Sign up for a Google Alert on keywords related to your topic, and stay apprised of any mentions in the media. This applies for fiction as well. Does your novel involve performance art, adventure travel, birdwatching, or the Korean music scene? Make sure you’re keeping up with what people are saying on your subject, and you’ll know where to find those folks when your book comes out.
4. Harness the power of Goodreads.
Amazon knows a good thing when it sees it. The behemoth recently bought Goodreads, knowing that book buyers and readers hang out on the site. In fact, they’re passionate about it. If you’ve spent any time on Goodreads, you’ll know that it’s a robust social network that focuses on books and the readers who love them. If you are published, there are loads of ways to engage with your audience, such as creating a separate author profile, offering giveaways, and starting discussion threads with relevant readers. For more on leveraging Goodreads, read our Business of Books post here.
5. Seek out publicity opportunities.
Repeat after me: “It’s okay to be a publicity hound!” If you’re positioning yourself as an expert on a subject, act like one. Offer to write guest posts on blogs where your future book-buying audience may hang out. Sign up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out), and answer the call when someone needs a quote on your subject. Pitch yourself to local media when you hear they’re doing a story that relates to your book.
6. Troll your background.
Sometimes, we forget how many skills we have or people we know. Spend some quality time thinking of previous job experience, personal connections, and media contacts that might be of interest to a publisher or agent. Keep notes on all this, so you can fold it into your book proposal.
For more help on your author platform, check out the Business of Books webinar on the subject.
Jennifer Worick is the former editorial director of Running Press and has co-authored or written more than 25 books, including Things I Want to Punch in the Face and the New York Times bestselling The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex. Jennifer and Kerry Colburn are the dynamic duo behind The Business of Books (www.bizofbooks.com), a publishing consulting company based in Seattle.