Jennifer Lovett Herbranson
An Author Platform is Only for Nonfiction Authors
Get outta here! Platform is for everyone!
Ok, so it’s definitely easier for a nonfiction author because they already know what question they are trying to answer for their audience. All the information they’ve spent years learning through doing or academic rigor can be shared in droves. Nonfiction authors really need to organize and dose out their information strategically to keep the platform alive.
For fiction writers, however, a platform is simply what you offer your readers. What experience are you providing they can’t get elsewhere. Don’t say nothing because otherwise, why are you writing? Figure out what you offer your reader. Create a world around that online. That’s your platform. It isn’t a place. It’s your public persona and what you offer. You do this because people buy books from people they know or think they know. Let them get to know you.
You Have to Tell Readers Everything About You or They Won’t Like You
Why yes, you are amazing. But you have to tell them everything because information goes on the interwebs??? Uh, okay “eye roll.”
Your platform is about your reader and what you offer that reader. That’s it. It’s what YOU decide you want your readers to know, and they don’t need to know everything about your private life. Unless of course you become an overnight New York Times bestseller and all the media come banging on your door, digging through your trash and talking to your middle school Spanish teacher. Well, hey, every job has its downsides!
Seriously, figure out what you want your Public Persona to be. What do you want to offer the reader? I encourage authors to think of three things about themselves they are comfortable sharing with the world. I talk about Alabama football, world traveling and anything that has to do with the Karate Kid. Does this appeal to everyone? Nope. Does it have anything to do with my books? Again, nope. But it does allow potential readers to get to know part of me. Even better is these things are innocuous and don’t intrude on my private life.
You Can Build a Platform Without a Website
No you can’t.
You can build a platform without a blog but you can’t build a platform without a website. Sorry, but it’s just expected. Like having a colonoscopy when you’re 50. You just have to do it. The industry, the readers, the universe expects to find you at www.AUTHORYOU.com so just unplug your ears, and go ahead and build the site.
You only need to include a short bio section with a hi-res professional headshot, and your social media or buy links and a place to sign up for your author email. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be anything extensive. It just has to be. And it has to be professional looking. While it may not have much information, it does need to look like you’re taking your own writer career seriously. Use Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace or WordPress. (WordPress is the best for SEO and lead generation on Google searches.)
You Must Have a Million Followers
ONE. MILLION. FOLLOWERS! Sure, okay. You have a million followers who love you and found you organically online even though you opened your Instagram account….yesterday.
Ever since the industry got a clue that people could buy followers, this whole “how many followers” do you have thing isn’t as relevant anymore. What you need are engaged followers. People who actually comment, like and share your stuff. These people become fans who can become superfans. That’s what you need, so stop worrying about how many followers you don’t have, and create a genuine relationship with the ones you do have.
Setting up a platform can be done in 5 minutes a day
Yep, still eye rolling over here!
Anyone who tells you creating a platform can be done in only five minutes a day is a liar. To create a solid platform, a community for people online, you have to spend time doing it. There is no other way around it, and yes, it is worth it. When you are ready to launch a book, you’ll have people to launch it to.
Use a dashboard like Hootsuite (no longer free) or Buffer or TweetDeck to help you save time on social media or blogging. Schedule out posts as far out as you can.
Pick one social media platform to update. That’s it. Just one. These days Instagram is the best place to be but don’t discount other platforms that may work better for your genre. Spend time every day or every other day responding, liking, sharing.
Set Up a Platform AFTER The Book is Finished
No, no, nope, no, nope!
You love your book, right? I know you do! Starting your platform after the book is finished is like coming home with a new baby and having no diapers. It’s like starting your race 15 minutes behind the pack. It’s like…like…I don’t know…like trying to start your car with no gas in it.
Look, the industry will tell you that you only need to write your second book and that’s good enough. Yeah, the industry will also tell you if you already have a following, you’re higher up on the list of maybes. Why wouldn’t you want every edge you can get?
If you’re going to publish indie, this is not even up for debate. You need to have a following. Give your readers progress reports, free scenes and snippets from the book or from your research, have your kid interview you on your writing process. If you’re a lawyer, provides case notes (without privacy info of course). If you’re a spy thriller writer, redacted case studies are fun. Do whatever you can to keep them hungry for your book. That way when you launch that book, they’ll be your biggest fans and can help sell it for you.
Jennifer Lovett Herbranson is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity. She currently lives in South Korea and travels around Asia for fun. You can find her on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett