Building an Author Platform: Tips for New Authors
Author platforms are a must-have in any author’s career in the digital age. But what is an author platform, anyway? Is it just social media? Your website? That blog you created with a handful of posts that hasn’t been updated in three years? In this post, we’ll explore what an author platform is, and how to build one as a first-time author, so you can reach readers who want to hear from you!
What is an author platform?
An author platform refers to your visibility and reach as an author, both online and offline. Essentially, it’s everything you have available that can be used to connect with your audience and sell books.
Think of it this way: If you just got some incredible news that you wanted to share with as many people as possible, how would you go about it? All the different ways you’d communicate this news are using part of your platform. Typically this includes sharing on social media, sending emails and texts, posting on your blog and in online communities, speaking at in-person events, chatting with your friends, and more.
When you’re a debut author, your platform might be small. Maybe you just have a few friends and family that you’d reach out to. Or maybe you have a great network, or a strong following on one of the social media platforms. Regardless of where you’re starting out, building a strong platform is one of the keys to success as an author.
Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Questions to consider when building an author platform:
- What pieces of your platform do you already have?
- What social media platforms do you use right now?
- What groups are you a part of?
- Do you have a website or a blog?
- Who are you trying to reach? Where do they hang out online?
- What topics are you interested in? Which ones could tie into what you’re writing?
- What type of content or media do you like best (video, written, or audio)?
- How much time do you have or want to invest?
- What boundaries do you want to set? What parts of your life are you willing to discuss online, and what parts would you prefer to keep private?
It’s best to start thinking about these questions before you get started, if possible, as it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of online content and social media and become overwhelmed or burnt out.
It’s also good to start looking at some author platform examples so you can get a feel for what other authors are doing and get some inspiration. Make a list of your favorite authors and do some quick research.
- What platforms can you find them on?
- What are they talking about?
- How are they interacting with their audience?
- What are they doing that you’d like to create on your own platform?
- What are they doing that you want to avoid on your own platform?
What you’ll soon discover is every author has a unique style and personality online. No two authors go about marketing their books and building their platforms in the exact same way. But there are some common methods that you can use to get started with building your own.
Tips for building your author platform as a new author
Create your author website
Your author website will be the hub of your online author platform. The good thing about having your own author website is having complete control—unlike social media, where you never know what changes will be made and how they might affect your ability to reach your audience.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can always start with a free option (like blogger.com or WordPress.com), but eventually, you’ll want to get your own domain name and hosted website that you control. This way, you can include as much, or as little info, as you want, and set it up however you like.
Your website doesn’t have to be complicated, especially when you’re just starting out. At a minimum, here are the three core messages you’ll want to have on your site:
Your book(s): Front and center, you want to showcase your latest book. After all, that’s what readers are looking for. You’ll want to include your cover, a brief description of the book, and links to your publisher or where readers can buy your book. If you have more than one book available, you might include a page for each with the same info. If your book isn’t out yet, you can create a mock cover or a mood board, and talk about the project and where you are in the writing process.
Who you are: This is where readers can find out a little more about you with a brief bio.
Contact info: Here’s where you include links to the other pieces of your author platform, and maybe a contact form or your email address where they can get in touch.
There are many other things you can include on your site as you build your platform, like a blog or news/update page, but it doesn’t need to be complex. The most important thing is to have a site that is clean and easy to navigate, and makes it easy for readers to find and purchase your books.
Try looking at other authors’ websites to find inspiration on how you’d like to set yours up.
Build your email list
This is the #1 marketing tip for authors building their platforms. Readers who sign up for your newsletter are your target audience. They want to hear from you and want to know about your books.
Plus, every person on your email list will get every one of your emails in their inbox. Unlike social media where an algorithm decides who sees what, and your message will only be seen by a fraction of your followers.
To get started, you’ll need to choose an email service provider that will help you send out your emails in accordance with all the laws and regulations. Many will allow you to start for free and only start paying once you’ve built a pretty big list. All email service providers will help you set up a form that you can put on your website for people to sign up (add this just below your latest book where readers will see it).
To get started, choose one of the templates provided by the email service provider and fill it in with the latest news about your book. You can also talk about one or more of the topics you picked out from the questions above. Be sure to subscribe to the newsletters of your favorite authors so you can see what they’re talking about, which you can use for inspiration for your own emails.
There’s a lot that can go into setting up a successful author email list; if you’d like to dig deeper, check out the marketing section in our Secrets to Self-Publishing Success course.
Decide which social media to use (or not)
Social media can be a powerful and helpful tool, but it is not an absolute must-have. Despite what some people may say, you can stay off of social media and still build a platform with just your website and newsletter.
If you decide to have a social media presence, our biggest tip is to start slow and focus on the platform that you enjoy using the most. Each platform on its own can turn into a full-time job to keep up to speed on, and it can get overwhelming very fast. So you’ll want to focus your efforts where you’re already comfortable.
Think about what medium you like best (video, images, or text), and pick a platform that’s focused on that medium. This way, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and find success.
Again, seek out your favorite authors see what they’re doing on the platform of your choice, and figure out what type of posts resonate with you. Then think about how you can take that style and make it your own.
Also, be conscious of your ratio of selling vs. providing interesting content. If you’re on social media just to scream, “Buy my book!” all day, you’re not going to get many followers. But if you’re sharing interesting, funny, and/or entertaining things, you’ll build some credibility with your audience. And when you send the occasional sales message, they’ll be more likely to click on it.
Create your Author Profile pages
There are a few places where you can build a free author profile that will help you boost your visibility. Some of these will pertain only to authors who are self-publishing, but some, like Goodreads, can be for both traditional and indie authors.
Author profile pages to create:
Goodreads (best used once you have your first book out or set for pre-order)
Amazon Author Central (for self-published authors)
BookBub (this one can be used for both indies and traditional authors, but for traditional, someone on your publishing team may be the one to actually manage the account)
Draft2Digital (for self-published authors)
Bonus platform building tip: Create a media kit
When you’re working on your author platform, you’ll be using the same information in a lot of different places. To help you be more efficient, you can create a “media kit,” which is basically putting the common information you’ll need in one place.
Here’s what to include:
Author bio (a short and longer version)
Links to your website, newsletter sign-up, and social media accounts
Links to your book purchase pages
Put all this information in one document so it’s easy to find, copy and paste from, and share when needed.
With a website, contact list, a few Author Profile pages, and possibly a social media platform or two, you’ll be well on your way to building a solid author platform that you can use to build an audience and market your books. There are tons of other methods you can use as well, like blogging, podcasting, giving interviews, etc. but keep in mind that building a platform is a marathon, not a sprint.
Understand that creating your author platform is a process
It can be tempting to try to get everything set up and perfect from the beginning, but resist the urge and let go of perfection. It's completely okay to start small and grow over time. Keep in mind you don’t need to be everywhere online. In fact, it’s impossible to be on every platform consistently and successfully. Find what works best for you and stick with it!