6 First Steps to Building an Author Platform from Scratch
Updated: Apr 5
In this post, I’m digging into building an author platform. I knew that if I was to take this authoring gig seriously, I needed to expand my online presence. While some agents and publishers state that an author platform does not factor into their decision to sign-up an author, some state that it does. I’ve erred on the side of caution and built one by following professional advice. I now have a growing author platform that I’m thrilled to bits with.
If you still aren’t convinced you need an author website, publishing expert Jane Friedman explains why you should, and how to go about setting one up.
Once you’re convinced to set up your author website, I suggest also reading Jane’s other blogs:
And if you're looking for examples of other great author websites, C.S. Larkin's post A Comprehensive Guide to Building an Author Website has plenty of links.
You’ll read about the importance of your brand. For a fun way to learn about branding yourself as an author, my favourite resource is Shayla Raquel’s The 10 Commandments of Author Branding. (I’m not paid to recommend this).
The biggest advantage to your author website, is that you own and control it. As you will see from my Facebook and Instagram disaster stories below, you don’t want to keep all your eggs in one basket.
As an unpublished author, I did not have the confidence that whatever I wrote would carry any weight. But I wrote about what I knew—my experiences. This helped me share my authoring journey with conviction, including the times I stumbled—hoping to help others avoid the same traps. Helping others is the key to the success of my blog!
How to Start Blogging: A Definitive Guide for Authors —Jane Friedman.
Here’s how I help others through blogging:
Interviewing an array of folks in the publishing industry not only gives my readers a useful resource and contact, but also gives the interviewee exposure on another platform.
Offering your blog to tour companies and other authors is a great way to get more traffic to your site, as well as help support fellow authors. It also provides a great platform for your readers to find more books to read while they're waiting for your next book to come out.
Inviting other bloggers to write helpful articles for my readers. My guests share their own experiences or expertise (so my readers can learn), and they gain exposure too.
Other bloggers have different audiences. What better way to get your name out there, while dishing out helpful info, and supporting another writer?
My newest successful endeavour is inviting multiple guest bloggers to contribute to a listicle. One or two small snippets for a listicle is less of a burden on contributors than asking for a whole blog. Listicles are a lot of work to put together, but a lot of fun too! Plus, my readers and I gain valuable advice and insight from industry insiders, including:
How and where did I make these industry connections? Through my social media platforms, of course!
It’s on Twitter where I connected with all the literary agents, editors and authors found in my blog posts. It’s also where other bloggers have reached out to me to guest blog for them, which has led to me becoming a Blog Tour Host for historical fiction author, and award-winning blogger, Mary Anne Yarde from The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Having an author platform is all about harvesting the wonderful networking opportunities that are out there!
Facebook for me is about connecting with readers. I’ve found it a slower platform to build. I’ve toyed with paying to boost my ads, but I got burned. Little did I know, there’s a world of competition hunters whose sole goal is to troll social media for free stuff. Fifty Facebook followers hijacked my competitions and took turns each month to vote for one another’s captions in my caption competition, ensuring that none of my genuine followers ever won. When I realised what was happening, I weeded them out and temporarily stopped my competitions.
They also infiltrated my newsletter subscription list to gain access to the competitions I was running there too. So, I unsubscribed them. This is an unfortunate downside to social media, which is why it pays to be vigilant with who’s following you.
I will try Facebook Ads again in the future, because I’ve heard good things about them too! But I'm just taking a little break for now—and that's okay too!
Plus, I’ve just recently made a great connection on FB with well-known book marketer, Sandra Beckwith from Build Book Buzz. Network, network, network!
For some easy-to-follow steps about building your Facebook profile, check out Epic Facebook Author Pages: Everything You Need to Know — Shayla Raquel.
Thankfully, I hadn’t invested much time or energy into my Instagram account before it was hacked and appropriated by someone else. They changed the password and my user name, so even Instagram couldn’t help me retrieve or delete my old account.
It was a valuable lesson learned about how fickle social media platforms are, and how instantly devastating it can be for your author platform if you haven’t cast your net wide, and kept several platforms on the boil at once.
I set up a new account and made sure I had the 2-step verification method set up for better protection.
I’ve kept the best ‘til last! If having your own author website is like being the king or queen of your domain, then your author newsletter is your crown! Unlike any other platform owned by a third party, your email subscribers are yours! They are your direct link to folks who have signed up to receive your news. Those email addresses are sacred—keep folks opening and clicking by providing top-quality content.
20 Email Tips & Tricks for Author Newsletters—Shayla Raquel.
Did you know: if subscribers don’t open your newsletter, then their email providers start to think they’re junk and send them to the spam folder, or block them altogether. It’s a tough job, but you need to keep your email list current.
I give folks three chances. If they haven’t opened up my newsletter four months in a row, I send them a re-engagement email asking then to confirm their email if they'd like to stay subscribed, or they can click to unsubscribe (I make this super easy because nothing irritates me more than not being able to find the unsubscribe button on a site).
Consequently, the current open rate of my 400+ newsletter subscribers hovers about 55% (the average open rate that is considered ‘good’ for newsletters is 15—30%).
If you want to know how I began my author newsletter Journey, I wrote a blog about it: How to Grow Your Newsletter List as an Unpublished Author.
Before You Go
I aim to keep a blog packed full of helpful information for writers, especially newbies.
Here are some of extra posts that might take your fancy:
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