How to build an author platform from scratch

Publishers love smart, unique and original book ideas. But they’re also looking for something more from a prospective author.

They want you to have a big platform.

And there's a good reason for that. A big platform guarantees bigger sales, so whether you're looking for a publisher or are publishing your book independently, it's an area you'll want to focus on early.

Your platform is your sphere of influence. It’s about how efficiently, effortlessly and widely you can spread the word about your book and how likely the people in your platform will want to buy what you have to say. And, quite simply, publishers know that with a strong and engaged platform behind an author, the book they’re investing in is more likely to succeed.

Being a published author can be a reliable way to escalate the growth of your platform. But there’s no escaping that having a solid platform when you launch your book is also a powerful and reliable way to market and sell it.

But what if you’re not a celebrity name, guru or big influencer yet? What if you don’t already have a ready-made audience or a following of thousands that are poised ready, waiting and willing to buy your book?

How do you go about building the platform you’ll need to get the publishing deal you want, and that will help you market and sell your book when it’s published?

Here are our top tips:

BUILD THE FOUNDATIONS

1) Create your brand - Research and analyse your competition and define what makes you different. Try writing a Customer Value Proposition (CVP) or strapline to help you articulate what you’re offering that’s special and unique. Be clear in your own mind about why anyone would want to follow you.

2) Practise your pitch - Learn how to confidently and succinctly explain what you do and why. The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business by Mel Sherwood is a fantastically concise little book that can help you do this in under a minute!

3) Assemble your assets - Write a compelling biography, take some decent photographs and create some business cards or leaflets. Make sure you have what you’ll need to make connecting with you informed, simple and easy for people.

4) Know your niche - Who are the movers, shakers, influencers and instigators in your niche or category? Who’s your competition? Who’s their audience? Where do they hang out? Take time to get to know what your audience wants, where you'll reach them and what you’re going to have to do to stand out.

5) Create some content - There’s no need to go crazy, but you will need some compelling content to attract new people and hold their interest. Consider writing a few key pillar articles on your subject and re-purpose them for different media – perhaps create a video, slideshow or course from them to host on your website and social media.

FIND AND BE FOUND

1) Set up a website - It doesn’t have to be fancy and full of cutting-edge features but you will need a website. Think strategically about exactly how it’s going to help you build your platform and use clear and simple sign-posting, calls to action and online forms so you can build your subscriber list and so your visitors know exactly what to do when they’re there.

2) Get busy on social media - It’s where your audience is likely to be, so it’s where you need to be too. But whilst social media is a great place to build a following, it can take time. Focus on developing and doing a really good job on just one or two platforms where your audience is and make sure your profiles are complete, eye-catching, on-brand and compelling.

Be active, be seen and post regularly (daily if possible) from your own profile but also follow other relevant people, groups and businesses in your niche and regularly share and comment on their posts.

3) Be generous - Link, tag and share others’ content, websites, blogs, profiles etc. in your own work and social media posts. This will make you known to the person you tag (who may well return the favour), and raise your profile amongst their following too.

4) Put yourself about - Sign up to as many relevant websites, newsletters, forums, blogs, podcasts, social media groups and news sites as you can and contribute regularly to their comments, discussions and chats.

Go to talks, conferences and trade fairs and look for clubs, associations and groups that are relevant to your niche. Make yourself known to local publications, newsletters and websites and offer to provide articles, editorial or perhaps a regular column!

Take a look at Make Yourself a Little Bit Famous by Penny Haslam - it's a great read and has lots of useful ways to build your profile and get known.

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

1) Who do you know? You probably already have the beginnings of a platform, you just need to start leveraging it. So, think about those people you already know: the colleagues, clients, friends and family that can help you spread the word and build your profile. Target the ‘big mouths’ and ‘influencers’ first - the ones with the large platforms of their own - find out about how they can help you do the same.

2) Make new friends - Seek other authors, bloggers, podcasters, thought-leaders and influencers in your niche. Look at what they’re doing, learn from them and reach out to them to offer content, articles, guest blogs and interviews that they can share on their own platform. Being exposed to their fans and followers will attract new ones to you. Similarly, offer to host guest articles on your website and invite guest vloggers, bloggers and podcasters to work with you. They’ll bring their following straight to you. Be proactive and bold – you can’t afford to be shy when you’re building a platform.

It takes time, tenacity, commitment and consistency to build and nurture a platform. It’s not all about the numbers either; a small, interested, engaged and targeted platform is better than a large one that doesn’t care about what you have to say.

Through some trial, error and time you’ll hone and adapt your approach to building your platform, but it’s not a job that ever really has an end. You’ll have to keep being proactive and adding value so your following remains interested and engaged. But it can be fun too - you'll meet lots of new people, learn new things and make powerful connections with influencers, decision-makers and potential book buyers.

And remember, every author or influencer you admire, even your biggest heroes, all started at zero. So start small, build up steadily and take a few moments to celebrate small gains and reaching important milestones.

 

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