If you’ve been in self-publishing for more than a few minutes, it’s likely you’ve heard the term “author platform.” In simplest terms, an author platform is your ability to sell books because of who you are and who you are connected to.
This week, we’re taking a look at using the resources you already have—as well as some of the resources D2D has created for you—to build an author platform that can help boost your discoverability and audience reach.
The Army You Have
There’s a quote from Donald Rumsfeld that goes, “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want.”
That’s exactly the attitude with which to approach the beginning of your author platform.
When you’re just starting as an indie author, there’s a tendency to look around and see success stories—authors who have built an immense following, who have a bulging mailing list, who have enough followers on social media to found their own small country. We usually don’t compare ourselves very favorably with these folks.
We authors tend to look for ‘social proof’ to help us determine the right course of action, and it always seems, from the surface at least, that if we don’t have our own personal army of followers then we’re flops, failures, frauds … and other ‘F’ words that shall go unmentioned.
The truth is, we all start with approximately the same resources and networks as the success stories did. Which is to say, if we’re not starting at absolute zero, then we at least have a small collection of friends, family, and acquaintances to draw upon. So let’s start there.
NOTE: Before we go any further, I feel it’s my Indie Author Constitutional duty* to make one point startlingly clear: DO NOT START SPAMMING EVERYONE YOU KNOW WITH ‘BUY MY BOOK’ MESSAGES.
That’s in all caps, so you know it’s important.
Starting From Where You Are
This means taking stock of all the resources you already have at your disposal. You may not have a big and bulky author mailing list, but you can send individual emails to friends and family and (politely) ask them to buy your book and join your mailing list. You can also ask them to spread the word about you to other friends and family, so you can start to grow.
Consider, also, the social media channels you use, and how many people you’re connected to there. Use those to spread the same, soft message: “Did you know I’m an author? I’d love to tell you all about it. Join my mailing list, and be sure to check out my book!”
The point here: Look around, take stock, and determine who you’re connected to and how. The network you already have might help you build your author platform further.
Some potential author platform resources you may already have:
- Your Website—easy to get, and often free, a website is a must for helping people find you and your books, so if you don’t have one already you should consider getting one
- Your mailing list—the database of readers you should be gathering as you go, so you can contact them any time you like. You can build this with services like Author.Email and Mailchimp.
- Your social media presence—not generally a great place to ‘sell,’ but a fantastic place to stay in touch with readers and let them know what you’re up to
- Speaking engagements—any time you’re in front of an audience to talk about your work is a great opportunity to build or expand your platform
- Interviews—from podcasts to blogs to radio and television, any opportunity to talk about your work is a chance to expand your platform
- Clubs & associations—If you belong to an organization that will allow it, you may be able to promote your book and encourage people to become readers and subscribers
- Writers groups—similar to the organizations above, you can often start building your platform by asking fellow writers to buy and read your books, subscribe to your mailing list, and occasionally tell their own readers about you
You may use all or none of the above, but the important thing to keep in mind about building and growing an author platform is the end goal: You want to create a network that helps readers discover your books.
Calls to Action
One of the best ways to build an author platform is to simply ask for it. And the best way to do that is with a call to action.
A call to action, or CTA, is you asking your reader to take an action on your behalf. In the western world we sometimes feel a little weird about doing that—as if we’re imposing on people, or somehow being rude.
The truth is, as Francesca Hogi, former cast member of ‘Survivor’ and now a full-time ‘Love and Life Coach’ said, “If you have a product or service that is valuable and will help, you’re not being selfish by marketing your work.”
Keep in mind that readers are always looking for the next book to read, and so it’s only right for you to suggest that book, even if it happens to be written by you. You’re performing a service for your readers by giving them something they’re actually looking for, and there’s nothing to feel weird about when it comes to that.
Draft2Digital has built in a way to include a CTA in the back of your book, which we call a Teaser.
If you have more than one book published through D2D, we can automatically add a teaser to the end of your new book, pushing readers to a previous work. All you have to do is check the box next to “Teaser” on the Edit Book Layout page, and then select the book you want readers to pick up next. When your reader gets to the end of your book they’ll find a teaser for the next, complete with a cover image and the book description, plus a link to learn more.
It’s a great way to lead readers from book to book in a series, and can be a useful tool for capturing a dedicated reader and bulking up your author platform.
Let readers know when you’re publishing
The great thing about a platform is that it gives you a means of announcing the launch of your next book. Instead of randomly casting about on social media, hoping someone will find your 140-character new release announcement intriguing enough to click through, you can send a notice to a highly targeted group of readers.
This group may or may not rush to purchase your book en masse, but the odds go up. And if there’s an overarching strategy to embrace when it comes to marketing, it’s ‘play the odds.’ Anything that increases your chances of exposure and discoverability, without alienating the readers you already have, is good. Go with it.
This is another feature that can be added to your book automatically from the Edit Book Layout page, and it encourages readers to sign up for email notifications any time you release a new book.Draft2Digital may not be able to help you directly with building your mailing list but we do have one tool that can help you let readers know when a new book releases: New Release Notifications.
If you already have a mailing list, this can be a real time saver. Send a note to your list with your Books2Read URL and ask them to sign up if they want notifications on new releases. From that point on, they’ll be alerted to a new release automatically. You can still send your own notifications, but you’ll gain the advantage of the notice coming from multiple and varied accounts, thus increasing the number of “touch points” between the reader and your book.
In short, the more frequently you can “touch” your potential audience with a message, the better it will stick. If that message is coming from more sources than just you, it also carries greater social proof—meaning it feels more authentic to the reader. So including D2D’s New Release Notifications as part of your announcement strategy will give you a bit of a boost by increasing the number of touch points.
Send readers to all the right places
Getting readers to your books can get tricky if you’ve gone wide with distribution, rather than staying exclusive to any given vendor. D2D obviously maintains that wide distribution is the best long-term strategy for an author career, but we admit it can add a layer of complexity when it comes to shuffling readers to the reading platform of their choice.
One means of helping with this, and bulking up your platform at the same time, would be to build a landing page on your website that has links to all of your books in all of their various storefronts. Now, when you’re marketing, you only have to send out one link, and readers can choose their storefront of choice.
The downside to this strategy is that it can get ugly, cumbersome, and even confusing, real quick. If you have more than a couple of books, you’ll end up with dozens and maybe hundreds of links on one page. And if something changes—a vendor goes out of business or changes the way they handle product pages or any number of other tweaks—you may end up with dozens of broken links that have to be updated manually.
Of course, we have an app for that
A final D2D platform-building tool is our Universal Book Links. Every time you upload a book to Draft2Digital, we automatically generate a UBL that helps readers find your book on any storefront they prefer.
You can manage your UBLs from the dashboard at books2read.com, where you can customize the URL, add affiliate links for various online stores, track how many clicks you’re getting, and add new stores as they come online.
UBLs are a great platform-building resource, because you can use just one link to send every reader to anyplace your book appears online. No confusing or ugly link lists on your website, and you can use just one link in emails, social media posts, and even print advertising.
THE POINT IS MAKING YOURSELF EASY TO FIND
Author platforms really boil down to one thing: Making yourself ‘discoverable’ to readers.
Since readers are the customers of your work, what could be more important?
It’s worth taking the time to examine all your existing resources and options, and find as many ways to reach out to your potential readers as you can possibly determine. You’ll also want to spend time looking at other options—studying how other authors have built their own platforms, how they interact and utilize that network, and how you might be able to implement those same resources in your own business.
As long as you keep in mind the goals, rules, and best practices we’ve mentioned here, you’ll find that you can make steady progress on building up your own author platform.
Just remember, as with all marketing, small and incremental efforts add up over time. Do a little something every day to help build your platform and you’ll eventually be one of those success stories everyone else studies and learns from.
*Indie Author Constitution forthcoming