11 March, 2014
Building an Author Platform
Here is a useful article by Jane Friedman defining what an author platform is (and isn't), but essentially it's all about visibility and connection. How do you reach people? Are you reaching the right people? How credible is your public face as a writer?
This is, of course, vitally important. Those authors lucky enough to have made a name for themselves before these crazy days of social media, might get away without putting effort into building their visibility and credibility to new readers, but most of us either have to commit our time to it, or accept serious limitations on our prospects as published writers. It would be a rare - perhaps unique - publishing house now that didn't expect their new authors to be doing some combination of blogging, tweeting, live readings, sending out newsletters and writing guest posts and articles. (And, of course, if you self-publish, this is even more of a big deal).
What then, should I be doing? I write this blog, and read many others. I dabble in Twitter and I enjoy Facebook (though mainly for catching up with friends and family rather than as a writer). Occasionally I branch out into guest posts on other blogs, and I will shortly be appearing on a podcast about novel writing with a very talented musician, Steve Dunne (more later!). I know I could do more to create new connections, but what should I be focussing on? It's not enough to have a blog and expect that to bring you a higher profile, without promoting it in any way; it's not enough to be nice to a couple of people on Twitter and expect news about your brilliance to spread!
The idea of an author platform isn't to push your own work so hard nobody wants to ever hear from you again, nor is it about blogging and tweeting etc. in itself. The whole point is connection; building relationships with potential readers - "incremental improvements in extending your network" as Jane Friedman puts it. Building a platform shouldn't be a chore to be tacked on to the end of a working day - it should be part of your creativity as a writer across the years. It is from this platform that you can launch any marketing campaigns and advertising for your work you feel appropriate - they are not part of the platform in themselves.What would you say are the most important ways to create connections with potential readers?
I think my biggest fear when trying to reach out to other writers and readers is coming across as purely self-interested or as a dodgy salesman. Of course one day I'd love to be selling well, but I haven't had anything to sell for the first years of my writing, and I've still enjoyed connecting with people. I spend a lot more time commenting on other people's blogs and following their progress than writing on this one! If I was to compile a list of things I definitely shouldn't do, when it comes to making connections (or once I've made them), what do you think should be on it?
I know author platforms are unique to the author in question, but I'd be interested in hearing about how you've gone about building a network of people around you, or - as a reader - what puts you off connecting with writers in the real world or online.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to my treehouse.