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Author Platform: How to Build & Grow Your Author Platform

Written by

Scott Allan

https://selfpublishing.com/author/scott-allan/

Published on

2021-01-15

Becoming an author is a thrilling journey. You work hard for months to write a book, get it out there—through self-publishing or traditional—and if you have done your research, readers are ready to buy from you.

This is easier said than done, but what does streamline the process is having a platform to launch from.

Not every author has a platform, and if we are talking about self-publishing, most authors come into the game with a book idea and nothing more. Back in the day not so long ago, you had to have excellent writing skills and be able to approach a publisher to sell your idea.

The traditional publisher has a lot to do with platform building by featuring the author on their site. Now, while writing skills are still most definitely needed, as a self-publisher your platform is entirely up to you.

But the question that many first time authors ask after the fact is, “What is an author platform, and, how do I go about building one?

Building a platform is a long-term process that doesn’t end, you can move at your own pace, using only those tools and strategies you feel comfortable with. The good news is, you don’t have to be everywhere, doing everything, shooting life Facebook videos as you’re walking your dog.

Regardless if you’re a first-time author or you have several books already published without any platform, it’s never too late to start. The best time to begin was yesterday, but the next best time is right now, with where you are and what you have.

Here’s what you should know to start creating your author platform today:

In this post, we will answer that question and provide you with a framework so that—even as a beginner—you can start to piece together your platform and prepare your author career for bigger success in the near future.

What is an author platform?

An author platform can be drilled down to your ability to sell books based on who you are, the type of content you create, and how that content engages with a specific audience. You might be targeting a very niche audience, or you could be broad and have a wide reader base of multiple avatars.

Your author platform is how you engage with your audience. It is the way in which you connect with readers and the tools and strategies you employ for building your audience. You want your books to sell, right? Yes! So to make this happen, you need to get noticed.

When we look at famous authors such as John Grisham, Danielle Steele, or Dan Brown it is obvious they have a huge platform of published books and millions of followers. But it didn’t start out this way. Everyone starts with one book, two books, and the business grows from there. Authors—just like any business—must build as they grow.

Your author platform is the foundation of your business. Now, writing might be still a hobby for you, or a side gig where you earn extra cash. Or it could be something much bigger if you are gravitating towards becoming a full time author. Your author platform is a combination of several core elements that we will dive into later.

Basically it’s made up of:

  1. Your audience. This includes your social media and email list. Your audience are the people, subscribers and fanbase that read and engage with your written content.
  2. Your books and/or products. You have a book or books on your author line and may have additional services and or products such as courses, workshops, etc…
  3. Online presence. This includes your website—or homebase—where readers can find out everything about you, sign up to your newsletter, or visit your blog.
  4. Marketing outreach. Yes, as self-published authors we have to market our books. These are skills that will make you money over the years, so the best way to get started here is to learn about Amazon Advertising and the Bookbub Platform.

6 Pillars of the Author Platform

Let’s break down your author platform into what I call the six pillars of your foundation. Your author platform should consist of the following components (but may not have everything):

1. Email list/subscriber newsletter. I think this is not optional. You need an email list so you can build your own in-house marketing and promotion. They say that the money is in the list, well, the core of your business growth is here. To start building your list

2. Author Website. This might not be necessary right away, but at the very least, you should have a landing page to your book. You can set this up through Mailerlite landing pages or LeadPages. Your Author Website is something you can build later, but it is better to start with something than nothing.

3. Catalogue of Books. The best way to build your author brand is to have multiple books published to grow your business, regardless if you are fiction or nonfiction. A series of books works exceptionally well if you get the branding right. You can check out sci-fi author John Scalzi, or for nonfiction, Thibaut Meurisse with his Mastery series.

4. Distribution Model. You can go exclusively with Amazon by signing up with KDP Select. Or, go wide and get your book onto other book platforms outside of the Amazon publishing model. Whichever way you go, be aware of the pros and cons to KDP vs. Going Wide.

5. Courses and/or Training. This largely depends on the type of content you create. Courses are optional, but can be a great way to leverage and diversify your platform. 

6. Personal Branding. Yes, the colors, images, text font, and the style of content you are creating. All of it is about branding. Your brand helps people to recognize you and form an opinion about you and your books, through your personality, your voice, and your promise to your readers. Branding is how you connect with readers through your voice and message.

Author Platform Beginnings: Where do I Start?

Start Now. You might think you have to wait until you get a few books out there, or wait until you have an email list. But actually, you want to start now in building your platform. What you can do to start is create a system where you are investing time into your business. It begins with a system of habits that accumulate into a book catalogue and an email list. Your book catalogue becomes your backlist, so whenever you publish a new book, you already have other books to cross promote.

Connect with authors. The other strategy that is very important is connecting with authors in your genre. Although writing itself can be a very isolating experience, you should be intentional with building out author connections. This will definitely help when you launch new books for cross promotions as well as joining author swaps. An author swap is a strategy when a group of authors join forces to cross promote each other’s books. This can be done through a free or 0.99 book promotion. But if they don’t know about you, chances are you won’t get an invitation. 

Begin blogging. This might be something new to you, but blogging is a great tool for several reasons.

  1. It is practice writing. That’s right, by blogging you are honing in on your craft as an author. If you make mistakes, blog posts can easily be fixed. This isn’t to say that quality doesn’t matter because it does.
  2. You publish content regularly. A book can take months to write and publish. But a blog post you can write and publish within a few hours or days.
  3. Keeps readers in the loop. Yes, if readers don’t hear from you for a while, they become disinterested and forget who you are. They might unsubscribe from your list for lack of interest. Regular blog posts keep them engaged and up to date on what you have coming down the funnel.

You can set up a free blog through WordPress or Medium.com. If you don’t have a website yet, you can add in a blog later. Your blog content will depend on the focus of your work. For fiction, you might write about publishing strategies or crafting the perfect story or characters. Nonfiction writers might focus on specific strategies they discuss in their books. 

Write Guest Posts. Yes, not only can you blog on your site or post elsewhere for free, but get onto other sites as a guest post blogger. This is usually free marketing for your platform, and it adds value to the site owner’s platform.

To write a guest post for another website and/or blogger, simply visit their website and initiate conversation through the contact page (if there is one). Many bloggers will have a set of requirements listed for guest post blog submission.

Market research. This comes down to knowing who your audience is. You can begin market research by following and subscribing to the authors in your genre.

We recommend reading their books and engaging with the community, too. By modeling the writers in your genre that are already in that place you want to be, you will discover many things about your market as well. Your audience is not everyone, but a specific niche or interested people, even if it is a broad audience.

For example, readers of romance novels most likely will not be your choice market if you write urban fantasy or sci-fi. Readers could cross over if they read various genres but this would be the rarity and not the norm. 

Narrowing your audience and knowing the details behind who they are and how they live can help you sell more books, refine the way you communicate to your audience, and determine how best to invest your time, effort and money.

Social Media Connections. Once you have identified the established and best-selling books within your genre, look at who is engaging with these authors on social media.

You can gain a lot of information by looking at the interactions, posts and discussion feed. Watch for the demographics, trends, and particular habits that might not be obvious, but can provide clues as to what your audience is looking for.

Pay attention to the kinds of questions they ask, the solutions they are seeking, or the pain points they have that they need help with.

Another strategy for social media is to connect with groups and online communities that have shared interests.

Run a search on Facebook for groups who are interested in books similar to yours. Facebook groups such as 20booksto50k with David Guaghran or the Self Publishing School community are great places to check out.

Essential Author Platform Tools

In the previous section, we looked at the pillars for building your author platform. Now let7s look at the best tools of the trade for putting these 

Buy a domain. Even if you don’t have a website or presence, get your domain now. You will need it later. Ideally your domain could be your author name with a .com URL. You can use your book title. You might decide to use a domain name for your author business that isn’t your author name. But readers and subscribers recognize the branding as yours.

For example, https://www.developgoodhabits.com/ is a habit-themed blog and website that is run by bestselling self-publisher Steve (S.J.) Scott, who has written multiple books in this genre.

Bestselling author of Mini-Habits Stephen Guise uses https://stephenguise.com/ as his homebase. His platform mainly consists of his blog post that he delivers consistently every week. He has multiple books that he promotes through his channel, too. But his homebase is the website where you can sign up for free stuff and join the newsletter.

Chandler Bolt of Self Publishing School has his company domain as: https://self-publishingschool.com/. Here you can find the various top-notch courses and services provided by Self Publishing School and sign up on the site, or schedule a call with someone.

How do you get a domain name?

You can purchase a domain name through a website host server such as Bluehost or Hostgator. I registered my domain through Name.com, but you can find a host of places to get your domain. Where you buy it isn’t as important as what your domain name is and what it stands for. 

Other domain names you might recognize:

Here are a few tips on coming up with a domain name:

  1. Keep the domain name simple. Try to avoid domain names that use hyphens or strange characters, which make remembering and properly entering the domain name more difficult. A domain name should be easy to remember. Don’t get fancy. Keep it simple and clean.
  2. Acquire more than one domain name. Yes, you can have more than one domain if you are doing fiction and nonfiction. Or you might have a separate domain name for your course platform to separate from your books.
  3. Brand representation. Your domain name should represent what you do, or what your company provides. So if you are an author, a domain is either your author name, or the name of your company. For example, John Lee Dumas of Fire Nation created Entrepreneurs on Fire. Professional blogger Darren Rowse created https://problogger.com/ 
  4. Keyword specific domain. Include a keyword in your domain name, if possible. This is also helpful if the domain of your name is already owned by someone else. Every link to your site that’s placed online will contain your domain name, so reinforcing a keyword linked with your site can increase your chances of SEO love long-term.

Sign Up with an email service provider.

What is an email platform? 

An email platform is a database that holds your email lists, and allows you to communicate with your subscribers, or fans, in mass.

Just to be clear, an ESP (Email Service Provider) is not gmail or yahoo. 

You need a system that will gather, store and organize your emails when people subscribe to your list. These services are built to provide you with all the necessary tools.

An email list is a list of email addresses of people that have subscribed to your blog, website, or other channel. Email lists give you direct access to communicate with your fans, readers, and/or subscribers, which allows you to build a relationship of trust and value.

Email lists are important because it allows you to continue a relationship with people who are interested in your products and services even after they finish reading your book.

Having direct access to communicate with your fans and readers is powerful, because you can build trust and offer even more value, which places you in a great position to offer even more products, services, and content.

The top 5 recommended email service providers are:

Mailchimp

You might have heard of MailChimp as a good starting email platform, mainly because they offer a free version and you’re looking to build an audience first before you start paying.

Mailerlite

A better solution would be either MailerLite, who offer a similar free plan (first 1,000 subscribers for free). The site has better service and is easier to navigate. But for a more robust platform, you want to eventually use…

Convert Kit

Any free plan you start with will have limitations, which is why I would recommend starting with a paid option. But you get to decide what this looks like for you.

Free or paid, pick one. If you don’t like it, you can always change it later.

Additional options:

Active Campaign

AWeber

We recommend signing up with the cheapest viable option that would be Mailchimp or Mailerlite. You can sign up for free until you hit a number of subscribers and then begin monthly/annual payments.

You can also read this article on our site to learn everything about setting up and managing your email lists:

Tips for Building an Author Platform

In this article we covered the essentials for what you need to build an author platform. There are always those “other things” you can be doing but they are not critical tasks. For example, posting to social media 30x a day sounds productive, but at the end of the day, many authors see better returns by writing more books. If you have the time and want to explore other options that have not been mentioned before, you are welcome to try.

Here are several more tips you can try for marketing and building your author platform. I would not call these tasks you should or need to do.

Create a Mastermind Group. This is a fantastic way to really get to know your readers by setting up a Mastermind community. You can do this through a Facebook group. Or, set up a private Mastermind through ClickFunnels, Kajabi, or a number of sites that can host your program. This could be something to consider after you have built a nice following and you have people to start with in order to get engagement moving.

Attend Writer Conferences. One of the best ways to start learning about your craft and connecting with author communities is attending a writers conference. This can be an event in your local area, in another part of the country, the world, or even online!

Writers conferences can be some of the best investments to make in your writing career. And guess what? There are plenty of writing conferences for authors in North America taking place all year round.

Writers conferences and workshops are available in most cities across North America and you can find one near you to attend this year or in the near future.

Conferences can be hosted according to specific subjects, writing niches, or genres, or they can be targeted towards the broad writing and publishing industry. Attendees are able to network with peers, industry experts, and professionals that provide author services, such as publishing agents, book editors, and illustrators.

Depending on which area of expertise interests you, there are a variety of writers conferences offered throughout the world.

Even if you haven’t published a book yet but are in the middle of a great outline, joining a live event could be the magic sauce to make that happen. Even if writing is a part time job and you want to build your name and platform before taking the leap, attending a writers conference can jump start your career. It builds important connections, expands opportunity, and defines your clarity of purpose!

The Author Advantage Live conference from Self-Publishing School tops our lists of writers conferences for 2021 because it’s truly one-of-a-kind experience, tailored to the demands of today’s digital author (and those aspiring to be!).

For a listing of scheduled writer’s events in 2021, you can check out our article here https://selfpublishing.com/best-writers-conference/ and get ready for a great year of writing!

Here are 3 questions to help you sign up for a writers conference:

  1. What is the best event for me? Is it the Author Advantage Live event or The Muse and the Marketplace?
  2. What is drawing me to a particular event? The speakers? Size of the guest list? Convenient location? Workshop themes?
  3. Am I ready to sign up for an event now?

Joining an event is a no-brainer. You owe it to yourself as an author and a creative to scale up your skills as a writer and meet the people on the same journey as you.

Create a Free Giveaway. By creating a piece of free content that goes with your brand, you can begin right away to build your audience and email list. We recommend this is done using a lead magnet, a free piece of content that could be a downloadable PDF, checklist, audiobook, or a free chapter of your next book. 

Planning to include a lead magnet together with your book makes it super-easy for readers to discover your brand and join your thriving community

Your lead magnet is a great way to attract more customers and scale up your business, but you have to know how to build an effective piece of content that people actually want, and then, present it to them when they need it the most.

The lead magnet has a two-fold purpose.

First, it needs to serve your purpose as an author or business owner. 

Second, it must serve the purpose of your subscribers. Why are they signing up in the first place? You must know why, and be prepared to deliver on that WHY.

Here are some effective lead magnet ideas to consider creating:

  1. Action guide
  2. Checklists
  3. Catalog
  4. Workbooks
  5. Worksheets
  6. Cheatsheet
  7. Templates
  8. Video series
  9. First 3 videos for a paid course
  10. Recipes
  11. Access to an exclusive Facebook community
  12. Toolkit

The lead magnet can be placed in the front and back of your book. You could have the lead magnet page at the back of your book right after the last chapter just to serve as a reminder:“Hey, don’t forget to sign up for your free action guide right here!”

By placing the lead magnet at the front and back, you have all the bases covered.

Link on Your Amazon Author Page

Your lead magnet in a book is not the only place to put it. What many authors fail to see is that the amazon author page serves as a great opportunity for you to build your email list. 

For everything you need to set up your lead magnet and deliver it to your potential readers with best results, check out our article right here: https://selfpublishing.com/lead-magnet/

Author Platform Examples

The best way to learn about building a great platform is to begin researching the platform of successful authors. This depends if you are writing fiction or nonfiction but, remember the basic of your platform is about branding, showcasing your books and products, and thirdly, newsletter signups.

Here are some examples of authors with platforms that do a great job of showcasing and marketing their branding. You may recognize some of these authors in your genre or area of reading interest:

Dean Koontz

Brenda Novak

Nora Roberts

Rachel Howzell Hall

http://www.rachelhowzell.com/

Author Platform: Building an Amazon Author Page

Your Amazon Author Page is basically your personal homepage dedicated to you as an author, and the books you have published. When your book is displayed on Amazon, the author’s name can be hyperlinked, and when the customer or reader clicks on the author’s name, the customer is taken directly to the author’s page. If you don’t have a website, this is a great place to start building your brand.

You can use your Amazon Author Page to personalize a page specifically featuring information about you as an author, and the books you have written.

While it’s a super-powerful platform for indie and self-published authors, it’s also powerful for traditionally published authors. Any author that has written a book that’s sold online or in-store should have an Amazon Author Page.

Setting up and optimizing an Amazon Author Page using Amazon Author Central is a very smart idea for several reasons. First of all, potential readers can take an immediate interest in your work. 

So, who can create an Amazon Author Page? An author with a published book on Amazon!

Yes, as soon as you launch your first book you can get to work on setting up and maintaining your most prolific profile, next to your own website. You don’t have a website yet? Then you definitely need to maximize on your Amazon page.

Author Platform: Ready to Start Building?

No matter where you’re at in the process, today is the best time to start, even if you’re not done with your book yet. You can set up a blog, start your email list with a lead magnet, and set up a Facebook Author Page in just a few minutes.

But what matters is you take action and do something! Every author begins at the same place…the beginning! It doesn’t matter if you’re Stephen King, JK Rowling or Barack Obama. Get started today and let’s see what you can create in the next year.

Have you had some recent success with your author platform and want to tell us about it? Drop your notes below and share your story! We’d love to hear from you…