Platform Building 101
A long time ago (okay, maybe it was just four years ago…), I wrote a book in a month. I knew this book was genius. I knew it would be snapped up, salivated over, and sold worldwide.
I found myself an agent. Because that’s all we have to do, right? Wrong. First, we have to find the right agent. My agent was unaware that a 50,000-word NaNo novel was far too short to be considered adult fiction. So we wasted six precious months waiting for a crummy proposal to garner its sum total of rejections.
However, my agent did right by me when she suggested I start a blog. I had no idea what platform was, outside the thing people stand on when acting in church plays or singing the Star-Spangled Banner.
Little did I know, I had already started platform-building, back when I joined Facebook. I had about 300+ friends there, and guess what? They were invested in my writing journey. So when I transitioned to blogging, they followed me over. Especially when I let them read some of my book chapters! (Please note: This was a total faux pas! Don’t post your chapters up on your blog! Save it for publication!)
Once you get that first novel written, and even before, if you’re the kind of person who won’t stop until it’s written, you need to start platform-building. It’s so much easier to have a great platform already in place when you send out your proposals. Or even your agent queries.
Here are a few key things I’ve learned along the way. (And trust me, I haven’t arrived yet!)
Start a blog. Name it after yourself, not your book. You’re creating your brand. Trust me on this one. I had to start a new blog when I got serious about my proposal. “Book in a Month Mom” was a fun name, but I only wrote my very first (too short!) novel in a month.
Think about the audience for your book(s). Blog toward those people. When I started blogging, I blogged to everyone. But once I found my second (wonderful) agent, who works within the Christian Book Association, we realized I needed to target my Christian audience. Therefore, I lost lots of followers I’d accumulated during random blog-hops. But now, my core audience is people I know will probably buy my book someday. Much better to target that audience early on—then your follower number reflects it by the time you start querying/proposing.
Get tweeting. I confess that I put this off as long as possible, since I didn’t see the point. Sometimes, I still don’t see the point. But I can’t deny that my reach has quadrupled since I got on twitter. I’m plugged in with tons of writers and have easy access to their blogs this way.
I also started a hashtag, #Christfic, for Christian fiction author/reader news. This was an easy way to move up the ranks and get my twitter handle to pop up when someone finds that tag. It’s a fun tag, by the way. Hope you can look it up sometime, and connect with some great Christian writers!
Oh, and a final caveat—when you start up your twitter account, it’s best to use your author name as your handle. Otherwise, you have a fun name like mine (@vikingwritergal), but it only represents ONE of your books. I’m still dragging my heels about changing it, afraid of losing my followers.
Have a professional e-mail name. Another thing I put off till the bitter end. But my agent assured me that “vikingmoma” represented only my current novel, not all future ones. I now have a proper e-mail with my name on it.
Follow writer’s blogs. This is an easy, yet critical, step. It’s important to connect with authors in all stages of the writing process. You can start by following agency blogs, then looking up the people who make comments you enjoy. You’ll probably like their writing style.
Have guest bloggers. This is such an easy way to build your core audience. When you allow other writers to do write guest posts, they feel loyal to your blog. Plus, it gives you a bloggy break. I personally love having guest bloggers. I get so excited getting their posts all formatted and ready to share with my readers, I can hardly stand it.
Finally, start a FB author fan page. You can set up your own author page as a fan page. Best to do it this way, since you’re not really supposed to have two personal Facebook pages (even if you’re using your author name). Plus, it just makes sense and keeps your personal stuff personal. That’s not to say I haven’t followed some authors with my personal page. I just don’t want my kids’ photos accessible to everyone.
And when you set up the author page, make sure you put a FB Author Page link on your blog. It’s very easy to set that up, and it’s a great way to shuttle traffic to your spots. Actually, put a link to everything on your blog—your twitter, your Pinterest…the more links, the better.
Platform-building is an ever-changing process, but you’ll be ahead of the game if you get these basics in place. All the best to you as you launch into the writing world!