Once again, let’s welcome back Shelli Johannes-Wells for our continuing series on marketing for authors!
A lot of people ask me about building an online platform. I personally don’t like the words marketing, networking, or platform. But they are buzzwords in this industry that gets people talking.
So first, what is a platform?
Your platform communicates your specific expertise or specialness in a field. Basically, it’s your online business card. It could include how people see you on the web or at speaking engagements. It could be from the workshops or articles you’ve done. If others can recognize you and your expertise, then that is your platform.
In a simple sense – YOU are your platform. It’s about putting yourself out there. It’s about how people know you. Their perception of you as a writer or author, but more importantly, you as a human being.
But make no mistake. Your book is what matters. Your platform just gets it seen and heard.
When the time comes, you want people to recognize your name. Does it get you a book deal? No. But it could get your foot in the door of an agent. It could get you to stand out of a slush pile. Or it could get you a blurb for your book. It could help you stand out among thousands of writers.
You don’t have to spend lot of money on a platform, but you have to understand WHAT it is and then commit to putting in the time to build one from the bottom up. But, don’t start building a platform until you know your focus. Or you just waste time.
To get started – there are a few things you need to do first.
- Decide on your author brand – what can you and you writing offer? How are you different? Have some understanding of your writing style and voice. Find a special talent. For me, it was marketing.
- Think about your goals in building a platform. Who do you want to reach and for what?
- Find the readers that match your outlined goals – this can be through groups, blogs, forums etc. Make sure you are focusing on the right people. Be sure to step out of the writer circle sometimes.
- Think of building a platform as connecting. “Networking” is so impersonal. It should be about building a reciprocal relationship.
- Get online – blogs, twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Myspace – whatever matches your goals. Don’t do something you are not committed to or it will show.
- Connect to GIVE and not to take. Volunteer, offer advice, and promote others. Don’t go out and ask for promotion or blurbs or referrals. Then you are cheesy marketing person and people will shut you out.
- Start something unique. I started “Marketing Mondays” on my blog about 2 years ago and it is what got me building my platform.
- Be yourself – whatever that is. Don’t be boring and don’t be a jerk. You can turn people off more than your book. Find a way to put yourself into whatever you do so it is more personal and not a walking marketing show.
- Be consistent and communicate frequently so people don’t forget you.
- Get away from your Internet – go meet people. The Internet is not the be all, end all. You have to meet people too. Go to conferences, workshops, seminars, and writing socials.
- Meet people other than writers, agents and editors. Find ways to meet other readers, librarians, youth book clubs, and media specialist.
- Don’t fall into the illusion that followers equal buyers.
Most of all – keep writing! After all, who cares if you have a platform if you don’t have anything to put on it?
You must find what works for you and make it your own. You are unique, your work is unique, and your platform should be unique as well.
Thanks again to Shelli for contributing to this conversation about marketing and branding! I would be remiss, however, in not mentioning a counterpoint argument from Maureen Johnson, as found here. For the discussion: can these two opposing ideas co-exist?
Shelli Johannes-Wells (AKA S.R. Johannes) lives in Atlanta Georgia with her dog, British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world. After earning an MBA and working in corporate America, S.R. Johannes traded in her expensive suits, high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. You can find her hanging out online and visit her blog. Her first book, Untraceable, is a teen wilderness thriller that debuted on Amazon’s Hot New Releases.