Why You Need an Author Platform if You Plan to Publish (and how to get started today!)

Hello there, friend. Are you planning to publish your novel someday? Fantastic!

If you want to begin your writing career by selling books, you're going to need an author platform–the opportunity to introduce your novels to readers. This means the bigger a platform you have (the more opportunity to get your books in front of readers), the larger your chance of making some actual income from your novels.

One of the biggest mistakes I see debut authors make is that they publish their novels without first taking the time to build a following of interested readers. To me, this just doesn't make any sense.

After all, how are you going to sell a book if you don't have anyone to sell it to, right?

In this digital age, it's tempting to think you can slap your book on Amazon and the sales will just roll on in, but this simply doesn't happen. If you want to grow your sales, you need to grow your readership, and that's where an author platform comes in to play. 

By finding creative ways to invest readers in your work and your journey, you will build an irresistible platform that will help you find success. That is how you build a writing career, and that is exactly what we're going to talk about today. 



The Three Pillars of a Successful Author Platform

Online, you'll often see author platforms defined by numbers. "Oh, that author has 10,000 email subscribers and 25,000 total social media followers. She's killin' it!". And when you see numbers like that, it's pretty easy to get intimidated. To think you'll never be able to reach that level of following. 

But here's the thing: you can have the greatest number of followers in the world, but if you don't actively fulfill the three pillars of a successful author platform, you aren't going to sell very many books.

Which means, should you rock the heck out of all three of these pillars, you could sell more books to an audience of 1,000 than that hotshot author with all of those intimidating numbers. Pretty cool, right?

So what are the three pillars of a successful author platform? Check this out:

1. Growth

Your author platform won't even get off the ground if you don't take the time to grow it. From email lists to social media subscribers, growing your audience should be one of your main concerns.

Now, growth certainly takes time and effort, but it's well worth it–especially if you put the remaining pillars into place.

2. Engagement

One of the most vital elements of rocking a successful author platform–and the pillar that is most likely to get left in the dust–is engagement. Readers like to buy books from authors they trust, and building trust takes two things: time and intimacy. 

Now, I'm not saying you need to reveal what you ate for lunch on Instagram (please, don't) or share your deepest, darkest secrets on Twitter (no thank you!).

Engaging with your audience simply means taking the time to interact with them. To share your process and journey, to answer their questions, and–most importantly–to make yourself more than just a profile pic. 

So, be human and interact with your readers. A little can go a long way.

3. Sales

Ah, sales. The one pillar that gets waaaay overused and overhyped.

Now, don't get me wrong: selling–a.k.a. marketing–your published novels is so important. After all, you need to pitch your books to readers if you want them to buy. 

But if you focus exclusively on selling, selling, selling all day long, readers are going to get tired of you–and your books–real quick. No one likes feeling like a number on a ledger, so don't treat your readers as such. 

Without continuously striving to rock all three of these pillars, you won't have an author platform that continues to grow into a highly successful career. And even after you reach fiction superstardom, it's important to remember just how vital these elements are. 

No one is immune to a career backslide (not even the greats!), so know that as an author, you and your platform are in it for the long haul. 



Where can you begin building your platform?

So, what makes up an author platform? Where can you build a following, interact with fans, and sell your books? Here's where you can get started:

1. In Person

Or, "in real life". So much of our communication is online nowadays, but let's not forget that you can begin building your author platform face-to-face. Where and how so?

  1. Book Clubs and Conventions. If you're a part of a book club or love attending book conventions, don't be afraid to reel your fellow readers into your writing journey. Share details about your book and make new friends who will snatch up their signed copies when your book is finally published.
  2. Speaking Gigs. If you're naturally good at speaking or teaching, looking for some gigs at local schools, universities, writing groups, or conventions can be a great way to begin spreading word about your novel.
  3. Public Readings. You can also spread the word about your book by participating in public readings at coffee shops, writing groups, libraries, and book stores. 


2. Online

But we are indeed living in a digital age, and because of that, a lot of modern author platforms are based steeply in online interactions. Here are a few ways you can begin building your own online author platform:

  1. Website or Blog. Every author needs an online home. This will be your website, a place for you to boast about your books and accomplishments and give readers all of the information they need in order to fall in love with your work and your writing journey. 

    You may also choose to start a blog on your website as a means of keeping readers updated and engaged.
  2. Email List. Hosting a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly newsletter (which is sent to subscribed readers) is a great way to keep those readers updated on all of your novels–and to sell directly to people you know are interested in purchasing your latest book. 
  3. Social Media. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Youtube, or something else entirely, having an active social media presence is a great way to fulfill all three pillars of a successful author platform. 
  4. Webinars and Podcasts. And finally, hosting a semi-regular webinar or podcast is a great way to allow readers to get to know you and your work, as well as a way for you to sell your book without seeming too...ya know, salesy.


That's a lot to take in, right?

No worries if you're feeling intimidated by this list, friend. You absolutely do not–and should not–try to build and maintain each of these author platform streams. In fact, quality should always trump quantity in this arena. 

However, I do highly suggest setting up an author website and an email list–the staples of an online platform. 

But beyond that, choose only the handful of options you think would best enable you to reach your readers, and learn everything you can about how to rock those options. 

Why do you need an author platform in the first place? Does every writer need a platform? 

At the beginning of this post, we talked briefly about how essential an author platform is to selling your book once it is published. But did you know that you need an author platform no matter which path to publishing you plan to pursue?

Obviously, if you plan to self-publish your novel, you are going to be your own marketing team. It's up to you to make book sales happen, and you'll have to put in the time and energy to accomplish that. 

But with traditional publishing, many unpublished writers assume their publishing house will assign their book to a marketing team that will do all of the selling for them. This is simply not the case–especially for debut authors. 

Here's why: marketing can cost a lot of time and money. Publishing houses are businesses, and, as a debut author, you have no way of proving to that publishing house that your novel is a sound investment, that it's worth the expense. That is, until you prove it to them

Sure, they'll print your book for you. Your manuscript was accepted after all, so clearly they think your book has potential. But until you can prove to them that it actually does via sales, they'll rely on you to do most–if not all–of the marketing for your first book. 

This is exactly why it is so important to begin building an author platform before you plan to publish.

Having a platform established will not only help your manuscript get accepted, but it will help you sell your book once it's published. If you do a great job bringing in sales, your publishing house will likely be willing to take on some or most of that responsibility the next time you publish a book.


Let's Chat!

So, how can you begin building your author platform?

I'm thrilled to announce that I will now be publishing articles on platform building and marketing here on She's Novel. So far, we've focused solely on the process of book creation, but it's time to take a step forward, right?

Over the next several months, I'll be introducing posts and resources for building your author website, growing your email list, discovering your ideal reader, rocking your social media, and so much more. 

Have something you'd specifically like me to talk about? Comment below and let me know!