Fiction Writing Made Easy

#106: 5 Steps to Building Your Author Platform

August 29, 2023 Savannah Gilbo Episode 106
Fiction Writing Made Easy
#106: 5 Steps to Building Your Author Platform
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In today’s episode, I’m sharing 5 steps to building an author platform. Here’s a preview of what’s included: 

[00:59] Your author platform is the foundation for all your future book marketing efforts. You can start building it no matter where you’re at in the writing process!

[02:07] Step 1: Define your target audience of readers

[03:15] Step 2: Design your unique author brand

[06:10] Step 3: Create your author website

[07:49] Step 4: Setup your email list

[09:51] Step 5: Develop your communication strategy

[15:42] Final thoughts and episode recap.

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Speaker 1:

So think about it that way Each piece of content you put out there is another way for people to find you, and by being consistent and by varying your content across different types of media, you're going to target a variety of potential readers. Welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilbo and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week, I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started. In today's episode, we're going to talk about how to start building your author platform. Specifically, I'm going to share five steps to building your author platform in a way that's not overwhelming or stressful. But before we get into those five steps, let's make sure we're on the same page about what an author platform is. So an author platform encompasses all the ways that you can reach readers, whether now or in the future. It includes things like your website, your email list your sales pages on Amazon and other online retailers, your social media and things like that. And the cool thing is is that you can start building your author platform no matter where you're at in the writing, editing or publishing process, so you don't have to wait until you're done writing your book to get started, and, in fact, I don't recommend waiting until your book's finished. I recommend starting now and chipping away at it bit by bit. And, once you have it built, your author platform can help you attract an audience and community of readers who want to hear from you. It can help you network with the professional community of like-minded writers and it can help you find unexpected opportunities within the industry and with industry professionals. So those are three really big reasons why it's important to have an author platform. But beyond that, you might actually enjoy carving out your little corner of the internet and connecting with readers, so it can be really fun to do as well. And now that you know what an author platform is and why it's important, let's go through the five steps you can take to start building your author platform. Step number one is to define your target audience of readers. So your target audience is made up of readers who are going to love your book just as much as you do. These are the type of people who will buy your book, enjoy reading it and recommend it to all their friends. They're going to leave you glowing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads and they're going to like or comment all your social media posts or respond to your emails. So, in other words, they're the potential readers that your author platform needs to speak to, and this is why it's super important for you to understand who they are, what they like and what they might want from you before you can speak to them. So, to get to know your target audience, consider what books they're already reading. So, what three to five books do your target readers already love, and then, why do they like those books? What feelings are they seeking from the books they choose to read? You can also go through the questions I laid out in episode number four. That's all about getting to know your ideal reader. If you haven't done so already, so I will link to that episode in the show notes If you haven't heard that one. It's episode number four all about getting to know your ideal reader. So then, once you're done with step one and once you've identified your target audience. It's time to move on to step two. Step two is to design your author brand and, in a nutshell, your author brand is the impression that people get about you and your books. So it's the aesthetic or the vibe that you and your books, plus your social media, your emails etc. Give to readers. So, in other words, it's a promise to your potential readers about the type of experience or feelings they're going to have while interacting with you. As an example, we can consider two different scenarios. If your website is full of dark and moody pictures with bloody handprints and articles about the end of the world, and if you talk on social media about loving true crime podcasts, it probably doesn't make much sense to sell children's books, right? The vibe of your author brand isn't going to match the books that you produce. Now, on the flip side of that, imagine if your author brand consists of colors like pink, red and ivory and if, on the front page of your website, you have a book that shows two people holding hands and looking lovingly at each other while walking along the beach at sunset and let's say that you write sweet romance books. In this scenario, there's a definite match between the author brand and the type of books you produce, right? So to start designing your author brand, you'll want to answer questions like what vibe is commonly associated with the kind of books I write? What feelings do I want to evoke in my target audience? What words resonate with people who might like my books? What images will attract people who might like my books? And then, what colors do I want to use for my website and social media? Now you might be wondering what if I write in different genres? And this is a great question, because many writers write in different genres under the same name and just as many use different names for different genres. So there is no right answer when it comes to creating an author brand if you write across multiple genres. But there are some things you can consider before deciding how to move forward. So first I want you to consider if you can get away with being one brand. So is there any overlap between your two audiences? And then, if so, it's going to be much easier for you to build and maintain one brand. If not, you can consider where you want to be in five years. So, for example, let's say you write both crime and romance and let's say that you know you only want to write crime in the future. In this scenario, it's probably a good idea to build your author brand to best suit crime readers, since that's where you want to go anyway. But, of course, when in doubt, do what feels right to you. If you do need to develop more than one author brand to accommodate the books you write in different genres, that is totally fine. Just know going into it that it's going to take more work and planning to develop and maintain those multiple brands. Now, if you're not sure how to get started with your author brand, you can look at what other writers in your genre are doing as a jumping off point. You can also browse Pinterest for brand boards if you need color palette inspiration or any kind of general inspiration as well. And then, once you've designed your author brand, that's step two it's time to move on to step three, and step three is to create your author website. So many of us want writing to be a long-term career, right? And if this is you and if you want to take your writing seriously as a business, then you should own and control your own website. This is your home base on the internet where people can go to learn more about you and your books, so it's really important Now. At the bare minimum, your website should include the following pages A home page, an about page, an email list signup page or somewhere for them to opt into your email list, a book page and a contact page. You might also choose to include all of these elements on one page, and that's fine as well. It's up to you how much time you have the design of your website and things like that. As you grow your career and as you write more books, you might decide to add more pages to your website. So, for example, you could add a press page or a media kit, a page for book club discussion questions, a page for events and appearances, a blog or a vlog, additional book pages like a page for each book in a series, and things like that. But whatever you do, I don't want you to obsess over the design. If you're just starting out, I want you to consider this phase one of your author website. You just need to get something up to start getting people on your email list. Just like when it comes to writing a story, your website is going to develop over time, so don't get stuck trying to make it perfect and if you need some inspiration to get started, you can visit three to five of your favorite author's websites and write down what you like about their websites, what you don't like and how you feel when you visit their websites, and then you can use your findings to help you brainstorm what you want to do with your own website. And then, once you're done with that, it's time to move on to step four. Step four is setting up your email list. Having an email list will allow you to build a relationship with readers over time, so they get to know who you are and you can build that no-like and trust factor. This is why your number one goal in all of your marketing efforts should be to grow your email list. So first you'll need to choose an email service provider and get all of the tech setup done, including adding an email opt-in box to your website and things like that. Then you'll want to brainstorm a few different things. Number one is a lead magnet, so something to offer potential subscribers in exchange for their email address. Some examples of what you could do for a lead magnet are things like a bonus chapter, a free ebook, character interviews behind the scenes, look into your writing process, or anything like that. The second thing you'll want to brainstorm is some kind of auto responder series or a series of emails that will get sent automatically when someone subscribes to your email list. So, for example, this could be as simple as just one email for now that introduces you and the kind of books you write. Or it could be something else, like giving your new readers a discount code. There's not really any kind of hard and fast rule for what you need to include, although there are a lot of guidelines and templates that you can find on the internet. But whatever you do, I don't want you to overthink this part of the process. Keep it simple for now, and then you can get fancy later. Also, remember that we all start with zero subscribers and that your list will grow over time as your readers find you or as you actively promote your books. So don't get discouraged if you feel like it's slow going or if you're intimidated by having zero subscribers, because we all start there. If you need some inspiration for setting up your email list, creating a lead magnet or some kind of auto responder series, you can sign up for three to five author newsletters in your genre to see what other authors are doing, then jot down things like what you like and what you don't like about their emails. You can even create a folder in your inbox to save emails for inspiration, if you're not ready to tackle this step right now. And then, once you've set up your email list, it's time to move on to step five, and step five is to develop your communication strategy. So your communication strategy describes the type of content that you're going to use to communicate with your audience, and content is everything you put out online, including things like your email newsletter, social media posts, blog posts, podcast episodes, youtube videos and things like that. The purpose of your content strategy, or any kind of content you're putting out, is to build up that no like and trust factor with your potential readers and to stay top of mind with your ideal reader. So think about it that way. Each piece of content you put out there is another way for people to find you, and by being consistent and by varying your content across different types of media, you're going to target a variety of potential readers. So the first step in developing your communication strategy is to choose what type of content you want to commit to. At the very least, I would recommend committing to sending out an email newsletter on some kind of consistent basis, and that's because one of the worst things you can do is to only engage your audience when you have something to sell, so you will want to communicate with them when you're not selling your book or releasing your book as well. So here are some things that you could include in your newsletter. This is not an exhaustive list, but just some ideas to get you going. You can include things like writing updates, events and appearances, reviews of any books you've read, your own book releases, personal updates or notes, blog posts that you like or that you've written, giveaways or competitions, flash fiction that you're creating, any flash fiction that you've created, character interviews, short stories and maybe even some chapters. So those could be work in progress chapters or finished chapters or chapters that didn't make it into your final manuscript. You know anything like that. And then, once you're comfortable sending out some kind of consistent newsletter, you can branch out to social media, blog posts, youtube videos or anything like that. So it's up to you add on whatever you want to add on once you're consistently sending out an email newsletter. And something really important to note here is that you need to determine what consistent looks like for you and it's important to be realistic. So don't say that you're going to send out weekly newsletters if you know that's going to be really hard for you. Instead, start small. So, for example, maybe you know that you can commit to sending out a quarterly email to your subscribers. If that feels realistic, that's a great commitment. To start with, you could do a monthly newsletter, a weekly newsletter, whatever kind of communication you want. Just make sure you're being realistic with what you can do, what you want to do, and make sure it's something you can stick to, so that your subscribers know what to expect. And remember, the goal is to build out your communication strategy over time. So I don't want you to try to do too many things at once or to be everywhere at once. If you do try to do this, you're likely going to burn out and it's not going to feel good anymore, and then you're going to just stop altogether and if you stop you won't be able to connect with your target audience. So again, just remember to start small and be realistic. And that's step five to develop your communication strategy. Now let's really quickly talk about social media before I wrap up those five steps. So if you're anything like most of the authors I work with, you're probably wondering what about social media? And do authors need to be on social media to succeed? And, like most things, my answer is that it depends on your goals. You don't have to do anything that you don't want to do. But consider this If you don't use social media, how are you going to find people to get them on your email list? And maybe you have a really creative answer to this that your confidence is going to work, and if so, that's great. But if not, instead of closing the door on using social media, consider how social media can be used effectively in a way that works for you, because there are some benefits to being on social media. For example, you can choose how you show up and interact. You can be home alone in your pajamas, but still quote-unquote out there connecting with people. You can schedule your posts and things in advance with social media schedulers, so you don't have to be on it all the time, and it's a great way to build relationships with people, including your target audience, or people in the industry that you might otherwise not meet. So there are a lot of benefits to it, but again, it's all about making it work for you. If you do want to be on social media, don't try to be on all the different platforms at once, because this is also going to feel overwhelming. So instead, pick one channel to start with and then be consistent with posting on that channel before you branch out to other channels Again. Keep it simple, and then you can get fancy later. Now here's something really important I want you to know. I don't want you to put all of your efforts into social media and ignore creating an email list, and that's because you don't own anything that you create on social media or any of the followers that you have on social media, so your posts and your connections could disappear or be inaccessible at any point in time. This is why I want you to focus your time and energy on building your email list instead of putting all your eggs in the social media basket. If you do want to use social media, that's great. You totally should, but build the base of your author platform on your own hosted website and then use social media as a way to drive traffic to your website and get people on your email list. Most of all, I want you to consider your email list as a part of your long-term safety net strategy. So having an email list is what's going to give you that audience of readers that you can reach out to yourself at any time, no matter what happens. For example, if social media disappears tomorrow, you're going to lose all of that content and connections that you've built over time. If you get traditionally published and then decide to walk away from your publisher at some point, you're going to lose your connection to their audience. You don't get to take that with you. So I just want you to keep these things in mind and just know that this is kind of what's behind me, saying that building your email list should be your number one priority. So just let me consider and let me recap those five steps really quick. So these are the five steps you can take to start building out your author platform. Step number one is to define your target audience of readers because, remember, if you don't know who you're talking to, your author platform is going to be ineffective. Step number two is to design your author brand. So remember, this is the impression that people get about you in your books and you want whatever kind of content you're putting out there to match the type of books that you write and the vibe you're going for. Step number three is to create your author website. And remember, I gave you kind of the bare minimum of pages that you'll want to include in phase one of your website build. So that was your homepage, your about page, an email list, signup page or some kind of opt-in box, if it's not on an individual page, a page about your books and a contact page. So, again, bare minimum, phase one. You can build out other pages over time. Step four is to set up your email list. So remember, I'm totally going to sound like a broken record, but trust me, it's that important. Your number one goal in all of your marketing efforts should be to grow your email list, because this is how you will directly speak to readers and get them to know, like and trust you, which means they are more likely to buy your books. Step number five is to develop your communication strategy. So what kind of content you're going to put out, how often you're going to be connecting with your readers and things like that. And remember, you don't have to do all of this at once If you're in the early phases of writing, or even if you're editing your book, wherever you're at, you can always get started with one piece of this at a time. So at least now you kind of have a roadmap to work with and you can pick and choose what you want to work on when. But it's never too early to get started. So I highly encourage you to at least put some of this on your radar, and these can be great activities to do on those days where your brain just doesn't want to be creative and maybe you still want to work on something related to your writing in some way. Why not do something for your author platform? So there you have it five steps to building out your author platform. Trust me when I say that all of the hard work will be worth it once you start connecting and communicating with your audience. From a personal perspective, marketing is all about people getting to know, like and trust you. It's about delivering value to someone's life through your books and content. It's not just about making a sale. So, all of this being said, never forget that there's another person on the other side of your marketing efforts, and if they sign up for things like your social media or your email list, that means they genuinely want to connect and engage with you and hear from you, so keep it simple and try to have fun with it. So that's it for today's episode. As always, thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support. If you want to check out any of the links I mentioned in this episode, you can find them in the show notes listed in the description of each episode, inside your podcast player or at savannahgilbocom forward slash podcast. If you're an Apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell Apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and, in turn, your reviews will help this podcast get in front of more fiction writers just like you. And while you're there, go ahead and hit that follow button, because there's going to be another brand new episode next week, full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer. So I'll see you next week and until then, happy writing.

Building Your Author Platform
Designing Author Brand, Creating Website
Email List and Communication Strategy Development
Building Author Platform With Social Media