Though I’m still building my author platform and my experience pales in comparison to most, I have learned a lot in the last year that I have been able to pass on to fellow authors and those who are hoping to set up their own site.
I actually didn’t realize how much I really knew until I started helping others, and it surprised me a little. It has all begun to feel so second nature, so I never gave it much thought on the actual amount of information and skills I had acquired.
That said, I thought it would be fun to give you guys a list of tips that I think are important, or I have found incredibly helpful throughout my journey. Some of these are pretty simple, but I think they serve as a good set of reminders of how to get started, or how to continue to build on what you have.
1) Domain. This is numero uno, most important. If you want an author platform, you need to scoop up a domain as soon as possible. There are people who will buy domains and then try to mark up the price, and that is a battle you don’t want to engage in. I struggled when I was deciding whether to use my full, legal name or a pen name, but when the domain with my full name was already taken, I realized I had to go with the latter. It wasn’t too bad, though, and since there is already an author of children’s books who shares my same legal name, I knew a pen name was the best choice for the sake of differentiation. That and the gal in Scotland who owns my original domain preference never emailed me back. 😛
You’ll also want to snag up Twitter and Facebook (and/or other social media accounts if you use those, too) handles and if you can’t use your name, make sure they are the same across social media pages or similar. Mine are all different, but they are similar and I make sure my cover and profile images are the same to pull it together.
2) Search Engine Optimization, better known in the tech world as SEO, is something that is important to put on your radar. SEO affects the visibility of a website in a search engine’s results and is a tool that will help to get more people on your page. I haven’t found it to be absolutely necessary at this early point in my journey, but I figure once I hit a certain number of followers (1000 or so) and Dreamweaver is finally published, I will delve more into learning about SEO.
3) Facebook Groups! These have been wonderful resources for me and I attribute a lot of my success to the information and advice I have received by being a member. I currently follow Jeff Goins and his group called Art of Work, Kate McKibbin in her Secret Blogger’s Society group, and I’m also a part of Where Authors Begin and Writers Unite. There are tons of groups to join and they have invaluable information from their creators and members. Not to mention the amazing networking! I have made a lot of great contacts that I wouldn’t have made if not for joining these groups.
4) I also think it is incredibly helpful to find at least three successful blogs in your same niche to follow. Not only will you find great ideas, techniques, and tools to implement on your own site, but the networking potential also increases. You may even end up in a position to guest post or be included in round-ups, which are great ways to get your name out there further. Mentor blogs are an invaluable resource.
5) PICTURES. This should probably be higher in the list because I think the use of images and graphics is so important. Most of what a mobile/web user reads is only in small snippets that are easy to skim, so attention-grabbing, sleek, and memorable graphics help draw the reader in and keep their attention. Canva is a great resource for a variety of graphics and images, both free and paid, and I use it on a daily basis.
6) Another aspect of an author platform that I believe is key is a blog page. This is where your readers and potential audience learn more about you not only as an author, but as a relatable human being. Sharing your interests, your writing process, things you feel passionately about, and whatever your heart desires to share helps them to connect with you. It also hones your writing skills, contributes to your portfolio, and it can be a valuable way to help you find and develop your voice. I know blogging has done all of these for me!
7) Interacting with your followers is important as well. I try to make it a point to interact with each and every person who reaches out to me so that they know I see and appreciate them. My numbers are still such that I can do this, but even if I gained another two thousand followers, I’d still carve out time to comment and tweet to the people who reach out to me. I obviously couldn’t get to them all, but I’d make a dent. 😉 I know I smile when I get feedback from those I’ve reached out to, and I always want my followers to know how grateful I am to have them in my corner.
8) Investment. Again, this should probably be closer to the top, especially since this is something I have sadly seen a lot of people forget to do. I know that it’s hard to invest money into something you might not be seeing a return on, but if you take your work seriously enough to create an author platform for it, you need to be willing to spend the time and the money to spruce it up. I pay yearly for my domain and though I find great free resources, I do spend here and there when I can to improve my site. And if you’re in it to make a living, it will pay for itself in the long run.
9) Twitter hashtags seem like a funny thing to have on the list, right? I don’t think so, and here’s why. In the last two months, I have seen my list grow from 70 or so followers to 270 just by attaching hashtags like #writerslife and #amwriting to my tweets along with some of the trending ones. These work as searchable tools on Twitter, and if someone searches the hashtag you used, there’s a chance they’ll see your tweet. And if they are intrigued by you, they just might follow you. Boom – networking! I have been followed by other authors, agents, actors, producers, directors, publishing houses, and so many others and all of this new interaction is due, in part, to utilizing hashtags to increase my reach.
10) Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, return the love. I’m not just talking about interacting with your followers when they comment on your posts or social media, but engaging with fellow authors, bloggers, and other individuals or organizations within your niche. I have a small group of loyal bloggers and authors who constantly “like” my posts, “favorite” my tweets, and engage with me on my site and connected pages. So, I try to do the same for them! This is how little tribes are built, and it just strengthens that connection and networking amongst your fellow peers.
So, there it is, friends. Ten of my top to-do’s and pieces of advice for setting up, establishing, or running an author platform. I hope you’ve found it helpful!
Please feel free to leave any extra tips you feel are important in the comments! 🙂