There’s that word again. “Platform.” Don’t tune me out, please. Creating a platform is simply creating various way to connect with your readers so you can sell books and build fans. Ta-dah!
And here is another secret: It doesn’t have to feel icky.
Instead of looking at it as marketing yourself and your books, think of it as building relationships. Engage with people in a way that is authentic and enjoyable. That makes them want to be a part of your universe.
To help build an engaging platform, or to help ramp up an existing one, here are some steps you can take.
Step 1: To get a clearer idea on the best ways to connect with your readers, take a quick self-eval:
- Who are you writing for?
Make sure you are targeting the right audience for the type of writing that you do. What you talk about will attract what you want to sell. For example, if you write mid-grade readers but your messaging is about how to write mid-grade chapter books, you will not attract your actual readers which would be parents of 8 – 12-year-olds.
- What are you writing?
Your audience for picture books will most likely differ from an audience looking for Vacation Bible School curriculum. If you write in more than one genre, that’s okay. However, there are strong benefits to specializing in a specific genre. One benefit is that you don’t have to go out looking for new readers because you already have a following in one genre.
- Why do you write?
You should know your why for writing. If you’re not sure, it’s probably because you have more than one reason. And that’s okay. Perhaps it is to teach children the love of God through fiction while earning a full-time income. Both of those should be considered while creating your platform.
Step 2: Choose the vehicles you will use to connect with your readers.
There are so many vehicles (also called platforms) that you can utilize when building your platform, and most of them are free! What I am referring to, of course, are the many websites and applications which you will use to get your message out (Facebook, email, Instagram, etc.).
There are three proven staples to a writer’s platform that you should consider:
Email has been consistent for along time and many authors claim it is their best-selling tool. Email is more personal than social media. In addition to this, the email addresses you collect belong to you.
Ava Pennington wrote a fantastic blog post for W2I on how to create a newsletter for your readers titled “Spread the News in a Newsletter.” She also wrote a helpful post on “6 Common Mistakes in Building Your Email List” that you won’t want to miss.
- Social Media
Social media is fun and comes in many shapes and sizes. You can pick which one you like best and run with it. On some platforms you can join groups of readers or critique groups which may also boost your sales. They also have ad options if you have a budget for advertising.
However, according to Author Kirsten Oliphant who sells young adult fiction at CreateIfWriting.com, social media is not her strongest vehicle for making sales. “What I’ve seen from … three years of doing this author marketing and platform-building thing,” said Oliphant, “is that social media doesn’t have a massive impact on sales.”
While this may be true, it is still a great place to engage with readers and there are some authors who do make a lot of sales from their social media platforms.
- Content Strategy
This is longer content which you create and includes blog posts, podcasts, articles, videos, and other pieces that help build relationships. Again, you want to make sure you write specifically for your audience if your intent is to sell your books.
For example, if you decided that your goal was to write stories that help teach children how to love others, your content should revolve around different ways that parents can teach their children how to love. You might include devotions they can read to their kids, book reviews of other books with similar lessons, and stories from the news of kids helping others.
Because there are so many options, you need to determine which platform fits best. Sometimes this takes time/trial-and-error, but here are a few questions to help with your decision:
- Which ones work best for finding and nurturing your readers?
- Which ones fit best into your “why” for writing?
- Which ones do you already have experience with and enjoy using?
Take some time and think about how you are connecting with your audience. If you need to rework your messaging or beef-up one of your platforms, go for it! If you have not started creating one yet, now is the time. Just remember to keep it simple, make it authentic and enjoyable for both you and your followers.
If creating a platform still has you boggled, we are happy to help. You want to keep it simple, but there are many options which can make it seem overwhelming. Please let us know if you have questions!
About the Author:
Cindy Lynn Sawyer is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and marketing strategist who loves history, mystery, and all things chocolate. She has more than 1,000 published articles, including stories and activities published through Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, Jr. and Single Parent Magazine. Marketing ties in nicely with both her creative and writing skills, enabling her to tell the stories of businesses and individuals through print and digital platforms. She has worked extensively with non-profits and local businesses where she resides in South Bend, Indiana.
When it is time to unwind, Cindy enjoys reading, watching movies, or building tents with her grandkids. She loves spending quiet time with the Lord, traveling, and planning themed gatherings with her family. Please visit Cindy’s website here.