10 Tidbits About Author Platform

platform1. Definition of a platform? It’s the way you, the author, will get your name and your book in front of potential consumers. It’s the way you will bring sales to the table. It’s a group of people who are likely to buy your book, if you should ever publish one, because they already know of you and they like something about you.

2. You need a platform if you want to sell books, period. You need something. Whether you’re going to traditionally publish or self publish.

3. For first-time novelists, publishers still make their decisions based on the book itself, but they’ll expect you to have a head start on some kind of online platform, and they’ll expect you to step it up once you have a contract. Non-fiction authors, be aware the need for platform is a primary consideration for publishers, and should be primary for you even if you’re considering self-publishing.

4. You should focus your platform on the target audience of your books. Don’t focus as much on your topic as your audience. And narrow that audience down. You cannot say “everyone who likes to read thrillers” or “all Christians.” Engage in profiling. Figure out who your target reader is, and build a platform on trying to gather those people into your tribe.

5.If you’re a novelist, figuring out your target audience is very tricky. (With non-fiction it’s easier because it’s topically-based. Fiction, not so.) Still, the only way to effectively build a platform and market books is to identify your ideal reader profile and aim to speak to that person.

6. Platform building can include: building a speaking career and speaking to larger and larger audiences; having regular or ongoing visibility in the traditional media (radio, TV, magazines, newspapers); having a highly visible position in a large organization, for example, being a pastor of a 5,000 member church or the CEO of a 1,000-employee company; or building a strong online identity with blogging and social networking.

7. Nobody can to tell you exactly what to shoot for in terms of Facebook followers or blog visitors, because there are so many variables. (I’ll do a whole post on it sometime.) As a benchmark, you could shoot for 500 fans on your Facebook profile page and 15,000 monthly page views to your blog. The important thing is that you keep your numbers steadily growing (and of course, that you’re tracking your stats with a reliable indicator such as Google Analytics.)

8. Using social networking badly can be worse than not doing it at all. You can scare people away and make them vow to never buy a book you write! Read books like Inbound Marketing, read blogs on how to blog & Twitter effectively, and study how to do it right.

9. Building a platform takes time—sometimes, a lot of time. Sometimes non-fiction authors need to set aside their manuscripts and focus on gathering their tribe for awhile.

10. You only need a platform if you want to sell a lot of books. You’re free to ignore platform if your primary goal is to write rather than sell.

So that I can formulate helpful future blog posts, what specific questions do you have about platform?

 

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  • http://mfutch.blogspot.com/ Michael Futch

    The platform is at once scary and exciting to me. Do I want a platform? Absolutely. I’ve wanted one before I even knew it was called such a thing.

    Do I know how to build a platform? Absolutely not. It seems like a trick, almost: to build a platform, you’ll need fans. To get fans, you’ll need a platform. Doesn’t keep me from wanting one, though!

  • http://markwilliamsinternational.com mark williams international

    When it comes to writers platforms, they don’t come much bigger than Nathan Bransford.

    Nathan’s experience is a fine example of where publishers spout the platform mantra with no concept whatsoever of what it means, and with no intention of letting it benefit the author.

    Instead they price his book out of the market (the e-book is two dollar MORE than the hard-cover).

    The figure of 15,000 monthly page views is an interesting one. Where do these crazy figures come from?

    Unless you’re *already* a celebrity or an established writer those sort of numbers are pie in the sky. That’s 500 a day. Nearly 4000 hits per post if you’re blogging once a week.

    Anyone who can command those sort of numbers doesn’t need a publisher. They should self-publish and reap the rewards!

    If these crazy numbers are so essential to selling books, how on Earth did publishers manage before SMP?

  • http://akindleinhongkong.blogspot.com Shannon Young

    Hi Rachelle,

    Could you write a post about what sort of timing is appropriate as you build your platform? For example, is it okay to start talking about the specifics of your book on your blog before you even begin querying? Does it make sense to have an author fan page on FB if you don’t know when/if you’ll have a book coming out? Are some of these things supposed to wait until you have a book deal?

    I am building an audience for my travel memoir through twitter and a book and travel blog. I’ve mentioned that I am writing, but I have not shared my hook, my working title, etc. with my readers yet. I plan to begin querying in January or February and I don’t want to put a bunch of stuff up prematurely. I’m also making short videos about my book and my writing process, but I don’t know if I should plan to release them in the months leading up to my book’s release (fingers crossed) or if I should just put them up as soon as possible.

    Anyway, I know these questions are kind of specific, but I’m looking forward to learning more about what kind of timing platform building should involve. Thank you!

    • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

      Shannon, I have some of the same questions. I’m writing a novel and my blog is about my journey as an author and my writing process, things I encounter as I write, etc. However, I’m not sure whether to blog about my book specifically and release any details, etc., before I even finish. But in order to have a better chance at getting published, it seems I should have a following. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • http://www.sarahanneloudinthomas.wordpress.com Sarah Thomas

      Ditto the fan page question. Should I have one before there’s a book? Or is the fan page for the book that’s about to be published?

  • http://jennaquentin.blogspot.com/ Jenna Quentin

    Great tidbits! I am working on my platform with a blog and networking, however, the audience of my book are 10-14 year olds. What is the most effective way to get an audience of preteens, in the Christian market, who aren’t really reading blogs? Thanks!

  • Neil Ansell

    When I got my first deal (for a work of narrative non-fiction) I told the publishers that I had no platform to speak of – no blog, no twitter, no facebook – and they said not to worry, it wouldn’t matter, the book would be very easy to publicise and it would be its own platform. So it rather depends – if you write something unusual enough to automatically stand out from the crowd then platform becomes less of an issue.

    • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

      Neil,

      I’m not sure that an autobiography that reads as interesting as most fiction really fits in the same class as other non-fiction.

      Great job, though! Way to go!

  • http://deekrull.blogspot.com/ Dee Krull

    If I am understanding correctly about what having a platform means, I started creating a platform a month before my book was published. I am on the computer every day and have been faithfully writing new posts to my blog every five days. Starting today I am going to step that up to every three days. When I get a new follower, I follow back and check out and join other blogs then invite them to join mine. And I only follow those who are my target audience.

    My biggest problem has been creating profiles on the different websites. I just don’t have the experience and have been very frustrated trying to upload my book cover and create a site. What would you suggest to help me with this?

  • http://writingtodistraction.blogspot.com Carla Gade

    This is great stuff. I’ve spent several years building my “tribe” and it has paid off. By the time I got my first fiction contracts I already have a following. I’m so glad to have had the expert advice such as yours through the years. Thank you!

    Now, about those page views…I get on the average about 2,500 per month and I thought that was pretty good when I compare to my peers. http://www.alexa.com/ provides public site analytics which is a pretty cool tool to gain insights on what draws your blog visitors.

  • http://www.wizardofotin.blogspot.com otin

    You now have another page in my list of bookmarked pages!

  • http://em-musing.blogspot.com Leigh Caron

    My blog is currently targeting other writers, but I am aware that I need to target my potential readers. Not as easy. But they’re out there and if need be, I’ll hire a professional to find them…I just can’t do it all, nor am I the best one for this part of my marketing effort. How much do agents expect an author to do before signing them?

  • http://jessicanelson.net Jessica Nelson

    #10 made me smile. Good tips, thanks!

  • http://www.bethziarnik.com Beth Ziarnik

    Hi Rachelle,

    Love this topic! Thank you for bringing it up.

    Here are my questions:

    (1) What are some effective ways an author can narrow down/figure out the target audience for his/her novel? Could you offer some examples?

    (2)How does a writer with a Web site, blog, Facebook track stats with Google Analytics or any other tool? What other tools for tracking stats would you would recommend?

    • http://rhculp.com R. H. Culp

      Hi Beth,

      I don’t have any good advice for #1, but as for analytics, it depends on where you’re set up. If you use wordpress.com, there are great statistic tools built in that track views by hour, day, week, page, etc. as well was what links are clicked and what search engine terms led to your site.

      Google Analytics is an even more powerful tool, though it unfortunately doesn’t work with wordpress.com because you can’t edit code. It takes a little bit more know-how, but it’s still fairly simple and doable with a little help from online tutorials.

      If you have an author page on facebook (which is different than just a facebook account) it also has some useful stat-tracking tools that can be accessed by clicking “Edit Page” in the upper right corner and then clicking “Insights” on the menu on the left.

      I know that’s something of a crash course, but if you have more questions, feel free to email me: rob@rhculp.com

    • http://www.meghanward.com/blog Meghan Ward

      Beth,

      Just go to google.com/analytics, create an account, and then copy and paste the code into your website. Google Analytics explains to you where to put the code.

  • http://michaelseese.blogspot.com/ Michael Seese

    What I’d like to know (from anyone) is what are the “tricks” for building up a following. Admittedly, there is nothing wrong with slow and steady; it’s a proven method. But sometimes, you read of someone who just “explodes” on the scene. I’ll give an example. I read an article a few years back about a fellow who decided to take the pet Christmas cards he had received (e.g., a basset hound wearing antlers), and created a website called “Pets Who Want To Kill Themselves.” Though I’m fudging the numbers, the article said that within days he was getting dozens of contributions a day, within two weeks, publishers started calling him, and within three weeks, he had a contract.

    OK, let’s back it up… The key to the contract was that somehow, within days, people had HEARD about his site and started uploading photos.

    So how does one generate that many “eyeballs” within days?

    Answer that, and you can have a pretty significant platform.

    • http://rhculp.com R. H. Culp

      You should read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s not a how to book by any means, but it’s a fascinating study on exactly that.

      • http://michaelseese.blogspot.com/ Michael Seese

        I have that book on my bed stand. I suppose I should read it.

  • http://www.linda-adams.com Linda Adams

    Don’t forget things not to do it. I just had someone trying to promote her book email me for a review. If she’d known who she was selling it to, she would have realized that I wasn’t on her list. It appeared she was just tweeting people because they had writer in their profile.

    • Sra

      Ditto. Can we get some specifics of those not-to-do’s?

  • http://michellehigdonbooks.blogspot.com Michelle

    These tidbits are great! Building an author platform intimidates me, I’m not gonna lie. It scares me so much I shake in my flip-flops. But your information has been very helpful.

    I guess a question I would have is do you have any advice for getting people to follow your blog/Twitter/Facebook? I blog and have a Facebook fan page but I don’t really know how to go about getting more followers.

    Thanks, as always, for the tips!

  • http://www.ginnymartyn.com Ginny Martyn

    sigh…

    • http://davidatodd.com David Todd

      My thoughts exactly.

    • http://davidatodd.com David Todd

      My own experience with trying to get blog followers as part of building a platform is disappointing. Following the mantra “go to other blogs, post on them, and people will do the same in return”, I went to other blogs and made an effort to post, not once but usually more often. I think my return posting ratio is maybe 1 out of 5, and return followers is maybe 1 out of 20.

      I’m probably doing something wrong with my blog, or perhaps I live in a thinly populated section of the Internet.

      • http://laurenspathtopub.blogspot.com/ Lauren F. Boyd

        Hey, David! I agree that I try to comment on other people’s blogs and follow those that interest me. And it’s always nice when people do the same in return.

        There are some blogs, however, that no matter how many times I comment and even if I’m a follower, they do not comment back on my blog. So you know what I’ve done? I’ve stopped commenting on their blogs. It’s too bad.

  • Susan Bourgeois

    I would love to start a blog about my book but my book is not complete.

    It’s fiction and I’m not sure I want to put my idea out there for everyone to see before the book is complete.

    How do I know if someone might run with my idea or write one similar?

  • http://rickbarry.blogspot.com/ Rick Barry

    Concerning Facebook fan pages: Are they truly of any value in determining platform? I can’t count the number of times I’ve received emails from writer colleagues that basically say, “Author X invites you to become a fan of Author X! Here’s the link!” Most often I’ve never even read these individuals’ books; I’ve merely accepted their friend invitations, which evidently was sufficient to land me on their list of potential “fans.” Surely agents and editors are wise to these artificially inflated figures? I have to confess that this process has soured me on the whole fan-page concept. Am I missing something?

  • http://aboutracewriter.blogspot.com/ Dianne Liuzzi Hagan

    This is a hard one. An agent asked for my proposal as a result of a query, but sent it right back and said “rework the marketing section.” I spent a few days talking to other writers, etc. Started my blog (I don’t tweet yet, I don’t have a published book to tweet about). I’ve gotten 550 hits on my blog (13 posts) over a few months and I thought that was great. LOL I’ve increased my Friends on FB from 93 to 122. 32 people have liked my writer’s page. I have a lot of work to do! And all the books and experts tell you that you have to be sincere, and I agree. So if sincerity is a part of it, growth will be slow!

    Great article, Rachelle!

  • http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ Wendy

    You mentioned a few in #6, but in your opinion what is the most effective way a novelist can identify her reader profile, then reach her target audience pre-publication?

    ~ Wendy

  • Vera Soroka

    I just started to make a platform using blogger. I haven’t figured it all out yet. I want it to be a site that would draw readers and artists to come read my short stories and look at my art. If I can somehow manage to have a following I could have potential buyers for my work. Am I doing the right thing?

  • Nancy Petralia

    Another great topic, Rachelle.

    I’m still confused about the fan page thing. I have a FB page, and a couple hundred “friends”. But I think the fan page is for the book, right? Do I create is now, before it’s even in second draft? Can you give some examples of people who have done this early that I can look at? And some who have done it well.

    Many thanks for your excellent advice.

  • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

    It sounds so simple, yet is frustratingly elusive!

    How does one begin to connect with potential readers, when those potential readers have no idea that they might want to connect with me?

    My current book is intended for an easily defined target audience, Christians who have experienced divorce and dealt with some level of guilt or rejection associated with the divorce.

    For that audience, my book offers renewed hope both by revelaing God’s heart of love and by exposing multiple myths that the Bible DOESN’T SAY about divorce.

    My Sunday school class and my friends love it! But how do I find a wider audience to connect with? Starting up a blog does not instantly draw fans. Not many people are cruising the internet looking for blog sites to connect with.

  • http://cherrytart.wordpress.com/ Jan O’Hara

    Re #7: I’d love to know your thoughts on the pros and cons of a group blog versus an individual blog. Would participation in a group blog change your recommendations on the goal for personal blog numbers?

  • http://www.jenniferemcfadden.net Jennifer E. McFadden

    I’ve tried all of the suggestions mentioned above and have enjoyed networking with other writers. My question is how do I attract potential agents/readers to my blog?

  • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

    Thanks for the post, Rachelle. This has definitely been something I’ve started thinking about as I start writing my first novel. I’ve got a blog and Twitter. I will definitely read the book you suggested, as I’m sure that will give me strategies for building a platform.

    A few questions:
    (1) What is considered a successful number of followers on Twitter?
    (2) Should I create a fan page for my novel when it’s still being written? I have my personal Facebook page, and have nearly 500 friends there, but the page is not specific to my book (although I do “share” my blog posts on my page).
    (3) How much marketing is a first-time novelist personally responsible for when first signed to a publishing contract? Don’t most publishing houses have marketing divisions that assist with that?

    Thanks again for writing relevant posts that help writers know the ins and outs of the publishing world!

  • http://rickbarry.blogspot.com/ Rick Barry

    Concerning blogs, I’d like to add the observation that many, many writers out there are aiming their blog posts, not at reading consumers, but at fellow writers. I started doing the same thing until it hit me that I should be targeting avid readers much more than fellow authors.

    By analogy, if a mega-church produces a CD of its choir, does it make sense to spend most of your time trying to sell those CDs to the choir members when there’s a much larger potential source of sales in the listening public?

    Yes, I still network with authors, but I shouldn’t view them as my main source of sales.

    • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

      Excellent point, Rick!

      …and yet…there still seems to be a need to network with writers, reviewers, and other active participants in the publishing industry.

      Without the networking, how does the book get reviews and publicity?

      This is all still new to me, and I’m struggling to figure out how to do it all at the same time. Sometimes, it’s a lot of fun, and other times it seems frustratingly slow.

      It is definitely a learning experience!

    • http://www.fallible.com Katy McKenna

      Rick, I agree with you. Many author websites/blogs seem to have other writers as their target audience. While I would love for my (future) book to be read by my fellow authors, I have always treated my blog as a space in which to post my own creative writing. In that way, I hope to develop a following of readers, not just writers. Also, in adding to my list of facebook friends, I’m now actively looking for people who seem to be avid readers (according to their profile), with no particular authorial aspirations. At this point, my blogging and facebooking goal is to build a network of readers, and to entertain them on those platforms with snippets of my writing, so that (hopefully) they’ll one day want to read my book.

    • http://www.sarahanneloudinthomas.wordpress.com Sarah Thomas

      Yes! At first I thought my blog was a place to show off how much I know about writing books and publishing (not enough!). But I quickly realized that I got way more hits when posts were only peripherally related to writing.

  • http://www.sugarbeanscribbles.blogspot.com Kate Meadows

    I would like to know how a writer can effectively manage her time when it comes to writing and building platform. Blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – it all takes time to keep up with and be consistent. How do we as writers juggle all of this while continuing to churn out new material and pitch it? Thanks for your insights, Rachelle and everybody.

  • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com Laura @aLifeOverseas

    I love coming here for these practical tips! I didn’t realize there was a need for a bigger platform for nonfiction writers than for novelists, but it totally makes sense. I also liked how you gave a target goal for page views and fb fans. Personally, that helps to give me a goal to shoot for!

    I’d love to learn more quick-tips about how to effectively use twitter to build a writer’s platform. I feel like I have a pretty strong handle on facebook, but I feel like my feet are dragging on twitter {Maybe it’s because I am sleeping typically when the U.S. is awake, and so I miss the conversations}.

    Thanks, again, for the practical information!

    • http://christinabaglivitinglof.com Christina Baglivi Tinglof

      I agree! I’m clueless about how to use Twitter! It scares me! :)

    • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

      Laura, Michael Hyatt has an excellent post on the topic of using Twitter effectively (http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-use-twitter-to-promote-your-new-book.html).

      Unfortunately, it assumes you already have a following on twitter…that someone actually reads your tweets. I don’t seem to be there yet… ;^}

      Good luck!

  • http://christinabaglivitinglof.com Christina Baglivi Tinglof

    Back in 1996, a publisher contacted me to write a book about twins. It was just at the beginning of the twin explosion. Now, of course, things have changed and after the book came out, I thought I had it made! No such luck. For every book idea after that, my agent (and publisher) kept saying, “You need a platform.” It took me a VERY LONG time to understand what a platform was and how to start building one. Your advice is right on! But it does take a long time to build a “tribe.” The tricks that I’ve learned over the years?
    1. Be consistent. Blog. Facebook. Lecture. Whatever….just do it regularly.
    2. Find your voice. There are TONS of twin mommy blogs out there. I had to stand out and apart from them. I think I have.
    3. Keep up to date with social media trends. (Google+ anyone?)
    4. Participate. It’s not enough to blog or Tweet. You need to be interested in others and add comments.

    • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

      Thanks for the advice, Christina. That all seems like helpful information.

      What’s the best way to find blogs similar to yours? Google? For instance, I’m writing a blog about my process of writing a novel. I’d like to find blogs by other Christian writers who are going through a similar process. Is Google my best hope for finding something like this?

      Also, how often do you blog? Once a day? Twice a week? I’m trying to figure out what is a good balance, since I am also writing my novel and working.

      Thanks!

  • http://smmirza.blogspot.com Shilpa

    Very timely post for me. Thanks! I am trying to accelerate my platform for a romance novella that i have written. I have found it time consuming. With a full time job, I would really like some advice on how to effectively socialize online without having to spend so many hours together doing it!

  • http://www.edcyz.com ed cyzewski

    A helpful way to think of a platform is to consider that a relatively small percentage of the page views at your blog will actually convert into book sales. The scale of an online network for viable book sales is quite large. I have pretty consistently underestimated the number of sales I would attract through my platform.

  • http://www.jillkemerer.com Jill Kemerer

    Informative and to the point–great post! Thanks!

  • Melinda

    I’d really appreciate some tips on exactly how to figure out your target audience and what it is they would want from a website/blog. I mean, when I think of who my target audience is I envision someone just like me :-D. But when I think like that I can’t even begin to imagine what my blog/platform should be. I ask myself what would I want…and draw a blank heh.

  • http://christinakatz.com Christina Katz

    Hi Rachelle,

    As a three-time author and writing and platform trainer, I’d only add a couple of suggestions to your list, which offers a good overview.

    1. Take time to learn about platform basics before you hop online. It doesn’t have to take long. But a few to several weeks is so much better than no self-reflection.

    2. Don’t be in a rush, or you will shoot across the internet like a comet only to fade eventually from site.

    3. Take platform advice from reputable, responsible authorities such as Rachelle, so you don’t get taken advantage or, heaven forbid, or act on poor or misguided advice.

    There are plenty of good books, resources, and experts out there, but if the resources are only directing you outward, without directing you inward first…you might end up with a hollow to-do list that doesn’t resonate with you or your best work.

    So, take your time and get your platform right, writers. The Internet isn’t going anywhere. ;)

    • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

      Thank you, Christina!

      This is actually very encouraging advice! Closer to my natural character and style.

      It is difficult, sometimes, not to become very results oriented, and to assume I must be doing something not-quite-right.

      I love the last line in your comment, “The internet’s not going anywhere.”

  • http://www.christianmamasguide.com Erin

    Great advice. I’m learning (hopefully not the hard way) how important platform is right now. Anyway, I’m off to check out Inbound Marketing now!

  • http://www.andrea-michelle-wood.blogspot.com Andrea Nell

    What should a fiction writer blog about? How do you come up with buzz worthy topics?

    How do you start a speaking ministry/platform? If you have no previous experience speaking to large groups, how do you book the first speaking engagements?

    • http://rhculp.com Rob

      I think it can be dangerous to approach speaking, especially in a ministry setting, as an intermediate step on the way to writing success. Just because you are called to be a Christian author, doesn’t mean that you are called to be a Christian speaker. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t do both, but it’s something that should be approached with caution and prayer and not as a means to an end. I don’t mean to discourage or lecture you, but there are plenty of other great ways to build a platform.

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  • http://www.eskimokissesandairhugs.blogspot.com Kara

    The building of a platform can be so intimidating! I started blogging long before I even heard of “building a platform”. I just wanted a place to write and catch friends and family up on my life. So my question would be “What do you do if you already have a blog, but haven’t been intentionally using it to build a platform? Should I give it a facelift or start a whole new blog? “

    • http://www.sugarbeanscribbles.blogspot.com Kate Meadows

      I have been thinking about the same thing. I started a blog about motherhood when I was pregnant with my son. It was meant to be just a check-in point for family and friends, since we lived so far away from everyone close to us. Now that I am trying to publish more avidly, I am leaning toward starting another (more professional) blog that focuses more on my writing itself. But I don’t want to get too many irons in the fire. (ie. are two blogs too much to manage?). I am glad to see your post, because I know I am not alone in this quandry.

      • http://tobyspeed.blogspot.com Toby Speed

        I have the same question, and it’s prevented me from blogging much lately. The whole look and purpose of my blog will have to change as move into focusing on a new readership and on a genre different than the one I was emphasizing before. And then what do I do about all the valuable posts or repeating features that I had on my old blog? Some are of general interest to writers, but don’t do anything to build the new image. I have already lost a lot of faithful readers and friends by inserting the new topics between posts about the old ones. It’s a case of a blog lacking identity and not knowing what to discard, what to keep.

  • http://girlseeksplace.wordpress.com Brianna

    Excellent tips. I’d love to know how to get more blog views and more Facebook fans. I don’t even know 500 people.

  • http://www.transitionslifecoaching.org Theresa Ip Froehlich

    Thank you for these tips.

    I’ve learned a few things doing social media networking during the last 18 months and still feel like I’m not as effective as I want to be. While I’m gaining FB friends,Twitter followers,and LinkedIn contacts, it’s still an unknown how many of these cotnacts are people who want to or need to hear the message of my book “Raising Resilient Parents: 5 Keys to Regaining Power and Freedom When Your Adult Children Mess UP.”

    Three weeks ago I started a FB page for Christian moms parenting adult children and I’ve already got more than 50 people on the page.

    It seems that FB, Twitter, and other social media networks are only as good as the users. I’m still trying to figure out how to link with my target population: mostly moms over 45-50 who are not as into technology as those under 45.

    Coach Theresa

  • http://www.rbharkess.com RBHarkess

    Hi,
    I just got back from FantasyCon 2011. We had a really good panel on this. Useful members like Ian Whates, Gary MacMahon. Pretty much say much the same as most of the comments above, with one really important thought that simply hasn’t appeared here.

    *NO* online presence is better than a *BAD*online presence.

    Take the time to figure out what you are doing and how you are going to do it *before* you start making your presence public.

  • Janet

    Maybe I’m not getting this “author’s platform” and “social networking” thing at all, but to me it seems that volume is less critical to a new author than the quality of the relationships developed.

    I make a point of checking in on each of my Twitter followers at least once a week to see what they’ve been posting and to interact with them on some level. I “unfollow” Tweeps whose posts consist only of “read my blog” and “buy my book.” They don’t have anything of true value to contribute to the community and they clearly aren’t interested in learning from others or developing relationships

    I have 2 FB pages – one personal, the other professional. Between the two, I have over 400 followers. I’ve been gradually building a network on LinkedIn and was recently recommended to Klout (which says my following is small, but close-knit, consistent and growing). I also post reviews on GoodReads and have developed a decent rapport with quite a few folks there.

    I may not be generating the numbers that many publishers evidently want to see, but I estimate that about 90% of my social media contacts are eager not only to buy any book I write, but also to help promote my efforts.

    My point is that I think you have to be carefull looking at it simply as a numbers game. What good is it to have 500,000 followers if none of them care about you or your work?

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ruth-A-Taylor/112941348748036 Ruth Taylor

    I’m finding the platform process a bit disappointing – not on my efforts, but on those who support me.

    In an email marketing campaign I sent to friends and family, I included a brief synopsis and asked everyone to forward the email to anyone who might be interested. The only one who did it was a man in my neighborhood who I barely know. Not even my family members forwarded it! Not even the people who regularly SEND forward messages from other sources.

    I’m confident that there was not a thing wrong in the content of my email, and found it instead to be quite interesting (I put quite a bit of effort into it). I did have people talk to me about it and express their interest in my novel in person and in email, but it seems that only a handful of people don’t understand what it means to “like” a FB page or to become a blog follower, much less “spread the word”. I thought for sure after I sent the email that I’d have several hundred followers on my FB page and blog, but no such luck.

    What do I do? Say, “Hello?? All you have to do is click the ‘like’ link” OR “Open your eyes, you see the ‘Join this site’ link, it’s quite easy to point your mouse and click.” I actually did write that, but in nicer terminology of course. Then to those who send me mindless forwards, but don’t forward mine to their contacts? I feel like confronting them about it.

    I know it will do no good, just the opposite, so I just let it go. At least I have a start on it.

    Thanks for this post so I could vent, Rachelle!

    • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ruth-A-Taylor/112941348748036 Ruth Taylor

      I meant, “…it seems that only a handful of people understand…”

  • Terri Thompson

    This is very helpful. Thank you. For fiction writers what process do you recommend for pinpointing your target audience?
    Thanks.

  • Linda Bello-Ruiz

    Hi Rachelle. I just started a BLOG for exactly the reasons you state, expecting that an agent or publisher will want to know specifics on my platform. My main question is, “How do I get the following?” My mss is in the professional editing phase, aka Book Doctor. My two week old blog has 3 followers. I appreciate any advice you can give me, and others, on the subject. Linda

  • http://temporarilymine.blogspot.com/ Southpaw

    If you write in different genres should you use different pen names and build separate platforms?

  • http://fictiongroupie.blogspot.com Roni Loren

    These tips are great, but whew, 15k hits a month? Wow. I have a successful blog with almost 1600 followers and 10k hits a month. That took me two years and daily blogging to get there. 15k seems kind of a high number for people to shoot for when starting out.

  • http://www.cgblake.wordpress.com CG Blake

    Rachelle,
    Thanks for the tips. What I want to know is this: how do you reach the kind of readers likely to read your books? Thanks again.

  • http://www.sallybradley.com Sally Bradley

    Rachelle, you’re so right that defining the target audience for a book is tricky. My book, one of this year’s Genesis finalists, is women’s fiction with a suspense subplot set outside a major US city. So how do you take those elements and pull from them who your target audience is? It’s hard to not put down readers just like me. I’m willing to let my idea be a guinea pig for you if you’d like, because knowing what you’re supposed to do and what that actually looks like are very different.

  • http://www.meghanward.com/blog Meghan Ward

    These are great tips, Rachelle. Thank you. And 15,000 page views/month sounds reasonable to me. I talked with one editor who suggested “somewhere between 3000 and 100,000 a month,” so I figured 30,000 was a good goal.

    As for questions I would like answered, how does an author build a platform if he/she writes about more than one topic? I advise my social media students not to create more than one blog, but some readers may find it disconcerting to read about grammar and drag racing (for example) in the same blog.

  • http://www.nebraskagraceful.blogspot.com Michelle DeRusha

    Rachelle, A treasure trove of advice and tips here — thank you! (now I’m off to check my monthly page views…).

  • http://www.wisdomvirtueandrubies.wordpress.com Monica Watkins

    Hi, Rachelle. My questions would be more along the lines of addressing the foundation of building a platform. Where do you start? I have a facebook page, a blog, a personal facebook account and a twitter account. I’ll admit,very often I’m at a loss for what to do or what to say to attract my target audience. My blog posts are updated on the Facebook page and go out in tweets, but it appears I get little traffic from either one. How do you get conversation going?

  • http://www.twitter.com/bookmark_terry Terry Gibson

    Great discussion. For me, I think an author page before the publishing of a book is just fine. Why not start marketing early? If people get to read samples of your writing before, by time the book comes out, they’ll already be true fans.
    Thanks Rachelle. I’ll drop by here more often.

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  • http://hawleyville.wordpress.com Pam

    As a longtime hobbyist writer who is just beginning to explore marketing and publishing my work, I just wanted to tell you how helpful I find your blog! Thank you for taking time to share thoughts, tips and inside looks at the industry that those of us new to the game so desperately need!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Burton-W-Cole/136002170959 Burton W. Cole

    Thank you for these insights. It’s good to hear that I’ve been doing some things right already (rather than wonder, “Is this it or am I barking up the wrong platform?”), and better yet to know where I need to be and get tips on how to get there.

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  • http://lynettebentonwriting.com Lynette Benton

    I have an awfully hard time believing that some of the best- known, widely-read, recently-published books were the products of authors with huge, huge blog followers. The author of The Help? She had persistence, but did she have 15,000 monthly page views or anything near that figure *before* her book was published?

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  • http://isitfunnyorappendicitis.wordpress.com Nan Kilmer Baker

    As an the author of a recently completed manuscript now with a prospective agent, I realized I had to overcome my thoughts of social network as social disease.I could not let the world pass me by, so started a blog, joined twitter and linked In with the rest of the modern world. Response has been encouraging and growing daily. At the risk of sounding old fashioned, I also promote my work IN PERSON–imagine that!?! I travel a great deal for business and pleasure, and carry “calling cards” made of paper printed with ink. Everywhere I go, when the time is right and I don’t feel I am being intrusive, I talk with excitement about my upcoming book and most all the time people want to know the title, my name, where I am from, etc. Then I hand them a card, wish them well, and tell them I have enjoyed our visit. I often get follow up e mails and these are the people I have to believe will buy my book–maybe even in a real book store–in hard cover. For some I realize this personal touch might be more difficult than firing up the computer…but I find it very enjoyable fulfilling and fun. And btw, as a child I was considered very shy.

  • http://www.Drandyrose.com Dr. Andy Rose

    Hi. My first novel, a romantic thriller, is coming out early fall on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.

    Can you please discuss platform suggestions for fiction authors trying to get established? For instance:
    1. Ought we blog about our book? its characters?
    2. Should our blog be about ourselves?
    3. Should we target an audience for our fiction and then write about topics (not directly related to our fiction) that might interest the audience?
    Thank you for any suggestions.

  • http://www.crashingstreamsofchange.com Moulton Mayers

    I am new to writing and the game of building writing platforms. I believe that havign a platform that is clearly defined is important, but I have a slightly different take on writing platforms. You see: The world is not what it appears to be, and statements like “You must have a clearly defined audience in order to sell books” are really missing the point. Some books speak to the entire human race: They carry a poignant message to every man alive. Most of what is heard and believed in this world are a lie, but people do not know that what they believe are lies; and that is the reason that the world is a river of problems. Books that explain the nature of human reality are, in essence, books with wide sweeping audiences. Why? It is because man is trapped in a world that he does not understand–and he is ever searching for answers and meaning that seem to elude him. Accordingly, books that contain such understanding and meaning would appeal to every mann alive. Those are the books that I write. Whoever reads my books will never see the world the same way again. You see: The world of man is blind, but it does not even know that; therefore, the world is a blank slate–an empty chasm stuffed with the froth of meaninglessness and vacuousness. And most of the books that are written today are empty, filled with the fleeting ripples of vanity and the futile thoughts of human beings who do not understand the world in which they live. Just some food for thought: Think for a moment about these solemn sentiments: After a while, I think that would get my drift. Leave me a message and thank you!

    Moulton Mayers

    • http://isitfunnyorappendicitis@wordpress.comi nan kilmer baker

      Thank you Moulton Mayers for your pognant/spot-on sentiments about platform and truly great writing. I could not have said/written it better myself. I worked on my memoir “Naked Joy” for twelve years–the time needed to write universal/meaningful prose–I hope! Thanks again for sharing your profound thoughts.
      Nan Kilmer Baker

    • http://isitfunnyorappendicitis@wordpress.comi nan kilmer baker

      Whoops–typo–meant to write POIGNANT in prior reply. Blame my sticky keyboard…
      Nan Kilmer Baker

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  • http://warriortospiritualwarrior.com Jess E. Weiss

    Rachelle: May I send you an email with full particulars (Photos, Book cover, Front pages of Newsday, LeMonde and a synopsis of my 6th book, Self published by Createspace)?

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  • Freddie Mesquit

    All great comments, BUT how does one go about starting a blog? I would love to start one, but all I ever hear is that you need to start one. So, what is the step by step process?

    Thanks.

  • julia pace

    For great information about author’s platform, read Kristen Lamb. She has two books available on Amazon.

    We Are Not Alone – the writer’s guide to social media

    Are You There – Blog, it’s me, writer

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  • http://antaraman.com/ Antara Man

    Hi, Rachelle, I found your site from Joanna Penn’s ebook How to Market a Book where she writes about building a platform.
    For non-fiction, I agree – is a must. For fictional authors, however is not essential (it’s good of course to have online presence and build an email list) but E.L. James didn’t blog neither had she a platform. She posted her 50 Shades of Gray in Twilight forums and in myspace!
    Great advice is #4 – the target audience of your book! It all comes down to this magic rule: find the target audience for your books.
    Thanks

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