Let’s get real– what do you need for an author platform in 2021? After a few years of selling fiction, I can tell you that it’s less than you might think. Let’s dive in!
Author platform. Did you shudder when you read that? For some authors and creatives, the idea of building a platform to connect with an audience is daunting. Others might like it, but almost all would agree that it’s easy to lose focus worrying about follower counts and other stats.
For the sake of defining the term, when I talk about author platform, I’m talking about the various ways you connect with your readers in hopes of selling more books and building superfans.
LISTEN TO EPISODE 197 – AUTHOR PLATFORM IN 2021
SETTING UP YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM IN 2021
Before you can really dig into what you need and what you might not need, it’s important to clarify a few things.
- Platform for fiction and nonfiction authors looks different. Which are you focused on? Don’t make the mistake of actually targeting the wrong audience. (Ex: a fiction author talking about marketing and publishing might attract authors, not fiction readers)
- Your why determines your what and how. If you are doing this for the love of writing, that’s going to look different from someone publishing books to keep paying the mortgage. Know your why. Revisit it as needed. This should inform your choices!
What I think is really important is to consider your ROI- the return on your investment of time and money. My goal here is to hep authors sell more books without being smarmy.
So … when it comes to platform, I’m always asking the question, does this sell more books? Does this build superfans?
And, of course, is it smarmy? As in, do these tactics and practices feel slimy and icky, or do they feel like a good fit for me to sell books?
I constantly see advice out there that suggests authors do all kinds of things … that ultimately don’t sell books. With limited time, I’m all about getting the most bang for my time and my bucks.
AUTHOR PLATFORM FOR FICTION AUTHORS
I have to start with a caveat. There are a lot of things you can do that might work. There are a lot of authors doing different things that work.
The upside? So much freedom to try things!
The downside? Total overwhelm.
I’m going to share the things that I’ve tried out or have experience with. That doesn’t mean it will be the same for you! Sometimes things work differently across different genres as well, so I suggest finding like-minded groups on Facebook for authors in your genre and joining the conversation to see what’s working for them.
THREE BIG AREAS OF AUTHOR PLATFORM
1 // EMAIL LIST
I’m all about email. This hasn’t changed. That said, I wish email were as effective as it could be. I have something like 7k people on my email list. If all those 7k people bought my books when I sent out a new release, THAT WOULD BE AMAZING.
That’s not what happens.
Even so, this sells way more than social. Whether I’m sending out emails about my own books or other authors are sending out books in newsletter swaps, I see the most impact on sales with email. I still believe this is and should be the cornerstone of your platform and is a worthy use of your time and your money.
2 // SOCIAL MEDIA
Oh my goodness. Is social media still going strong? Yes? Okay, then. This year, I’ve seen a rise of authors hopping onto things like TikTok or using Instagram reels (which is … almost the same thing). When it comes to social media, you can pick your poison and find a platform that works for you.
What I’ve seen from now three years of doing this author marketing and platform-building thing is that social media doesn’t have a massive impact on sales.
3 // CONTENT STRATEGY
Huh? What’s content strategy? This is where I’d place things like blogging, podcasting, YouTube, or creating longer-form content based around your brand and your books.
This doesn’t always work well for fiction authors, who sometimes fall into the trap of writing about writing, which attracts writers. Sure, writers are readers. But they may not be YOUR ideal readers. A tiny percentage of my readers are interested in my writing things or the podcast.
If you can find topics to blog about that relate to your subject matter, genre, or the brand you’re trying to build as an author, this can work for you. Especially if you harness the power of SEO.
HOW DO YOU LEARN TO BUILD?
I’m going to go through the various areas of platform and also go through these three areas, then dive into other non-organic areas of building your sales… aka ADS and paid promotions.
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You don’t have to spend hours doing it, but you CAN. It’s so easy to get lost in Facebook or on Instagram. Timers are my friend. It’s like the reminder you need to GET OUT of the addictive social feed.
I’m going to give some overall tips and things to consider as we move into this series on where to spend your time, energy, and money in 2021 while you work to sell more books without being smarmy.
FINAL CONSIDERATIONS ON AUTHOR PLATFORM IN 2021
Remember ROI – You might need to test, but don’t do things that don’t work.
Remember your WHY – Don’t get sidetracked from your big goals.
Know your BUDGET – It’s easy to buy all the shiny things. Don’t. Use the money on the most effective things, and try to stay in your budget.
Know your TIME – Before jumping onto a platform, make sure you have the time it requires.
Know your SKILLSET – You may love podcasts, but they require equipment and abilities. Are you ready to learn them or hire someone?
Stay true to YOURSELF – Pick places that feel comfortable to you, where you WANT to spend time.
Don’t base your platform on UNICORNS – I see a lot of advice out there that authors can sell books with this or that platform. Just because ONE person did it doesn’t mean EVERYONE can (or should) do it. Try to base your decisions on what’s working for multiple people, preferably in YOUR genre. Not some outlier who happened to start on a platform really early.
So… where do you plan to spend your time and money in 2021??
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