Guest post by Tony Riches
Jane Friedman, former publisher of Writer’s Digest, explains the concept of ‘platform’ in a useful post What editors and agents typically mean by platform. If someone is going to invest in you as an author, they need to know you have visibility and authority, with proven reach to a target audience. Your author platform can also become a vital part of that audience’s ‘book discovery’ process.
There are so many new books published every day your best work can languish unnoticed – unless you can help it stand out in some way. Readers like to know more about their favourite authors, so it can help if you make it easy for them. The challenge, however, is highlighted by Jane Friedman – platform building is not about self-promotion, it is a long term ‘organic’ process and different for every author.
This means there are no short-cuts to building your author platform. It has taken several years to build this blog to the point where I regularly have between three and four thousand visitors a month. That’s a lot of time writing posts when I could have been writing books. The good news is it doesn’t have to cost anything other than your time – and the rewards are there if you put in the work, consistently developing your brand and keeping it all up to date. As well as helping readers ‘discover’ your books, your author platform can also connect you to a great support network of other authors and professionals in all aspects of the dynamic world of publishing.
In a thought provoking post Indie Ebook Authors Take Charge Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, predicted: ‘In 2013, authors will face more competition – and most of that competition will come from fellow indie authors who have become more knowledgeable, professional and sophisticated in their publishing. They’re pioneering the best practices of tomorrow. All authors will need to up their game.’
Developing Your Writing Blog
Your writing blog can become the beating heart of your author platform. Social media has its place and all the different types will be covered in future posts, but twitter, facebook (and some you may not have even heard of yet) can be ephemeral and capricious. You may have an author website as your ‘shop window’ but your blog will help people understand why you write, what you stand for and who you really are.
Here are my ten top tips for anyone who wants to add value to their writing blog:
1. Think about your brand values
The American marketing Association defines branding as: “A customer experience represented by a collection of images and ideas.” I like this definition – which also serves as a description of my writing blog. Your aim with your brand is to be consistent and differentiated, so people can learn to recognise your brand and what it stands for. Consistency is fairly easy to achieve but it can be hard to differentiate in the increasingly crowded world of indie publishing. This is the time to be creative. Find your niche and master it. Avoid templates and ‘default layouts’. Be different.
2. Add helpful resources for writers
We are all learning, all of the time – but some of us have more freedom to go searching for useful information. ‘Resources’ can be anything that helps writers, saves time and/or triggers new ideas. Next time you find something that helped you, add a link to a page on your blog. (Here’s mine: Writing Links)
3. Make sure your books are easy to find
Having said that your author platform isn’t about self-promotion, we mustn’t over react. I’ve tried various ideas over the time I’ve been blogging and find it best to put everything on one easy to find page. If people are interested in your work they’ll find it quickly enough. I keep it to a cover shot, a short description and a short video. (I’ll be posting about my experiences with promotional videos later in the series.) When I have a new book out I like to add a cover shot somewhere in the sidebar – but I don’t think that’s the place for relentless promotion of your work.
4. Make it easy to contact you
I was amazed to realise one day when someone pointed out there was nowhere on my blog for people to contact me, other than through comments. Some bloggers are concerned that an email on their blog will open the door to all sorts of unwanted ‘spam’ or worse but I decided to try it. My experience has been very positive, as I like to hear from readers, reviewers and other authors. (Still waiting to hear from a producer who wants to make one of my books into a film…)
5. Invite authors with a similar readership to guest post
The best place to promote your work is on someone else’s blog. As well as reaching a whole new audience of potential readers, simply being invited to guest post means you start with a certain amount of credibility. You need to be very selective of course, both with who you invite and where you personally guest post. Set yourself some simple criteria and try to stick to them.
6. Team up with other authors to launch books
There are so many book being ‘launched’ every day that you need to do everything you can to raise awareness. By working together, authors can prepare launch posts well in advance. Remember they need to be different (you shouldn’t keep using the same post, for search engine optimization) and ideally written with the style of the blog in mind. It is also easy to help other authors by simply posting a cover shot, one paragraph of blurb and a link.
7. Encourage comments on your posts
This is something I keep forgetting to do but asking questions and inviting comments makes a big difference to the ‘engagement’ with readers of your blog. Very occasionally I have comments that are nothing to do with the post but you simply make sure that your blog options allow you to ‘moderate’ comments before they are published for everyone to see.
8. Keep it lively and current
I have seen some clever blogs where the posts have a timeless quality – and there are no clues about when they were written. More often, however, I find the newest post is wishing readers a happy Christmas. You need people to want to come back often, so consider a series of posts (such as this) on a particular theme, look at some topical issues and include links to recent pages of interest.
9. Join in with blog tours and ‘challenges’
OK, when you are determined to write at least 2000 words a day that last thing you feel like doing is helping out with a blog tour, writing a review or writing another 500 words on the ‘prompt of the day’. All I can say is give it a try, as it can bring a surprising number of repeat visitors to your blog. I was right in the middle of the editing of my last novel last Halloween but enjoyed the diversion of joining in with Cheyenne Williams’ Halloween Challenge – answering questions such as “What is the greatest last line of any book you’ve ever read?” (See the answer here.)
10. Visit other peoples writing blogs and learn from them
Have a look at the Top 10 Blogs for Writers and see what other people are doing. (Educational, useful, engaging, and discussion-creating posts were rated higher than self-promotional posts – accounting for 55% of the final score.) These are all writers who have put a lot of thought and effort into getting it right and you’ll find they are all happy to share.
Tony Riches is a full time writer and lives with his wife in Pembrokeshire, West Wales UK. He is best known for his non-fiction books, including the For Busy Managers series, Atlantis – the Final Space Shuttle Mission and Terra Nova: Antarctic Voyager. His first novel, Queen Sacrifice was written after he was researching the early history of Wales and he has recently published his second novel, The Shell, set in modern day Kenya. For more information about Tony’s other published work please see: www.tonyriches.co.uk
Linda Leon of Book Marketing Professionals would like to thank Tony Riches for being a guest blogger and would like to encourage you to visit his website.