In the first post of the Prompt to Publication series, I spoke about the Power of 12 Short Stories and how you can use it to build your author platform. We saw how our writers have used their stories to create brands and publish books, but right now, I want to take a step back. Let’s start at the very beginning, what exactly is an author platform?
What is an Author Platform?
Back in the day, before social media and the internet and self-publishing, the marketing of a book was usually done by the publisher. The author would make appearances and sign a few books, but would not necessarily be involved in advertising and marketing. Today, it is very different.
Regardless of which publication route you choose, you will be involved in the marketing of your work. Besides an awesome story, a traditional publisher will look at your online presence and existing platforms as part of the selection process and if you are self-publishing this will be where you market and sell.
Please note this is an educational post. I do not promote or recommend self- or traditional publishing. I believe it is a very personal decision and one only you as an author can make. What may work for your best friend, spouse, boss or gym buddy will not necessarily be right for you. Do not let anyone bully you. Do your research and make up your own mind.
Let’s break down an author platform
An author platform usually starts with a website/blog and a social media presence but can be much more.
An author platform seems simpler for non-fiction. If you are writing a book about gardening you build your platform by establishing yourself as an expert in your field by writing about gardening.
For a fiction writer this can be difficult if you do not necessarily want to write about writing, so what can you put on your site?
Some ideas to post:
- Short Stories, like the ones you write here. Many writers repost their stories to their own blogs after receiving feedback from 12SS writers.
- If you are writing about a certain setting, fictional or otherwise explore the setting on your blog. Showcase the world you have created for your characters. Make a map, find pictures.
- Write a prequel or write a story about a secondary character.
- Blog as your character.
The idea is to showcase your writing and let your prospective reader experience something of your work before they read your book, or to let a reader spend a little more time in the world they just left behind.
Obviously your site is about selling books, so think about your author platform as your shop window, but take a look at the author sites below. Most of them offer the reader a little extra.
Examples of Author platforms:
Leigh Bardugo is a fantasy writer. You can do character quizzes and find a ‘teacher’s guide’ on her site as well as answers to questions about her books and characters.
Stephen King needs no introduction. Take a look at his site. It is definitely old school. The FAQs are a treat though.
Wilbur Smith’s site is fancy, complete with an African sunset. It boasts a Courtney family tree. I haven’t read a Courtney novel in years, but found myself looking for the characters. It’s fun.
Andrea Robertson keeps it simple. Her site is effective. Her books are available. Her contact details are clear.
John Green uses his site to promote his books, podcasts and charity projects, amongst other things. His store is full of related merchandise and of course links to his movie adaptations. We gotta dream, people.
Rainbow Rowell has a store full of book-related merchandise. The FAQs are also cool.
JK Rowling’s site includes her books she writes as Robert Galbraith, as well as the books she wrote under her own name. Harry Potter has his own website, another dream, right?
https://www.jkrowling.com/ and https://www.wizardingworld.com/
It should come as no surprise that the author of Where the Crawdads Sing is a zoologist. I didn’t know that. Her website told me. On the site you will find her non-fiction Zoology books and a ‘Book Club Kit’ for Where the Crawdads Sing.
Neil Gaiman has a lot of sections on his site, but given the diversity of his work, it makes sense. He has a journal. He posts essays and short stories and interviews. He has a separate site for younger readers with ‘read alouds’ of his work.
https://www.neilgaiman.com/ and for the little ones https://www.mousecircus.com/
Do you notice anything about the URLs? Might be time to invest in one of your own.
Take a deep breath. This looks like a lot. All you wanted to do was write a book, right?
Relax, we’ll break it down. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor were any of these websites and yes, they all only had one book at some stage.
In the next post, we’ll discuss more ideas and steps for you to build your author platform. There’ll be posts about the mechanics, important website pages, linking to social media and content generation to name a few topics.
Brainstorm ideas about what you can post on your site. I hope it includes short stories.
Here’s to new adventures and growing as writers.
Read about the Power of 12 Short Stories:
Click image to read the previous Power of 12 Short Stories post.
Following from HoneyMustard’s comment, I’d also like to thank you for such a concise yet super helpful post. I look forward to browsing the examples you mentioned. Funnily enough, the same question bubbled up for me while I read through: What if I haven’t yet written a novel, could/should I create an author platform now to build a following in the meantime? I guess I’m struggling to brainstorm what I would post at this stage without feeling “too big for my boots”. Any suggestions?
Keep it simple. Share some of your work. Write about your writing, share your short stories, until you have the novel up. Think of it as wearing flipflops, if you’re not up for the boots yet. You are setting your intention.
This is immensely useful, thank you Mia. What if one hasn’t published anything yet, and is still working on one’s debut. When is the best time to start putting together a platform when you’re that constrained? I suppose it’s harder to find those sort of examples of author platforms, right? Perhaps someone in this community already has a site like that in the making and would like to share?
The sooner you start the better, but you need to finish that book. Building a following takes time. Andrea Robertson has a very simple site. It may be a good place to start. Once you have the site you can decide what you would like to post. We’ll be posting about the important website pages in a few weeks. It’ll give you an idea of how simple it can be.