These days, whether you want to pursue traditional or self-publishing, you need to have an online presence. For self-publishing the reason is self-explanatory, but traditional outfits will ask you to promote yourself as well these days, and you have a better chance of being signed to a deal if you already have a following.
So how do you go about building this online presence? That’s the big question isn’t it? In this article I’ve outlined the different elements that I think are necessary for a successful author platform (or at least the online portion of it). This list of things isn’t exhaustive, but it should give you a good start. If you are missing any of these elements, you’ll probably want to rectify that.
Anyway, without further ado…
A Website or Hub
Whatever it is you’re planning to do for your online presence, you absolutely need some sort of website, or at least some kind of hub where people can find out all of the basic information they need to know about you and your work. You need a location that all of your social media channels funnel to so that people have the opportunity to buy your book. This site can be a blog, or it could be a static webpage if you want, or at the bare minimum you can make some sort of about.me page.
If you blog, I think using your blog as your website is probably your best bet and what I would really suggest most. Having more posts and more content on your website helps to boost your SEO and makes you more noticeable to search engines. This is an easy way for you to stand out from other authors who are attempting to build their own platforms. But if you produce most of your content on other channels, then at least having some website where people can find you is a basic necessity. If you want to have a blog as your primary site, there are a lot of options such as WordPress or Tumblr. You can also design your own sites on platforms like Wix or Squarespace.
Whatever it is you decide to do just make sure that you have your own site up and running before you start other parts of your online presence, as your site lays the foundation for the rest of what you’re doing.
You need a content platform of some kind. You may even possibly want more than one. The idea of content marketing is to generate a following by adding some sort of value to people’s lives. There are many topics that you could write about, but I’m not going to go into those in this post, instead I’m going to discuss some of the platform options for content marketing.
Blogging is probably the most obvious choice. You are writer after all, so having a content platform where you write more is kind of a natural fit. I think at this point there are other mediums for content creation that are more popular, but blogging is still an effective go to method for getting your name out there.
Vlogging might be the most popular content creation method at this moment. My writer buddies Jenna Moreci and Kim Chance have both utilized vlogging very successfully, so I recommend that you check out their YouTube channels if you’re looking for some inspiration as to how this might be done.
Podcasting has become increasingly more popular over recent years, and this is another great avenue to take for content creation. You may find it a little less intimidating than vlogging since you don’t have to appear on screen. There are also a lot of podcasts out there about writing, so clearly there’s an audience for you to go after.
The last content creation method might seem sort of obvious, but it’s actually just to write more stories. If you have a ton of fiction content out there, you’re going to be hard to ignore, and there is a much higher likelihood that people will discover you. Some writers focus more on being prolific than on writing blogs or creating YouTube videos, and if you’re the type of person who writes a ton of fiction, then this is a strategy that might work for you. Wattpad and Tumblr are platforms that can help you get your fiction content into the hands of new readers. If you happen to write a lot of fanfic and are part of the fanfic community, then you might also use that to your advantage as a kind of pseudo-marketing opportunity. Your fanfic readers already like your work, so they may be more open to buying your original fiction than someone who hasn’t heard of you before.
It’s important to be on social media, but I wouldn’t worry too much about being everywhere. I think the best way to approach social media is to find the platforms or even just the one platform that works for you. Find the platform that you enjoy being on, and use that to promote your work. Master it, interact with the community on there, and generate a following of people who really enjoy your content and what you have to say.
It is far better to be on one social media platform that you use really well than to be on multiple platforms that you do not update regularly. If you do not like a certain social media platform, then don’t use it. You’re not obligated to be on any given site. If you’re having fun, then you’re far more likely to actually do the work than if you’re miserable and only doing it because you feel you must.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat all have their strengths and their different audiences. So pick one or two of those platforms that you really enjoy using, and then focus on developing your following there. I would only consider expanding to other platforms once you have a strong foundation in whatever your initial chosen platform is.
Don’t get me wrong, you should be willing to try different things and learn about marketing methods or social media platforms that you are unfamiliar with, but don’t feel like you have to be everywhere. It really isn’t feasible to approach social media that way, unless maybe you’re doing this as a full-time job and you have the time to engage with people across multiple platforms. When you’re starting out I wouldn’t worry about that, and I would stick with the marketing method that you enjoy.
Technically you could call most of these social media as well, but they handle a little differently than the traditional social media sites. These sites allow you to engage with readers in a different fashion. They allow for more discussion and require more engagement than other social media platforms where you can probably get away with just sharing your content or your interests.
I think it’s advisable to be on at least one of these platforms in addition to one of the traditional social media platforms I mentioned in the previous section. This will give you a little more range in terms of the type of people you’re engaging with the way that you are engaging with your potential readers. The primary writer forms I know of are Goodreads, Reddit, the Amazon Community Forums, and, in a way, Wattpad.
Personally I enjoy Wattpad the most out of these options, since it lets me read other people’s work and comment on it. This makes it easy for me to engage with the other Wattpad users. I find it difficult to work with Goodreads and Reddit because I’m not always up on the most popular trends, or haven’t read the latest popular book (since I’m kind of a slow reader). But if you are the sort of person who is a prolific reader or who is already a very engaged Reddit community member, then these form areas might work well for you.
In infographic summary…
So, I think that’s about it. I’m sure there are other places online you can explore that will let you promote yourself as well, but I think you’ll want to be active in something within each of these four categories at the very least. Are there any online elements I missed that you’ve had success with? Or do you think that there are other things that are absolutely necessary for a good online author platform? Let me know in the comments, and in the meantime good luck to everyone on building their platforms!