What comes to mind when you hear author’s platform? Two-by-fours and a hammer? Actually, it’s how an author connects with his or her audience.
I’ve been trying to build my author’s platform for years, but building a name for myself as a novelist before any of my novels are published has been a challenge. I could probably write a book about how not to build a author’s platform.
Six months or so ago I made the decision to publish my local history books before concentrating on my historical fiction writing. I reasoned that proving to readers that I’m somewhat knowledgeable about history would lend credence to my historical short stories and historical novels later. That remains to be seen, but I hope I made the right choice.
I’m not tech savvy. I tend to procrastinate, especially when it comes to doing things out of my comfort zone.
Where is my comfort zone? It’s sitting in the chair at my computer desk doing research, reading about how I can improve my writing skills, and writing.
My comfort zone is not talking on the phone, trying to figure out something clever and helpful to Tweet, Instagramming (I have an account, but I’ve never used it), Tweeting, or Facebooking. I tend to go down rabbit holes when I get on Twitter or Facebook, so I’ve been using them less and less recently. I like Goodreads.com, but I don’t interact much with other readers there.
I started writing this blog post months ago. I’ve scheduled it and rescheduled it more times than I want to admit. Today is the day for it to see the light of day. It’s all part of my journey as a writer.
An Insightful Perspective from Lisa Norman
I follow the Writers in the Storm blog (https:writersinthestormblog.com), and one post by Lisa Norman on June 20, 2022 caught my attention and fits nicely into my post today. Here’s the link, in case you want to read the entire post: Why You Want People to Hate Your Website | WITS (writersinthestormblog.com)
In a nutshell, Ms. Norman’s blog post opened my eyes to the fact that as a writer I don’t want to attract every reader and, specifically, I don’t want to attract everyone to my website. She presented four reasons, but the thing that really grabbed my interest was in the introduction. Ms. Norman said about many writers, “They have a unique take on life and story. But they also want everyone to like them.”
She then makes her point by quoting from the book of Revelation in the Bible, chapter 3, verses 14-16: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that!
Instead of being neither cold nor hot – by not stating clearly on my website what I write and why I write it – no one knows enough about me and my writing to know if they like me and my writing. In that situation, they’re likely to move on to another website – one they can identify with.
Joel Friedlander’s Perspective
On WriteToDone.com, Joel Friedlander of TheBookDesigner.com wrote in the Creating Author Websites: The Definitive Guide | WTD (writetodone.com) post, “The key things to consider when building an author platform are the persona you plan to inhabit; consistency of message, branding, and tone; and focusing your efforts on the places and methods of communication your specific readers prefer.”
Kimberly Grabas’ Helpful Articles on the Topic
Kimberly Grabas puts lots of helpful articles about the craft and business of writing online. One of her pieces that appeared to be written just for me was titled, “How to Build a Writer’s Platform with No Time, No Credentials and No Book.” Here’s the link to it on WriteToDone.com: How To Build A Writer Platform | WritetoDone.
Reading that article recently helped me to at least get my writer’s platform back on my radar. Here are my thoughts on the topic.
Reading Ms. Grabas’ article inspired me to do better. At least, I did better for a little while. The first thing she addressed was “No Time.” I thought about skipping that section because time is not my problem. I have plenty of time, but I decided to read that section anyway.
Glad I did. It wasn’t about trying to write a novel while also having a full-time job, which was my assumption. You know what assuming will get you! What Ms. Grabas was talking about was committing time to building your writer’s platform.
The nitty-gritty of what she said is that I need to get out of my comfort zone and put in the work and the time. In other words, it means I need to schedule and commit to time for social media. It also means I need to toot my own horn and make my goals known.
Truth be known, I spent last summer with daily and weekly to-do lists regarding my writing. I tried to Tweet on a schedule. I hated the whole process, so I failed miserably.
On the other hand, it seems like the last couple of months have been consumed with getting my new website up and going. That means learning a lot of new technology so I can answer the website developer’s questions and supply him with what he needs from me.
Before that, I learned how to use Atticus.io to format a book to publish on Amazon. I also learned on BookBrush.com how to create a book cover, a QR code, memes, and bookmarks. I’ve learned more technology in the last six months than in my entire life up to that point. Of course, my technology bar was set very low.
More on social media later in this blog post.
Next, Ms. Grabas addressed “No Credentials.” She said a writer needs to “focus on earning credibility by providing useful content to your audience.”
I think I’ve been going about this all wrong. I’ve been thinking I didn’t have anything to offer another writer. It’s not about me! I need to spend more time writing reviews of the books I like and letting those authors know I enjoy their work.
Writing blog posts about the books I read isn’t enough. I’ll continue to do that, but I need to write more reviews on Goodreads.com, Amazon, and public library websites.
Since I’m writing historical fiction, I need to find my target audience. To do that, I need to figure out where they hang out. I need to learn which keywords they use when they’re looking for 18th century American historical fiction and use those keywords in my blog posts and Tweets. I need to find out what my target audience wants to read and then write it. Since this is the genre I like to read, I should be able to figure it out.
My first thought when I got to that section of Ms. Grabas’s article was, “Yes. The only books I’ve published are Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1; The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (a vintage postcard book); three Morrison genealogy books (along with my sister); and several booklets related to the history of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. Until I publish my first novel, how can I establish my writer’s platform?
Ms. Grabas explained that it’s not about selling books, it’s about forming relationships, defining my author brand, and locating my potential readers.
These six items were my takeaways from Kimberly Grabas’ article:
1. Define my author brand;
2. Identify the reader I’m trying to reach;
3. Update my author website, http://www.JanetMorrisonBooks.com;
4. Start building my author email list for my newsletter;
5. Determine where my target audience hangs out on social media;
6. Hang out where my target audience hangs out.
First things first
#3 – I’m in the process of having my website redesigned. I have a new direction for my writing and it was time for a fresh look. Look for the unveiling of the new website in early February.
#4 – As soon as my new website goes live, I’ll start actively building my email list. Stay tuned. There’ll be a free gift for everyone who signs up, but please wait until I announce the new website is up and running.
#1 – I hope my new website will go a long way in defining my author brand.
#2 – My reader is someone interested in history – primarily in American history. As I turn from creative nonfiction, such as my local history books, to fiction, you’ll find that I’ll concentrate on southern historical fiction. When we peel away all those layers, my reader is someone who loves to read southern historical fiction.
That leaves #5, and #6. I’m learning where that lover of southern historical fiction hangs out and I’m making an effort to hang out at the same places on social media.
In a future blog post I’ll share Colleen M. Story’s perspective on the topic of author platform and Penny Sansevieri’s thoughts on how to balance the venues I should focus my efforts on.
Since my last blog post
I’ve learned more technology as the process of having my website redesigned is progressing. My brain hurts from all this new knowledge. I hope I can remember how to do a fraction of it.
I’m still formatting Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2.
Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 continues to sell well on Amazon and at Second Look Books in Harrisburg, NC.
Where did January go?
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to The Diamond Eye, by Kate Quinn.
Don’t work all the time.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
Remember the people of Ukraine.