Building Your Author Platform Before The Contract

I remember attending a writer’s conference where the agent I was pitching stated debut authors needed a platform, even for fiction, in their proposal. She said if a query piqued her interest, she’d google the author’s name to see what came up. If there was hardly anything, she’d think long and hard before asking to see more of their book. And, she said editors do the same thing.

Yikes. I didn’t have anything up. I thought that all came after the book deal.

First thing do to is establish yourself as a professional writer. I recommend starting a Facebook page as a writer, not a profile, but a page. Announce to people that you are a writer and believe it!

Do the same with your Twitter account. Don’t have one, here’s my post on How to Effectively Use Twitter for Authors.

You need a website. Don’t panic. There are plenty of free sites that can provide you with a website. I use wordpress.com You don’t have to start a blog yet, though I would recommend it later. You can simply have an about page and a contact page. You can check out my about page here for ideas. Visit your favorite author sites to see what you like and don’t like.

Now, you’ve got these pages up, but what do you do with them. Here’s where it get’s a little bit harder. You need to figure out who your target audience is. You’ll need this for your book proposal, so now is a good time to start on it.

Who will be interested in your books? If you’re writing inspirational fiction, then you’ve already got a faith element. Christians are interested in your books. If you’re writing historical, then what time period? What groups of people or hobbies would go along with this?

This is just scratching the surface. Go deep with this. I recommend making a list of possible interests. Now, you can write some guest posts to blogs targeting this area. Tweet and share Facebook links with articles written by other people on these subjects.

Ask questions on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re coming up with a name for a new character, list two and have people vote.

You are well on your way to establishing a platform.

What ideas or tips do you have to make your platform even more effective? How often do spend social networking? Should you be engaging even more?

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29 thoughts on “Building Your Author Platform Before The Contract

    • You’re welcome. I’ve found by nature people want to help, so it builds community when we let them. 🙂

    • Thanks, Kimberly. I think a lot of people are intimidated and not sure where to start. I know I was at first, but like anything, it get’s easier as you do it.

    • Sometimes I have to remind myself. I’ve gotten some great advice and tips from these questions as well. Your readers are smart people after all. 🙂

  1. So many authors believe once the book is published, the hard part is over! It’s quite the contrary, creating an internet presence and marketing campaign for your book is a business! It requires lots of time, energy and engagement with your potential audience.

    • Danielle, you got it. It does take time, but it’s so worth it when you find and get to know the people who your work has touched.

  2. Melissa, you made this very easy to understand. I think it’s important to get specific with your target audience. You do a great job of that with your own website.

  3. Hi Melissa,

    I like your advise: “Tweet and share Facebook links with articles written by other people on these subjects.”

    Blessings on your writing!

    • Hey Cheryl, thanks. I think this is especially important. It keeps you from having to wrack your brain for every post, helps out someone else, and lets your readers know that you’ve got their interests covered.

  4. I love how practical your advice is. You’re a natural teacher.

    These lines were so great; you were very sincere (unlike me–I would have written “duh” after this statement): “Who will be interested in your books? If you’re writing inspirational fiction, then you’ve already got a faith element. Christians are interested in your books”

    Really, thanks for sharing your ideas. 🙂

    • Sarah, Thank you. A great way to delve further into the faith element of your audience is to talk about what faith issues your main characters struggle with in your book. You had to help them overcome or learn a lesson, and you can show how to apply that to every day life.

  5. The platform is what will kill me as far as getting published. A web site that no one reads is not a platform. A blog that no one follows is not a platform. A Facebook author page with 48 likes after several times asking for likes is not a platform. It seems you have to beg people to like and follow you, and I’m not much into begging. The platform will kill me.

    Then again, if an agent or editor Googles you to see what they can find, I suppose it helps to have a common name. They’ll find I’m a civil engineer in Arkansas, a civil engineer in Oklahoma, a doctor in two states, an author of three Kindle books, a real estate agent, an author of more Kindle books, a business executive, and incarcerated in Pennsylvania. Okay, maybe that last one won’t help me much.

    • David, building a platform can seem daunting. But if you zero in on your target audience, for example, what profession is your main character? If he’s a chef, then you can share cooking tips, recipes, etc. and write guest post for cooking blogs. Then you’ve got people who will want to go to your website to see your main characters favorite recipe you have posted there.

      You have to think in terms of what’s in it for your reader/fan to “like” your page. Do you give special info there? Why should they go to your website? What’s in it for them.

      You can do it. Take a half hour and brainstorm.

  6. Thanks, Melissa. I’m trying to figure out how to focus on my target audience more. It’s definitely hard to do, but not impossible. Thanks for making me ponder ways to reach them. 🙂 I need a healthy push. Writers like me procrastinate.

  7. Platform is so important for every stage of the game. It may be the deciding factor between a near-miss and a publishing contract, or the thing that puts your book on the NYT list.

    • Emma, wise words indeed. We need to remember that platform is an on going and growing thing. It makes it easier to know all those little bits at a time add up. Here’s to that NYT list!

    • Heather, it does seem weird to write in the third person. I recommend having another set of eyes check it before you publish it. They can catch any odd phrasing. Thanks!

  8. Excellent points. One thing, though. Don’t get so immersed in your online presence, you forget to leave time to write.
    Loved the point about researching your market. You struck a chord with me there.

  9. One thing every writer should know about building a platform: it takes ages to establish one. Very few are able to build up a huge presence in a short time; for most of us my guess is about three years. Yep, three years before you’ve started to garner some name recognition. Many successful bloggers have been working at their craft (for it is a craft, just like novel writing) for much longer. And being a successful blogger may not sell your books for you, especially if you’re a fiction writer; but it will make you part of a supportive community of writers and that can have ripple effects.

    Here’s my tip: do what comes most naturally to you. At first when you’re trying to establish an online presence, you’ll probably take a scattershot approach and that’s OK. But after a year or so you’ll start to see where you’re making an impact. Say, for example, that your fashion sense is gathering followers on Pinterest. It’s quite likely that your passion for fashion is also reflected in your writing. OK, tweak your blog and your Twitter timeline in that direction. Don’t try to force yourself down a path that doesn’t feel right to you just because other people are good at it. Sit down and figure out what is unique about YOU. Christian writers often seem to feel that their blog should be all about their faith, but God wires us all differently. It’s possible, to carry through my example, to write about fashion in a godly way. Or to celebrate creation through photos rather than words. Don’t make your writing something separate from the rest of you. Be aware of how God wants you to give Him glory; He’s big enough to handle the indirect approach.

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