The Cheater’s Guide to Building Your Author Platform – Part 1

With a glazed look on my face, I obediently handed my phone over to “the expert” sitting beside me. As she looked up my twitter account which had an oval egg shape for my picture, I couldn’t help feeling intimidated by the task of building an author platform.

I had spent my entire life serving in pastoral ministry. When social media first came on the scene, I was suspect of the enemy’s evil intent to use the media to entrap our children.

Now here I was, listening to Michael Hyatt talk about the power and necessity of every author building a platform to launch their book. Much of what he was saying went over myplatform head. Yet as I listened for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit to guide me, I simply heard this word: engage.

As I engaged in the social media platform beginning that day two years ago, I grew from 4 twitter followers to over 21,000. I joined the social conversation and found a whole new world of influence.

Since my first book, 9 Traits of a Life-Giving Mom, hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Christian Women’s Issues, I regularly have authors seeking my advice on how to build their own platforms.

Let’s Begin at the Beginning

Watch Michael Hyatt’s simple video on Platform Building.

1. Start with a Blog

Begin to build a following. Give people an opportunity to get to know your heart. Use your blog as a spring board to all of your other social media engagement.

If you are an author of a number of books, you are probably your brand. You may write on a number of blogs. A foundational part of your strategy is your own blog where you can share your passion and build a loyal following. I chose to use my own name for my primary blog at SueDetweiler.com.

2. Develop a Social Media Strategy

You are unique. Social media needs to work for you. As you begin to see the power of social media, use these principles as a guide: 12-28-14 Social Media

  • Use Time Management Tools
  • Link Social Media Posts
  • Strategically Post Throughout the Day

The key to social media is to see it as an ongoing conversation with a friend. You are sharing about all the things that you care about. People who read your tweets will know what you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to share your personal story and pictures. Provide your tribe with ongoing helpful resources.

3. Be Real

Don’t try to appear to be anyone else than who you truly are. You don’t have to be perfect. In fact, one of the ways that people will be drawn to you is when they sense you are transparent. Don’t try to be Barbie or Ken; just be who God made you to be. Let your quirks come through in your social media platform.

Don’t be tripped up by your own perfectionism and fail to launch into a new thing. Allow yourself the freedom to try something new. Stoke the fires of your own adventurous spirit.

4. Use Video

Video can be really simple. The technology on your smart phone will allow you to do video in minutes. As an author, you can use the power of video to sell your book. Here’s a simple book trailer that was created for me on Fiverr.com. Video doesn’t have to cost you a fortune to be effective in telling your story.

I also used simple video introductions of each chapter of my book as an additionalbuilding your author platform resource. At the end of each chapter a simple code invites the readers to watch the video or download a printable of written prayers that enhance each chapter.

5. A Gateway to Traditional Media

As you build your platform as an author, others will become excited about your message and help get the word out about your book. Build relationships with other authors, radio hosts, and television hosts. Two events that I think are helpful to connect authors to traditional media are National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) and The International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). There may be other events that your publisher encourages you to attend to build relationships with the media.

Next Week

We are just scratching the surface of things that you can do to build your platform as an author. Join me here at The WordServeWaterCooler for part 2 of The Cheater’s Guide to Building Your Author Platform.

Also connect with me on social media! Let’s start a conversation. Let me know if there is any way I can help you get your message out.

Advertisements

12 Reasons for Writers to Love Facebook

facebook

True Confession: For me, Facebook was love at first post.

Apparently I am not alone. Facebook reigns as Social Media King, with 750 million active users. Here are a dozen reasons why Facebook is this writer’s Social Networking BFF.

1. Cure for Isolation: I am a relational gal and it is no secret that writing can be an isolating business. Facebook is a 24 Hour Kitchen Table “Come and Go” Conversation that never ends. I can connect to other writers who are also trapped at home on a deadline. In fact, Facebook is a virtual water cooler for thousands who work at home in their PJs but enjoy a little human connection with their coffee break.

2. Primes My Writing Pump: I read Facebook the way some read the morning paper (before newspapers all but disappeared). I like to peruse my friends’ thoughts while I sip my coffee. Writing a comment here, a question there, gets my writer’s juices flowing. Before long I fill in my status, which is much less daunting than writing a first sentence on an empty page. Interacting on Facebook eases me into a writing frame of mind.

3. Testing Material: Since I write humor, Facebook is a great place to test comedic material. If I get lots of good comments, I cut and past the post into a “Humor File” to use later in a blog or book.

4. Finding Topics that Hit a Nerve: Recently my daughter wrote a FB status about the pros and cons of when to share news of a pregnancy. More than 300 passionate responses from readers later, Rachel knew she’d stumbled upon a hot topic for her blog (www.thenourishedmama.com).

5. Easy Daily Journal: Everyone knows writers should journal daily. But what with all the social media we are now required to do to build our platform, who has time to journal, too? It’s a comfort to me that I have recorded the highlights of my experiences in a brief (publicly read) journal over the last 5 years… on Facebook. Romance novelist Eloisa James wrote an entire memoir (Paris in Love) based on a year of Facebook posts! Because the posts were so well-written, to my surprise, the book was hard to put down.

6. Gathering Ideas from Readers: In her bestselling book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin sprinkles short tips and thoughts from her blog readers’ comments throughout the book. This added interest and variety to her book, especially when presented in bullet-point format.

7. Finding Original Quotes, Quips, and Anecdotes From Others: I wrote a couple of Facebook posts during a vacation when my husband and I both caught the flu. An author friend, writing a book on marriage, asked if she could use my posts as anecdotal material. I was happy to share; and she was gracious to attribute the quotes to me and mention my latest books as a reference in her book. A win-win!

8. Practicing “Writing Tight”: Today’s internet-skimming readers don’t have patience for long, meandering prose. Writing short FB posts is terrific practice in the art of writing tight. Today’s writers must know how to nutshell and extract worthwhile thoughts with as few words as possible. This past week I experienced two incredibly fun hours at a birthday party with four of my grandsons. Rather than bore my friends with a blow-by-blow account of my adorable grandchildren, I posted: “I went to a birthday party at a skating rink today and did the hokey pokey with four of my grandsons. And that’s what it’s all about.”

9. Facebook Friends are Faithful Fans: I’ve discovered Facebook friends to be faithful supporters of my blogs and books, generous in helping get the word out by re-posting press releases, book sales, and good reviews.

10. Networking: You never know how a Facebook relationship can lead to opportunities for writing or marketing your book. My daughter struck up a friendship with another prolific blogger who asked Rachel to guest post for a popular teacher’s blog. Rachel did so well that she was offered a paying gig to write regularly for http://www.weareteachers.com. We’ve also landed radio, podcast, and other web interviews because someone in media saw and liked our posts, blogs, or book topic on Facebook.

11. Random Polls: In our upcoming book Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep (Zondervan, January 2015), my daughter (and co-author) wanted to address the Top 10 Everyday Stressors Women Face. So I posted the question, “What are the daily things that slow you down, trip you up, and steal your peace?” We gathered dozens of replies and categorized them into 10 areas that formed the basis for an entire book.

12. A Word for the Weary: How often have I received the perfect word of encouragement, comfort, or advice from someone on Facebook, exactly when I needed it? I’ve also had the privilege of regularly encouraging others via Facebook. For those who welcome it, Facebook connections can be a true ministry of words, whether or not you are professionally published.

How have you used Facebook to reach your readers?

Should You Be On Pinterest? (Building a Social Media Platform)

Pinterest

The trouble with being a writer is that you have to write. That would seem desirable, but the writing I’m talking about goes beyond pounding out the next scene in my novel. Since becoming a published novelist, I’ve submitted–at the request of agents, editors, bloggers, and marketing personnel–guest posts, interview responses, pitch sentences, two-sentence blurbs, query letters, proposals, sample chapters, material to use for promotion, back-cover copy, tag lines, book club questions, and of course myriad versions of my biography. Add to this the need to devise creative updates for social networks, and you begin to see why a writer might groan.

Enter Pinterest, a social media platform that allows members to network with pictures more than words. Tweet This! I love writing and (go figure) even have a fondness for words, but I find Pinterest a breath of fresh air. As a virtual bulletin board where users pin images, Pinterest frees me to express my creativity without having to hurt my brain with so much thinking. Since women primarily frequent Pinterest, spending more time on it than on other networks, it provides another benefit. Book buyers are predominantly female. (This varies by genre.)

With 4 million active daily visitors and as the fastest-growing social media site (now second only to Facebook), Pinterest is a site many writers should include in their social media platforms. Tweet This! Since I began to take Pinterest seriously, it’s moved to the number one referrer of traffic to my websites.

I won’t go into detail on how to sign up, since Pinterest makes it easy. If you want advice, visit the Pinterest Help Center and enter “how to sign up” in the search box. I suggest you set up or convert to a Pinterest business account. This will allow you access to account analytics once you verify your website for Pinterest.

Be sure and include your author picture in your profile. Also set up a branded bio. This is a little challenging since you should make it brief so it will be read. Every word needs to pull its weight. To see an example, visit the Pinterest page for Janalyn Voigt. While you’re there, take a look at my boards to help inspire your own.

Pinterest Goodies

After you’ve created your account, filled in your profile information, and verified your website, you should visit Pinterest’s Goodies page. There you’ll find instructions on how to:

  • install the Pin It button (for Google Chrome) to your bookmark bar.
  • drag the Pinterest Bookmarklet to your toolbar (click the red link under the Pin It button copy in the sentence that says: “Looking for the Pinterest Bookmarklet?”).
  • add a Pin It button to your site.
  • make a widget for your site.

Creating Your Boards:

On your profile page, you’ll be able to create boards. Here are some suggestions:

  • Name a board for your blog or website.
  • Create a board with the title of your book(s).
  • Name a board for the genre(s) you write.
  • Think up boards that will reinforce your brand.
  • Design boards to attract your target audience.

Pin Three Ways

  1. Click the Pinterest bookmarklet while at a website that grants permission to pin its images and select the image you want to pin.
  2. Under your image in the Pinterest toolbar you’ll find a dropdown menu. Click “Add Pin” to upload an image from your computer or enter the URL of a picture you have permission to pin.
  3. Use the Pin It button on a website.

What to Pin

  • Pin your own original images with a link back to your site.
  • Pin images from sites that state they allow pinning to Pinterest.
  • Pin public-domain images.
  • Create and pin your own collages using sites like PicMonkey.com and your own images.

What to Do on Pinterest

  • Follow other people. You can choose to follow all boards or an individual board. As with all effective social networking, be sincere. Tweet This! When you make the effort to follow people, some will follow you back.
  • Repin from boards of people you trust. Always verify that the link goes where the image indicates it will and that the original site gave permission to pin.
  • Like pins others post. This brings you to their attention.
  • Comment on pins. To comment, click on a pin and the comment box will be in the enlarged image that displays.

Pinterest and Copyright

First, I am not a lawyer and don’t mean the following in any way as legal advice, but here is how I handle myself on Pinterest. I’m careful when pinning images that I don’t own to make sure the website gives explicit permission to pin to Pinterest in its copyright policy. I don’t take the existence of a Pin It button as permission. I’m aware that even if I own a photo, some things like private works of art or images of people who have not signed a release for me to post their photos, for example, are off limits. I prefer to take my own photographs and create my own infographics. When in doubt, I don’t pin.

Pinterest is a relatively painless way to network that is actually a lot of fun. Tweet This! It can help you keep track of research while simultaneously drawing readers to your books.

EXCLUSIVE LIMITED OFFER FOR READERS OF WORDSERVE WATER COOLER

Solving the Pinterest Puzzle for Sidebar

Learn more about using Pinterest to build your social media platform and readership. Sign up for Solving the Pinterest Puzzle course that fellow Wordserve author Melissa K. Norris and I offer as TriLink Social Media Mentors, a bargain at just $27.77.

Related Posts

Build a Social Media Platform: The First Step May Surprise You

4 Pillars to Build an Effective Social Media Platform

Build a Social Media Platform: Your Facebook Page

To Tweet or Not to Tweet (The Social Media Platform Question)

4 Pillars to Build an Effective Social Media Platform

Piller

A social media platform needs a support system, a set of pillars that stabilizes and suspends the infrastructure. Attempting to build a platform before its supports are in place isn’t practical or sustainable. Take things logically and in order, and you’ll do yourself a tremendous favor.

4 Support Pillars 

The first pillar in platform building is that infamous c-word, commitment. Tap into your passion to find the strength of mind and sheer grit to see you through. Decide now to ignore self-doubt and believe in yourself. Determine that no matter what, you’ll invest your time and talent so you can thrive and survive in the competitive world of publishing.

The second pillar in platform building, self-discipline, is just as difficult and necessary as the first. No one is going to force you to spend time on building a social media platform. If you cut corners, you only cheat yourself. In this series you’ll learn ways to work with social media more efficiently, but learning anything new always starts with an investment of time. The good news is that you can tailor your social media platform to fit within your time constraints. But remaining constant is important, and that takes self-discipline.

The third pillar in platform building is developing and adhering to a plan.  Thinking through the sites you will use, how often to update them, and who you will interact with helps you make better use of that non-renewable and precious commodity, time. A good rule of thumb is to devote only 20% of your time to promotion. Platform building should be a large part of your promotional effort. As an example, 20% of a 40-hour work week is the equivalent of an eight-hour day. If you have less hours than that for writing, do the math to find how much time to devote to promotion, and then determine what proportion of that will be spent on platform-building. That will look different for a novelist divided between book promotion and platform management than it will for a writer just starting to learn craft. Once you’ve sorted out how much time to allot, determine how long to work on your social media platform and then follow through.

The fourth pillar in platform building is identifying your support network. As John Dunne famously pointed out, no man is an island, sufficient unto himself. Each of us needs the encouragement of others. If you have the support of your family, you are indeed blessed. But even if it takes your family a while to understand your efforts, other writers already do. Seek them out online or locally and support them as they support you. Church is a great place to find prayer warriors who will encourage and pray for you as a writer.

Unless its pillars are strong, a structure can come crashing down. Make sure these four vital pillars are ready and able to serve the platform you plan to build. We’ve laid the foundation of this series by looking at the spiritual, emotional, and mundane aspects of platform building. With next month’s post we’ll begin analyzing social media sites from a writer’s perspective.

Related Posts:

Build an Effective Social Media Platform: The First Step May Surprise You

10 Strategies to Keep You Afloat in the Treacherous Social Media Waters

What is Branding Anyway? 7 Reasons Why Seo Companies Care

 

10 Strategies to Keep You Afloat in the Treacherous Social Media Waters

Image of a ship at seaWhat’s a writer to do? Publishers expect you to connect with readers online, but new networks spring up before you can learn what to do with the old ones. New invitations arrive daily in the various inboxes you don’t have time to check. You’re tweeted, emailed, and updated out, and never mind all the invitations you have no time to decline. It’s a slow-drip torture.

If the treacherous waters of social networking are swamping your ship, you’re not alone. A wise writer fights back with a strategy. Here are ten strategies to help you:

  1. Pick your battles. Decide where to focus your energy online. Although Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have a greater share of traffic, your results may vary, depending on the audience you want to reach, your brand, and your particular style of networking. Pay attention to where your visitors come from, and you’ll be able to make an informed decision about where to focus your efforts.
  2. Set aside specific times or a time limit for social networking. Decide where and when and how you’ll interact online and stick to your guns. Failing to approach the Internet with this mindset makes it far too easy to lose track of time. If you have trouble adhering to a set time, use an egg timer or other alarm to warn you when your time is up.
  3. Manage your social networks from one dashboard. I use and recommend http://hootsuite.com for posting to and tracking my social sites. With Hootsuite, I can post the same update to more than one site simultaneously and pre-schedule or auto-schedule updates. Another popular option is Tweetdeck.
  4. Use browser extensions to shortcut social tasks. I favor Google Chrome because of the extensions I can add to my browser. I use Silver Bird to post to Twitter, check my tweet stream, follow search terms and hashtags, and for alerts when I’m mentioned on Twitter–all from my browser. I use Hootsuite’s Hootlet, Bitly (a link shortener that tracks stats), Google+ FacebookLinkedIn, and Stumbleupon extensions as well. Pinterest’s Pin It button is a big time-saver. All of these tools operate from small icons embedded at the top of my browser. This cuts down my visits to the social sites themselves, saving a tremendous amount of time.
  5. Understand your brand and how it applies to your social networking efforts. If you don’t know who you are and what you have to offer, you won’t know what to build and can spend a lot of time investing in the wrong thing. Watch for my next post, which will be all about finding your brand. (If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, sign up in the sidebar to receive the blog’s email updates.)
  6. Know your audience. Understanding who you’re writing for and what they care about is an essential step in developing an effective social media strategy. Make the effort to discover and develop your target audience. If you’re not sure how to do that, this post for novelists can help nonfiction writers as well: How to Find an Audience for Your Novel.
  7. Develop tunnel-vision and wear blinders. When you log into a social site, distractions abound. Keep your focus. It can help to follow a simple list. Here’s an example for Facebook: respond to comments and post to my wall, post to three friends’ walls, upload a picture, check emails, accept or decline new friends, respond to event invitations, and log off (30 minutes).
  8. Adhere to a social media schedule. I’ve programmed Google Calendar to send me email reminders to pay more attention to one social site over others on a specific schedule. During these visits, which occur weekly, I do maintenance tasks like revamp my bio, check that my links are current, swap out my profile picture, upload videos, make sure my site adheres to my brand, and the like.
  9. Count the opportunity costs. Time spent on social sites is time not spent doing other things. It’s easy to get caught up by online friendships to the detriment of real-life relationships. Reminding yourself of your priorities helps you switch activities or power down the computer.
  10. Track yourself online. Install Rescue Time to track you online and send you productivity reports. If you lack discipline, this software can help you find it again. There are even options you can set to restrict your Internet access at certain times.

I rarely spend more than half an hour a day on social networking, and often considerably less, but for the most part I cover the bases. I hope you can glean from the strategies that have kept me sailing away on SS Social Media.

Drive Traffic to Your Website Or Social Media Sites? (7 Things A Writer Should Know)

Image-of-Traffic

With so many people on social media sites nowadays, it’s tempting to ask yourself if you should forget about driving traffic to your website and focus on marketing elsewhere. Why not go where people already are instead of making what can seem like a herculean effort to drive traffic to your site?

The answer to this question is that yes, you should go where people congregate, but yes, you should also invite, bribe, entice, and otherwise encourage others to your website. Here’s why:

  1. Social networking sites own your list of friends and followers. You don’t. If one of them goes out of business, it won’t matter that you have 4,000 followers. Every one of them will vanish into cyber space. By contrast, the list you build through your website belongs to you.
  2. People want to know where you live online. If you’re spread thin across social networks without a strong central hub, your brand will be ineffective at best. Branding is all about distilling your essence for others to grasp with minimal effort. If your online presence is scattered, you’ll have a hard time maintaining a brand.
  3. A neglected website reflects poorly on its owner. Those who connect with you on social sites will sometimes visit your website. A languishing website may make the casual visitor wonder what else you neglect in your writing business. The same can be said of a languishing social media account. You shouldn’t try to be everywhere, so pick and choose where you will and won’t maintain an online presence.
  4. Exclusivity. If your website becomes one of those places people gather, you won’t have to go out and haul people in to connect with you.This takes a great deal of thought and legwork up front, but after that it can pay off.
  5. Less competition. That’s usually not true on social sites where instant messages, notifications, advertisements, and the updates of others all compete for attention. You still need to have an interesting website, but at least visitors will have fewer interruptions while you try to maintain their interest.
  6. Higher search engine rankings. The more traffic your website generates, the higher it ranks in search engines. A higher search engine ranking means that those who enter keyword searches matching content on your website will find your site closer to the top of search results. This brings traffic to your site without any additional effort on your part.
  7. The ability to sell products. Once you give friends and followers a valid reason to come to your site, you can then offer products to them. This privilege can be abused, so be considerate. Remember that visitors to your site want an immediate takeaway, usually for free. Without one, they may not hang around long enough to buy anything.

Do all your social media accounts point to your website? If not, I suggest you change that as soon as possible.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Related Posts:

SEO Is Not Enough To Grow Your Blog Subscriber List!

Marketing with Integrity: 5 Tips On What Not to Do

Social Media Numbers: How Many Friends and Followers Are Enough?