Updated: Oct 30, 2021
Oof. Anybody else feel like building a platform is the bane of their existence? It can't just be me?!
I'm a firm believer that good, effective marketing is something you can do without a crazy amount of effort, but I tried a lot of things before I landed on a strategy that appears to be working.
As a quick reminder, this is post three in a series about my authorship journey. And if you're new to the blog, I've published one book - so I'm not an expert. I'm simply sharing what I've learned in my journey in the hopes it helps others. There's not a one-size-fits-all author journey, but I know I would have found it helpful to have some hard data from other authors ahead of time, if I could have...
Here's what I'll be covering, and I've actually added an additional section specific to social media after some folks reached out to me about that topic:
Part III - Branding & Platform-Building (this post)
Part IV - Social Media
Part V - Launch Strategy
Part VI - Ongoing Updates
Building a platform means a lot of things to different people, but for the purposes of today, I'm going to split it into the high level categories I focused on:
Building an author platform
In the future, I'll do a post all about Social Media and how I handled that, but today I'm going to break down how I thought about "showing up online" and "building an author platform".
Everything I've read told me to "build an author platform" and "start your platform" and all that...stuff. But I wasn't really sure how to do that other than start an instagram and engage there. But simply showing up on social media isn't enough to get people to care about you or your book.
Have you ever gone to an author's instagram and thought, "damn that's beautiful?" Well...it's probably because they put some thought into their branding. For our very simplest purposes today, branding is the look and feel of how you show up online. When someone sees your post, does it look like you?
I've mentioned this in previous posts, but before I ever even wrote my book, I sat down and asked myself a couple of questions.
- How do I want readers to perceive me?
- What colors, icons, themes relate to me and my writing?
- What are three words that describe my personality, the personality I want to come across as online
- What about myself am I comfortable sharing online?
In my case, my answers looked something like this:
I want readers to perceive me as hilarious, ridiculous, likable, and really into weiner jokes (that's my thing, what can I say). I'm also reallllly passionate about lifting up other authors, so book reviews and talking about others' journeys is really important to me
Darker colors with hints of natural greens, natural textures, and my weiner wallpaper are the colorways and icons that I gravitate towards
I am sassy, awkward and friendly
I'm an open book
Now that I had these answers, I had a basic framework for what my social media should look like.
If you think back to one of my earlier posts, you'll remember how I created a mood board of my social media colors and images. I've heard its really easy to do this in Canva, although admittedly I use Adobe Illustrator. I highly recommend this step for getting a cohesive vision of how your author brand "looks". Meaning the main two colors you use, a few secondary colors, recurring icons or themes, fonts etc. I even planned out what all my reels covers and quote posts would look like, all tying into the same colors and themes.
We'll talk about implementing/iterating on this strategy more in part VII of this series, but at a high level, consider all of this when you come up with your own unique "branding". When a potential reader or bookstagrammer partner shows up to your page, is it clear it's your page? If not, if it could be any author's page, then take some time to think about your branding so you can develop a cohesive strategy.
Take a look at this part of my feed below, for instance. My brand colors and themes (jungle/wild weiners) are prevalent throughout the entire thing–every single post. But you can also see I'm into talking about other peoples' books, sharing my random thoughts and giving you behind-the-scenes looks at my life...all things I said I wanted to do in my branding answers up above.
Of course there's more than just what your brand looks like, it's also who you are–your personality and how you interact with people. We'll get to that more in the next section about Building Your Platform.
BUILDING YOUR PLATFORM
In an ideal world, you'll have time to "build your platform" for months before you actually launch a book. In fact, if you think you ever wanna write a book–start the platform now. Set up your social media and start researching like crazy.
Step One: Set up IG/TikTok/Twitter/Goodreads and start following other authors and bookstagrammers in your genre. Set up your Facebook page and groups and begin interacting
The very first thing you need to do (after determining your branded look) is to start interacting and showing up online. In the beginning, I made the mistake of following everyone I could and going really wide with my engagement. I learned quickly that that wasn't working for me, and so I pivoted and hyper-focused in my genre: paranormal romance, and specifically omegaverse.
I'm in just about every Goodreads group, Facebook group and Facebook page related to omegaverse, and I've built great relationships with other authors and bookstagrammers there. That helped me SO MUCH at launch time. Get started on that NOW. Resist the urge to follow every romance author everywhere, and instead follow and engage with those in similar genres to yours.
It's never too early to set up your own FB page and group. In my case, my IG posts go straight to my FB page, and that's fine. But my FB group is a place I nurture super-fans with funny memes, sneak peeks, extra giveaways and more. Even if you have nobody in there but your mama and your two besties, it's a start! Plus, as you grow your newsletter list, we'll push those folks to the FB group too.
Step Two: Use the know/like/trust framework to determine when and what to post. Note: reposting other peoples' memes is not gonna build you a platform
This comes right back to branding, but if you want to build an actual group of readers who want to buy your book, and bookstagrammers who want to shout about your book–you've got to make them care. This is a huge mistake I see a lot of other authors making online. Feel free to share that great meme in your stories and groups, but it doesn't belong on your IG or TikTok feed. That feed is 100% YOU, your branding, your little corner of the universe. So make it look like you, not a random meme page.
There's a lot of data out in the world about the know/like/trust framework. But at its core, people need to know, like and trust you before they're going to invest in your book. So when you're crafting social posts, ask yourself if what you're posting is going to make people know you better (as a person/author/mom/whatever), like you more (cuz you're funny or interesting or offering behind the scenes info), or trust you (someone else said you're great, or reviewed your work etc).
You've probably heard the adage that consumers need to see something seven times before they notice it? Well, remember that too! You need to talk about yourself and your book in a know/like/trust way a lot before it'll stick in readers' minds!
(More on launch-specific marketing to come in part VII!)
Step Three: Write a magnet and use BookFunnel to get your newsletter going
This is the biggest piece of advice my coach gave me, and I'm so glad I listened to her and did this. You've absolutely got to write a great magnet that you can use with BookFunnel promos.
If you don't know BookFunnel yet, it's 100000% worth the $100 to invest in it and use the heck out of it.
First, you'll write a steamy magnet. I wrote the prequel to my series and it wasn't steamy at all, and I've had success with newsletters, but steamy would have been better. Once you write that steamy magnet, you'll join BookFunnel promos and offer that magnet for free in exchange for peoples' emails. As part of the promo, you're required to post on social and to your newsletter about the book promo to help spread the word (and no, it doesn't matter if you have two people on your newsletter list. We all start somewhere!)
The first BookFunnel promo I did gained me over 200 new subscribers in a month. Which was great, because prior to that I had 15.
Step Four: Keep Building
Once you've done these beginning steps with building your platform, you'll focus on regular engagement. Don't have a ton of time? There are some great free and paid resources on the interwebs for helping authors know what to post with limited time. I love SugarPunch Marketing and Hannah Richards for awesome free and paid advice.
Hope you all enjoyed the third installment in my author journey series. As always, feel free to comment below with any questions. I can always add to the list of topics as needed!