We’re doing a month of “Ask the Agent” questions here on the blog. The other day, somebody asked the question, “How do you suggest an unpublished novelist get started building a platform?”
Building a platform isn’t something you do overnight, it’s something you do over time, so you have to be patient with the process. And it’s different for each author — what works for one writer won’t work nearly as effectively for another. So I think the most important first step isn’t to decide on strategies, so much as to decide on who you are and what you do best. Who are you? What’s unique about you? What marketing do you enjoy doing? Some authors will focus on speaking and appearances, others on online articles, some on media… I think you have to know yourself and your gifts, and figure out what you’re going to do to build a platform.
But in terms of the process, there are several common strategies fiction authors use:
- Create a big mouth list (who are the ten people you’re already friends with, who have a big platform and are willing to promote you and your work?)
- Develop a blog that attracts readers (you want to be participating in a discussion with them)
- Start an e-newsletter (and get readers to sign up so you interact with them regularly)
- Create a freebie (have something of value you can give away to interested readers)
- Write columns, articles, or guest posts on e-zines and other sites (so readers will start to see your name and your work)
- Engage people on social media (don’t use social media to sell your book — use FB and Twitter and Pinterest to make friends and engage in conversation)
- Participate in HARO (Help A Reporter Out is a great way to get your name out there by offering insightful quotes on the topics of the day)
- Self-publish and capture emails on your website (participating in flash fiction and similar types of writing groups can help you establish yourself as an author)
- Interview others and write up the conversation in an article (something overlooked, but I did this, and I know other authors who do this regularly to get their name out to readers)
- Do some speaking (engaging groups of people is a great way to build readership)
- Host your own events (these are parties or discussions or group meetings on topics related to your work)
- Set up a podcast or youtube channel (there are some great author podcasts — and this works particularly well if you’re naturally funny)
- Join organizations that share your values and can help promote your work (that gives you access to everyone in the company or group or organization)
- Participate in media whenever possible (this establishes you as a personality)
These are just a few ideas, of course. You won’t do ALL of them, but figure out what fits your personality and skill-set, and schedule in time to do SOME of these. By the way, there are a couple of great sites talking about this topic, including occasional articles in Writers Digest, Your Writer Platform, The Write Life, and others. Of course, if you really want to work at this, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Amanda Luedeke’s The Extroverted Writer, which I think is a fabulous resource to everyone trying to build a platform.
Okay, the person who posed this question on the blog last week followed up with some specific questions: “Should I do flash fiction? How do I get other writers to swap stories with me? And how close to my genre do I have to stay with my flash fiction?”
Quickly, I’ll just add that flash fiction is one way you can help create a platform, though in my experience it seems to work best with YA and some fan sites, and is far less effective with other genres. So yes, you’ll have to keep the genre close to your books, and you’ll need to convince other writers to swap stories, usually by connecting at conferences or via online writing groups. But again, this is of limited value (at least so far) with other genres of fiction.