I define an author platform as a virtual “place to stand before the crowd.” It requires recognized standing or authority in an area of expertise, and enough personal following, or celebrity, to guarantee a ready audience for your ideas, works, and indeed, for yourself.
A really good way to establish an author platform is through personal appearances, at book signing events, talks and lectures. While this method is effective, it is slow work. Your live audience is typically small: your reach is severely limited by the number of people you can attract to attend.
This fact explains why public figures such as past presidents, popular heroes and film and television personalities can write books about their unique life stories and be guaranteed publication. They have a built-in audience created by many mass media appearances, large music sales or free publicity. Some have performed death-defying exploits in dangerous parts of the world. The rest of us lack such built-in fame or a public following. We must work hard to earn it.
Claim your author platform with a website
First, I’ll digress from my narrative on creation and publication of books to show that the process of developing an author platform. You should should begin early, even before your first book is in publication. An important first step is to stake your claim on the internet by building a website.
Long before a book is done and ready to go on sale, you need to get people interested in what you have to say. This happens one follower at a time — by making individuals aware of you. Some observers call it “drip feed” because it resembles the slow process of distilling perfume, alcohol or pure water, one drop at a time. With such a slow pace, building an author platform must start early.
Recent stories abound of how ordinary folks have taken to cyberspace to talk on their websites and blogs. Some are fascinated by aspects of their work or hobby. Others like to tell stories about unusual experiences. Those on a worthwhile mission tell about overcoming obstacles. Sometimes these are written. Some take the form of podcasts for listening only. Others take place on personal television channels on YouTube. With the help of video, their creators demonstrate their favorite pursuits, such as music performance, art and “how-to” techniques with with internet posts or podcasts on Vimeo, YouTube or Soundcloud. Each of these creative individuals is starting to build an author platform.
It ‘s easier than you might imagine to create a website. Several hosting companies, WordPress.org and GoDaddy.com and others, offer free hosting services. Others charge for their services and offer added (paid) features, such as faster, more robust site servers, daily backups and marketing and lead conversion add-ons. The internet uses a unique language called HTML (HyperText Markup Language), the most basic building block of the Web. This language and other behind-the-scenes technology define the meaning and structure of web content. They let you work in a familiar setting, as if using a word processor like Microsoft Word. As with Word, you can write, copy or edit text, pictures, sound and video on a page. But because of their specialized technology, they will appear as web pages or blog posts on the internet. But no worries, there’s a free app at WordPress.org that will get you up and running in this high-tech world without your even having to know what goes on behind the scenes.
Select a good domain name
Next, your web host will prompt you to buy a domain name, approved by a worldwide agency called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN —EYE-kan). This is a nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating several databases of the Internet, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation. It should cost you little more than ten dollars a year, including a valuable option, private domain registration. This prevents prying eyes from seeing your personal contact information. Pick your own name, if it is available, or another name which represents your brand to the public. For example, my name Peter Green is shared with the co-founder of the rock group Fleetwood Mac. Thus my name was unavailable (although I wish I had his following). Instead I used AuthorPeterGreen.com, which also tips off visitors to my brand and my primary activity.
Learn what experts advise about using cyberspace
Bob Baker, a pioneer of internet marketing I’ve known for a dozen years, has a blog, about how he became a full-time author. He shares a treasure trove of experience on using the internet for promotion and marketing purposes. His book, 55 Ways to Promote and Sell your Book on the Internet, describes numerous techniques for claiming your author platform readers find you and your work in the vast sea of cyberspace.
Set your website’s goal and strategic objectives
Whenever you set out to accomplish something big, it’s important to identify your overall goal and strategic objectives along the way. Why are you establishing a website? To sell a lot of books, while it may be your ultimate goal, is NOT a goal you have in common with your reader. He or she is interested in being informed — for example, about a topic of interest, how to perform a specific task– or entertained. If you have unique expertise, as in any outreach effort, you need to find your niche — that is, claim specialized knowledge or display a writing style, such as humor, which sets you apart from the crowd. Then stick with this objective in multiple posts or pages, so you will become known as an expert in your topic, referred to and recommended by others. Relax and be yourself, as your friends know you, and you will project a personality people will want to know better.
In my case, I focused on reading, one of my lifetime interests. I began by offering reviews of books I enjoyed. After getting five books into print, first though independent publishers and then through self-publishing, I realized I had acquired knowledge of potential interest to many writers about a rapidly-changing field. To attract both established authors and those wishing to break into the field, as well as readers who are interested in what happens behind the scenes of publishing, I established this site, A Writer’s Journey.
This short introduction can get you started thinking about how to establish your unique author platform. Be patient: for me it didn’t happen right away. And remember Bob Baker’s best advice: don’t be overwhelmed by what you don’t know. Learn one new thing about using the internet each week. Even though you’re on the ocean in a rowboat, stick to essential tasks. It might be wise to learn how to row — in this case, how to write — and do it daily.