Picture the day when you hold your finished book in your hands. You pour yourself a glass of bubbly, post a picture of yourself with it on social media, phone your mum, and collapse in a self-satisfied heap. But there’s one thing missing at this point: a group of willing readers to buy it. Who are they? Where are they? And, just as importantly, why would they be interested in your book?
Here’s where starting to build your author platform while you’re writing your book is vital. The word ‘platform’ can be somewhat mystifying (I always envisage a diving platform – most off-putting) but think of it as a stage upon which you stand to talk about your book. In fact, you’ll need multiple mini-platforms, which could include, in no particular order:
- social media accounts,
- your email list,
- speaking engagements,
- your website,
- influencers who have an audience with your readers, and
- face-to-face networking events.
You can see how an author platform is simply a place from which you launch marketing messages about your book, and why it’s important to have a ready-made audience who will be interested to hear about it. What’s the size of your audience at the moment? Is it big enough to sell hundreds or even thousands of copies? It might not need to be huge; if you work in a niche area you don’t need attention from vast numbers. But do you have a critical mass of potential readers who you can talk to as soon as your book is ready for them to buy?
By considering this in your planning phase, you haven’t left it until the last minute. Building a marketing platform takes time, so start early and continue steadily while you write it. The beauty of this approach is that not only will you enlarge your audience, but you’ll also find yourself thinking about your readers while you’re going along – a great way of keeping that laser focus on your reader alive.
You don’t have to build a base on every platform, and if you haven’t done much marketing before just choose the ones you feel most confident with. As book PR expert Chantal Cooke once said to me, ‘The marketing that works is the marketing you do’, so don’t set yourself the challenge of being a superstar in every area because you’re unlikely to have the time or energy for that.
How to build your platform
For now you’re simply building an audience which you’ll promote to when your book is finished. Here are the areas to focus on at this stage.
Pick two platforms you resonate with and where you’ve already had some success. Don’t try to do it all, but do make sure they’re the places your audience hangs out. For a business book that will most likely be LinkedIn and Twitter, but you might find Facebook and Instagram are fruitful for you. Then, build your audience by connecting with people in your target readership every day and posting messages they’ll find interesting, useful, and related to your expertise. For now, this is all you have to do.
What size of email list do you have? If it’s only a handful of people this may be an area for you to enrich. There are many ways to increase your list: install a pop-up box on your website that offers a lead magnet in exchange for an email address, and post social media links to that page, or give a webinar or talk which allows you to collect email addresses. While you’re building your list, remember to email it regularly with useful and interesting content geared to your audience. You could talk about how your book is evolving as well, and create a sub-list of people who volunteer to hear more about it.
Speaking engagements and face-to-face networking
If you speak and attend events regularly, consider enhancing your network of events organisers so when your book is launched you have a ready-made list of people to contact.
Is it fabulous to look at and use, or could it frankly do with a revamp? Now’s the time to make it ship-shape so that when your book is published it’s ready for you to add a ‘Book’ page to.
This can be huge. While you’re writing your book, build a list of people you could ask to help you promote it when the time comes, and use the writing period to deepen your relationships with them. This could involve asking them to contribute to the book, or finding ways to interact with them on social media or face-to-face. Don’t underestimate the power of reciprocity; if you can help someone with something that’s important to them, they’ll remember that act of kindness. Successful coach Michael Neill tells a brilliant story about how he persuaded an ultra-busy influencer to write a foreword for one of his early books, by offering to take some of her most hated jobs off her to-do list (and it worked).
This is an excerpt from Your Business Your Book, published 7th November 2019.