Many successful authors, entrepreneurs, and self-employed professionals owe much of their popularity to their ability to create a personal brand that people instantly recognize and trust.
If you’re looking to build a personal brand as an author, then it’s essential to gain an understanding of a platform, which applies not just to authors, but to anyone who is looking to position themselves as an authority in their niche. In this article, I’m going to discuss author platforms and how to build one.
A platform is your online territory, which acts as a central hub where you can showcase and promote all the different expressions of your work, and is easily accessible to your readers. It helps you position yourself as an authority in your chosen field. Most importantly, it gives you the ability to influence an audience to buy from you. Eventually, your platform should generate a community of followers who respect, admire, and support your work.
Why is having a platform so important?
- It provides an area where you can build your personal brand.
- It helps build trust with an audience before you ask for the sale.
- It generates a community of loyal followers who will support and buy from you.
- It increases proximity to your audience and provides plentiful opportunities to obtain feedback and carry out highly specific product research.
If you’re an author, then a platform is the place where you can show off your writing, promote and sell your books, and any related services such as consultancy, training, coaching, or speaking. It’s up to you how you choose to make your platform work for you, but my advice is to get creative in promoting yourself as an expert in your field—with a view to grow your followers and, ultimately, your sales.
Let’s look in more detail at some of the things an author platform can include:
- Opt-in mailing list
- A website or blog
- Guest columns on online and offline publications
- Book reviews
- Featured articles and interviews
- Media mentions
- Speaking engagements
- Social media
What is an opt-in mailing list?
An opt-in mailing list is a compilation of the contact information of all the people who have granted you explicit permission to email them.
One of the most popular ways to collect this type of subscriber information is to feature a form on your website and invite visitors to fill it up with their contact details to subscribe to your newsletter. You can increase the chances of them doing this by enticing them with a “bribe,” known as a lead magnet, which might be an e-book, a checklist, white paper, or almost anything that your reader perceives as valuable.
Here are some interesting stats that show you why it’s so important for an author to build an opt-in mailing list:
Did you know:
- 90% of email gets delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox, whereas only 2% of your Facebook fans see your posts in their News Feed. – Forrester Research
- You are six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a tweet. – Campaign Monitor
- The average order value of an email is at least three times higher than that of social media. – McKinsey
- 72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer social media. – MarketingSherpa
- Employees spend an average of thirteen working hours each week in their email inbox. – McKinsey & Company
Opt-in Mailing List vs. Social Media
One of the most common questions I get asked is: “Should I build a website, mailing list, or a social media platform?”
Well, I believe that, while a website and a mailing list are assets you own, social media is not entirely under your control.
Here are my four main reasons why a mailing list scores over social media:
- Your opt-in email list is yours. You own it.
- It’s more personal and intimate.
- You make the rules.
- Social media is not under your control. Facebook and other social networks can change the rules at any time.
Do I need a website or blog?
Another question I regularly get asked is: “Do authors need a website to promote their books?”
We believe a website is a brand asset—it’s something that is uniquely yours—you own it. I would describe a website as a pillar that is the central point where you promote your book and build a community around that will continue to grow along with your writing career.
For instance, let’s say you write a non-fiction book called: How to Quit Your Job and Build a Location-Independent Business. It’s a fact that every reader of your book will share the aspiration of building a location-independent business—that’s what attracted them in the first place.
Although you may choose to create a community through a closed group on Facebook, it still helps to have a website as your central hub, so that visitors can read your articles, subscribe to your mailing list and, most importantly, buy your future books.
Guest columns on online and offline publications
One of the best ways to leverage your platform is by writing guest columns on online and offline publications. Many blogs and magazines are looking for content, and as an author, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your value to new audiences. Sometimes, an opportunity to write a guest column is as simple as shooting out an email and asking if you can write an article for them.
Publishing a book can attract media interest and interview possibilities in print publications, blogs, magazines, radio, and even on TV. Blogs, magazines, and media publications like to interview subject-matter experts. By writing a book, you’ve positioned yourself as an expert on your topic. Pitching to media publications can help you get interviewed and gain some free publicity for you and your book.
Several websites publish book reviews—some charge a fee while others are free. You may have to contact the individual publication and submit a copy of your book for them to write a review.
We know from our own experience that, while we might skip reading something on a website, we’re probably happy to click on a video. A short video is a great publicity and marketing tool. It’s such a familiar format yet so endlessly versatile. Think of those guest columns, featured articles, and interviews we were talking about earlier? This is the place to make them come alive so that they—draw readers and new visitors into your universe!
Hundreds of people are creating podcasts every day. Many regular podcasts draw in thousands of listeners every episode and have huge fan bases across the world. Some of these podcasters invite guests to their show. By being on their show, you become visible to their audience and have an opportunity to attract some new followers.
An author platform can be one of the best investments in creating an author’s personal brand. It can be daunting for authors to line up their ducks in a row all at once, but once you start building it—the process gets easier over time, and you’ll get used to making a little progress in growing your brand every day.