Platform First, Book Second

Having an effective platform, or a means in which to communicate with your readers and draw in more potential fans, is a vital aspect of many writing careers. Any writer working toward true commercial success for his or her book will need a platform to meet that goal.

There’s a reason why there are only so many J.D. Salingers hiding from the public out there: the reading public wants their authors to be somewhat accessible, and unless you land a massive book deal and are a certified top-tier bestselling author like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King or Dean Koontz, you cannot afford to be so romantically hermetic in your habits.

And the key to building a platform is to do so before you release your book, not the same month you do, and most certainly not after.

Social Media

If you are on Facebook or another social medium, look at your page and ask, “What would potential readers think of the way I present myself?” If you want to maintain total privacy, you might be better off creating a specific “Page” for your writing (although not for a specific book … people want to communicate with YOU, not just one aspect of your artistic arsenal). Post often, at least a few times a week, even a few times a day, but not incessantly or you will annoy your friends and fans. Make sure your comments are diverse — literary news, your book’s progress, important life changes — and give shout-outs to other writers you enjoy and follow. It’s all about being part of a community nowadays.

Websites and Blogs

It is also vital that you create a presence for yourself outside of social networking sites. Have a website, and make sure it is easy to update from wherever you are. Have a blog aspect on the site so you can write about your writing. This should be your main means of communication with readers, and use Facebook to drive traffic to your page, not vice versa.

If you cannot afford a professional website, there are many slick-looking free blog websites out there that are designed to look just like regular websites and are customizable. WordPress and Blogger are just two of many, and these sites have become common amongst writers, poets, agents, small-press publishers, magazine editors, critics, etc. Everyone is blogging these days, and you should too. Again, keep your posts diverse. Offer updates about your book, share techniques and tips that work for you, maybe add a few book reviews you’ve written, anything to keep a fan interested in who you are and what you have to say.

Starting Early

You should begin creating these platforms months and years before your book is released, or else you will have no base audience for when your book hits the shelves. Other steps like starting a Twitter account, e-blast newsletters, a Tumblr, or starting an online radio show are all at you discretion and depend on how much you want to interact with readers. You don’t want to dedicate too much time to this; after all, there is a book that needs your attention, right? Strike a balance and work toward specific goals. And as always, keep writing.

What steps have you taken to build your author platform?

Share your experiences with us in the comments below.