Author Platform: What Are You Waiting For?

by | Mar 2, 2010

street preacherA famous and often repeated piece of advice to writers is: The time to start working on your author platform is three years before your book is published.

I’ve repeated this to several clients, and it usually leaves them staring blankly into space. And yet there is a great deal of wisdom in this statement, and a radical remaking of the work of an author.

Many writers have no interest in getting involved with selling their work, or doing promotion. This article isn’t for them.

That’s because a lot of writers have realized that it’s become their responsibility to market their books. Publishers are asking them to do it, authors are routinely submitting marketing plans along with their book proposals. I spoke to a book shepherd recently who told me they were hard at work on a 20-page marketing plan for an author-client.

And it doesn’t really matter if you write fiction or nonfiction. The new reality is that you are in charge of finding, and cultivating, your own readership. Of course, if you are successful enough at it, you will acquire a big publisher complete with a marketing and advertising department to broadcast your efforts into a much larger space.

It’s a Matter of Community

Where I live in northern California, I partcipate in several communities. There’s the community of families at our son’s school. There’s the community in our neighborhood, where we plan street improvements and train for emergencies together. There’s the community of self-publishers, independent publishers and soon-to-be-publishers of which I’m a member.

In each case, within our geographic area, we form communities of interest.

For writers, the internet and its various social media—taken broadly to mean any method for interacting with other people on an equal footing—are how we find our communities of interest. Some of the tools we use are:

  • Author blogs
  • Writing forums
  • Other people’s blogs
  • Facebook groups and pages
  • LinkedIn discussion groups
  • Twitter #discussions and lists
  • Specialized social groups like ning networks

A rational person understands that they cannot do all of these activities at once. What’s needed is a plan or strategy because, faced with all the possibilities, the normal human reaction is to put it off, and do nothing.

Unfortunately, this may not be the best solution.

The Time for Waiting is Over

In a recent blog post, Audience Development: Critical to Every Writer’s Future, Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest said:

Getting a book published does NOT equate to readership. You must cultivate a readership every day of your life, and you start TODAY. Your readers will not be interested in reading just one book; they will be interested in everything and anything you do—and that includes interacting with you online. Audience development doesn’t happen overnight (or even in 6 months or a year)—and it’s a process that continues for as long as you want to have a readership. It shouldn’t be delayed, postponed, or discounted for one minute.

Taking one step, setting up a blog for instance, can start you on the road to finding the community whose common interest is you and your writing. Your audience is out there, but they don’t know it yet. It’s your job to find those readers who are just waiting for a writer like you to come along. They will like you a lot. Some will be insanely devoted. But you have to reach out.

Getting a domain name, signing up for a hosting account, and installing blogging software takes about 10 minutes. And that’s the hard way.

If we are really writers, if we are writers who want readers, the closing of the circle of our own creativity, then let’s write, and find out who reads. That will be the beginning of our community, and it will grow from there. If we are going to be writers for a long time—and I believe it’s a chronic condition—why not start now?

Resources, Tools, Freebies are Everywhere

To get you started, here are a bunch of resources, links, free reports, strategies and information that can help get you going. My suggestion: don’t pay for any programs, tutorials, or anything else until you’ve gotten all you can from the free resources available. There’s a whole education out there just waiting for you.

Although I could go on and on, I think you get the point. The resources are vast. All they require is your participation, your intention to act now.

Writing and Community-Building: The New Job Description

So in this new world, writers who want to write and market their books will find their job is now two-fold: writing, and building community around their writing. Find the social media that appeal to you, share your work, interact with your readers, reach out to the wider reading world in different formats, and start now building the community that will support and nurture you on your writing path.

Takeaway: Finding readers is a logical extension of the writing you’ve done, because you wrote for those readers. Social media allow us to build a community of interest in our work, and the time to start building is now.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit