Building an Author Platform

There is a lot of talk in the publishing industry about the importance of building yourself as a brand – or more accurately, building your “author platform”. I tend to agree with this line of thinking – after all, if an author has a thousand people following him on social media and blogs, it goes to follow that a decent percentage of those people will purchase the author’s book(s) when  they get released.

This is probably even more important – and in turn, more difficult – for new and unpublished writers. How do you build an audience before you have an audience?

It is not unheard of. In fact, several authors have paved the way for their first book deal by diligently Tweeting, posting, and blogging on a daily basis. If you have something interesting to say and are a student of the writing, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO) game, you can find an your following.

That being said, building an author platform requires a precious commodity for those of us who have to work a full-time job (or two), deal with the demands of daily living, friends, family,  children, chores, hygiene, sleep, and – if we are lucky – putting down a solid 1500 words on paper about how to check out alternative medicine a night.

That commodity, of course, is time.

Being a somewhat old school writer (I’m 36) who got in the publishing game at the early age of twelve (and began writing at about six years old) when I sold my first poem, I remember a time when  we didn’t have the Internet. Your only job as a writer was three-fold: write every day, read every day, and re-submit your work the second it got rejected.

If you followed that path, had talent, and were extremely lucky, you could make it as a writer and your audience would be earned via book tours, lectures, word of mouth, and your publishing company’s PR department.

Fast forward a short time, and now you have to not only create your work, but you have to create your brand as well. In addition to writing (what in my opinion should be) 1500 words a day, you now have to fit in a witty/interesting blog post between 500-750 words, a couple of Tweets and re-Tweets, and a Facebook post or two a day. And that’s just the bare minimum. That doesn’t include G+, Pinterest, Youtube, guest blogging on other people’s websites – the list goes on and on.

Granted, that is an ideal amount of audience building. It isn’t necessary – and certainly isn’t the standard. The vast majority of authors (heretofore known as “the Competition”) don’t even have a  blog or Facebook/Twitter accounts. Or if they do, they post so infrequently they may as we not have one. Add to that the fact that most writers do not even know the term SEO or know how to properly “build links”, and suddenly you start to see why building an author platform is indeed actually necessary.

I have the perspective of being an editor, publisher, social media and community manager, fledgling SEO, and writer. I do it for a living, for fun, and for freelance. Eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. When an author submits a short story to me or an article, you can bet I Google their name. If they have a good following, I have to take it into consideration. It shows a few things: First, they obviously have talent, because they got other people to read their work on a consistent basis. Second, it means that if I publish their work, their followers will come to my publication and read it. Some of that writer’s followers, will in turn, become my followers.

Now don’t get all uppity – if a writer isn’t good, I won’t publish them, no matter how many followers they have. But every thing a writer does in an editor/publisher’s mind equates into points:  Are they talented? Do they have an instant audience? Is their writing spellchecked? Did they approach me professionally in their query letter? Did they follow my guidelines?

All of those things can add up to me publishing them. Have a huge following and I might be able to overlook a typo or two. It is what it is. Publishing is a business. The more people I can get to  read the publication, the more writers I can help achieve their dreams.

Another thing an author platform does is prove to a publisher/editor that you care about your work and furthermore, that you a work-horse – and serious about your craft. Give me a good writer that works hard over a great writer that is a slacker any day.

Now the rub – as I sit here and pontificate on the virtues of “author platforms”, I myself don’t have one. Not because I don’t want one or see the importance – a hectic schedule and doing social media as a profession has just prevented me from building one thus far. As my friend the chef says: “I cook hamburgers all day. The last thing I want to do is eat one.”

That being said, this post is the first in a new effort to build that holy of holiest. I’ve done my part – I took the time out of my schedule to write this. I’ve ignored (momentarily) article deadlines, a newsletter that needs creating (testing, deploying, etc), websites that need to be built, communities that need to be managed, social media that needs to be managed, barking dogs, hungry wives, and interesting television shows.

Now you do your part: Like the damned post already and re-Tweet it.
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