Book Marketing Tips: Build Your Author Platform Before You Publish
Too many authors overlook a key strategy when building a successful author platform: beginning their marketing a few months before they publish a book. Who has time for that? Well, if you want to set your book up for marketing success, you need to make time. You have to put in some work in order to see results. It might seem overwhelming at first, but once you get a plan in place, it will work to your advantage.
If successful marketing is not one of your goals, feel free to stop reading now. However, if you want your book’s message to reach beyond friends and family, you need to take the following tips to heart.
How to set up your marketing platform before you publish your book:
- Create a Facebook fan page. Not your own personal Facebook profile, but a fan page exclusively for your book and author platform. A fan page is something people can easily “like” and follow to see posts tailored to your book, such as where your next book signing is located. Keep your private life private, such as pictures of your children, on your Facebook profile page.
- Create a Twitter account. It’s a free and popular marketing tool. Use your book’s title as your Twitter handle, and follow authors, publishers and communities with similar interests. There is an incredible amount of conflicting data about the best time to tweet, how often to tweet, etc. We suggest starting out with at least one new tweet per day. That’s only 140 characters, which is easy for a writer like you, right?
- Schedule your Tweets and Facebook posts. Now that you have your Facebook fan page and Twitter account set up, you can make your life easier by scheduling posts to automatically publish. You can schedule Facebook posts right on your fan page, which is an incredible time saver. You can’t schedule your tweets directly in Twitter; however, there are free online tools, such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite that allow you to do so. Yes, this is another step and another account, but it will be a crucial addition in order to effectively manage your platform. Just do a little research and decide which tool you prefer. You can then schedule tweets during a chunk of free time, such as during your lunch break at work or some down time during the weekend.
- Track your links. Through bit.ly.com or Hootsuite, you can shorten and track stats on your links. It’s important to use this tool for various reasons. Shortening links not only looks much cleaner, but it also allows more space in the 140 character limit on each tweet. For example, this link http://www.crossbooks.com/Resources/Articles/Default.aspx becomes http://bit.ly/13qq3n9. But, the biggest advantage of using a service like Bitly is that it tracks how many people click on your link. This allows you to see which ones are the most popular, giving you tangible evidence to tweak your marketing strategy and promote content that your audience finds interesting.
- Build a website. Now comes the part that most authors find a bit daunting. If you’ve never created a website before, we suggest hiring a professional to set up the framework; then you can take over with adding content once the site is built. Author websites typically have a page for a bio, books, events and news and include links to your social media sites. Think of this as a one-stop shop for fans to find out everything about your book. Angie Tolpin, CrossBooks author of Redeeming Childbirth, has an excellent example of how an author’s website should look: professional, informative and easy to navigate. Some other examples include the websites of Margaret-Ann Howie and Dr. Jason Whitehurst. Browse through those websites and others you frequent in order to get an idea of how you should display your own site.
- Set up a blog. Once your website is established, you might consider adding a blog to your website. Writing a blog may sound like a lot of work when you’re focusing on finishing your book, but there are ways to make this task easy to handle. Add a 300- to 500-word blog post at least once a week, and create an editorial calendar to make it easy for you to stay on track. You can also ask guest bloggers to post, review fellow authors’ books, or write about timely events that relate to your book. Bonus: This will also create new content to promote on your social media accounts.
Pique the interest of traditional publishers.
Yes, building and maintaining an author platform is a difficult and time-consuming task; however, if traditional publishing is a goal of yours, it can increase your chances of getting a publishing contract. How? Well, traditional publishers, such as B&H Publishing, want an author with an established platform who has already proven that they can be successful in finding and engaging with potential readers. Plus, it’s better if the traditional publisher doesn’t have to start from scratch to build your marketing plan. You already have one in place!
Don’t just promote your book!
Please, please, please do not just promote your book! This is something we see all too often, and it is a major turn off for potential readers. What is your book about? Find articles that touch on your book’s subject and share those on social media, write blog posts about a timely topic related to your book, and interact with authors who have similar interests. Only every now and then should you throw in a hard sell for your book.
It will be hard.
We aren’t going to lie – creating your author platform will seem overwhelming and frustrating in the beginning. But, once you get a plan in place, establish an editorial calendar, and schedule automated social media messages, it will get easier.
Ask a neighbor, grandchild or spouse to help you navigate through the technical parts. There are thousands of “how-to build your author platform” articles with some excellent and detailed tips. You just need to make the time to read through a portion of them. And don’t forget: we have marketing professionals who can help you get everything in place and train you on the social media and marketing basics with one-on-one support.
This article just scratches the surface of how to build one’s platform. The possibilities are endless with numerous opportunities for you to build your platform that we didn’t even mention (i.e. Google+, podcasts, videos, etc.). Be creative and dedicate the time and resources it takes into building your marketing plan in order to reach as many people as possible with your book’s message.
And most importantly, don’t forget to ask God for a little guidance as you begin your marketing journey.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6