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5 Steps to Build a Strong Author Platform

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

For some writers, building a strong author platform comes naturally, but for others, essential book marketing steps might feel uncomfortable. Here are some tips that will make it easier.

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1. Begin Before You’re Ready

When it comes to marketing, it’s never too early to ask for feedback on your writing.

  • Share your writing with your family, friends, coworkers, and other community members.
  • Reach out to share early drafts with critique partners and writing groups.
  • Share more polished drafts—still incomplete—with early (beta) readers.

Don’t wait until your book is released to start asking for feedback and building your connections. The sooner you start, the easier it is, and it’s also a lot more fun.

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The easiest ways to begin marketing your book is to 1) do some basic market research and 2) connect with other authors at writing conferences.

2. Perform Market Research

The simplest way to begin your market research and competitive title analysis is to use Amazon Advanced Search for Books. You’ll find plenty of authors who are writing books like yours today. It’s your job to get to know them by following them on social media and signing up for their email lists. Reach out when it’s appropriate. A woman sitting cross-legged on the floor with the a laptop. There are icons for email, a pencil, and a magnifying glass.

Writing is a lonely business, but who knows—you may end up in a writing group together, become critique partners, or create a group to publish a promotional anthology.

Market research is a key step in publishing, whether you self-publish a book or write a book proposal. You, or your agent and publisher, need to know where your book fits on the virtual shelves. By doing this research, you’ll also find out what your book cover should look like, get ideas for your title and subtitle, and you’ll find common trim sizes, word count, and pricing. You’ll discover what categories and keywords your colleagues are using and get ideas about how to write your book description and author bio.

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3. Attend Writing Conferences

Writing conferences are excellent places to connect with authors who are writing in your genre. Even today’s virtual conferences offer networking opportunities. The positive in all this is that geography is no longer a barrier.

Your best bet is to focus on conferences held in the genre in which you write. These events are fantastic places to build relationships with other writers, agents, and publishers.

Today’s virtual conferences usually offer a Facebook group for connection and discussion. Take advantage of these forums and gather a tribe of like-minded authors in your genre.

4. Give It Away

Once you’ve done your market research, you are better equipped to create giveaways to grow your email list. Evaluate what other authors like you give away and create something similar or better. This might be an excerpt, a story collection, or even the first book in a series. If you write nonfiction, think about cheat sheets, checklists, and a list of resources. A sheet of paper with a large, yellow A on it, a pencil, and an open book.

Make sure your email signup is prominently visible on your home page. Use an autoresponder to deliver your giveaway and follow up with email list subscribers every week or two to ask them for feedback, connect on social media, or send them another freebie.

People who have free access to your early, unpublished writing—even drafts or short scenes—feel like insiders, especially if you ask them for feedback: “What do you think about this story?” Or, better yet, “Have you been to New Orleans? Do you think I got this right, or do you have suggestions that might help me improve the scene where Suzanne and Lachelle first meet?”

These people are much more likely to give you five-star reviews on launch day, promote it to their friends, and support you in any way they can.

5. Have Fun!

The earlier you start, the more fun you’re going to have. I promise! It’s much more fun to write “in community” than it is to write alone, publish, and cross your fingers. So reach out to your family, friends, colleagues, and other writers. It may not even feel like marketing!


Carla King

Carla King is a publishing coach and the founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp educational program of books, workshops, and online courses. Her books include the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, the Consumer’s Guide for Self-Publishers, which reviews the products, tools, and services you use to write, publish, and promote your books, and IngramSpark’s Book Formatting Guide. Carla started self-publishing in 1995 with her travel guide, Cycling the French Riviera, followed by a memoir titled American Borders and a collection called Stories from Elsewhere. She runs the Indie Publishing track at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and hosts the Author Friendly Podcast. Find the podcast, along with her books, courses, free resources and advice at www.selfpubbootcamp.com.