For some writers, building a strong author platform comes naturally, but for others, this extroverted activity of networking takes a lot of work. Writing can be a lonely pursuit. Too many authors feel like they have to do it all by themselves, writing, revising, and seeking publication in solitude. Whether it feels comfortable or not, the reality is that an author’s work needs to reach the right community of readers to be successful. This means that one of the most important aspects of book marketing is building relationships with people who will promote your book.
Fortunately, there are more opportunities to build author connections in-person and online than ever before and these author connections are one of your best self-publishing tools. Don’t be afraid to connect with people you already know to enlist their help in finding readers who will really love your work, turning them into true fans—those who will follow you wherever you go, from your social media to live author events.
When it comes to networking, it’s never too early to start. If you wait until your book is released to start building your connections, you’ll be left playing catch up. The best networkers are always cultivating existing relationships and looking for new contacts. Continuing relationships will ensure an audience not only looks for your upcoming book, but the next book, and the one after that.
Before your book is even published you can attend writing conferences and find professional groups, organizations, and associations to help you be successful. Your best bet is to go to conferences and join groups specific to the industry or genre you write about. These are fantastic places to build relationships with potential readers, other writers, and publishers who can serve as great resources. These outlets help you stay plugged in to what’s happening in your field, including developments, challenges, and trends. They also help you build editor, publisher, and author and reader connections. You never know who will help you reach the next level of success.
Your family, friends, coworkers, and other community members can be your most loyal fans and best advocates—people who are automatically predisposed to support you. Think about it and you’ll be surprised at how many automatic fans you can identify. The thing they all have in common is you. These people know, like, and trust you and will support you regardless of whether the book you’re publishing is their kind of book. These people aren’t necessarily in it for the book; they’re in it for you.
Waiting until your book comes out and then asking your community to promote can be a mistake; involve those who have supported you throughout your writing process in your publication journey also. Make them feel included and expand your reach by letting them help you build momentum.
Online forums, communities, and social media platforms are great places to build your author platform and establish connections by providing new friendships, entertainment, author support, and a sense of community.
Find groups related to the subject you write about, or find author groups about writing in general on Facebook, Yahoo, Google Plus, and LinkedIn. Online communities have many positives; they’re often free, you can access them immediately, and you can participate in them at any time. In online author groups you can get feedback on ideas for pieces you’re writing, potential blog posts, and marketing and publicity strategies.
Because forums typically focus on a particular subject, you can get tons of attention by offering your own expertise. Be respectful of other members’ authority, but feel free to engage by providing your own questions, comments, and resources.
While much of the writing community has moved toward the online environment, there’s nothing like communing and commiserating with a group of writers in person. Look to your local library and bookstore for connections with other writers. Also try Meetup.com, a free networking site that allows users to find special interest groups near them.
It’s crucial to maintain contact with your community—not just when you need to ask for a favor in the form of sharing or promoting your book. Actively supporting your local libraries and bookstores and attending group activities prior to publication will create goodwill when it is time to promote your book. In this way, you’ll cultivate stronger relationships that will serve you well now and in the future.
Quality is more important than quantity. Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, writes that an artist can thrive with only 1,000 true fans. True fans are those who engage with anything you do. They’ll read your blog, follow you on social media, listen to or watch your interviews and other media appearances, and eagerly await the release of your next books. Stay connected with your true fans by providing them interesting content through all available channels.
Update your blog regularly, and share relevant information on social media. Try other ways of creating content, like video or podcasting. These are the people who love your work—don’t give them a reason to forget you.
Your best brand is your name, but your author photo, typography, and colors are also part of your author brand. Brand recognition means that those who remember your name are more likely to pick up and promote your book.
If you’re not having fun, learning something, or are uninterested in the others in your author community, you’re either in the wrong group or you’re not engaging properly. Remember, treat your online presence as you would a gathering at a meeting or party. These are personal relationships and require authenticity and manners. Initiate two-way conversations and be generous sharing content and promoting other people. Apologize when needed. People do business with those they know, like, and trust which is the formula for creating relationships that encourage sharing, sales, and reciprocity.
Of course you can’t be active with all of your connections in all of your outlets all at once. That would be exhausting! Keep in touch, yes, but it’s not necessary to be active in all forums at the same time. Pick a few ways to engage every day and every month so you don’t neglect the author community you’re working to establish. Make goals to do the following to maintain your author connections:
Once you find your audience, it’s important to nurture them and maintain contact. These will be your true fans and the more time you give to them, the more likely they’ll be to support your books.
This chapter was compiled from the following posts on the IngramSpark blog:
“Build Author Connections” by Carla King, Founder of Author Friendly
“4 Steps to Build a Strong Author Platform” by Carla King