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Building Your Author Platform: Do I Need to be on Social Media?

Building Your Author Platform: Do I Need to be on Social Media?

Yes. And no.

In terms of building an author platform, you need methods of attracting potential new readers. Some people call this outreach. Social media is great for outreach. It’s not so great for selling.

The disadvantage of social media is that you don’t own the platform. If you infringe the rules of the social network, they can delete your account. This leaves you with no way of engaging with or converting potential readers. And that’s why a website and email list—things you own—are the two most important foundations of your author platform.

This happened to me last year: Twitter suspended my account. I got it back, but what if I hadn’t?

As I see it, there are two main functions of social networking for authors:

  1. To help us connect with readers
  2. To help us connect with other writers

This is why social networks are important. Writers often work in isolation, and online social networks provide us with valuable and necessary ways to connect with others. My favourite social network is Facebook, and I think of it as the water cooler in my virtual office, the place I head for a short break to recharge before starting the next item on my to-do list.

Connecting with Readers

I believe connecting with readers is more important to an author’s long-term success, because it is the readers who are going to buy your book (or books). For this reason, my suggestions around social networks are more focused on connecting with readers than with other writers–as this is the weak spot for most writers.

We need readers.

We need readers because they read our books. They talk about our books. They review our books. They buy our books. Sure, writers are also readers (or should be). But there are more readers than writers.

Connecting with Writers

Yes, connecting with writers is important, especially in the early stages of your writing. You need to learn to write, and other writers are going to be the people who help with that. Writers will be your first teachers, your first readers, your first fans. They will give you advice on what do, and what not to do. They will help you find a community, essential if your writing is ever going to be anything more than you and a computer.

But in the long term, connecting with readers is more important. Because while all writers are readers (or should be), not all readers are writers.

So what do you want or need from a social networking site:

  • The ability to connect with other users
  • A market demographic that matches your target reader

This means the social networks which are right for me might not be the same as those which are right for you. For example, I discovered as I was researching this post that there are specific social networks for specific groups (this probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did). For example:

  • MyMFB has 1.5+ billion followers, and is touted as the Muslim alternative to Facebook.
  • Twoo is a Belgian site geared to teenagers and twenty-somethings.
  • Renren (everyone’s website) is China’s largest social platform.
  • VK.com is the Russian version of Facebook.

None of these are appropriate social networks for me, as my target reader is a Christian with English as their first language.

But these social networks could be great options for writers targeting non-Christian readers in these countries and people groups.

So, no, you don’t need to be on every social network. But you probably do need to be active on a couple of social networks. And you do need your own author website (discussed in this post), and you almost certainly need an email list (click here if you’d like to join mine!).

Do you …
Know you need to start building your author platform but have no idea where to start?
Have a blog and a couple of social media accounts but don’t know what to do next?
Have a website, but aren’t sure if you’re on the right track?

Then join my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform. Click here for more information.

What’s your favourite social network, and why?

Building Your Author Platform: Do I Need a Website?

Building Your Author Platform: Do I Need a Website?

Last week I discussed the need for that elusive necessity, an author platform. This week I’m talking about the main foundation of an author platform: a website.

Your author website is your online home.

It’s where readers will go to find out about you and your books. I asked in a reader group and they confirmed this: they most commonly visit author websites to find out:

  • More about the author
  • When the author’s next book releases
  • What other books the author has published
  • The correct order of a series

And a website is where agents, publishers and editors will look to see if you have that magical author platform. It’s where publicists and bloggers will look to find information about you.

You also need a way for readers to subscribe to your email list—your list provider will probably have a way to integrate this with your website. I’ll talk more about email lists and why they’re important next week.

Your website one of the foundation elements of your platform and of your passive marketing. While it’s a lot of work to build a website, the ongoing maintenance isn’t as difficult, as long as you set it up properly (and remember to keep all your themes and plugins updated, especially security plugins. I’ve learned that the hard way).

What does my website have to have?

Not a lot. You need:

Home Page

To bring people into the site and introduce your brand.

About Page

To introduce you as the author, in order to engage with readers and begin to developing a relationship.

Books Page

(Only once you actually have one, of course!)

Your Books page should include all your books. The general guide is to feature your newest books at the top of the page, but a series should always be presented in reading order.

Contact Page

To allow people to communicate with you.

Email Signup

This isn’t a page, but a form. Ideally, this should appear on every page, and should be a central feature of your Home page. We’ll talk more about email lists next week.

Other pages

Other pages, such as a blog, media kit, reviews, and writing advice are all optional. Which makes it a lot easier to set up a professional author website, and a lot harder to find excuses as to why you can’t!

Many authors procrastinate about building an author website.

It’s too hard. It’s expensive. They don’t have time. I can relate—but I still managed to build an author site in a week using the fabulous 5-Day Challenge from Shannon Mattern at WP-BFF.com. (Click here to find out more.)

If you’d like a little more support, consider joining my Kick-Start Your Author Platform Challenge. (Click here to find out more.)

What questions do you have about author websites? What is the best author website you’ve visited, and what made it good?