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How to Build an Author Brand (and why Genre matters)

How to Build an Author Brand (and Why Genre Matters)

In Sell More Books with Less Marketing, Chris Syme talks about different levels of author, divided by genre (fiction or non-fiction), by the number of books and series you have published.

Reading this was a lightbulb moment for me, because it explained why so much of the author brand and author marketing advice I read online felt “off” (yes, that’s a technical term).

It was because the advice was written for authors several levels ahead of me. Take Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers course (which I have bought), or Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course (which I haven’t). These authors are both multi-published thriller authors, and both have at least one long series of books available for sale.

I’m not, and I don’t.

Their information is excellent … but their tactics will work best for authors at that level. They are unlikely to work for authors who only have one or two books published, not one or two series. They are especially unlikely to work for pre-published authors, who are trying to learn everything at once. And there’s a lot to learn.

So what’s the pre-published author to do?

Does the pre-published author need to build an author platform?

If they want to be published, yes.

And that’s whether they want to be traditionally published, or if they want to self-publish.

I see authors out there building their platforms. Some are doing a great job. Others … not so much. They don’t know where to go to get good advice, so often it’s the blind leading the blind.

And a lot of authors stall their platform building efforts by concentrating on the wrong things. They focus on tactics, not strategy. They ask questions like:

  • Do I have to have a blog?
  • What social media platform/s should I be on?
  • What will I blog about?
  • Do I have to have an email list?
  • What should I email about?
  • Do I have to have a sign-up gift for my website?
  • What kind of website should I have?
  • How do I build a website?
  • How much does a website cost?
  • Do I need an agent?
  • Should I self-publish?
  • What marketing will my publisher do?
  • Do I need a logo?
  • What should my tagline be?
  • How do I get reviews?
  • How do I use social media to sell books?

These questions are all good questions, but they are all about tactics. Yes, we need to answer these questions, but they aren’t the first questions we should ask or answer. They aren’t the important questions (and for some of the questions, the answer is “no” or “you don’t”).

All the blog posts about how to grow your author platform are useless for someone who doesn’t have a platform to grow.

I did some investigating. I found books and courses on how do set up a website or how to sell books on Twitter or how to use Goodreads as an author. Those are all good things, but most treated Twitter and Goodreads as an add-on to an existing platform. They didn’t take the author-reader back to those early stages of creating that platform in the first place.

I found blog posts on how to use various cool WordPress plugins to add extra functionality to your website. But that’s no good for someone who doesn’t have a website. Or who only has a free Blogger site.

I found posts on how to use RSS feeds and scheduling programmes to curate, collate, and automate social media posting. But that’s no good for someone who doesn’t have social media, or who only has a personal Facebook page to share pictures of cats and children.

I even found courses on how to build an online platform. Expensive courses—a one-off cost of $399 or $499, or a monthly fee of $49 or more. And that doesn’t include website hosting or any other costs.

Most of the writers I know don’t have that kind of money.

Many are solo parents, retirees, stay-at-home moms, homeschooling moms. Cash is tight. Many haven’t decided if they want to do this writing thing, and don’t want to invest big bucks in case they change their mind. Many are apprehensive about putting themselves “out there” . Many are writing as a form of therapy or ministry, and don’t have the money to invest in an expensive programme.

The people I knew needed was a way of getting from absolutely nothing to the stage where the blog posts on how to build or grow a platform were useful.

So I developed the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge.

Instead of starting with whether you should use MailChimp or MailerLite, WordPress or Wix, we start at the beginning. Strategy, not tactics.

  • What do you write?
  • Who are you writing for?

In other words:

  • What genre do you write?
  • Who is your target reader?

These questions inform our high-level marketing strategy, because:

  • An author who writes fiction is going to have a different strategy to an author who writes non-fiction.
  • An author who writes articles or devotions or short fiction is going to have a different strategy to an author who writes novels or book-length non-fiction.
  • An author who writes picture books is going to have a different strategy to an author who writes adult thrillers.

If we understand what we write—our genre—that will help us identify and understand our target reader.

Our customer. Then we can build a brand that appeals to that reader or buyer. Part of that includes how we look—our visual brand. But it’s also how we act. Our values and beliefs. Who we are behind the pretty visuals.

Author brand isn’t about being everything to everyone. Author brand is about:

  • Understanding your genre.
  • Understanding your target reader.
  • Being true to yourself.
  • Choosing the parts of yourself to show online.
  • Being consistent.
  • Connecting with your target readers.

I’ve developed the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge to do just that. The objective is to help pre-published and just-published authors develop the bones of their marketing platform. It’s an email Challenge, with one email a day for 40 days.

By the time they’ve completed the Challenge, participants will have:

  • A better understanding of their genre
  • A better understanding of their target reader
  • A branded author website
  • Branded accounts on the major social media platforms
  • An email list with a sign-up freebie
  • A list of topics to blog about, and share about on social media
  • Ideas for finding and connecting with their target readers
  • A network of writers

Interested? Click here to find out more information and sign up.

What is or was your biggest challenge in developing your online author platform?

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?

Building Your Author Platform | What is an Author Platform?

Building Your Author Platform: What is an Author Platform?

It’s a term we hear a lot: author platform.

But what is an author platform, and how do you build one?

Simply put, an author platform is any means by which you can connect with readers and sell books. And you build it. Brick by brick.

The size of an author’s platform is important to publishers, because it’s a broad indicator of how many copies of the book they might be able to sell. This influences their decision on whether they will publish the book … or not.

A book by a famous politician, sportsperson, media star or preacher? Check. A book by the son or daughter or spouse of a famous (or infamous) dead person? Check. A book by someone whose last book sold a bazillion copies and was made into a movie? Check.

Because those authors all have a platform.

A book by a new author no one has ever heard of … maybe not.

While an author platform is important for traditionally published authors, it’s vital for self-published authors. Self-published authors don’t have the marketing power or distribution networks of the big traditional publishers, which means there is no one to help. Self-published authors have to connect with readers and sell their books themselves.

And that’s where having an author platform is important.

A good author platform will achieve three aims:

1. Attract potential customers
2. Engage with potential customers
3. Convert potential customers into actual customers

Marketing gurus will tell you a potential customer needs to be exposed to something seven times before they buy. People move through several stages between first hearing about you and your books to actually buying one of your books. A well-designed platform will help them move through those stages.

This process is called a sales funnel. In Sell More Books with Less Social Media, Chris Syme outlines the six basic phases:

1. Discovery
2. Awareness
3. Research
4. Word-of-Mouth
5. Purchase Point
6. Conversion or Sale

How Do I Build an Author Platform?

You can’t build an author platform overnight any more than you could build the pyramids overnight. You build one brick at a time, starting with:

These blog pots address the what you have to do to build an author platform. But where do you start? If you’d like step-by-step guidance on how to build an author platform that’s right for you, click here to check out the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge.

Endorsement from Carolyn Miller

What questions do you have about building and maintaining an author platform?

Best of the Blogs: 28 October 2016

The best blog posts I’ve read in the week to 21 October 2016, on writing, publishing, and marketing.

But first: a giveaway

Can’t Help Falling, the second novel from New Zealand author Kara Isaac has just released, and I’ve got one Kindle version to give away. Click here to enter.

Here’s the description from Amazon:

A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter façade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.

The first chapter is at the bottom of this post. But now, back to our regular feature: what’s best in the blogs this week.

Writing

Fiction authors need to show and not tell. It’s easier said than done (and easier told that shown!). Janice Hardy visits Helping Writers Become Authors to share an excellent article on 3 Ways Writers Can Instantly Spot Telling … which is the first step in eliminating it.

Book coach Jennie Nash visits The Book Designer to go Back to the Basics on Backstory. This is an excellent post which also contains links to five previous posts in the series, all written to help you write the perfect chapter.

Publishing

Anne R Allen shares 10 Tips for Choosing Your Book Title—there is some meaty stuff in this post.

Marketing

Draft2Digital have advice on How to Build an Author Platform. Despite the title, this post is not so much about developing an author platform. It’s more about how you can use some clever tools to improve your passive marketing—like putting store links in the backs of your books. It’s from Draft2Digital so they’re obviously pushing their own publishing platform, but why not? I’ve only heard good things about them (and I’m happy to be corrected on that).

Fun

I’m no athlete, but our family are fans of the TV show Ninja Warrior (although we prefer the subtitled to the US version. Sorry, American readers). Anyway, this dad also has a daughter who loves Ninja Warrior … but he’s taken his fandom a little further than most people: Baby Ninja Warrior

 And here’s the beginning of Can’t Help Falling:

Remember: click here to enter the giveaway