As an author, you need a platform. What is it, though? Why do you need one? And how do you build one? Anne Janzer has the answers.
Anne Janzer is a nonfiction writing coach and the award-winning author of several books about writing and marketing. These include Get the Word Out: Write a Book that Makes a Difference. She is also a marketing practitioner, focusing mainly on book marketing.
Be sure to listen to our great conversation with Anne on The Empowered Author Podcast, and hear from Anne herself on the need for an author platform, and how to grow one. As usual, please rate, review and share the episode!
What is an author platform?
There are many ideas of what an author platform actually is. For some, it’s your online presence. For others, it’s being able to sell books through the people you can reach and/or because of who you are. Some say it’s the structure that gives your book visibility and influence. None of these definitions are wrong, but none, on their own, are entirely accurate either. The author platform is a combination of content and relationships: content relationships.
Now you’re probably wondering: but what are content relationships? The concept is not nearly as mystical as it sounds: as a writer, you create content and you also understand content. As a human being, you are social and you know how to form relationships. Content relationships are simply using relationships with others to promote your content. Think of brands partnering with social media influencers to get more people to know about their product: that’s an example of content relationships.
How do you create an author platform?
To create an author platform, you need to create a framework. There are four elements to this framework, and while you don’t need to have all four in place, you should have at least three of them. They are:
- A website: This could be a website for the book itself or an author website. This gives you some control over what people will find when they look for you online.
- An email list: This allows you to build direct, ongoing relationships via email.
- Social media: This is another way for people to find you and for you to build a relationship with them.
- Real-world relationships and experiences: These are the friends, colleagues, relatives and acquaintances you know in real life and who can help you reach a wider audience: the arts and entertainment editor at your local newspaper, the producer of a TV talk show or Oprah herself, for instance.
You can start putting these elements in place at any point in your publishing journey, even if your book hasn’t yet been published. So, build that website; compile that email list and send out regular emails; get active on social media and start networking in the real world, too. Don’t let your platform–or lack of it–keep you from writing your book.
Credibility and the author platform
For a fiction author, credibility lies in the work itself: if your story is compelling, you’ll quickly gain credibility. For a nonfiction author, it’s a little more complicated. Many people think credibility is the same as expertise. While being an expert in the subject you’re writing about certainly gives you some credibility as an author, you need more than that: you need people to believe you. And for that to happen, they first need to understand what you’re saying.
So, you can build your credibility as a nonfiction author by presenting your readers with well-researched information that’s useful and of value to them–and that they can understand. While that credibility needs to come through in your book, it should also come through in your blogs, your social media posts and comments, interviews and podcasts. So, you should build your credibility at the same time as you’re building your author platform.
Is bigger necessarily better?
It may sound logical: the more people you can reach, the more books you can sell, right? That’s not necessarily the case, though. For author platform and content relationships, it’s about quality rather than quantity. You want to reach the right people. It’s better to have an email list with 100 very engaged people than one with 1,000 people who never engage at all. The relationships you build this way will be more meaningful and ultimately will have more value for you, too.
While it’s important to know who your target reader is in order to build the right content relationships, you can sometimes find those relationships in unexpected places.
Let’s say you’ve written a book about Ötzi the Iceman, who lived over 5,000 years ago and whose mummified body was found in the Alps in 1991: people interested in history and archaeology would be good to build content relationships with. But what about the niches? What about people who are interested in true crime or historical clothing or food or mountaineering or even tattoos? After all, Ötzi was found with an arrowhead buried in his shoulder, food in his stomach, wearing different items of clothing and footwear and carrying various tools.
Deciding what to share when building content relationships
There are many ways of finding content and sharing it with the people you want to build content relationships with. For example, for your book about Ötzi the Iceman:
- Create content based on excerpts from your book: how people stayed warm in the Alps 5,000 years ago, for instance.
- Look for ways that something in your book applies to a news item: for example, how climate change causes glaciers to melt, making similar discoveries of mummified bodies in the ice more likely.
- Write a review of a book about a similar theme: maybe a different archaeological discovery. Readers love discovering new books.
You don’t have to be formulaic in what you share. What is important is that what you share will add value for the people you want to reach when you share that specific content. And throughout it all, you always need to stay authentic.
Resources and ways to work with Anne
Anne offers an on-demand webinar called Author Platforms: Building the Foundation, which can be purchased HERE.
Or, find Anne’s other on-demand webinars for authors on her website.