Are you a writer who is trying to develop your author platform, or plan for a book launch? Well, today I want to talk about three essential tips I would encourage you to focus on. What we will cover today:
- Start early. (For your platform, years before you think you need to. For a book launch, at least 12+ months ahead.)
- Have a system that you follow. Don’t drown in an endless list random ideas.
- Focus on creating specific experiences and connections with your ideal audience.
Let’s dig in…
So many writers I speak with wait before they begin building their platform. Their decision follows a clear logic. They may justify: “I’m still writing my book, what on earth would my platform even be about without the book?” The reasoning can vary depending on someone’s situation, but all focus on the idea that it’s better to wait… and wait… and wait… until they feel they will have more time to focus, or they have a clear milestone that is about to happen, such as the launch of a book.
But by then, it is often too late. If you start taking your platform seriously only when you need people’s attention, then you have waited too long. Because at that point, you will feel pressure to do the thing you are trying to avoid: spamming people with posts to “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book! Pleeeeeeaasssee, buy my book!”
Another mistake writers and creators make is that they feel that if they posts to social media every so often (once a week, once every other week, once a month), that they are building their platform. Then, they feel betrayed that their “platform” hasn’t delivered a dedicated following, even though this writer has barely shown up on their own channels.
What should they have been doing instead? Truly showing up. To express what they create and why. To connect with readers and other writers. To understand how engagement happens.
Think of it this way… imagine someone who goes to a party and thinks, “I don’t really know anyone here, so I’ll show up late, and immediately tell this great joke I thought of. People will love it. Tonight I’ll be the life of the party!” Then they tell their joke, and it falls flat. No one cares and everyone moves on instantly to other conversations with people they have been meeting all night long. In this scenario, the person who showed up late may think: “These people aren’t my people. Who needs them,” and leaves the party. But that is what you are doing if you wait and wait and wait, and then you finally make this great “reveal” of your book on social media. Social media will likely disappoint, you, and you will now feel you have even greater reasons to abandon it.
For your platform, start years before you think you need to. Then, become a student. Not “I need to learn all the bells and whistles of a specific social media channel,” but learn how to share what you create in a manner that feels authentic to who you are. Identify where readers are and what engages them. Develop real connections with like-minded people.
For a book launch, I usually work with writers 12+ months before publication date. Why so long? Because so much of marketing relies on communication and trust. And that takes time to develop.
How to start early? Some ideas:
- Talk to writers who have been down the road you are about to embark on. Don’t just read articles, don’t just listen to podcasts, but talk to people in an actual conversation. Ask questions early and often. Be honest about what you don’t know and what matters most to you.
- Set up the channels you think you may need, even if in the most basic form. This could be a single page website. Or a social media account that you have yet to share anything on. Or create an email newsletter that has zero subscribers. Everyone starts there. My newsletter began by me sending it to 9 people I knew, after I walked up to each of them and asked if I could send it. 15 years later, I have sent that newsletter every single week. Lay the groundwork so that you can fill up these channels later. Get past the fear of starting by simply establishing yourself where you think you need to be.
- Create really simple habits. For instance, if you follow me on Instagram (and you really should follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danblank/) you will notice that in my Stories each day around 5:30am you will see a post of what I’m reading at breakfast, followed by a post that I’m writing my next book. I start the day with reading and writing. Sharing that is a simple habit. Don’t feel that you have to reinvent the wheel or do something innovative. Just showing up as a writer is what the world needs. And showing up each day to create and share already differentiates you from many other authors out there.
- Envision your book launch now. What do you hope happens in the month your book is released? What do you hope the experience is like? Who do you hope it reaches? Where do you hope it is featured? Then, work towards those connections, experiences, and feelings. One tiny step at a time. For instance, do you want to know how a certain author became a guest on a popular podcast? Oftentimes it is because years before, they simply became a fan of the show. Then they followed the show on social media. Then they commented on their posts. You can begin these foundational steps right now, with no pressure, no expectation. And you will be surprised how these small actions can actually benefit your book launch that may not happen for months or years down the road.
There are so many more ideas I could add to the list, but this is more than enough to get started. Which leads us to…
Have a System
So many writers try to develop their author platform and launch their book with a willy-nilly list of ideas gleaned from blog posts, social media, podcasts, and tips they hear online. They end up frustrated by a never-ending list of tactics, bouncing from one to the next, never feeling as they though they hit on something that works.
But a system is the opposite. It is having a plan for what you will do, and when. It connects all of your actions to a cohesive whole. It also helps you determine what you won’t waste your time doing, thereby conserving your energy to just what matters to you.
The Creative Success Pyramid is the system I developed to help writers get clarity in their work, develop an audience, and launch their work in a meaningful way. See below, and click here to see this full-sized in a PDF:
It’s composed of five basic parts, you start at the bottom and work your way to the top:
- Get radical creative clarity on what you create and why.
- Build your platform to open pathways to your work.
- Create and share with your authentic voice.
- Connect with your ideal audience.
- Launch and market your writing.
To be honest, this is the tip of the iceberg. When I work with writers, I walk them through a 15+ tab spreadsheet where we co-create their plan step-by-step. The thing about having a system is not to feel confined by it. Rather, the system should be the starting point to then personalize the actions you take based on your book, your creative vision, and your comfort level.
Focus on Creating Specific Experiences
Too often, when a writer thinks of developing their author platform or launching their book, they focus on a milestone. Perhaps it is seeing a certain number of followers on a social media channel, or their book being available to purchase online. The issue with that is that these milestones are fleeting. Instead, I want to encourage you to focus on creating experiences where you engage with your ideal readers. On creating moments of real connection, conversation, and a reason to come together around the themes you write about.
First, let me explain the difference between two things:
- Organic platform building. This is the day-in, day-out work of sharing on social media, sending a newsletter, or otherwise sharing what you create. This work is smart to do, and I am a huge advocate of it. I not only post my weekly newsletter, but also a weekly podcast, and share more than once every day on Instagram and Twitter, and a couple times a week on LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Creating experiences. This goes above and beyond, where you focus people’s attention on something specific. This is meant to bring people together. Now, that can happen in small ways or large ones. An experience can be a really good email chain between you and another author. Or, it could be something larger, a 1-day event that you create on Zoom that brings together 20 people.
A key distinction here is that many writers get on social media, and do this: Tweet and hope. Tweet and hope. Tweet and hope. Meaning: they just keep posting content and hope that something… somehow… finds an audience. But, if you want real engagement. If you want real growth in terms of the size of your audience, I want to encourage you to create experiences for people to be a part of.
This can include every connection you make, every conversation, every way you bring people together, and every time you have an engagement with someone that feels aligned to what you write and why.