I want to start with two announcements first:
- Join me today March 12th at 3pm ET for my free webinar on Getting Creative Clarity. Full description and registration here.
- Next Friday March 19th at 9am ET I’m offering second free webinar about Finding Your Readers. Details and registration here.
Okay, on to today’s message…
A question writers often ask me is how do they find their readers. It’s not about finding the right hashtag, but understanding who you are trying to reach on a deeper psychological and human level.
To me, all of this connects to how we view our author platform. Why does that matter? Well, I want to focus on a grounded and practical discussion about the reality of this in our everyday lives as writers.
- If someone hears about your writing or your name, and they Google you, what comes up? Anything? Is it what you hope they will see?
- When you meet someone new, and they say “I hear you are a writer, tell me about that,” do you know what to say?
- Do you have a sense of the way to describe your work that will draw your ideal reader in? To make them curious and lean in, instead of changing the topic?
- Do you have a way to regularly share what you create in a manner that would resonate with those you hope to reach?
- Are you showing up in the places that your ideal readers do? Not to promote selfishly, but as someone who loves the themes you write about?
- Do you know other writers who may have readers that would love your writing as well?
- Are you someone who gets attention with colleagues and readers through your generosity?
- Do you share regularly, developing rapport and trust with readers, or do you pop up only when you have something to promote?
- Do you have a sense of the marketplace and where you fit? If your book was in a bookstore, do you know exactly where it would be shelved? Would you know how to describe it to the bookstore employee that would lead them to it, without saying the title or author name?
- Do you have a system to manage all of this in a way that feels cohesive and focused? Or are you all over the place, chasing trends that you are also skeptical of?
Sorry, I know that is a lot of questions. But too often, I hear “author platform” talked about in terms of followers and likes. Of promotions that are meant to go “viral,” but rarely do.
To me, the concept of understanding who your ideal readers are, and being able to share about your writing is focused more on the kinds of practical questions above. Of feeling that this isn’t about becoming a “marketer,” but instead being a writer who knows how to share and who they are sharing with.
I’ve always said that an author platform is two things:
Not followers. Not tweets. Not a newsletter. Not hashtags. Not ads. It is about expressing what you create and why. And engaging with other like-minded people in a meaningful way. It’s a human process, which is why I refer to my work as “Human-Centered Marketing.”
Can Twitter and a newsletter and Instagram and ads be a part of this? Sure. But they aren’t the goal, and they aren’t the point. We aren’t measuring effectiveness by the number of followers you have. Why? Well, because that is just a number. I’ve talked to writers who have thousands of followers, but can’t seem to get those people to buy a book. Yet, I’ve talked to writers who have far fewer followers, but these are people they have a high degree of communication and trust with. And wouldn’t you know it, those people buy books and engage in word of mouth marketing for it.
This has always been part of the work of a writer. Sometimes we like to pretend it isn’t. I’ve heard plenty of writers pine for the days before the internet. They will say how in the 1990s, 80s, 70s, 60s… you didn’t have to worry about author platform. As a writer, you just had to submit your work, and not worry about marketing. The publisher did that.
But… I don’t think that’s true. I think it is looking back on the past with rose-colored glasses.
Author platform simply happened differently back then: though lunches, letters, meetings, events, and professional relationships. It was slower, and also much more limited. You hoped a letter arrived. You paid for a long distance phone call. You hoped you said the right thing at the one meeting you could get. And if it didn’t work, you had few if any other options.
Today you can have a voice in the lives of readers. And you have access to like-minded people in ways that authors from decades ago never could have dreamed of. Is that a responsibility? Yes. Is it also an opportunity? Absolutely.
The basics are still there: focusing on sharing your work, on connecting with real people around the love of books and the stories and ideas within them.
Last week I shared my Creative Success Pyramid. When it comes to discussing finding your ideal readers and establishing your author platform, I tend to find that two levels are connected, the two highlighted here in blue:
At the “Build Your Author Platform” level, it may include your website, newsletter, blogging, podcast, social media, and marketplace research. At the “Create and Share” level, we have your content strategy, editorial calendar, generosity and curation, social engagement, and core audience outreach.
I’m going to review these levels in-depth next week in the March 19th webinar. To get started, consider these questions:
- What do you know about your ideal readers? What do they care about? Who are they?
- What other authors do they read?
- Where else do they show up? Are there podcasts they may listen to, or events they may love to attend?
- If you were to meet one of these people at a barbecue, what would you say to them that would resonate? That would draw them in to talking about topics/themes from the books they love to read?
Keep in mind, it is never too early to consider these questions. To begin establishing your author platform and considering your ideal readers. It is also never too late.