platform


If you have no author platform whatsoever but want to write a book, you face two big challenges. The first is that you will have no feedback from actual fans of your work and ideas as you start to create a book to serve their needs. A book is as much about your audience as you. Get to know who they are by beginning to build an author platform from scratch. And your second challenge? Gathering email addresses of people who are interested in what you have to say and who are likely to buy your book, and even likely to promote it to others online using social media, email, and other means, without you having to pay them. Yes, your fans can help you sell your book. So meet challenge number one and challenge number two and start building an author platform and following now.

 

Many authors begin to set up their public presence with a website and a social media page based on their name. If your name is a common one, this might require some creativity. You have to search the Internet and Amazon.com or BN.com to see if another author or expert has a similar name. You might brand yourself as Dr. Myfirstname (if you actually hold a doctorate), use a middle initial, or use your full name with Author after it—such as www.SallySmithAuthor.com Reserve the URL (website address) and basic hosting services, and work with a website design software you find easy to use or a website designer.

 

Designing Your Site

What design platform should you use for your site? Many designers seem to like WordPress because you can customize it easily, but I find it cumbersome as someone who doesn’t want to build a career in website design. Weebly and Squarespace are other options. Personally, I like Wix, which is very user friendly, but some say it has some issues that affect search engine optimization—that is, how easy it is to find your site using a search engine such as Google. Whatever design platform you use, you will want to set up a website with a homepage, an About page, a blog, and probably at least one more page (Services if you do coaching or speaking engagements, Books for the books you’ll be writing).

Let’s say you go with Sharon McCorcoran dot com and you aren’t yet sure what your book’s title will be. You can always buy the domain name for your book title and have it redirect to your website. In fact, your hosting service might throw in a second URL for free and redirect it to your main site for you. Since you don’t have a firm book title yet, on your Books page you can note that your book is forthcoming and that anyone signing up for email announcements will be informed of its publication (more on email subscribers in a minute). You can do a mock-up jacket if you like, try out a title, or simply say you will be writing a book on your work. Or you can skip the book page for now. If you provide services or do speaking engagements, put some information about all of that on your Services or Speaking page. Many templates allow you to add some endorsements from people who have something positive to say about your coaching, consulting, or workshops, and this social proof can be extremely helpful for building credibility and gaining new clients. If you have no book or service page, then your website is simply an enhanced blog which is okay if you’re just beginning to build your author platform.

Your Website Pages

Next, on your About page, put up a good headshot photograph of yourself, and maybe some other photos that help people understand more about your work, along with the story of who you are and why you do the work you do. On your Blog, write up at least two blog pieces that show how you write and what you want to write about. Make them 600 to 1000 words and give them interesting titles that nevertheless give readers a clear idea of what’s in your blog piece. Use tags and categories: Tags are like keywords and categories are bigger concepts. For instance, on my site, you will find more than one article on Author Platform, so clicking on that category can help the visitor find lots of valuable information on this topic. A blog is very important because if you want to convey to people who you are and what your work and writing is about, visitors will check your biography on your About page, but then they will want to see what valuable information you have to offer them. Your blog could be inspirational, funny, insightful, informative, or all of those things. But if you want to sell a book to people who do not know you, you must convey what you’re all about with a website that has some basic pages and a blog. Be sure your blog allows for comments, and respond to people who post messages and comments to you. By talking to you, they are giving you valuable feedback on your work that can help you conceptualize and shape your book. Set up your blog so you can monitor your comments before they post. You’ll want to disapprove/trash any that are clearly just created by digital programs designed to embed backlinks to a junk site selling fake Gucci watches and the like.

 

build an author platform online website blog

Start to build your author platform online with a website.

 

Your Website’s Look

What should your website look like? Find websites for authors in your genre that appeal to you. How are they set up? How do they use the real estate? When you scroll down to view them on your phone (the most common way to look at websites), what’s that experience like? Is there a sense of movement, through how the background pictures and the text interact as you scroll, or through videos in the background? Do you see a book jacket and if so, is it flat or angled? Where do you find a short summary of what their work is all about? Look at websites on a desktop or tablet, too. How is the experience different? What’s the first message you get? What impression does the site make? Now, using your website design software, work with both types of layouts—desktop and vertically held mobile phone—to make the website showcase what you most want to say. Where does your message and brand meet your visitor’s needs? If I go to Sue’s website, do I immediately see her in casual, natural color clothing hugging a dog, some nature images (such as clouds or water), and the message “Natural Healing for Fur Babies”? Really take your time with this process and ask visually gifted friends to help you, and verbally gifted friends, too. (I would tend to see problems with wording, and typos, because I’m more verbal than visual. My visually gifted friends would more quickly notice that the background color doesn’t work very well with the colors of the images.)

 

Social Media Links

Next, you’re going to want to put on your website icons (symbols) for any social media accounts you have that tie in to your work. These would not necessarily be the accounts you use to share photos of your kids with Grandpa or your in-laws, but social media accounts where you know you’ll want to focus on getting strangers to appreciate your work and message. I like Facebook and YouTube for building community, and Facebook is very easy to set up right away if you want to just post photos and words and some rough videos made on your phone. You can start building a following with the ideas in my eBook 25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook. Social media followers who give you feedback can help you conceptualize and shape your work just like your blog followers can, so treat them like gold and always respond to them. Also, consider adding social media icons to your blog make it super easy for visitors to share your blog pieces on social media.

 

Email Subscription Box for a Newsletter and Announcements

Finally, you will want to set up an email subscription option so you can begin capturing emails of your followers. You’ll want to do a newsletter to them that will help them know about new content from you, such as blog pieces, and learn about your services, your book (when it becomes available), any other books or services or online courses you recommend, and more. Newsletters should be a mix of quality content and advertising for what you are selling or giving away (such as a free teleseminar or free eBook or audio). It is easy to set up an email subscription option with services like Constant Contact or Mailchimp. I know Wix makes it very easy and can answer all your questions for free. Typically, you can get up to 2,000 subscribers you can send newsletters to more than once a month, without paying for each newsletter blast. Be sure that when you connect your website to an email service, you set up an autoresponder email that says, “Thank you for subscribing.” I personally like having an email subscriber box on the right-hand side on a desktop view because it catches the eye. Also, I generally favor red boxes, which research shows can be much more effective at getting people to click on them. And if you use a pop up box, you should set it up to only show after people have been on your site for several minutes, or are about to leave your site. Otherwise, they’ll just close it right away so they can read what they want to read, and leave, having forgotten all about that pop up.

Want to know more about building your audience and conceptualizing and writing your book? I have many useful articles on my website and blog at www.NancyPeske.com. Or, just book a 30-min. call with me and I’ll give you custom advice (write me at info@nancypeske.com)

Questions? Comments? Talk to me!

Authors, while you are writing a book based on your life and work, you need to begin building an audience for your work and message. An author platform must include online presence on social media as well as a website and blog. With all the social media options out there, where do you start?

For several reasons, Facebook is my “go to” social media platform for building an author platform and a following that will be eager to buy the book when it is published. However, once you set up your Facebook page for your work, you want to be sure to get engagement from your followers: likes, comments, and shares of your Facebook posts. My new eBook, 25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook, will help you to do more than simply shout into the wind using this most popular social media tool. You will learn how to create posts your fans can’t help seeing and responding to.

The higher your fan engagement on Facebook, the easier it is to get new people to come to your page and discover you and your brand and message. What’s more, engagement builds community as the people who follow you start to get to know and support each other. In my new book, you will also learn how to get set up on Facebook, how to write posts and time them for maximum effect, and ways to get the conversation going on your professional page for you as a writer or for your book. I have used these strategies to help myself and my clients build rich, active communities on Facebook. The truth is that if you want to get a book deal, numbers of followers isn’t enough. It’s actually more important to be able to show that your followers care enough about your work to engage you and each other as part of a community.  So make your Facebook page work for you by using these 25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook!

 

author platform engagement on Facebook eBook

Build your author platform with my ebook 25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook. Facebook is an excellent tool for creating a community around your brand and writing!

 

 

 

Twenty years ago, I had the honor of being involved in a cultural phenomenon called Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Remember that catchphrase? It came from a mega-best-selling book by relationship counselor John Gray, PhD. My boss, Susan Moldow at HarperCollins Publishers (then Harper and Row), signed up the book and as her assistant, I co-edited the manuscript with her. My contribution included a key question that John expanded upon, and insights into how women and men at the younger end of the baby boom might respond to some of his advice. I went on to co-edit or edit his next two books—What Your Mother Couldn’t Tell You and Your Father Didn’t Know and Mars and Venus in the Bedroom (about physical intimacy in male-female committed romantic relationships). Like John’s first book, they became New York Times bestsellers.

 

I well remember calling John’s agent every Thursday morning when I came into work to let her know his ranking on the USA Today bestseller list, which was new at the time. It was a thrill to see him become famous, to watch his hardcover book sell 9.5 million copies in the U.S. alone and become the bestselling American nonfiction book of the 1990s. I learned so much from John that helped me with my own success—and if you’re an aspiring author, you too can learn from him. Here are eleven lessons I draw from his book’s phenomenal success.

 

1. Indulge your curiosity. John Gray became fascinated by male-female romantic relationships after spending nearly a decade in celibacy as a monk working for the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the fellow the Beatles took a shine to and about whom John Lennon wrote the song “Sexy Sadie”). Like many great cultural innovators, John Gray was curious—and approached the task of learning how to start and maintain a healthy relationship with a woman by adopting beginner’s mind, as they say in Buddhism. Where can your curiosity take you?

 

 

2. Research your audience as you build your platform. What John Gray learned from formal study and from doing in-person workshops with men and women helped him formulate and refine his ideas. He told me that he’d throw an idea out there in a workshop—like that men are similar to rubber bands, needing to pull away and then snap back to emotional intimacy—and read the audience’s body language. If the men smiled, nodded, and sat forward in their seats while they women’s eyes grew wide, he knew he was on to something universal. And if everyone looked blank and crossed their legs and arms, sitting back in their chairs, he knew he had to refine the idea. This is market research at its very best—you must get your ideas out there and try them out on real people.

 

3. Be true to the needs of your audience. While self-help books typically sell to women, John Gray knew how to make his book appeal to men as well, and knew that if he made it “guy friendly,” women would buy it and leave it on the nightstand or quote from it to their husbands and the guys would pick up on it and recommend it to their male friends. Sometimes when working on his books, I’d make a suggestion to John and he’d say, “But men won’t respond well to that. I have to say it in a way that won’t turn them off OR turn women off.” He insisted that his audience would want key ideas highlighted in boxes—which some readers complained about but the majority loved. He said this element echoed how he would repeat a key idea when speaking—and the audience would want it in the book, too. He’s right; they did.

 

4. Consider self-publishing first. John wrote a book called Men, Women, and Relationships to use with his workshop participants. Its success impressed book publishers who had the opportunity to buy the rights to republish it.

 

5. Come up with an amazing title. Before writing a book proposal to sell to editors via a literary agent, John Gray came up with a fantastic title—the article in USA Today on the twentieth anniversary of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus dominating their bestseller list explains how. He had the concept right—but his self-published book had what we’d call a “working title.” He needed a memorable hook that grabbed your heart, and in this case, made you laugh in recognition. A play on words is a great way to come up with your amazing title. We’ve all heard “Men are from Mars!” It’s the “Women are from Venus” that makes you want to open up the book!

6.  Persevere at building your platform. John Gray built his platform before he wrote a book proposal and he continued building it while writing the book, while it was in production, and after it was published. He used his own advice about wooing women with roses to help him woo Oprah into putting him on her show—and she did it four times. Every time he went to a city, he went into the bookstores and introduced himself. He was a tireless self-promoter because he had a passion for his message. Platform building can never start too early, and it never ends.

 

7. Have a sense of humor and lighten up. People can get very defensive about having their problems or challenges pointed out, and often have a lot of baggage about gender stereotypes and roles. John Gray has always used humor to open people’s hearts and minds, and much of his humor is self-deprecating. Watching him do a lecture is so entertaining that he actually inspired a real off-Broadway stage show and then went to Broadway to do his own one-man show! His book also inspired the movie, What Planet Are You From? by Gary Shandling. Humor engages people and brings out their own creativity!

 

8. Don’t let others tell you you’re not an expert. Many criticized John Gray for not having a PhD from a credentialed university with brick-and-mortar presence (this was in the days before online learning). They dismissed the work he’d done trying out his ideas on real people and honing them, and couldn’t stand the fact that someone outside of mainstream academic circles had achieved success. John Gray was always completely open about his education and his training—he wouldn’t let anyone shame him into silence. Don’t let anyone shame you—trust your inner sense of knowing about how much research you need to do, and of what type, before writing a book of value for a wider audience.

 

9. Expand your brand. A book shouldn’t pigeonhole you. John’s second book, What Your Mother Couldn’t Tell You and Your Father Didn’t Know, expanded on the first by going deeper into how men and women are different and how knowing about and respecting those differences will help your relationships. His third book, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, was about the physical intimacy piece. Later, he expanded to talking about male/female romantic, monogamous, long-term relationships in other ways—and his new book will be about the role of ADHD in these relationships. Your brand can and should expand over time.

 

10. Put yourself into your book. If you take your ego and personality out of your book and platform, you take the heart and soul out of it. John always talks openly about his return to sexuality after having been a monk, his relationship experiences, and his vulnerabilities. That’s what gives his work heart and soul. Do you have the courage to put YOU into your book?

 

11. Turn your weaknesses into strengths. A celibate monk is the last person to know about how to woo and retain a girlfriend—but John Gray made his situation into a strength by using it as a foundation for learning. Can you imagine how a woman responds to, “I have to tell you, I’ve been a celibate monk for years and I’m hoping you can teach me something about women?”! People who have dyslexia and trouble reading often are told they can’t write, but John Gray didn’t let dyslexia stop him from his goal of writing a book. His ADHD may have made focusing difficult as he was growing up and as an adult, but it also gave him the drive and focus to use his passion to create a cultural phenomenon. And it makes him a dynamic, high energy presenter! What weaknesses of yours are actually hidden strengths that can help you in your goal to write a book?

 

Congratulations to John Gray on the twentieth anniversary of his USA Today and New York Times #1 bestseller, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus! 

 

 

 The dog days of August can be the most frustrating for a writer because it’s next to impossible to get the attention of an agent or, if a proposal is on submission, an editor. Rather than drive yourself crazy waiting for a response to your e-mail or snail mail, here’s what to keep yourself from feeling frustrated:

1.   Consciously choose to be patient and not to nudge. If you push an agent or editor for a response, you predispose that person to look for reasons to reject it. Agents and editors hate feeling pressured, and it’s always easier to say no than it is to say yes. Don’t prejudice them against your project. Focus instead on getting someone else’s interest and making your book an even hotter property. Light a fire under the pokey agent by sending it to other agents, or have your agent submit it to other editors. That way, you may be able to send them the message, “I have interest from someone else so please let me know whether you are interested as well.” That is much more likely to get them excited than the message a nudge note really sends: “Can you please get back to me? I’m feeling sad and anxious because no one has expressed interest in my project yet”!

 

2.   Build your platform. You could twiddle your thumbs, agonize, vent to your fellow writers, your partner, and your pet, or call a psychic to get her take on your proposal’s prospects, but here are some more practical ways to spend your time right now. All will improve your chances of getting an agent and book deal:

 

–Offer to be a guest blogger on a popular blog.

–Write more blog pieces. Tease them on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

–Write a free “service” article (how to do such-and-such, 7 tips for such-and-such) and submit it to a free articles Web site.

–Comment on major blogs and include your URL.

–Do some Tweets or Facebook posts. Drive people to your Web site and make sure your site encourages them to give you their e-mail address so you can someday send them notice of your book’s publication.

–Get bookings on radio shows (traditional or online shows are always looking for guests). Doing live radio is an art so you might as well start practicing it now. Again, drive people to your site and/or Facebook page or Twitter account.

–Set up some speaking engagements.

–Make some informational videos and post them online and on your website.  Tweet about them and feature them on your Facebook page, and announce them on LinkedIn.

–Learn more about other forms of social media that are becoming more popular and start thinking about whether you might benefit from investing time in using them.

–Do a social media campaign to boost your number of followers.

Remember, if you get a publicity break, or suddenly have a big uptick in followers, you can send a nice note to the agent or editor saying, “I just thought I’d let you know that I’ll be on MSNBC tomorrow/have a blog piece on Psychology Today this week/got 2000 new Twitter followers/stripped for Playboy magazine to build my “healthy body” brand.” Think of all the many ways you can draw attention to your brand at this critical point. (I’m not kidding about the centerfold: When I was an in-house editor, one of my authors, who wrote guides to improving intimacy, appeared in a major men’s magazine half-clothed, the month of our annual sales conference. That certainly woke up the sales force! My authors with similar books in the pipeline were intrigued by this bold move, but decided on other means for self-promotion!)
Envision the sale. Imagine that you have gotten the call from the agent or editor saying, “This is the greatest thing EVER!” Visualize every moment of that call…yourself on a major national television show talking about it as the host stares at you, enraptured…your book’s title on the top of the New York Times bestseller list…you speaking to an audience of aspiring authors, telling your story about how you, too, thought at one point that there was no hope but then the call came and now look at you. Don’t feel embarrassed by this exercise. Many successful authors have envisioned their success and infused their fantasy with the emotions so that it felt real, only to have that success play out in reality.

Whether you self-publish, work with a small publisher, or get a book deal with a major publisher, you’re going to need a platform to get the message out about your book and your work. When it comes to how to build a platform, you’ve got more choices and opportunities than ever before. Don’t become overwhelmed! I can help you start strategizing how to build your platform and do community building. I’ll be talking about this topic on Let’s Talk About Books tomorrow, Thursday, July 7, at 11:00 a.m. EST with Stephanie Gunning (who knows a lot about platform herself!).  Listen in at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/letstalkaboutbooks and please feel free to call in with questions and ideas. The call-in number is:  760-683-2643

No one loves exchanging strategies and tips on platform building than I do! Here’s one I love to share:

Embed into your email signature links to your website, blog, and social media pages. 

You never know who might want to check out what you do and take a look at your books, products, and services!

Have any good ones to share?