If you build it, they will come.
Kevin Costner was onto something. In the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ his character was compelled by ghosts to build a baseball stadium.
So, what’s this got to do with writing? Well, writers who choose to go the indie publishing route are compelled to publish like Kevin was compelled to build a pitch. It’s one step writing an eBook and publishing it on KDP or Smashwords, but without a writer’s platform, you will struggle to attract an audience.
If you build a writer’s platform, they will come.
The most successful independent writers achieve success through a combination of great writing AND a great writer’s platform. Writers like Hugh Howey, Jeff Goins andJoanna Penn have achieved success because they’ve painstakingly built their own writer’s platforms, continually engaging with their audience and sharing quality advice.
So, if you’re considering writing and self-publishing an eBook you have to put equal energy into building and maintaining your writer’s platform.
That’s because no one else is going to do it for you. If you’re an indie publisher that’s YOUR gig.
A writer’s platform will build your tribe
A writer’s platform is your social media presence, your blog, your mailing list. Above all it’s the way you attract and engage a tribe of readers (and writers).
Let’s take the baseball metaphor a little further. Imagine your platform is a baseball pitch. The batter’s box is your blog. The catcher behind you is your mailing list. Your blog and mailing list are the core of your platform. This is where you connect and share and grow your authority with your audience.
First, second and third base are your key social channels. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. (I’m not discounting LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest but for brevity I’ll focus on these three. the ideal platform would include as many social channels as you can pull together).
The pitchers job is to throw balls (traffic) at you. It’s your job as writer (and batter), toengage with the traffic. Your catcher makes sure you capture email addresses so you can continue to engage with your audience long after they’ve left your website.
That’s the point of the writer’s platform. People bounce in and out of websites and blogs for all sorts of reasons. You need to capture an email address so you can build a relationship, a tribe and grow that base.
Ok, enough with the baseball metaphors…
Consider this. If you’re pitching to mainstream publishers without a platform, you’re wasting your time. Many won’t consider an unknown writer if they don’t come ready rolled with their own platform and audience.
Here’s how you can do it.
Blogging is the new black
Your blog is the essential part of your writers brand and the key to your platform building. If you haven’t started blogging already, the best time to start is YESTERDAY. That’s because you need your platform in place well before you’re ready to publish.
A funny thing happens when you start to write regularly about a topic. You start to be perceived as an authority on that topic. Authority builds brands. If writing about internet marketing is your thing, start blogging about your favourite internet marketing techniques. Even better, engage with the community of internet marketers by sharing free and useful information.
You can easily setup a free blog at wordpress.com. If you want to get more complex and customisable, there are inexpensive hosted solutions at bluehost.com. If you’re technically challenged, find a virtual assistant on fiverr.com. You could get your blog setup with some nice branding for less then $20.
Grow Your List
It’s one thing having people read your blog but how are you going to contact them when you’re finally ready to publish your eBook? Most people that stumble across a blog rarely revisit it – even if they like what they read. Google even have a name for this. It’s called Bounce Rate. Don’t let your readers just bounce away.
A mailing list gives you a way to contact people that like what you are writing about and have engaged with your blog. It lets you alert them whenever you publish updated content.
How to get people to join your list? Simple! Just ask! You can add a button at the end of each blog post with a simple message – ‘Like this? Sign-up and never miss a post’.
You can get started building your list for free with services like mailchimp.com. If you want more sophisticated marketing features you can upgrade to the paid version or or use a dedicated email marketing service like Aweber, Get Response and Active Campaign
If you want to see best practice on how a blog can grow a tribe (and a list) check out Jeff Goins’ blog at goinswriter.com
Join the Twitterati
Twitter is a fantastic way to get in touch with writers from all over the world. Used the right way it also builds your credibility and writer’s brand. It also sends some traffic back to your blog and helps build your mailing list.
Can you start to see a picture emerging? All your social media elements are just part of a bigger strategy to build your mailing list.
You can Tweet about writing, your blog posts and also reach out to other writers. In essence contribute to discussions, don’t spam, be positive and always tweet on topic. Above all be useful.
Facebook is the ultimate traffic source
You may already be using Facebook personally or maybe for your business, but it’s a very powerful tool to build your writer’s brand and a great traffic source for your blog. Create a brand new ‘author’ page (keep it separate from your personal page) and use it to promote your blog posts.
Make sure you cross-link your Facebook page to your blog and all your other social media accounts. You can even add a sign-up form for your mailing list.
You can inexpensively boost your content and start getting Likes and Shares of your Facebook content for just a few dollars a week. Facebook’s advertising engine lets you target your perfect niche audience, wether you are writing about marketing, romance or business (or all 3!) you can target readers (and writers) with laser like accuracy.
YouTube traffic secrets
We all know about the Google Gorilla but did you know the second most widely used (and powerful) search engine is YouTube.
Youtube is a great traffic source to help build your list. Just make sure you keep your videos relevant and on brand.
Create a video version of your blog post. Make sure it links back to your original blog post. As you get closer to your release date, create a video trailer to promote your book.
If you want a master class on how to use YouTube effectively for a writer’s platform check out writer Joanna Penn and her blog thecreativepenn.com
Back to the pitch
You’ve now built your own field of dreams. Just like a baseball diamond, It’s absolutely essential that all your new social channels cross reference each other and refer back to your blog. Done right, you will build a tribe and your authority.
By building a writer’s platform you’ve amplified your blogs impact. People may never find your blog, but by amplifying it with social media you increase your chances of new readers finding and engaging with you.
It’s not going to happen overnight. The key is to give, to truly share good free content and start building feelings of reciprocity. When you truly give, people want to give back. That’s just human nature.
You’ve got to feed the beast. Setup a schedule. Plan your blogposts. Building a platform is useless if you don’t blog regularly and update your social channels regularly. You can use great tools like Buffer and Hootsuite to automate your posting. Using these tools you can easily orchestrate your weeks tweets and Facebook updates over a cup of coffee on Saturday morning.
Time to Launch!
Now, imagine! Your eBook is ready to launch, you have a few thousand email addresses on your mailing list, thousands of likes and shares on your social channel. You’re finally ready to launch your book. This is where the hard work of platform creation can finally pay off.
Remember your big WHY. You build a writers platform for one reason. To promote yourself as an independent writer and have a ready made platform when your eBook (or book) is finally ready to launch. Make it an event. Give your loyal readers a loyalty discount. Even better, do a free shipping promotion if it’s a physical book.
Now, compare the launch story I’ve just walked you through with this one: You upload your book without a platform and HOPE for some sales. Without a platform, releasing an independent eBook is like throwing a pebble into the vast Amazon ocean. It will splash, then sink without trace.
So don’t start HOPE publishing. If you are serious about writing and independent publishing you’ve got to start building your platform today.
If you build it, they really will come and maybe buy your book as well.