Let’s face it. Authors are busy creatures. Most of us work full time jobs, and squeeze writing time in while we’re commuting on the train or while the kids are watching Sponge Bob. It’s a thankless type of existence, taking up a lot of time with hope of best-seller status or a fantastic response to an agent query. Who has time to build an author platform?
Truthfully, you need to devote at least a little bit of time to making sure that you are building at least a bare bones author platform. Today’s publishing contracts rarely come with marketing allowances; you’ll be expected to handle the lion’s share of your publishing, at least until you hit certain sales benchmarks. And in today’s super-competitive market, having a following is going to be essential in getting a new author a contract with either an agent or a publisher. It’s an unfortunate truth; few publishers are going to hand a check to an author who hasn’t already built at least a bare bones platform.
So where should you start?
Truthfully, you just need 100 loyal fans.
Of course there’s a but. There’s always a but.
Those 100 loyal fans can’t be your best friend since high school, members of your mother’s bridge group, or the ladies from your Zumba group. While they will probably do great things for you in terms of helping you get the word out, you need fans that love you for who you are and what you create. That creation is essential. Fans who love what you create aren’t helping you out to do you a favor, like your mom’s besties will do. The follow you because they’ve developed an appetite for what you create. It’s those fans who will sell not just your first book, but your second, as well. And that, loves, is the real trick.
So as you’re spending some of your precious, sometimes stolen time, writing, you need to be devoting at least a little bit of that time to building your author platform. Yes, it takes away from your time to write. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt. Yes, you will have points where you hate doing it. You may even consider hiring it out, and that’s completely reasonable. The adage about spending money to make money is certainly true in publishing. A great author promotion company will work with your budget to help you build your platform while understanding any limitations that you may have.
The question then becomes, where do you find those 100 loyal fans?
If you have the time to participate in groups, then Goodreads groups devoted to your genre is a great place to start. You’re not going in there to promote; promotion is forbidden in most Goodreads groups. But it’s a good place to connect with fans, and a mention of your work-in-progress may be okay, although you should check with the group’s rules to make sure.
A lot of budding authors have developed strong, even fiercely loyal fanbases on Wattpad. They’ve published a few chapters, or earlier works there, and built a great following by giving out a steady stream of quality content while working on their main work in progress. Some authors have even been signed to publishing contracts on the basis of what they’ve published on Wattpad.
I also hold firm to the belief that as an author, it’s essential that you have a Facebook and Twitter presence. Managing these two social media platforms is time consuming, and there is the need to have fresh content readily available. For that reason, some skip this step, although I can assure you that agents and publishing houses want to see activity on these two platforms. Plus, your readers are on these platforms. You’ll find several of your 100 loyal fans there.
All in all, if you can spend just a bit of time each week focusing on these areas, they will help you to build the bare bones author platform that is essential to success in today’s competitive publishing market. You’ll be better suited when you’re ready to query agents or publishing houses; if you choose to self-publish, then you’ve already started the hard work of building a fan base, and it will be easier for you to go to those 100 loyal fans and arrange for reviews. I know that you don’t have much time to dedicate to marketing, but I promise that it will be worth the effort.