The Basics of Your Author Platform

"You must have an author platform!" Everyone keeps saying this, but what does that mean? And how do you go about it?

Basically, your author platform consists of a home where people can find out about you and your books (website), and an engaged audience who is keen to follow your career and content (mailing list). But what does the website need? And how do you set up a mailing list? Below is a simple outline of the requirements.

Your Author Website

A website can be incredibly involved. It can include a blog and a range of content - but it doesn't need to. In reality, your author website only needs a couple of elements to work as a platform building site:

  • Information about your book(s) and where people can buy them - this content needs to sell potential readers on your book, so think more than the back cover.
  • Information about you and how people can connect with you - particularly journalists, bloggers and podcasters who might be interested in interviewing or featuring you.
  • The option to signup for your mailing list - usually as part of an offer for free content.

If you write non-fiction, then you might want to also include a blog with related posts on the topic(s) you cover in your books. Fiction writers might also be interested in blogging about their process, worlds or characters. It is important to remember that you do not need to blog, and if you aren't going to consistently add valuable content, then it's probably not for you.

The technology you require for this is also relatively simple, choosing the right one is the hardest part. I recommend:

  • Your own URL for your author website - or if that's already taken. Of course, the .com should be your country as well.
  • A Wordpress website - there are many options but Wordpress is cheap and ubiquitous. There are many inexpensive themes available (they make your site pretty and easier to use) and it has a great blogging functionality. My subscribers get a download with the plugins and themes I use for my sites.

Ultimately, the size and scope of your website will depend on its purpose for you as an author.


Your Mailing List

Why a mailing list? Quite simply, your mailing list is the only audience you can guarantee access to. Yes, social media followers are great, but you cannot guarantee they will see your posts. If they join your mailing list then you know your message has reached their inbox - getting them to read it is a whole other challenge.

Let's assume you are like most people trying to navigate online and you have already signed up to a few websites yourself. You know the drill - someone offers you a great freebie, you enter your name and email address, they send you the content or the link to download it, and you start receiving regular emails from them. It's not rocket science, but how do you do this for yourself? You need:

  • A third party subscriber service to run the mailing list, this cannot be done from your email account - there are many options offering varying levels of service, with different costs. Mailchimp is free for small lists, and pretty easy to use.
  • An enticing freebie to encourage them to sign up - this could be a checklist, videos series, ebook, printable graphic or other content your readers would find valuable and appealing. Think of the ones you've signed up for.
  • The time and inclination to write emails for them - remember, they're designed to engage readers in what is happening, usually in the next book or product you are developing for them. But you need to be consistent in your communication, it can't simply be about emailing when you have something to sell.
Of course, once all of this is established you need to promote yourself and find your audience. This is where your social media accounts will play a part, but your Facebook or Twitter followers will only ever be a minor part of your platform.

Have you already developed your platform? What advice would you give to new authors?

You can get more free content and guides about this topic and others as a subscriber to dinkylune. It's all part of my latest focus on guiding people through the self-publishing process.