When I first started out in 2007, many of the marketing gurus told writers that a website was optional. Some of them were telling writers that Facebook or LinkedIn were more than enough for a web presence. But a lot has happened since then and with social media sites charging for visibility, it’s nearly impossible to reach an audience organically. Also, there’s the control issue, does a business owner (you) really want a middleman controlling when and if you have access to your readers? So today the advice is to get people FROM social media on to your newsletter or website.
This doesn’t mean abandon social media completely, what they mean is have other avenues that you can rely on to get your message out there like podcasts, blogs and of course newsletters. If you can only reach your readers via Facebook then you might want to take things to the next level and start branching out.
I can already hear you all asking: why are we doing all this work? It’s hard and at times tedious, well I’m glad you asked…
Reason 1: Information Gathering
I know many authors are blogging and on social media believing they’re there to build a massive platform (whatever that means to them) but that’s not exactly why. The truth is you’re reaching out to readers because you need to learn from them. And by the way, social media is a great place to mine data from customers (readers). As you put your life and thoughts on display, you should be exchanging information with your readers, so try asking them questions (open ended ones) such as:
- What authors are you reading?
- Name one personal pet peeve you have about modern books?
- Who are the most influential authors today?
- What kind of stories do we need to see more of?
- Which book character deserves closure and why?
Author H.M. Ward once discussed meeting with a New York publisher and when she began talking about her demographic, she was astonished when one of the executives asked her, “How do you know this?” Well duh, she monitors her social media and newsletter analytics. By the way, she has over 50,000 subscribers on her email list and over 59,000 Facebook fans.
If you feel like you don’t know what to say, study the indie authors who are good at connecting with their readers people like; Mark Dawson, Bella Andre, Adam Croft and Marie Force. Look at their social media accounts and subscribe to their newsletters and see what they’re doing right.
Reason 2: Showing Your Expertise
This is particularly for nonfiction authors who need to show their knowledge of a given subject. A platform gives you a non-censored channel that you can use to educate or inspire. It also gives you an opportunity to connect with other thought leaders in your field.
Reason 3: Promotion… Of Others
It goes without saying that promotion is one of the main reasons authors build a platform. However your books aren’t the only thing you can promote, you can promote other authors, there are tons of them out there who have little to no support, and a shout-out or friendly word never hurt anyone. Another good idea is to promote your readers, these are the people who should get regular shout-outs. Thank them for their positive reviews and support.
Reason 4: All The Cool Publishers Are Doing It!
Over the past few years, several major publishers like Penguin Random, Guardian Books and even Harlequin have started their own podcasts. Those same companies also have newsletters and social media sites even though they’re already household names. Despite what a lot of authors think, they’ve been watching indie authors closely and have been taking notes. This means we indies need to step up our game, and that requires us to learn from each other.
In closing, if you learned anything I hope it was that you can’t depend on anyone to reach and build your audience. This is your job no matter if you’re a traditionally published author or an indie. It’s your job to know who your readers are and what they want. This is what a platform is really about, it’s not about stats or image, it’s about connecting and building relationships, real ones that will endure your entire career.