Social Media for Authors: Your Platform, Pt 1

“What’s a platform?” I get asked this a lot. It’s a fancy name for the people interested in your work that you can sell directly to when you launch your book.  It’s also the stage you need to create BEFORE you release your book, if you want to sell books the day you launch. Everyone has some kind of platform, even if it consists of your mother and your best friend.

Nick Russell is the author of Gypsy Journal (an RV travel Newspaper) and two blogs. His thousands of readers provided a platform which sent his first book, Big Lake, to the New York Times Bestseller List.

Colleen Hoover is a gregarious social media addict who makes adventures out of her life’s foibles. She has the ability to make strangers feel like friends. Before she published her first book, she had a huge Facebook following. She also has sisters and other family who banged the drum for her to anyone who would sit still long enough to listen. Slammed made it to the NYT Bestseller List and was followed by two more titles that year.

A large initial surge of sales boosts your visibility and makes success stories like these possible. Of course, you have to have a dynamite book with a professional presentation in order for that initial surge to morph into word of mouth and lasting success.

Many folks think, “I’ll just post my book on Facebook and Tweet it, and people will buy bushels of them.” Ummm . . . it doesn’t quite work like that. That ship has sailed. Now Twitter is clogged with spam, and Facebook has changed their algorithms so that it’s harder and harder for people to see the posts they WANT to see, never mind yours.

Social media is a great tool, but when you begin to think about your platform, you need to start closer to home. Identify two groups of people: the “A” group is people around you who like you and will support you just because you’re you. Group “B” is your target audience, people who will love your book. Your first goal is to cultivate Group A in order to increase your reach to Group B.

Why? Because if you go around telling people to buy your book, you are likely to annoy them. If someone else says, “Hey, there’s this great book out, you need to read it,” they are grateful. Your best marketing is done by other people.

“How the heck am I supposed to get THAT to happen?”

I know many of you are already pulling your hair out, about how you hate marketing and are socially inhibited and . . . and . . . and.

I get it. You’re nerds, like I am. I was not gregarious in school, but I figured out this nifty thing. If you want to throw a party and get people to come, get them involved first. The person who has promised to bring the potato salad (or whatever) is going to show up, and chances are, they’ll bring a friend.

Take that thinking and apply it to your book. Instead of hiding in your closet with only the light from your laptop screen to guide you, involve other people. Let your friends and family know you’re writing a book. Consult them whenever possible. Use beta readers. Poll friends about cover designs. Allow them to share in the excitement of publishing.

A friend of mine is writing a book about a tattoo parlor. I suggested she consult with a local tattoo parlor and ask if she could pattern her fictional parlor after it, maybe even get permission to use their name. If she has a good experience with them, they are going to be bragging about being in a book. They will WANT to tell people.

Many people will volunteer to help you if you already have a connection with them. The key is, you have to be authentic about this. I didn’t ask people to shout out about “A Shot in the Bark.” They did it on their own and I’m convinced they’re responsible for the modest but respectable success my mysteries have achieved.

I’m presuming you are a nice person with a positive attitude, good manners and a good book. These are musts. If your book is not great and you go around alienating people, forget it. Being shy is not a deterrent. There are people who love to adopt shy people.

“But I write Sci-Fi. Who am I going to consult?”

Look, I can’t do everything for you, you’ve got to use your creativity to figure out ways to connect around your book. There is always something. A friend of mine writes Sci-Fi and he polled people to get weird names for the new races he was creating.

Not everyone will become your cheerleader, but some will. As a bonus, they will come up with things that never occurred to you. One of my betas thinks it would be fun if a friend of hers who is fundraising for an animal rescue did a murder mystery dinner based on my books. Even if it doesn’t work out, that’s more people talking about my books.

Get out of your hidey-hole and turn your book into a group project. You’ll be glad you did.

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