Bare Bones: Platform Basics for Authors

Bare Bones Platform

At the San Francisco Writers Conference last month I had the opportunity to speak with many authors about their platforms. The variation was stunning, and inspiring. Even among writers in the same genre, there were no two identical approaches to building visibility and community around their work.

As most authors know, a platform isn’t just “I have a Twitter account.” It is as much about individual preference, goals and creativity as it is about the tools themselves. Yet seeing all the rich variation in fully-built platforms does beg the question: where do you start? What are the essentials, the bones, that all good platforms need?

I have written about this before, and that advice still stands: have your own website (or blog); create an email list; choose one social media outlet. What I want to add here is why these three steps are a good idea. How do these foundational elements build toward a book launch and beyond?

 Website

You need to have your own spot on the internet. Anything you post first on someone else’s platform—Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, even commenting on other people’s blogs—is content you may not exclusively own. But if you publish it first on your website or blog, your ownership of the content is more clear. You can then repost it on social media without that nagging feeling that maybe you should read all the fine print in their terms of agreement.

Aside from content ownership, a website is critical to your visibility on the web. If someone searches for your name or the title of your book, you want your site to be there at the top of their search. Why? So that they find YOU, and are more likely to join your…

Email List

There are lots of components to a successful book launch, but one of the most important is having a good mailing list. Why? SEO experts talk about “conversion,” the rate at which people click, like, and respond to your requests. Email has a far higher conversion rate than social media posts, because these are people who have actively subscribed to know more about what you are doing.

If you really want to generate advance book sales, turn people out for a launch event, or find enthusiastic reviewers, your email list is where you will find them. Which means that one of the main things you should have on that bare bones website is a way for people to join your list, and a reason why they should: a free giveaway for signing up, discounts on future events, or just the pleasure of your writing in their inbox.

Social Media

If email is a way you can stay in touch with readers, social media is how they can stay in touch with you. Of course it is much more than that, but one of the main reasons to be on social media site is so you are accessible to readers who may one day decide to attend an event or visit your website and sign up for your mailing list.

For a bare bones platform, choose one social media site and really get to know it. If you don’t know which one to pick, find authors in your genre and see which tool they use the most, and seem to have the most fun with. Who do they follow? How do they relate to their fans? Where are the interesting conversations happening?

Developing a comfortable persona on social media takes practice, but it is well worth the effort. Stick with one until you get the hang of it and have integrated that tool into your work flow. Your bare bones platform is now in place!

Learning More

There is always more to learn, of course, and lots of choices to make as you progress from bare bones to full blossom. Fortunately, there are some great places to develop your skills and get personalized help in growing your platform, no matter where you are in the process.

If you are in the Bay Area, check out my upcoming class, Good Bones: Start Your Author Platform Off Right. It is being held on April 6 from 10-1 at Book Passage in Corte Madera, a fantastic resource for authors and haven for book lovers. Whether you are just starting out and feeling overwhelmed, or you’ve got the bones in place and need to take your platform to the next level, please join me on April 6 for a fun and informative session. I promise!