Building Your Platform, Part One: Crafting Your Digital Presence

What is your platform and why is it important, even before you publish your first book?

If you’ve spent much time looking for information on how to market yourself as well as your books online, chances are you’ve run across the expression “author platform” as well as countless exhortations to build a good one. Simply put, your platform is your presence online, your digital footprint so to speak, and your platform is made up of all those places and points from which potential readers can discover you and your work as well as, hopefully, purchase it: your author website, your Amazon book listing, your blog, and your various social media accounts all contribute to your larger platform. In this silicon age, it’s almost impossible to create your personal brand and sell your books successfully without crafting a highly functional digital presence; the age of hand-selling books out of the trunk of your car is, by and large, over, and the most successful authors are the one who start thinking about how they want to be seen by the world before they even finish editing their first manuscript. The age of social media-powered self-publishing stars like Rupi Kaur and Andy Weir is truly here.

This month, we’re launching a three-part series on how to build your platform. We’ll begin today with your author website and your blog presence. In part two, we’ll touch on social media websites, and we will spend some time discussing Amazon in the third installment of this series. These divides are somewhat artificial: there’s no dividing the various components of your digital presence so neatly, as all of today’s components ought to be thoroughly linked and promoted on social media. That said, there’s simply too much information out there to contain in one newsletter!

The Author Website as Platform

In some ways, it can be difficult to describe all of the possible uses for a well-maintained, high-functioning author website simply because an author website is entirely customizable, and the options are endless. But on the other hand, there are some qualities which all good author websites possess, including links to your book’s various sales pages (on Amazon and anywhere else it can be purchased), biographical information, a detailed description of your latest book, links to all your social media accounts, and links to your original content.

Designing and launching your own author website will allow you to own and control all the information about yourself, your brand, and your books so that you can inform readers of crucial information and activate them as true fans who will buy your upcoming book and perhaps even promote it for free. After all, even in our digital age, word-of-mouth recommendations (often voiced on social media) are still one of the most powerful sales tools out there! And yet, few authors build their first author website with that in mind. Your message, and your personal brand or style of presenting yourself, must be perfectly clear from the moment your website launches … and if possible, you should launch your website before you finish publishing so that you can use it as a promotional tool!

Our advice is to look at all the options available to you. Many websites offer free or relatively affordable web hosting as well as the option to purchase your own domain name and URL. WordPress and Squarespace are among the most popular, but there are hundreds of options, and not all of them will fit your needs. Do your due diligence and check out their services and fees as well as reviews from fellow self-publishing authors. A personal recommendation or two will go a long way! Once you know which host you prefer, you can begin to delve into all their excellent tutorials on how to build beautiful, responsive, mobile-friendly websites.

Your Blog as Platform

We also need to talk about your blog–and not just as a function of your author website, although having your author website link to or even host your blog is not a bad idea. (And your blog is one great way to add original content to your author website if you’re otherwise at a loss.) Your blog is critical to a healthy marketing strategy, as your blog is often the first place potential readers will go to find out the latest news about your book. Your blog will also provide handy practice and help you hone your writing techniques, or even, as was the case with Andy Weir’s The Martian, provide the bedrock of your next book! Blogs offer small, manageable chunks of space for you to work with, and are far less daunting than, say, writing an entire book manuscript at once! And given the way search algorithms and indices work, they build traffic for your website and social media presences over time as they note you generating regular and consistently high-value content. As various social media websites come and go, blogging remains a constant presence in our digital lives. Make use of that, and those excellent writing skills you already have, and start a blog!

Coming Soon … Social Media

Stay tuned for part two of our series on building your author platform where we will discuss some of the more popular, as well as some of the up-and-coming, social media websites which you can put to work in marketing your latest book.

Interested in more helpful information about writing and self-publishing? Call Outskirts Press at 1-888-OP-BOOKS, chat with us via the online chat on our website or make an appointment with a Publishing Consultant.


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