Through working with clients, doing workshops, and attending writing events, I speak to many aspiring writers and authors. When we discuss writing, our eyes are wide open. When we talk about publishing, writers are curious. When I mention building an author platform, I’m met with blank stares. It’s pretty universal.

Writers, in general, are creative sorts and not natural-born marketers. Yet, most seek some financial reward for their effort. Many hope for significant success. So, how do you fill in the gap between knowledge and desire?

When I decided to make writing my business, I looked at my numbers. Zero blog posts. 100 +/- friends on Facebook. Zero email contacts beyond friends and family. I had a long way to go. Maybe you can relate. I needed a plan to get where I wanted to go. But first, I needed to know where I wanted to go. You’ve heard the saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Here’s a well-worn route to building your author platform.

The Vision

In keeping with the journey theme, envision the destination. If you are wildly successful, what does it look like? What does it feel like? Have you quit your job and are jet-setting around the country doing interviews and book signings? Are you the writing rock star in your town and teach classes at the local community college? Does success mean that a handful of people in your inner circle enjoy your book, and that’s validation enough to write the next one? Finally, consider why this vision is important to you.

The three examples cast vastly different images of success as a writer. None is better or worse. It’s your vision. You get to choose.

The Goals

The next step is to set your goals. Do you want to sell one book to someone who isn’t your mother? Maybe it’s 100 books or 1,000 or 10,000. Or, maybe it’s not a specific number. Your goal might include being part of Oprah’s Book Club or becoming a New York Times Bestseller. It could be that you have more than one goal. Again, these are your goals. If your heart dreams big, go big. If your vision of success is in the pursuit of writing and not necessarily in the sales, your dream is no less valid. It’s important to articulate it in order to achieve it.

The Strategies

It’s tempting, at this point, to jump right in and try random tools to build your following, but there is a little more work to do.

Strategies are the different ways you achieve your goals. Suppose you want to sell 1000 books. Your strategies could be to get reviews, build your following on Facebook, build an email list, plan a book launch, and create an author website. The strategies are general categories and provide basic direction, but don’t nail down the specifics of how you’ll do it or the tools you’ll use to get you there. Start with 3-5 strategies that work toward achieving your goal. You don’t have to do everything. Creating a book trailer and doing weekly podcasts might be great, or they may be money or time-sucking endeavors. If you have no platform, start with the basics I mentioned above or even just a few of them. Once you build momentum, you can add more strategies to your author platform plan.

The Tactics

Tactics are the specific steps you’ll take to meet your goals using the outlined strategies. For instance, if you want to build an email list, here are some tactics to employ:

  • Choose an email provider
  • Create a valuable offer (lead magnet) to attract people
  • Create an ad to get the word out
  • Create relevant follow-up emails or content or offers to keep subscribers interested

It’s obvious that each of those can be broken down even further. Once you get down to this level in the planning process, it will take some trial and error to determine what works best to achieve your goals. You’ll also use specific tools to make it happen.

The Tools

The tools are the specific programs, venues, or resources to create your promotion magic. Using the tactics outlined above, let’s explore the tools we’ll use.

For choosing an email marketing provider, we could research the pros and cons of using MailChimp (free, but a bit frustrating for me), Constant Contact (that’s mine), Aweber, Drip, and the list goes on.

For the lead magnet, you could create a webinar, a checklist, a free course, a fact sheet, an infographic, a series of quotes, templates, among hundreds of other ideas. You can have a signature lead magnet or create several different ones for more opportunities or test for the best performing.

While planning it all out takes more time upfront, you’ll benefit greatly from the amount of time (and maybe money) saved on the back-end. You could randomly post stuff to Facebook or ask people to join your email list with varying amounts of success. But, this a roadmap for personalized success based on your vision and goals. It helps you stay on the path and not get pulled down every side road hoping for a shortcut or “the next best way.”

The Timing

When is the best time to start building your author platform? NOW! Wherever you are on your writing journey, start building your platform as soon as possible. If you wait until you publish your book, you’ve lost out on the most valuable time to sell your books – before the launch. If you’ve already published your book, you aren’t too late to impact your sales down the road for your first book or your next one.

The amount of work in front of you may feel overwhelming or exhilarating. Put one foot in front of the other and do what you can today. Every step you take is closer to where you want to be. Lace up your boots, and enjoy the journey.

author platform

Create your author platform success plan with this printable template.

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