Building an author platform isn’t as scary as you might think…
Starting out back in 2018 I had no clue of what an Author Platform was. None. I had accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and was keen to get my book out into the world, but had a sticking point: it’s scary. To start, following complete strangers on the internet goes against the grain of inviting strangers into our lives, and as for direct messages, well you never know what’s going to pop up in there! To be frank, it scared me, but I had no idea how important a social media following is for an independently published author or for a newbie looking to get a foot in the traditionally published door! I needed direction, so, like for most things I have no idea about, I decided to do some research.
During research into publishing I came across the term ‘platform.’ Having not long built a house, all I could imagine was bare earth all smoothed out and ready to build on, and this image actually isn’t far from the truth. Your platform is the foundation of followers, fellow writers and creatives, friends, viewers…anyone who could be considered a potential reader. It pays not to be a hermit (that’s a bit tough! I hear you introverts cry), but it’s a fact of publication that having a followership really helps. I utterly get the reluctance to venture into the public world with your book baby, or to create a public image of yourself, I’ve been there! I’d not long come through a period of depression when I decided to go the whole hog with my writing. I was in a space of wanting to hide, I mean, why would anyone want to know about me? Why would they care about my stories? How would they even see my one tiny text in a gigantic world library of books? Well, at the start they didn’t, and that’s the point of starting early.
Deciding on how you want to portray yourself can take some time, and so does building the confidence to take that step into the public domain in your newly claimed role. I’ve done it all in little caterpillar steps (to date, two years), and as time has gone on I’ve built myself a platform. I started with family and Facebook friends. I researched platforms and social media (you can find the blogs etc. I used on my Pinterest board here… [insert link]), I created accounts, and I waited, and very little happened. What was I doing wrong? Read on to find out.
Where on earth do I start and why?
The biggest mistake I made in the beginning with social media, was assuming that people would come to me.
I still consider myself a newbie at platform building, and for me it’s been two years of mostly research, trial, and error. I’ll tell you that it takes time and a certain amount of guts (or just close your eyes and go for it, like me) to start making those connections. But the sooner you start, the better, and almost every author I’ve come across will tell you to start before you publish. That felt wrong to me, and so I waited. I didn’t have anything to share, did I? Actually, I did, and so do you. Had I joined the #writingcommunity on Twitter sooner, I could have tapped into a wealth of experience in planning and writing books. There are literally thousands of authors out there who are willing to share their expertise. I could have asked about publishing, advertising, how to beat writer’s block, or what the heck a platform was in the first place! So, I’ll tell you now, it’s never too early to begin, and baby steps are better than no steps.
The one secret I’ve got that can really help you isn’t such a secret really: if you want people to find you, you’ve got to get out there and amongst it by following others. You’ll find that many people you follow, particularly on Twitter and Instagram, will follow you back, and add you to their #writerslift (a way of sharing people to follow), and then you’ve got your foot in the door! Hooray!
But what social media apps should we as writers/creatives be using? How many? What should I post? There’s no easy answer there, sorry, it’s up to you. All I can do is share what I use, and urge you to have fun with it!
I use four main apps – Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’ve listed them in the order I find them most beneficial to me as a writer and I’ll tell you why below.
Pinterest – ultimately a search engine with effective methods for saving what you find. Once you’ve joined (I thoroughly recommend choosing the free business account), start pinning. Begin by pinning other people’s pins that you like. I started with ‘how to’ type stuff, searching, ‘how to write a novel.’ Once you’ve saved a bunch of other people’s pins, you can begin creating your own. The bonus of Pinterest is that you can create boards (like a file folder) with any title you like, and you can divide these boards into sections with their own headings (like divider inserts). I have created title images for each kind of board I have – business boards (for how to build your author empire), reading boards (with inspiration boards for each of my stories), and writing boards (educational tools for myself and other writers to use). I also have a few private boards that are visible to me only. One of these is for saving pins I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. If I like them after reading, I’ll shift them into one of my public boards. I also start new story inspiration boards as secret boards and only make them public when I’m ready. Pinterest helps with my learning, sharing, and marketing of my work, and the business account gives you access to analytics (I can find out how many impressions my pins have made, how many saves, and how many link clicks pins have generated, which of my boards are most popular, and so much more!).
To see how my Pinterest account can help you on your journey to a writing career, click here:
Twitter – it’s all about the interaction. I was terrified of joining twitter in the beginning and saved it until last (silly me!). The potential audience is massive, and I didn’t know what I could possibly have to say that anyone would want to interact with. It’s daunting in the beginning, but if all you do to start is follow a few people (hint, use the hashtag #writingcommunity or #amwriting), you’ll be able to look at what others are posting, and who knows, you might have an answer to someone’s question, or you might ask one of your own. You’ll start getting followers quickly, and you can follow them back (but you don’t have to if you don’t like the look of their bio/account). The key to building your platform on Twitter is to follow people, and participate. Use the above hashtags, and jump on #followfriday and #writerslift tweets so people can follow you. Interact, ask questions, or try setting up a poll. Don’t be freaked out by people with enormous follower numbers – pretty soon you’ll be up there amongst them and wonder what you were afraid of! They’re just normal people too, though they seem like Twitter gods to begin with! Twitter is my newest app, but my fastest growing, and most interactive, and I wish I’d gone for it sooner!
Instagram – is an image sharing platform. There are literally millions of images shared here each day. I use it to share visuals of my work, but also to share snapshots of my life. I started on a private account, but converted to a free business account when I turned my focus to writing. With a business account you get free analytics, and down the track you’ll find these really useful. My viewers get to see a bit of my personality, what I get up to, what I like, and how I live. I don’t have a visually stunning account like some of the pros out there, but I’m learning and evolving all the time. The key to getting noticed on Instagram is to use the right hashtags, for instance #authorlife, or #amwriting.
My Instagram following has been slow but steady to build. My top tips are a catchy bio that has a bit of your personality in it, and images that give a sense of you and your interests. I try to give equally of myself and my work. It’s never advisable to ‘sell, sell, sell.’ People will get annoyed/bored and unfollow you. Another great feature of Instagram is that (once you’ve linked your accounts) you can share straight from your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter with a couple of clicks.
Facebook – it’s where most people start because we’ve been using it for so long to interact with family and friends. The trick, when you go public, is to create a business page. I’ll be honest right now and tell you that Facebook, whilst I thought it was golden in the beginning, has been my hardest platform to grow, and compared to the platforms I mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a let-down. Sure you can get some great page views through advertising, but it for me, it hasn’t led so much to anything useful. And be careful with advertising. I put a bit of cash into advertising early on. It got my page plenty of single views, and sold a few copies, but ultimately I haven’t made that cash back yet (not from Facebook interaction anyway). You might have more luck than me, or better yet, do your research to make it work for you.
Beyond my ‘big four’ above, I also have connections in other places:
a website, which is my gathering page for everything – all roads lead to it, and I redirect to other places from there. I’ll blog more on websites in the future.
I have a Goodreads author page but am still working out how to make it work for me.
Potentially the most useful of my author pages as an independently published author is my Amazon Author Page. This is where your face and bio pop up with your works in one place, so it’s important.
There are plenty of ‘how to’ blogs out there with step by step instructions to setting up accounts on any of the afore-mentioned apps. All instructions to accounts I have can be found here – to be clear, these are bloggers I’ve used and collected into one easy place, not my own. You can use them too by clicking here:
I’ll give you my three top tips for Social Media here now (more to follow in my Quick Tips coming soon):
DON’T sign up for everything out there – you’ll spread yourself too thin and won’t have time left for writing! Start small and add things in as you go. Stick to two or three and work your way up from there, otherwise you’ll be spending all your time on social media instead of creating!
DO write a bio on each platform. I, and many others, won’t follow you without a clue as to who you are. It’s way too easy to scroll over you. Even ‘writer,’ or ‘#writingcommunity,’ is better than nothing! The idea is to lead us to your account so we can follow you.
DO treat direct messages with caution, in both opening them, and sending them. Seriously, you’ll be surprised what some people think is acceptable to fling at you without invitation (including unmentionable images of body parts, spammy advertising, and ‘if you’d like to increase your follower numbers…’). Likewise, nobody likes the incessant message box spammer that pings you daily with ‘buy my book.’ Just don’t do it. I know it can be tempting when you’ve got a new book and you’re just beginning to build your following, but JUST DON’T. Save it for your public feed unless someone messages to ask you for more information. I don’t even have an automated ‘thanks for the follow,’ because it annoys me to receive them. I’d rather drop a gif or quick thanks on someone’s main feed. My general way of dealing with my direct message inbox is to ignore it, so please don’t be offended if I don’t answer you there. I find it more trouble than it’s worth.
Has this blog helped you? Do you feel more confident in putting yourself out there for having read this post? Do you have questions about platform building on social media? Let me know in the comments section!
Self-reflective Journaling – a simple but effective tool.
elf-reflective When looking ahead to 2020 back in December, I did some research on THE traits of ‘successful’ people. A point that came up over and over again was that successful people use reflection and journaling to inform their next steps. Now I’m not talking about screeds of writing every day, not at all. I’m going to show you how you can see results in just five to ten minutes per week (though you might choose to go a little further when you see the results!).
I’ve discovered that journaling – reflecting on the past week and looking ahead to the next with specific questions in mind – provides multiple benefits:
I’ve discovered that self-reflective journaling...provides multiple benefits..." - Emily Larkins.
How I use self-reflective journaling to improve my week, and how you can too!
During my research, I came across a set of visuals on Pinterest that have become core to my journaling process. They were sourced from @heyamberrae on Instagram, and are quick, simple, but effective tools for my journaling process.
These ‘check-ins’ are such quick, simple tasks, but they’ve made such a huge difference to my focus and productivity. I must thank @heyamberrae and give credit for her images, and for making such a positive difference to my week. Follow her on Instagram for more great tips, and most importantly, give it self-reflective journaling a go and see great results of your own!
How has this helped you you? Do you want more tips on planning, writing, or productivity? OR do you have any great journaling tips to share? Let me know in the comments below, and keep an eye out for my next Quick Tip!
Hi, I'm Emily,