Creating An Author Platform That Sticks

Two guest posters in one week? Oh heck yes!

Today we welcome S.R. Johannes, author of the YA Wilderness Thriller, Untraceable and the newly released On The Bright Side, a super fun Tween Paranormal about a girl becoming a guardian angel after she dies, only to discover her charge is her biggest ex-high school nemesis!

Shelli is also a Marketing Maven with an MBA in Marketing. She owns her own company, freelances as time allows and knows a ton about what an author needs to do in order to give their book the best chance of success. We've stolen her from her blog to pick her brain about PLATFORM, a concept important to all writers on the path to publication. :)

WHAT IS A PLATFORM?

A platform is an identity that people - potential readers, agents and publishers - recognize your name when the time comes.

In a nutshell, it is how you present yourself to the world. Kind of like an online business card. What defines you as a person, what motivates you, and how you want others to think of you.

Tips For A Stronger Platform

1) Be concise and connected. Everything you have in terms of marketing should be done in a cohesive way. So if you have a blog, web site, and twitter – they should all look alike – no matter what. Same colors, same fonts, same taglines. It should be concise and connected so people start to recognize you.

2) Get on the Web. You MUST have a web presence in this day and age. I hate to say this but if you Google someone and they are not there –in today’s world - people assume you are a nobody. If Google finds you – you are somebody. Sad but true. Believe it or not, people still ask me about this and people still don’t do it.

3) Be you. From a marketing perspective, make sure you project the right image and can be found easily online. The worst thing is creating a platform that is not in alignment with you. People will see right through it. So get to know yourself and identify what you want to project and what kind of writer you are – before you start creating a platform.

4) Do a few things well. Pick what is right for you. First of all – I don’t think everyone has to do certain things – besides having a web site. You don’t have to blog or be on twitter but you have to be somewhere. Some people are great at Wattpad, some at Pinterest, and some at Tumblr. So find something, do it well, and be sure to stand out. Whether it is style, voice, or topic driven. Think of how to be different.

5) Get followers. No matter where you are, you need to find a way to be different and attract people to coming back. Have something they care about. Make sure your blog is talking about something that audience wants to know. If you are blogging about writing – you will not touch teens and that is fine as long as you know that. Visit other blogs that are popular and see what they are doing.

6) See it as friending. Facebook got onto something when they called people “friends”. That is what social networking is about. Think of it as making friends. YOU would never walk up to someone you just met and said “hey you - buy my book”. But if you had a friend for a while, they would buy it without you asking just because it’s yours. Find blogs you like and go to them regularly. Look at it as making a friend online. Some of my closest friends I met online. You don’t just say – “hey you be my friend.” You reach out a little and see if they reach back. Comment on other blogs, especially ones that you like or new ones. People love that. It shows that you care about what they are saying.

7) Target the right audiences. Focus on a few different ones too. Don’t just focus on the publishing industry. Be sure you are touching the end user –teens if you are in YA. I see too many authors marketing their stuff to the book community and nowhere else. You need to hit all your targets differently. And know that you have more than one. Break down YA into segments so you can reach them more personally. If your book is about nature, go to where the teens are.

8) Be authentic. Do onto others what you would want them to do to you. Include them on blog rolls, help promote them, and comment consistently. Eventually they will be your blog friends. Don’t be fake about it. Bloggers know if someone is fake. Call it a cyber sense.

9) Give and take. I personally believe in giving back FIRST. I have spent 2 years giving back without asking or expecting anything in return. It was what I wanted to do for the writing community. I would never have felt comfortable reaching out to people for help when my book came out had I just took without ever giving in some way.

10) Give yourself time but start now. Building a platform takes time. It does not happen overnight. So don’t pressure yourself. Start now and it will grow over time.


S.R. Johannes is the author of Untraceable (a teen wilderness thriller) and On The Bright Side (a tween paranormal). She lives in Atlanta Georgia with her dog, British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world. After earning an MBA and working in corporate america, S.R. Johannes traded in her expensive suits, high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing.

You can find her blogging at Market My Words, tweeting wisdom on Twitter and getting her book on at Goodreads. Don't forget to visit her Facebook Author Page for all the latest news and upcoming books!

Want to find out more about Untraceable and On The Bright Side? You can purchase Untraceable or On The Bright Side in paperback and ebook at Amazon as well as other booksellers.

37 comments:

Sarah said...

What a fantastic post, Shelli! I'm working on all of this, but I find #7 to be particularly challenging, and that's where I'm going to have to invest more thought and energy--and probably pick the brains of a few teens.

Gwynn White said...

Thanks for the inspiration. I know this BUT to find the voice.... I have a blog but am still to write on it. I am a complete wuss I know, but I am scared to put myself out there. I write YA novels and am happy to give my stuff to people to read - generally they like it - but to talk about myself is so hard. And that is what you have to do if you want a platform... Help, please!!!

Angela Ackerman said...

There were a few things here I hadn't thought about either, like making all online presence venues have a similar look. I think mine all have a very similar feel, but they all look different and I should work on that.

@Sarah, definitely reaching the audience is tougher for YA, MG & lower. Luckily Teachers and librarians often can be found online too, and so that is sometimes the route to go as far as targeting for this age category.

@Gwynn, I was so freaked out when I started my blog. In fact, I started it on my own, got stage fright and then asked Becca if she would do it with me. For us, that was the magic.

Perhaps you might consider doing a few guest posts for blogs as a way to dip your toe in, or join a group blog? Then, when you feel more comfortable, you could start posting on your own blog :)

I do struggle with talking about myself and my journey. Part of this is that it is hard for me to be open about my vulnerability, and part is because I have to take care of what I say online while being on submission. I would like to be more open though, and this is definitely a goal of mine moving forward. :)

Angela Ackerman said...

Shelli, thank you so much for opening your marketing wisdom vault and sharing what you know! This is a great guide for anyone looking to start or improve their existing platform. :)

Gwynn White said...

I do struggle with talking about myself and my journey. Part of this is that it is hard for me to be open about my vulnerability, and part is because I have to take care of what I say online while being on submission. I would like to be more open though, and this is definitely a goal of mine moving forward. :)

Thank you Angela. Your input is really valued and appreciated. And I think you summed it up in the bit I cut and pasted. I hate feeling vulnerable by exposing myself. But, at the end of the day, if I could find the courage to write, then I must find the courage to do this too. By Sunday evening - promise - I will have something up. Thank you!

Laura Pauling said...

Great advice!

To reach teens and tweens, just create a blog that has a bunch of silly pictures of cats with quotes on it. They read that. :) And then the cats can promote your books.

Janet Smart said...

This is great advice. I write for children, mainly picture books. I'm going to see if I can use your advice and do a little tweaking with my online presence.

Kelly Polark said...

Excellent advice, Shelli!!

I have a question. I have two blogs: one for me, the other is a celebrity book recommendation site to promote literacy and to get various traffic (http://www.bookrecsthatrock.blogspot.com ) . I am having a hard time getting followers at the second site. I get excellent traffic through people googling the musicians and celebs, but followers are lacking. I don't post as much as my original blog due to lack of time and so others may end up at new site. Any other suggestions? THANK YOU!

Natalie Aguirre said...

This is such good advice Shelli. You do have to reach out to other bloggers and make friends. And that means supporting them, like visiting their blog and commenting. And it's so important to give back by sharing in others good news.

Good luck with your second book.

Angela Ackerman said...

Gwynn, Well you have a follower now...ME! I'll be looking forward to your post. :)

Just think hard about who your ideal audience is, and what they might need. I've written a lot of posts & guest posts on blogging, and it really comes down to that one bit of advice. Once you know who you are writing for and what they need, it gives you a starting point for posting. :) And make sure whatever you post on you are passionate about. It doesn't have to be about writing, or even only partially about writing. If it's important to you, you'll find people who will connect to the subject :)

@Laura, I often wonder what an alien species would think of our love for LOLcats. Perhaps when first contact comes, it will not be with us, but the cats!

@Janet--good luck!

@Kelly, I look forward to hearing what Shelli says. I love that you have taken two of your passions and turned them into a blog, and I really want to see it take off!

@Natalie I totally agree. I can't always manage to get to everyone's posts and good news announcements, but I hope people know me well enough now to know just how happy I am for them :)

Ava Jae said...

Wonderful advice! I especially like the bit about branding and doing a couple things well rather than trying to do everything. It can quickly become overwhelming if you try to jump onto every social media outlet online, and if you spread yourself too thin you'll burn out rather quickly.

I should look into changing my Twitter profile to match my blog. Great tips! :)

Christina Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew MacNish said...

Number 6 is pure genius.

Patti said...

I liked her advice about doing a few things well. Right now I'm only doing one. I should probably figure out a few other avenues to build a platform.

Christina Lee said...

Okay blogger is being weird today with comments--where did mine go?

Great points, Shelli!

It's taken me awhile to finally find my voice and I think I've got it down now (but who knows). For example, I always envied other bloggers who were sarcastic and used humor, but then I realized that that's just not ME!

I also think you need to leave your comfortable blog/site and go find other people. Go comment on other blogs from time to time, and/or email a response to a comment on yours (like you said in #6)and follow people, make them feel good. I still see this not being done and it's a big turn off to people (in recent convos I've had). It can make you seem removed and unapproachable. :-(

And those are my two cents. THANKS, A and S!

Rachna Chhabria said...

What a fantastic post. I loved all the points. Building a platform takes time as we initially make friends who end up supporting and encouraging us in our writing journey. The book promotion part comes later.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Shelli has got to be one of the most inspirational and kind people I know. Great interview!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

sarah - just break down all the topics your book covers and those are your target audiences. For example Untracealbe - nature, teen, poaching/hunting, smoky mountains, native american, hiking, wilderness etc Then look for teens in those areas

Gwynn - you do not have to blog - find something you do feel good at it. dont do it if your heart is not in it - it will show.

kelly - combine them and make celebrity books a day on feature your site. like you do about music

Patti - you only need a few - better to do a few well than 10 not so well.

wow matthew and tasha thanks for complimenting. ;)

Jessie Harrell said...

Great tips as always, Shelli! Thanks.

Susan R. Mills said...

Great advice, Shelli. Thanks for sharing.

Marcy Kennedy said...

I need to work on getting the same look and feel to all my online venues. Right now, I'm happy with my blog, but my Twitter background and Facebook page could definitely look more cohesive.

Great tips :)

Marigold Lott said...

This is an awesome post. Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!

Martha Ramirez said...

This was AWESOME advice!! All of it was 100% true! Thank you!

Gwynn White said...

I love the comment about the cats! LOL. But I especially like the advice of breaking my books down into what they are about and posting on that. That I can do - and I can be passionate about it. My daughters - right in my target market - have suggested I do my blog from the perspective of my book characters - almost like their diary entries. what thoughts?

Turndog Millionaire said...

As someone who's doing marketing series for authors, you've pretty much summed everything up in a single post. Good job :)

I especially like the do a few things well point. Try too much and you drown. Do everything great and you stand a great chance of shining

nutschell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nutschell said...

these are awesome tips! Might just have to bookmark this so I can share it with my writing group :)

Happy weekend!
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

tracikenworth said...

Great post!! I've been working on platform building over a year now and I just realized I'm one of the ones who's all about writing on my blog and book reviewing, when I need to learn more about marketing to my target audience (teens). So, I'm off to do so. Thanks!!

Becca Puglisi said...

Thank you so much for this great advice, Shelli. Like so many others, I struggle with reaching my actual audience. Got to get out there and find those teens.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

These are really great tips! It can feel so overwhelming to get your platform together but this makes it seem much more manageable. :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

Giving it time is so true. You can't build a platform overnight. Great tips!

Christina Farley said...

Great things to think about. I like the point about making my blog interesting to everyone, not just writers. I really need to think more about this!

JC Piech said...

Thanks for this post, it's really helpful! :D x

Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living said...

Shelli,

A specific question:
In your query letter to an editor, how important is it to mention the "stickiness" factor of your blog. Say people spend 2.35 minutes on average, is that worth mentioning? Also if you only have 2,400 unique visitors, is that worth mentioning or is that considered too low, and you're better off giving the page views which are higher, in my case 7,500/month.
Thanks to Shelli and Angela for helping all of us, as usual.

Leslie Rose said...

Good gravy, this post is a whole pile of gold. Does cyber sense come with a superhero cape?

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

Gwynn - can you sustain a blog just with your characters?

I think it could be a good special blogging day but it might be hard to center the whole blog around it.

Sonia - I would not mention any statistics unless your blog is huge. I would just mention the address. YOu never know what they think is good or bad. Everyone thinks differently.

patricia rossi said...

This is a great article/post. @GwynnWhite Start out writing the truth...that its tough for you to write about yourself... we all felt that way in the beginning and you will feel all of us nodding a big(we feel ya) as we read it;)...

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