This post is part II of a series that begins here. Don’t dive into the steps below without reading that post first.
You thought you were done with the research part of all this? Ha! Well, you mostly are. The last step before formulating your strategy and starting to market your book is to research yourself.
Assessing Your Platform
This is what you may have heard referred to as a “digital audit.” That means reviewing all the ways in which you appear online and pinpointing weaknesses and opportunities.
1. Your author website: Do you have one? If not, you should create one. It’s a crucial piece of your branding online and a home base from which you can do other important things, like blog and grow your e-mail list. If you do have a website already, look at it critically:
a. Does it look cohesive or stylistically in line with your book cover or series?
b. Does it showcase the most important material on its home page?
c. Does it prominently display any press reviews or endorsements you may have from previous books (or if you’re a subject-matter expert, from your professional work)?
d. Does it give your readers an opportunity to find out more about you or connect with you in ways beyond what’s printed in the book? Additional content could take a lot of different forms: a photo gallery of places in your novel or people in your memoir, a blog that lifts the veil on your life a little and lets readers feel like they know you better, or additional online-only worksheets to supplement your self-help book . . . The point is, there should be something more for readers to discover about you on your site.
e. Does it encourage readers to stay connected with you through clear links to your social accounts and e-mail list?
2. Your social presence: What are the social platforms on which you currently have accounts? You’re just collecting information at this point—no judgments!
a. How many followers do you have on each of your various accounts?
b. Are your accounts cross-linked and connected with your website?
c. Is your author branding consistent across all of your accounts? Same profile picture, similar bio, consistent cover images?
3. Your search ranking: For debut novelists, you likely won’t find much here. But for subject-matter experts who have made a name for themselves doing something other than writing, you should check what comes up when you type your name into Google.
4. If you’ve written a book before, look at your Amazon author profile page and Goodreads author profile page, noting any inconsistencies with the rest of your profile images and bios posted elsewhere.
A lot of debut writers have . . . not much happening online. That’s okay, but it’s also important to recognize. If your audit of yourself turns up little to no online footprint, that means you’re starting at square one of the platform-building process. You’ll need to adjust your goals and expectations accordingly. Perhaps you do have a small presence, but it’s pretty disjointed when you step back and look at the full picture. That’s great to know too: your job will be to solidify your branding online to begin to take your platform to the next level. For more experienced authors with a stronger, established platform, your digital audit of yourself will need to dive into what kinds of content works well for driving the traffic you want and achieving your goals.
Identifying YOUR Tactics
Let’s first recognize, as indies, that the marketing tools available to you are different from those of our traditional publishing counterparts. Your marketing is going to be aimed at achieving online book sales—not in-store sales—and you’re fine with that because you realize that 75 percent of all books are purchased online. Which is why so much of indie book marketing is based in digital marketing.
As Jane Friedman so eloquently put it at the recent Digital Book World conference for indie authors, your author brand develops—with or without your input—out of the following elements:
1. Your body of work. This refers to the branding on your book as well as the quality of it. Does the cover suit the genre? Is the book description tailored to the genre and your audience, using strong keywords?
2. Your website. You have one, right? If not, put it on your to-do list.
3. Your e-mail list. If marketing is all about establishing and deepening your relationship with your readers, then adding their names to your e-mail list is the most valuable action you can ask your readers to take. The saying goes, “A sign-up is worth more than a sale.” Why? Because a sale is a single action; but an e-mail sign-up gives you the opportunity to win a reader’s loyalty and evangelism.
4. Your social connection points. You certainly don’t need to be everywhere, just everywhere your readers are. Are you engaged in the conversations about your subject matter where they are happening? Are you forming relationships with influencers in your sphere?
I can’t prescribe a plan for all authors here, since individuals are at such different levels with their platform development. Use the ladder below to start at square one and build, build, build. Understand your level, take a step forward, and just show up and be consistent. Your continued presence in a conversation with your readers—no matter what level you’re at—will take your platform up a notch.