Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

When is the Best Time to Start an Author Platform?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Anja Pietsch.

I asked you guys to tell me in the comments what you would like me to blog about, so today we are going to talk about the author platform. When do we start? When do we need a newsletter? How do we find time?

I think we have reached a point in the new publishing paradigm that I no longer have to beg and plead and make jazz hands for writers to realize they need to build a social media platform if they ever hope to SELL their books.

I hear a lot of this:

Well, why be on social media? I don’t yet have a book for sale. 

Because it is easier to talk to people when you don’t feel like you have an ulterior motive.

I just signed a contract for my book. Should I build a platform now?

*weeps and breathes into paper bag*

Facebook doesn’t sell books.

Sure it does.

I know I need to put together a newsletter but since I don’t have a book out yet, I don’t know what to say. 

Whoa! Slow down there partner! Dig the enthusiasm, but slow down.

Yes, we need to have a social media platform and ideally a blog and newsletter, but this is not something we can rush. This job is a LOT like farming. We buy the land, clear it, prepare it, seed it, wait, tend weeds, wait some more, pray for fair weather, root out pests (trolls) and even then? Most of the time what grows in the first few years isn’t ready for market. It still needs time to mature enough to bear fruit.

So we rotate crops (topics). Clear again, fertilize, weed, and it is a lot of small very unsexy activities that are done a little every…single…day.

We can’t rush a platform any more than we can rush a peach orchard.

Too many writers want to rent the peach stand to sell peaches but they never bothered planting any trees. In a panic, they go BUY peaches (followers) and hope that will be just as profitable.

Or they rush out after they’ve written the book and scrape together a platform and hope then people will buy their books when they’ve spent almost no time cultivating a relationship. This is akin to trying to harvest peaches from trees we planted three months ago. Doesn’t make sense with an orchard and makes even less sense on-line.

Thus my answer to when is the best time to start a platform? Um, yesterday.

Seriously, the second you think you maybe kind of sort of want to sell your books? That is the day you begin building a platform and brand. You do not want to have a book for sale and try to pull a following/platform out of the ether.

Conversely, everything in its season and all in its due time. If you are new and building that platform while you are writing the book, NO you don’t need a newsletter. A newsletter will only work if you’ve already cultivated the following who’d care to get it or even open it.

You are not yet in the harvest season, so pick weeds, water, fertilize and like farmers?

WAIT.

The Early Years

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke

This is when we get our land and realize there are a ton of weeds, crappy soil and a zillion dead trees and trunks that need to be removed. There might even be some junk cars, scrap metal and old toilets that need to be hauled away. We need to form new habits. We need education, training and practice. We need to learn about branding and start building our platform.

When I left paper sales and decided to become a writer, I needed to learn the craft. I had bad habits. I put myself last on the list because writing wasn’t a “real job.” The early years is a lot of clearing away insecurity, fear, and even laziness. We learn to write even when we don’t “feel” like it and come to understand that simply showing up is a bigger deal than most people realize.

Sowing

This is when we start planting. We’ve cleared the fields and added missing nutrients to the soil. We took time to talk and listen to people on our social site of choice. To get to know them.

We put our butts in the seat and blogged even if the only comments we get are from the BuyPradaCheap sites:

“I so lick you’re blog. It changed my bruther’s life and bookmarking now.”

Blogging is my favorite form of social media. It is the most resilient (been here since the 90s), and it plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers WRITE. Blogs also train us to keep a professional pace. They trains us to show up and not be too dependent on others. Sure, it’s fun blogging now that I get a gazillion comments, but there were years I blogged to the ether. I didn’t do it for others. I did it for ME, to train me.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jim Evans
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jim Evans

When it comes to social media? Blogging is one of the best investments of time when it comes to ROI (return on investment). No search engine will direct people to your witty tweet or clever Facebook post. Search engines WILL, however, start sending readers to your blog (if done properly). Also blogs can be harvested for books that can be SOLD…for actual money.

No one taught HOW to blog back when I started so I had a metric crap ton of trial and error. Now? Folks like me have created classes. Have one coming up! (Blogging for Authors).

Blogs make excellent books. Far harder to compile a book of my Instagram pictures of food.

Sowing also involves research, plotting, writing, finishing then revising the actual novel(s).

The Silent Years

After we’ve planted a lot of good stuff, it’s easy to get discouraged. In fact, for a loooooong time, it will look like nothing is happening.

We need deep roots to make it in this business, because high-winds and storms don’t stop because we want to write books. Did you know that the root system of any tree needs to be as wide if not wider than the span of the branches? What is below (unseen) must match (or even outmatch) what is above, or the tree will fall over and die with the first bad storm.

The Silent Years can be brutal and this is why most writers don’t make it. They feel like failures because they aren’t instant runaway successes. It takes discipline and faith to trust the process, which is tough in a world addicted to instant gratification and an over-reliance on luck. Too many people want fruits with no roots.

Reaping

If we keep pressing and don’t dig up our seeds to check if they really are growing (which is highly tempting), eventually we can reap what we’ve sown. Ah, but here is the catch. Back to my peach example. After a long wait and tender, patient care, we get a tree. YAY! Eventually, we see little tiny fruits popping out. AWESOME.

Not so fast.

The smart grower plucks off all the tiny green peaches. OH NO! Why? So the tree will bear more fruit and better fruit. For us? This could mean writing two or three or ten bad books before we get a winner. It could mean multiple revisions. But, to gain more, we have to sacrifice.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Slgckgc
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Slgckgc

Harvest and Maintenance

In the beginning, we have a lot of back-breaking work (removing trash and dead stumps, tilling the soil, planting trees). But, if we are patient and consistent we can finally reach a maintenance phase. Once the grove of peach trees is producing, we keep fertilizing, tending, pruning and harvesting.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kathleen Dagostino
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kathleen Dagostino

An author platform is the same. In the beginning, we need to build traction. We are forced out of our comfort zones. It isn’t natural to strike up conversations on Facebook. It is uncomfortable to get out there when we prefer to lurk.

Blogs take longer to write because we’re learning and finding our voice. We may even be struggling with perfectionism. It takes time to realize that it is A BLOG. It really doesn’t need to be worthy of a Pultizer in Journalism.

SHIP!

There will come a time when the super hard work is done. Sure there will always be work, but not like in the beginning. After years of practice, I can knock out 1000 words in an hour. When I was new? It was not pretty. My blog was not fun when I was my only follower. I still remember being so excited to meet my first commenter Akismet.

Strange name. Is he foreign?

I KID YOU NOT, when this nice fellow Akismet welcomed me to WordPress, I actually commented back to try and start a conversation #YesIAmAMoron. (For those who don’t know, Akismet is the WordPress spam filter *face palm*)

But trust me, blogging with NO followers? Unfun. Blogging with 35K followers? LOADS of fun. But that didn’t happen overnight.

Same with platform and sales. J.K. Rowling finds it way easier to sell books in 2017 than she did in 1997. In 1997 she had not yet cultivated billions of fans. All she has now? Maintenance and enjoying harvest.

Slow and steady wins the race. Pace yourselves and realize there are no fruits without roots, no perks without the works. Trust the process, and in the meantime? I am here 😀 .

What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

****The site is new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Also know I love suggestions! After almost 1,100 blog posts? I dig inspiration. So what would you like me to blog about?

Talk to me!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

Be a Better Hooker (How to Write a Compelling Newsletter)

April 29th $45

In this class, learn how to compose a newsletter that is entertaining and compelling—and all without stealing most of your writing time. Learn how to get your hooks in your readers and keep them until the end.

With a mailing list of over 15K subscribers, mystery/thriller author Jack Patterson will share some of his tips that will spice up your newsletter and get your subscribers opening it up every time you send one out.

BUNDLE DEALS!!! 

Book Bootcamp  $99 ($130 VALUE)

Book Bootcamp GOLD $269 ($430 VALUE) This includes the log-line class, antagonist class, the character class AND a three-hour time slot working personally with ME. We will either plot your idea or, if your novel isn’t working? Fix it! Appointments are scheduled by email. Consults done by phone or in virtual classroom.

Individual Classes with MOI!!! 

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 May 25th, 2017

Blogging for Authors $50 April 27th, 2017

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-line $35 May 4th, 2017

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist $50/$200 (Gold) May11th, 2017

The Art of Character $45 May 18th, 2017

NEW CLASSES/INSTRUCTORS!!! 

Growing an Organic Platform on Facebook $40 May 6th, 2017 Lisa Hall-Wilson is BACK! She is an expert on Facebook so check out her class!

Method Acting for Writers: How to Write in Deep POV $85 for this TWO WEEK intensive workshop with editor and writing instructor Lisa Hall Wilson.

Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear $35 May 19th with powerhouse editor Cait Reynolds.

Researching for Historical Romance (How to NOT Lost 6 Hours of Your Life on Pinterest) $35 May 20th

 

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

 

48 thoughts on “When is the Best Time to Start an Author Platform?”

  1. Dale AmideiDale Amidei

    It’s a talent to now and again tell someone what needed most to be heard. Thank you, Kristen!

  2. Harry HeckelHarry Heckel

    Thank you for this post. As an author myself, I’ve seen too many friends fall prey to the silent years. You did a fantastic job going through the process. Keep inspiring!

  3. Jan M. FlynnJan M. Flynn

    Ah, Kristen, your post was perfectly timed. On this drippy, gloomy morning (one in a very long series), I was circling the sump pond of discouragement and flirting with the idea of just wading on in. It so helps to know that you once blogged to the ether as I now (mostly) do — and I so appreciate your reminder that writers, especially new ones, are in trouble if they measure themselves by the standards of Instant Gratification Landia, which is, alas, where many of us live.

  4. Leigh HeckingLeigh Hecking

    Kristen, awesome post! (And I enjoy the farming metaphor). I’ve been writing a book for the past few years and always felt a bit like a fraud because I call myself a writer, but have no actual writing to point to. My friend suggested starting a blog to help build my audience and to increase my writing content in the world. I’ve been slowly, slowly building my blog – consistently posting once a week. Do you have any tips as to actual content? I’ve been writing about creativity and writing because those things interest me, but I also enjoy travel and other things but don’t want to make my blog too broad in case I alienate readers.

  5. TD DonleyTD Donley

    If I had a standing ovation meme, I would insert it here. Build the network before you need it. 🙂

  6. HR SinclairHR Sinclair

    Will you do jazz hands anyway? It’s so much fun. 🙂 Blogging is my favorite social media deal too. I’ve learn a lot from other bloggers and they are a supportive bunch.

    I’m getting the hang of Twitter and I see the appeal—and I’ve figures out how to meet and make buddies there now too.

  7. Mary FosterMary Foster

    Another fantastic post, Kristen. Looking forward to learning more from you, as always! Thank you for all the hard work you’ve done over the years, clearing the path for yourself as well as thousands of others. It’s amazing.

  8. Kelley GriffinKelley Griffin

    Kristen, You make it look so easy! I’m hauling off toilets and old cars as we speak. Thanks for the inspiration – I love getting your blogs in my inbox and you always teach this newbie something timely that I’m struggling with.
    Thank you for helping me!!

  9. Jennifer JensenJennifer Jensen

    Love the analogy, Kristen. Growing up on a small farm (horses, pigs, chickens, rabbits and my dad’s huge garden), this one will stick with me for a long time. I’m trying to get my butt in gear blogging again. See you this weekend in Indy!

    • Cathy F.Cathy F.

      Wait, what? Kristen’s in Indy this weekend?

      I’m just an hour south of there. 🙂

  10. Valerie BrownValerie Brown

    Great post! It’s so nice to see it laid out in such a positive way. Blogging is hard by yourself, but followers are awesome!

  11. Meera KleinMeera Klein

    Loved this! I totally agree. I’m selling one book at a time….all the way to the bestseller list! Thanks!

  12. Renee WittmanRenee Wittman

    A newsletter is different from signing up to receive emailed blog updates, right? Would you recommend setting one of those up?

  13. Lanette KautenLanette Kauten

    I need to get back to blogging and sticking with it. I blog in spurts. I don’t know how to find different topics to keep things interesting, so I read somewhere that one of the best things a literary author can do is maintain a blog of short stories. Oooh! I can write short stories, so I did that for awhile, then I got tired of writing short stories, and my brain was leaking fluid, which made me cranky, so… Yeah, I need to get back to producing something on a regular basis, even if it’s topical stuff some days and short stories on other days.

  14. Kolin (Koe-lin) MofieldKolin (Koe-lin) Mofield

    What do you know, I read two blog posts today; boss is out sick. (wink). After recently finishing Rise of the Machines, this tied in to my branding/blogging/platforming nicely. It is a constant learning process. Next week it will become my habit to blog a minimum of three times a week. It will be a habit and eventually, it will be more than just family who follow me. 😀 Thanks for all you do for us, Kristen!

  15. Jebraun CliffordJebraun Clifford

    Yes, yes! Great tips for starting a platform. I’ve got nothing to sell (yet!), but I’m sure having fun getting to know other authors and writers and readers.

  16. Jordan Radford McDowellJordan Radford McDowell

    Awesome post–I love the orchard metaphor. It’s so easy to get discouraged when working on building an author platform, but it can be a lot of fun too, if I don’t let myself focus too much on wishing I had more success right off the bat. Interacting with other people who like to write as much as I do online is really a blast. I wish I’d started sooner if for no other reason than just that I know now all the fun stuff I was missing out on before I started working on my author platform.

  17. Debbie JohanssonDebbie Johansson

    Thanks for this post Kristen and I love the analogy. After reading your book and taking your classes, I feel much better about the whole idea of social media. It’s a lot more fun now! 🙂

  18. Deborah MakariosDeborah Makarios

    Pickin’ them sour little green peaches. Sigh. But, “let us not become weary of doing good, for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.”

  19. Elizabeth DrakeElizabeth Drake

    Does blogging take about as long as growing a peach tree to bear fruit? I’ve been at it for well over a year, and I’m still mostly talking to myself…

    I did take the advice from your class, and I do blog 3 days a week, every week. My word cloud has been useful in helping come up with topics, too.

  20. Cathy F.Cathy F.

    Over the last few months, as I’ve been following along here and exploring the subject in general, the process has begun and the seeds are getting planted at last. Certain decisions have been made, the space has been cleared (ie: have a domain name) and have commandeered my son’s IT know-how to lay the bricks, while I choose the platform’s decor. We have had several discussions in which he “project manages” my input. It’s quite the reversal of roles. Heh.

    Meanwhile, I continue to write, my first beta reader continues to comment, and…

    I head off to my cave, only to discover that Kristen’s going to be in my neck of the woods, and I completely missed that nugget. 😉

    I think my biggest problem with the social media part of things will be that I’m really not very regular on any of it. I had a blog (just a personal thing) that I started back in 2007 and officially “emptied” last year sometime, and it was always hit-or-miss with the timing. I’m not the most reliable poster. Get distracted, head off on wild-Muse chases, then show up again weeks or months later.

    I guess the nice thing about blogs though, is that in the end, when all the posts are sitting there, categorized oh-so-prettily… it doesn’t matter when they were written. They just have to be written.

    • Jennifer JensenJennifer Jensen

      And you can even take the date off, so no one knows exactly how old they are!

  21. Cat DubieCat Dubie

    Spot on, as usual! I’ve had a blog for several years now and, having no product available yet, I’m used to being the only reader. But once in a while someone does leave a comment and it’s a thrilling moment. So I decided to comment on blogs that I visit, even if I got there by accident. As for newsletters, I subscribed to at least 10 or more authors’ newsletters only to discover I didn’t have enough time to read them all. So I had to clean house, to my detriment I’m sure. But your posts are number one with me!

  22. AmyAmy

    Thanks yet again, Kristen 🙂 Every time I can feel myself launching into a tailspin of OH NO BUT I NEED TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MARKETING I NEED COURSE INFO DO STUFF AAAAAARRRRGGGHHH you have a post that essentially equates to: No. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and be *patient*.

    I’m going to tattoo ‘trust the process’ on my knuckles 😛 (kidding) (maybe in UV ink?)

    So yes. Thank you. Again. <3

  23. LorraineLorraine

    Thank you for answering my question in this blog. I am enthusiastic but practical too, I blog & work hard on my platform. The newsletter can wait. I’ll pluck off the green peaches and keep sowing. ?

  24. P. J. LazosP. J. Lazos

    Love the positivity you exude, Kristen. I had started blogging in 2012 with a partner and as a result of creative differences, after almost three years of blogging she locked me out of our WordPress blog. At that point we had a couple thousand followers and I felt as though I’d worked for everyone of them so was really disheartened to have no access and not be able to tell them where they could find me. What-ev, right? I dusted off and started again in 2015. I’m almost at about 500 followers, another long, slow slog to get there, but I notice that I’m gaining followers a little more quickly lately and developing some really lovely relationships. So I guess I’m a poster child for slow and steady and am relieved to hear that the strategy of relationships over chasing big numbers will eventually pay off. Thanks for sharing your successes as well as your failures.

  25. Grace RobinsonGrace Robinson

    Thank you for the encouraging post! I’ve been blogging and building my platform for over 4 years now, just self published two books, and am still not famous or rich. But I have more followers than I started out with, so I know I’m on the right track!

  26. Patti RaePatti Rae

    Thank you so much, Kristen! The gardening analogy you used in creating your social media platform really hit home for me. Tending, weeding, and planting a field – it was something I could relate to. The same nurturing process that I put into the new raspberries I just planted; weeding, feeding and cutting out the dead wood, so that in a year or two, I’ll have more berries than I need, is the same process in creating a author platform. I get that now. I even wrote my first blog post, but haven’t posted it yet. I’m still figuring that part out.
    Again, thanks for keeping it real and honest, and being there for all us who are still trying to figure out how to grow and succeed in this sometimes scary industry. People like you help people like me keep going. :0)

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