When is the Best Time to Start an Author Platform?
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?
The Early Years
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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).
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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!
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.
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
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.
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.