Platforms and Personal Branding for Authors

Congratulations. You’ve written a book. Now you’re about to take on a new job; Chief Marketing Officer of the Brand of You.

“I just self-published my first book and I need help marketing the book.”

Every week I received at least one email from an author that starts like this, “I just self-published my first book and I need help marketing the book.”  I always respond to the author with the following questions:

  1. What are your goals in publishing this book?
  2. What is your platform for helping your ideal reader find your book?
  3. What is your current plan for letting your ideal reader know your book exists?

The first question informs the entire approach to book marketing and promotion. The second question lets me know if the author has any way to let readers know the book exists. The second question lets me know if the author understands the concept of “discoverability.” The third question helps me guide the author to focus on the actions that they will most likely be able to take to help them achieve their goals.

Because the average author is not a marketing professional, many have not thought beyond the writing and uploading of their book to a sales platform. So the book is available on Amazon, but they’re wondering how to turn a listing into sales. Every author platform takes time to build. People need to hear about you and your work, come to know, like and trust you, and finally feel the desire to own your book through exposure to you and your message. That happens, most often in this digital life, through online engagement on social networks. Joining Twitter today will not give you a sales platform by tomorrow. Creating a Facebook page today will not help you sell the book you just published. Blogging this week won’t return massive sales by next week. You will not have a large email database without starting early. My point is that in order to build a platform that will impact sales, you need to start well before your book is published.

What is your platform?

A platform is simply the avenues you can use to help your ideal reader find you and your book so they can make a sale. In order for someone to buy your book, they need to know the book exists. And because only a small percentage of the people who learn about your book will be willing to part with their hard earned money to purchase the book, you’ll need to let thousands know about the book to garner hundreds of sales. Once hundreds of people read the book and tell others, your books sales and fans can grow. So the platform through which you’ll let thousands know about your book is the first step to getting that book into the hands of readers who will ultimately become your biggest asset for future sales. So what is a platform? Here are just a few classic author platforms:

  • EMAIL: An e-mail list of people who have asked to hear from you. You build an email list by setting up an opt-in sign up on your website. Most people sign up for author mailing lists because the author has offered their list some exclusive content such as an original, subscriber only short story or for non-fiction authors a checklist, extra content or something that adds value to the author’s premise.
  • FACEBOOK FAN PAGE: A very active Facebook fan page dedicated to your book, your writing, your ideas. Ideally you’ll want a fan page with more than 10,000 followers who regularly comment, share and like your posts and who would be interested in a book from you.
  • YOUTUBE CHANNEL: A YouTube Channel where you regularly create videos about the topics in your book. For example, a historical romance author might do short video messages about his or her research in the form of “Did you know?” style videos. Romance readers would be interested in the things he or she discovered during the research phase of their work because they love historical romance. Adding information about how you plan to use the historical tidbit would seed the anticipation for your book.
  • BLOG/WEBSITE: A blog can be a way for authors to update potential and current readers on upcoming books, booksignings, lectures and other interesting facets of the author’s life. One of the reasons we follow authors online is because for readers, they are our rock stars. We’re interested in their creative process and their every day lives, just as we’re interested in other celebrities.
  • DIGITAL SHOW: A podcast or internet radio show that brings you exposure.
  • GUEST BLOGGING: A recurring guest blog on a high traffic website.
  • OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKS: A Pinterest account with boards showing the things that would interest or fascinate your characters or for non-fiction authors, boards that add to the body of information a reader might need to succeed in using your book. For example, a doctor might share pins from other doctors websites to act as a trusted resource for great health information. For some authors, Instagram might be the ideal platform. A travel author, for example, might post stunning or funny photos from their travels and attract others who love travel to follow them.
  • SPEAKING: A speaking schedule might not seem like a “platform” but it is. If you have 10 lectures slated for audiences of 100 at a time, you’ll be influencing 1,000 people during the course of your live events. Selling books in the back of the room means hundreds of people reading your work and potentially sharing it with their friends.

OK, I believe I need a platform. Now what?

It’s time to brand yourself, and take center stage as an author. Personal branding is the first step to platform building. I believe that you, the author, are always the brand, and your book is an extension of your brand. Most likely you’ll write more books, so branding a single book is not the goal. We want to brand you, the author. People who like Stephen King are willing to take a chance on his next book because they know his brand.  You can and should begin to articulate what the brand of “you” includes.

Everything you create is a brand extension.

How do I communicate my brand?

You should begin to identify your brand DNA. Ask yourself the following questions and take time to record the answers.

1. What is my value?

2.What is my author voice?

3. What are my visuals?

What is my variation?

For more details on what each of the 4 V’s of Personal Branding are and how to use them in personal branding, you’ll find this post useful: The 4 V’s of Personal Branding

Using this easy to execute, quick social media content sharing strategy you can help people see you as an emerging brand, a trusted source for great information in your niche and a thought leader.

The social media content sharing cycle for building a brand reputation:

Here’s just a sample of the type of content sharing cycles you can create and replicate each week to help the people who are mostly likely to become your fans, find you.

  • Decide that you are a brand and keep that in mind while exploring your business opportunities.
  • Develop a brand statement that incorporates your personal promise to potential customers or client, ie “I stand for honest, straightforward communication and support and I deliver quality information or merchandise or you get your money back.”
  • Start speaking about your vision, your passion, what you know and your goals in all of your social media bios and blogs.
  • Post at least 3 x’s per week on your blog by sharing a link to an interesting article in your core niche, something that you found useful and/or liked.  Intro the link with a short paragraph about why you found the material so useful and encourage your readers to read it by clicking the link. By becoming a trusted resource for valuable information in your niche, you’re positioning yourself as a leader in your industry and growing your “brand” influence.
  • Post a link to your blog post on that interesting article to your Facebook fan page. Make sure your intro to the link on Facebook uses at least one keyword to describe your brand, as in “This great marketing article will help you do x.”
  • Auto Tweet the link to that piece of information from your Facebook fan page by making sure you’ve connected your Fan Page to your Twitter account. Do that at while you are logged into both Facebook and Twitter.
  • Press the “share” button below the update on your Facebook fan page post and share it to your profile.
  • Find the original author or his/her magazine or blogsite and comment on the post and let them know you found it useful and shared it.
  • Once a month, use your webcam and do a “my niche tips” video – under 60 seconds – that recaps no more than  1 – 2 tips you picked up from the links you’ve recommended this week.
  • Post the video to YouTube.
  • Upload the video from your desktop to your Facebook fan page
  • Auto Tweet the link to that piece of info from your Facebook fan page
  • Press the share on your Facebook fan page post and share to your profile.
  • Do the same thing every week.

Brand Awareness Through Like Affiliation

A wise mentor once told me “you are the sum of the five people closest to you.”  Find and “like” or follow other people in your niche whom you admire. Talk to them on social media platforms. Ask questions. Send praise. Read and share their most interesting and helpful stuff. Learn from them and share their knowledge with others.  Be a curator of valuable information.

Every time you take an action on social media and link your name to information and ideas in your niche, you’ll be creating a bigger digital footprint for You, the niche brand.

Save every tip and the attribution and in a few months, put them all together into a PDF, include the attributions from each leader and create a cover for the whole document. Name it “Inspiration from leaders in the XYZ field, edited by your name here and offer it as a free downloadable PDF from your blogsite.  Promote the free download as a way to capture e-mails.  Require people to sign in for the download. In this way you share, attribute, associate, give value and position yourself within your desired brand niche.

Now that you have an email list of people interested in your niche,  you can begin creating original reports, webinars, podcasts, speeches, classes and/or live events to share with your highly interested e-mail list. This process creates a stream of wanted and needed information from you, the emerging brand, to your followers, people who have already expressed a strong interest in exactly this kind of information.

These are simple, beginner steps for creating a personal brand and brand platform and helping others see you as an author they’d like to read. Please don’t be discouraged if you haven’t yet built your author platform. It may seem daunting, but so is writing a book. Keep writing and begin building now. Readers are waiting.

Feel free to share some of your brand statements below if you’d like feedback.

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