Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Basics of Building an Author Platform

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

What is an author platform and why do I need one?
What is a platform and How do I build one?
These are good questions, but difficult ones to answer in a single blogpost. As a matter of fact, these question are the source of entire books. There truly is no easy answer. 

That said, let me lay out some of the basics.

To build a firm, healthy online presence, an author needs 3 things:
  • A presence on Facebook.
  • A presence on Twitter.
  • A blog—this can be a solo blog, where you post once a week or a group blog, where you post twice or more a month.

Where should I blog?
Where Should I Blog?
I recommend beginning bloggers start out on Blogger. It's owned by Google—which has excellent personalization options that the free version of WordPress doesn't offer. But the importance of where you blog is secondary to the content and consistency of your blog.

A paid site is also an option, but it's important to look at your budget and spend your money wisely. Foe example, spending a lot of money having a site built isn't as important as learning how to write by buying books, attending classes and conferences, and joining professional organization. And you don’t have to have a paid site to be considered a top-tier blogger. This site is currently built on the Blogger platform, and I haven't paid a dime for it.

What do I blog about?
What Do I Blog About?
As far as what to blog about, that takes more thought. Are you planning to write fiction, non-fiction or a combination? A strong non-fiction writer can make the topic of the blog the same as the books. But that's not a requirement.

People will not follow us initially because we're writers. They'll follow us because we're interesting. 

I know successful author bloggers who have sites focused on everything from knitting to quotes to travel. Blogging takes work, so it's important to pick a topic that won't become boring. 

My site is a site for writers and those interested in social media. 

My other blog—on the site—is for military families and the communities that serve them. 

Neither one of them is a platform from which to sell my books. 

Social media and blogging are ways to grow relationships, not a major avenue of advertising and mass marketing.

Now why am I building a platform?
Now Why Am I building a Platform?
I'm a member of a large church in upstate SC. We have several thousand members. There is no military base nearby, and I write books for military families. 

However, I am a part of this church community. I've added value to the community and made friends. Some are close friends, so I only know by name or sight. BUT, because I'm part of this community, when I have a book release they support me. 

Again, no more than a handful of families actually have family members currently serving in the military. But they're excited for me and they help spread the word to those the book would help. 

It's that type of community that we're looking to build online. Part of it comes from your blog, part from social media. The purpose is to be a valuable part of the community and help them, noting when we need them, they'll help us.  

Now What is a Platform?
Essentially that's what a platform is, the number of people we can share information—like a book launching—with.

My platform is considerable (and it should be because I've been growing it for a while). I get between 30,000 and 50,000 unique hits per month on my blog. I have had, over the lifetime of the site, 1.8 million hits. I have 18,000 Twitter followers, thousands of FB friends and followers, as well as connections on Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. 

BUT I grew this platform one relationship at a time—with small consistent steps. And I began growing it long before I had a book contract or even an agent. If we wait until then, it's very hard to catch up because we're way behind. A platform is what helps sell us to publishers and agents.

It's a doable thing, but it takes a deliberate decision to do so. What do you consider some of the things a writer needs to know/do to begin building a platform? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

My friend DiAnn Mills and I know how vital this is to an author's career. That's why we've started The Author Roadmap. It's a website wholly devoted to platform building and marketing for writers. Drop by and check us out!

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


What is an Author Platform & Why do I Need One? - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


  1. Thank you for the great information. I am in the middle of changing my blog name. The name is not indicative to it's content. I apply your tips and my Twitter following has expanded from 1200 to almost 2000 in less than a year. It is wonderful to see others with over 25K followers wanting to follow me. I have much to learn. I thank God for you and others that take the time to teach.

    1. One thing I'm confused about Edie is how you build relationships on Twitter and Facebook. Responding to people's questions on your blog makes perfect sense and I get that. But when it comes to Twitter and FB, I'm a little lost. Can you shed some light on that for me?

    2. Cherrilynn, it's so great to see the way you've been able to grow your network! Well done! Blessings, E

    3. Ellen, we build relationships on Twitter and Facebook the same way we do here, by participating in the conversations. We comment on each other's posts, answer questions, ask questions, and participate. Blessings, E

  2. Edie, thanks so much for the encouragement! i'm two years in, and had zero clue what i was doing when i started. about six months later, Holy Spirit nudged me to start sharing others' posts (on my author page on FB) and since then, as you say, one by one, my network has blossomed. but i know that's the best way, and your post just reminds me and reinforces that!
    ps, you ROCK!!

    1. Robin, you're so right. It can seem slow, but when we promote others ahead of ourselves some really wonderful things happen! Blessings, E

  3. I already checked out the new website! I've blogged for quite a while with mixed success. I clarified my focus now and I think it's time to renew it and my website.

    I developed my brand - I still waver a bit in my understanding of that word - around the fact that I am an engineer turned Christian author. That's kind of unique and I don't want to lose it. My focus is "apply God's wisdom to everyday life." How to mesh the two is a work in progress.

    Your blog is a great resource and I know this new website will be too!

    1. Sherry, I really love that concept! Don't try to have all the answers before you start. Leave some room to grow and react depending on how your audience interacts with you. I know it's going to be great! Blessings, E

  4. Thank you for explaining this in simple, basic terms. I really appreciate it.

    1. Jo-Marie, I have to keep it simple because I need things spelled out. I know it irritates some, but it helps me understand when I go step-by-step. Blessings, E

  5. Thank you for this. I am on fb & twitter, but my blog has been sadly neglected. I understand better now what I need to do; even before I start looking for an agent or publisher.

    1. Pat, I'm glad to have helped! Remember as good as FB and Twitter are, we need to have our blogs because that's where we "own our lists". Meaning we don't have control over how we interact on FB and Twitter - it's their rules. They can - and often do - change them without warning. This can cut us off from our audience. But when we have a blog, they can always find us. Thanks so much for taking time to comment! Blessings, E