Writing a book is hard enough, but marketing it can rapidly become a daunting task.  After months of searching, trying, failing and learning new tips, I discovered that any author, self published or traditionally published, should create an author platform where they promote their books across different media and through various channels.

Brooke Warner has posted a beautiful pie chart of what an author platform is made of on The Write Life.  The post examines what an editor is looking for in an author platform, in order to take them on.  In other words, what mix is deemed successful by editors.  However, I believe that the points she makes are valid for self-published authors, too; it’s just that in our case, we are not trying to impress an editor, but rather the general public.

So, what is the right mix for an author platform?

Pie chart from thewritelife.com

Pie chart from thewritelife.com

  • contacts: the article on Write Life listed two examples about two authors using their contacts to great effect. One of the two had included Ralph Lauren as a contact; the other Oprah Winfrey.  It’s kinda hard to beat this sort of references, but the general point was that contacts, be it in advertising, business, church, friends, family and its extended format are useful links that you should use –just don’t overdo it or people will hate you!
  • social media: I guess that everybody knows about that by now. Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and, in our case, Goodreads are examples of social media that can be used by authors.
  • previous media: This refers to previous media interaction –an article in a newspaper, a blog piece as a guest blogger, a radio interview perhaps. Previous media can also be construed as contact with media on an altogether different subject: perhaps as part of your job you were interviewed on radio, you wrote an article or you gave a speech.  In any case, it portrays an extrovert personality and a good grasp on how to promote yourself.
  • previous books: having a few books up your sleeve is always an additional benefit.  I now know that having previous books does not imply that you should have written a trilogy of a Peace-and-War-esque size!  Write short stories – particularly fashionable on Amazon, lately -, a novella, a comic or anything original that you can put your name on. The important thing is to keep your stories flowing in a steady rhythm.
  • personality: related to the previous media, this is the author’s personality.  A likeable, outgoing, and smiling author with a good sense of humor will be more appealing than a grumpy recluse who seems reluctant to interact with the rest of the world.  I think that’s applicable to every profession!
  • existing readership: having already sold a book and maintaining a readership eager to follow the author is always a boon.  An existing readership means that you have followers who can expand geometrically your fans through word of mouth.  Of course, obtaining this readership in the first place can be quite intimidating. The question for many of us is ‘how do I get my FIRST readers?’  Well, in my experience, free days can do wonders for new authors.
  • ability to execute: Promising the moon, then not delivering is a big no-no in any profession. In the case of an Indie author, the temptation to ignore a deadline or fall behind in our writing can be even greater. An author who writes and is consistent with their writing and marketing is someone who is working hard and has a goal.  So, writing just one book and then leaving it there for a year will impress neither editors nor readers, who will probably consider this author as flaky and inconsistent.
  • expertise: many of us have not actually studied to become an author.  Even English Literature graduates need experience, which is the only way to become an expert on the field.  Editors value authors who have expanded their knowledge in order to write their book; they also respect authors who have self-published –successfully- and have acquired a solid proficiency regarding promotion and marketing. This is the kind of people that readers will also trust and whose books they will buy.

So, what’s my takeaway from all this?  Simple: If you are committed and persevere, you will succeed, even if you do little or nothing else! About 60% of success is down to experience, which really boils down to writing, publishing, then writing some more…