Get Your Platform Moving Part 2 by Tracy Krauss

Last time I introduced two key components that are necessary for every author platform: an online HUB like a website or blog, and building an EMAIL list with which to communicate directly with your audience. I realize that some people may argue the necessity of both, but let’s face it, riding a unicycle is a lot less efficient (and more difficult) that using a bicycle.

A website (or a blog) is the place you can direct people to find out more about you and your writing. I mentioned last time that I recommend using wordpress.org, but that is a personal decision that you will have to determine based on your own situation and needs. Do not try to make your Facebook page, Instagram, or some other social media site your hub. Although these are useful (we’ll get into that in the next installment) they are at the mercy of their owners. The ‘rules of engagement’ can change (and do!) at any given moment. Instead, you need a site where you have control and that will not be removed or tampered with at the whim of the owners.

At some point, you’ll want to think about branding and a website is the perfect place to do it. What is branding? Branding is about instant recognition. It’s about people knowing what they can expect from you. It starts with such simple things as consistency in fonts, formatting style, colour choices, and obviously moves on to the quality and consistency of your content. A tagline is also a good way to brand yourself. For instance, my current tagline, “Fiction on the edge without crossing the line,” let’s readers know what kind of fiction they can expect from me.

As well, professionalism goes a long way. Use a consistent and professional looking author headshot, for example. The minimum requirements for any website are as follows: an about page, a book page (or coming soon if the book isn’t out yet), a way for people to contact you, and an email sign up form.

This brings us to the second wheel. One of the primary goals of your website should be to get people to sign up for your mailing list. This is NOT the same as signing up to follow the blog.

Be aware that you can’t just use Outlook or Gmail. They have rules about sending out too many large group emails and these will be blocked as spam. Instead, you need an email subscription provider. I use Mailchimp, but there are others like AWeber, Constant Contact, Infusionsoft, ConvertKit…the list goes on. Do your research on what will work best for you.

Once you’ve signed up with a provider, they will show you how to generate a sign-up form that you will then embed on your website. You should also put the link to this form in the back of all your books, on your blog, on your Facebook page if you have one…basically, everywhere you can think to put it.

Be aware, however, that just splashing the sign-up form everywhere isn’t going to get a lot of traction once your friends and family have signed up. You need a compelling offer to encourage your target audience to sign up. (“Get my news” or “sign up for my newsletter” are not compelling!)

Address a need or a want. Let readers know what the benefit is to them. (This goes back to our discussion about being relentlessly helpful – the idea that trust, value, and engagement are the framework for success – discussed in Part One of this series.) One good strategy is to give something away. Make it easy and obvious because people are naturally very distractible.

Believe it or not, pop-ups (although seemingly annoying) actually convert very well. So, consider that as well. This is also something that your email provider can do.

Keep it short and simple, but remember, you are trying to build a relationship, not just ask for sales. If you work on building trust, engagement, and adding value, when it comes time to ask for help, people are more likely to respond.

Various experts recommend emailing your list once, or at the most twice, a month for fiction authors. You don’t want to bombard people with too many emails or appear spammy. Nonfiction authors can email more frequently, apparently, because their target audience tends to be narrower and more engaged by default.

Next time we are going to move on to what I call the gears or mechanics of the bike, namely the CONTENT that you choose to create in order to engage with your readers. Come back next time to read all about it!

Tracy Krauss, current ICWF President, has more than 20 books and plays in print and has successfully launched several titles onto Amazon’s best seller lists for sustainable periods of time. She has taught seminars using this model and hopes that what little insight she has gained can be used by others. Website:tracykrauss.com

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