Many authors have blogs, many others have well-designed websites, but relatively few have a strong author platform.
A strong author platform goes far beyond the typical blog or website. Platform success requires more than just content and design.
Here are the 7 essential characteristics needed to create a strong author platform, that will help you build demand for your books while you’re writing them, and build a personal brand that positions you and helps you leverage your book to ongoing profits.
- Blog-based. Authors must be able to update their blog and web pages themselves without the costs and delays involved when dealing with others. Authors must be able to post new content, create landing pages, embed videos, and monitor their blog’s performance on their own.
- Goals & objectives. Blogs–like books–must have a purpose; they must target the information needs of the author’s ideal readers and offer them an obvious benefit for reading. Authors must analyze their ideal clients and prospects, and then determine what types of information will best help them. An author platform requires more than the author’s name in the header; there should be a benefit-oriented title and mission statement that provides supporting information.
- Professional design & setup. Authors must resist the temptation to design and set-up their blog by themselves. There’s more to designing and setting up a blog than downloading a free, or low-cost, image editing program and experimenting with fonts and colors. A professional designer is more than just a craftsman, before they design, they will work with you to position your platform relative to the competition. They will help you plan for future enhancements. Design fees represent a 1-time investment creating a unique, appropriate image while eliminating the need for you to master tasks that only need to be done once.
- Editorial calendar. Authors must create their own deadlines by specifying how often and when they’re going to post and the topics they’re going to address. Consistency is the fundamental tool of marketing success; but consistency is impossible to achieve without self-imposed deadlines and pre-selected topics. Without an editorial calendar, weeks and months often go by without fresh content, projecting an outdated, stale image.
- Tracking & analysis. Authors must constantly monitor, track, and analyze their author platform. Improvement is impossible without measurement. Authors must become familiar with web analytics, so they can track where their traffic is coming from, which topics and search engine terms attract the most traffic, which pages are most often visited, and which traffic sources and pages generate the most conversions, i.e., sales.
- Synergy. A well-designed and frequently-updated blog or website, by itself, is not enough; a strong author platform must be integrated and reinforced using other social media and marketing resources. Your author platform is your hub, the magnet that attracts visitors from a variety of other online sources.
- Process. Like creativity, innovation, or good health, a strong author platform is the result of a process, not an event. Strong author platforms are “works in progress,” constantly evolving and improving in response to changing opportunities, technology, and threats.
In the end, commitment and habit are the keys to creating a strong author platform.
Strong author platforms require commitment to realistic goals and developing the habits of ongoing planning, action, and self-improvement.
Knowing when to save & when to spend
Today, there are endless free, and near-free, online book marketing and brand-building opportunities and tools. Miracle technologies, like the ability to create and post screencasts and videos, are freely available or available on a low-cost subscription basis.
The availability of free and low-cost marketing tools must not prevent authors and brand-building entrepreneurs from investing wisely in areas involving critical judgments, guidance, and specialized expertise. There’s a time and a place for bootstrapping, and a time and a place to save time and benefit from the experience and guidance of experts who know what to do, how to do it right the first time, and are willing to train you to do it on your own in the future.