SJ Duncan

The Tipping Point Blog


What is a platform?




Last week we started by breaking successful self-publishing into three constituent parts.


  1. Your Product
  2. Your Platform
  3. Your Angle of Approach


In step 1 we looked at turning a completed manuscript into a published book.


But once you have a completed book, you'll want it to sell. That's where your platform comes into play.



Step 2: Build Your Platform



So what is a platform, anyway?


Like a literal platform, your author platform is the stage from which you promote your work to the buying public. I think of my platform as a set of modules grouped together in whatever configuration best suits my current goal. One module is this website (and the blog you're reading). Another module is the SJ Duncan Facebook page. Another module is my Twitter account. Another is Instagram. And another consists of public appearances such as book signings and speaking gigs. 


Together these modules are my platform.




But where do I start?


The very first thing I did (after publishing a book with no idea how to market it) was to create a website. There are any number of options for free websites, but those typically come with a hidden cost, such as unprofessional domain names (often tacked onto the host's name), or advertising you may not care for or benefit from.


I currently use Hostbaby for web-hosting (this is not a paid endorsement). Hostbaby can be a bit more expensive than other options, but their site builder option is incredibly user-friendly, even for someone with zero knowledge of web development. I've also used Go Daddy, but of the two I found Hostbaby to be less confusing for a novice. And while Hostbaby was created specifically for musicians, the type of page layouts best suited for musicians work perfectly for authors.


Pro Tip: Be sure your website is responsive. Responsive sites adapt to screen size. With any number of varying sized screens on the market now, a responsive site is crucial.



So, once you have a website, what exactly do you do with it?

Website in a Nutshell


Prior to the advent of the internet, your ability to be heard was controlled by a relatively small number of individuals; agents, editors, and publishing house financiers.


Your website puts the ability to be heard into your own hands. You decide which images to use. You decide which content to promote. You decide how best to market your work.


But it takes time for it to come together and look professional. You'll likely feel overwhelmed at first (if you've completed a book as outlined in part 1 you may recognize this feeling). So here are a few tips for getting it all together.


1. Visit some sites of authors you admire or fit with categorically to get ideas for content, images, and layout.


2. Keep it simple: a page for your book(s), one for your bio, one for images, and a contact page are all you need to get started.


3. Responsive design (as mentioned above): View your site on more than one device to see how it translates.



Once you have your website, you can move on to social media.



Lets Get Social


Odds are you already have several social media accounts. Now you just have to make them work for you.


Pro Tip: You are a brand, and consistency is key. Use the same name you are trying to promote across all social media accounts.


I always suggest people start with only one or two accounts. If you already have more, that's fine, but here's the problem: Odds are you have a day job, perhaps a family, and you're likely writing your next book. Your time, energy, and focus are in limited supply, which means you can only effectively manage a certain number of accounts.


Think of social media as a set of various parties being hosted all over town. You'll be much more effective at promoting yourself if you divide your evening between two, possibly three, rather than ten. 


It is much, much better to have one or two well maintained accounts, than a slew of poorly kept, infrequently visited ones




Email Marketing



On average, prospective buyers need to hear your message at least 7 times before buying. This is called the rule of 7.


Email marketing can be a convenient, cost effective way to repeatedly reach people with your message. There are a number of good email services such as a MailChimp. Also, your web host may offer some level of email automation.


Once you set up an email marketing account, you'll want to begin compiling your mailing list. There are numerous ways to build a list, but a few tried and true methods are sign-up sheets at events (book signings, speaking engagements, etc.), a sign-up page on your website, and free offers for signing up.


As with all other aspects of self-publishing, you can expect growth to be slow at first until you find the sweet spot that works for you.


Pro Tip: No one likes a spammer. Marketing of any kind requires a certain level of tact, so be sure you consider the person on the other end of your email campaign.


Your Website + Social Media + A Mailing List = Your Platform




Helpful Skills:



Basic understanding of social media sites and best practices


Ability to resize or otherwise manipulate images for specific social media sites (in Photoshop or comparable program)


Basic understanding of HTML (for creating links and fine-tuning website, even if site is pre-built)


Pro Tip:

Starting out may be frustrating, but there's a plus side to being unknown: You are free to experiment. We'll talk more about this in Part 3, but just know at this phase the stakes are low, which frees you to take more risks with your platform.


So, you have a website. You're bumping elbows and making friends on social media.


And you have zero idea what you're doing.


Don't worry. We're not done.




Next Week: Finding Your Angle


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