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Building Your Author Platform: A.K.A. Making Digital Friends

It used to be as a writer you could just go sit in a cabin and type away until your book was finished. All by yourself. Never had to talk to anyone. When you were done you would wrap your book up in brown paper and twine (ah, love that idea) and drag yourself into town to have it published.

Today things are much different. Today you need to connect to people. Today you need an author platform, otherwise known as social media. Yes; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and all the other assorted accounts can actually be useful for something real. But it’s not enough to just have them, you have to work them.

Sure, you can get one of those programs where you buy followers… not really sure how it works, but it sounds horrible to me. Think about it; if you’re buying followers, what are you telling them? You’re saying I don’t really care about you, you’re just a number to me. Think about all the places you’ve been called a number: The DMV…. Yeah, that’s all I got. We use names because it makes us feel like we’re cared about. Like the person speaking to us knows us. But I digress.

There’s two reasons for having a following:

First, when you go to sell your book you’ll already have a list of people who already know who you are and like your work so far, so they’ll hopefully either buy it or will happily spread the word to people who might. While you’re building your following, make sure you keep in mind that the people who follow you online are under no obligation to actually buy what you are selling. They’re your friends, not your employees. If you throw a party your friend totally has the option to make up an excuse to not show up. Whether that excuse is true or not is none of your business. Be a real friend and accept it.

So why do it at all? Because at least this way you have those people in your corner. Remember the second half of it: they will probably spread the word. Chances are if they aren’t going to buy the book, they will tell people about it. Maybe they know someone who loves your genre and has been looking for a new read. Or maybe they have a YouTube channel or blog and would be happy to give a shout-out for you. Whatever the case, getting the word out to people you don’t personally know is like free advertising for you. Appreciate it.

The second, but no less important reason to have a following, is because it feels good to help others and someday you may find you need help yourself. I love having conversations with my online friends about all kinds of stuff; from the joy of hardcover books, to how hard it is to wait for a pre-ordered book to come out, to catching errors by loading your draft into kindle. Ok, so it’s mostly writer stuff, but the point is, talking to people about things other than just your book is a great way to make friends. In the process you find ways to help them out and they can maybe help you.

For instance, just yesterday I was feeling very distraught because I had become so overwhelmed in rewriting my manuscript, I felt I’d never find my way through. I was very hesitant to ask for help, but I did, and by the end of the day I was flooded with positive gifs and well wishes. Some of those GIFs were the exact same ones I’d used before to help others through their moments of self-doubt. Maybe that still would have happened had I bought followers with an app, but I like to think not. I believe that because I’ve spent the last year talking to my followers, offering my own support when I could, that they recognized me as a friend. I believe that the outpouring of friendship I felt was the result of my being a friend in return. That is something you cannot put a price tag on.

Making digital friends is just like making real life ones. You say hi, maybe compliment them or ask them a question, pretty soon you’re talking about a subject you both like. From there they grow from an acquaintance to an actual friend. Easy. The harder part is figuring out where to make these friends. Each of the social media platforms tends to attract a different kind of audience. They each also have a different format which better serves a different type of communication.

For example: I’m on Twitter daily. I find it easy to hop on, see what my friends are posting, reply to a few with questions, retweet ones I think my following will enjoy, and heart nearly every one, just so they know I saw it. Then I post one or two of my own and I’m done. It doesn’t take much time or effort but it keeps me in touch with my friends.

On the other hand, Youtube is very time consuming for me. It takes a lot of thought and effort to write, film, and edit a video for my channel. However it’s the first place I go to learn how to publish, or find out what my writer friends are up to. 

My point, is I can’t tell you exactly how to build your author platform. At least not in one blog post. Each platform is different and each author has their own comfort level and style. Start with one that you enjoy and try it out. Make some friends, get a posting routine going, figure out if it’s a good fit for you. If it’s not, there’s plenty of other platforms to choose from. 

So, tell me about your author platform? What are your favorite apps to use? Feel free to leave links in the comments so others can find and connect with you.

Happy reading/writing

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