I recently shared this information with a group of authors. The reason I talked about these things is because I have made so many mistakes as I built my own platform. I long for others to have a smoother path, so here’s a little offering of what I’ve learned the hard way as I’ve constructed a platform.
- People first. Platforms consist of people. Some are big names. Others are unknown. Treat both the same.
- Be thankful. Whenever someone does something for you—writes a review, introduces you to a friend in the business, shares about your book—be thankful. Write or call your thanks. Consider every sweet thing that comes your way as a gift.
- Start with one. Excel at one platform before moving on to the next. ASK: Where are my readers? And then get really good at the platform where your people congregate. For me? Instagram.
- Ask for help. You do not own all the platform wisdom. Some of my best, ingenious ideas came from my author mastermind group.
- Know your limitations. Know when to delegate or hire out help. For instance, I have an assistant that helps me with podcast scheduling, and I have an engineer working on the episodes. It’s better for my time to pay them than to do everything.
- Build an email tribe. Serve them like you’d serve a congregation. Shepherd your people. Wow them. It’s not the size of the tribe as much as it’s the engagement. (I recently talked to a publishing insider who said they’re not having much success with 10K instagrammers. Why? Because it takes little or no buy in to click a heart. Followers who scroll don’t necessarily translate into book sales.) This is why email is so important. Fellow agent Barb Roose does an amazing job of this. Scroll down on her site and sign up for her email list to see how she does things.
- Empower the crowd. If you’ve created an amazing book, trust that word of mouth people will eventually holler about it. Make it easy for them to take initiative by providing easy shares and graphics. When I get an email from an author who asks me to share about their book, but provides no way to do so, I end up not sharing. Make it easy for people to share.
- Concentrate on what you own. You don’t own Facebook or Twitter or Insta or TikTok. You do own your website and email list. Create those “properties” with your reader in mind. How can you bless them? What can you give them? What will be the benefit to them when they come to your site? Find ways to captivate them. Build an email distribution list so you have permission to bless them more. This gig is not about you; it’s about the tribe you build. (I love the book Tribes by Seth Godin).
- Embody trustworthiness. You can’t buy loyalty or trust. You can simply be loyal and trustworthy. Don’t spam your tribe members. Email unto others as you would have them email unto you. Give far more (like 10x more) than you ask.
- Live in adventure. The joy in building a platform and finding a tribe is anticipating the cool things ahead. If we simply view marketing as a task, we’ll miss the excitement of what God will do. See it as an adventure, a great anticipation of what God will do on your behalf.
- Watch the negative talk. I’ve been guilty of being too out-there with my negative talk. Yes, this is a difficult business. Yes, you will have setbacks. But go back to the place you were called. If God hasn’t said stop, then rest in the fact that He wants you to keep going, no matter what the setback. See your job as a writer as a privilege, and keep your written and verbal disappointment in check.
- Be generous. This gig isn’t just about you. Find time to promote others. Be generous. Open doors for people just beginning. Mentor new writers. In giving back, you’ll find joy.
- Personal sells. Best way to sell books is to be with people. Speaking, podcasting, video, lives. Humans buy from humans.
- Carve out secondary brain time. My best thinking/writing time is the morning, so I try to not do marketing then. I reserve that for the afternoon.
- Don’t underestimate the time it takes to launch a book. No magical thinking. Plan ahead. Block out time. Create a PR calendar. It takes me longer to launch a book than it does to write one!
- Trust God in the process. Ultimately, He is sovereign. He is the one who builds your career. Your job is to be faithful, to do what former singer Keith Green penned, “Just do your best, pray that it’s blessed, and He’ll take care of the rest.” Do the work, but then take your hands off it. Prayer is vitally important. I would highly recommend starting a prayer team for your writing.
I hope that little list was helpful. The number one angst point for my authors is platform, so I try to teach about it often. If that’s your angst point, you are certainly not alone!
What did I miss? Is there another statement you’d like to share that’s helped you on your platform building journey? Please share in the comments below.
Great tips, Mary! Thank you.
You are so welcome!
Kristen Joy Wilks
Thank you so much, Mary. This is so helpful. I love your advice to get onto Barb’s email list and see how she shepherds her tribe! I’ve recently been enjoying being on some of my favorite author’s launch teams, watching them work, enjoying the insider tidbits, and learning how to better connect with readers. Plus, I just love their books, ha!
That’s a terrific idea to join launch teams to support another author, yet learn too!
Thank you for this! I am struggling so much with platforms. I love to write, and I am being so whiny about dealing with the online stuff!! This list, especially the reminder to have joy in the journey, is one I will keep and refer to again.
I’m glad it is a good resource for you, Katherine.
Thank you for this positive look at the journey of platform building. It arrived like a friendly dose of “this is the way, walk in it.” Good to hear this voice in my ear.
Hooray! I accomplished my objective in seeing platform as an adventure!
Great advice, Mary! I especially like #1. Whatever else we do or don’t do on social media, let us begin with being genuine.
Yes, authenticity actually really matters.
These tips were useful, Mary. Treat people well (whether they’re your followers, helpers, reviewers…) and trust God well. With everything else in between.
That’s a lovely compliment coming from you, Rachel. Thanks.
A platform and a podium,
worked upon each day,
and now behold the tedium
of nothing left to say.
A try to show the living hope
in the middle of despair,
but now it’s come so hard to cope,
and words seem empty air.
Oh, Lord, I ask that You inspire
this heart gone flat and cold;
please relight that warming fire
that I knew of old,
and give me strength to reach once more
to hold light to the Golden Door.
You are so welcome!
Heidi Gray McGill
Be transparent and show your human side. You don’t have to share personal details about your life or family, but letting readers know you are human helps with connection.
Yes, that’s a good practice!
Lisa Larsen Hill
Terrific post! Thank you for sharing Mary!
I’m satisfied reading your article Mary
I’m glad to hear that.
Elizabeth (Libby) Smith
Thank you Mary for your blog. I do appreciate what you said!
Elizabeth (Libby) Smith
I’m glad it helpd.