A couple months ago, I wrote about building your platform with intention and joy. If you’d like a refresher, read the post here.
Today I want to think outside the typical platform box and offer you some creative (possibly even fun!) ways to build your author platform.
Recently I heard from a publisher who took note of an author’s platform (in a complimentary way), but pointed out low engagement. Did you know publishers not only look at overall platform numbers, but engagement numbers as well? Below are some ideas to not only build your platform in nontraditional ways, but also ways to foster engagement.
21 Surprising Platform Ideas
- Poll your audience to help you niche-i-fy your brand. Use Survey Monkey for free (up to 100 responses) to ask your people questions like, “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of me?” or “What do I help you do?” Or “What makes me unique as an author?” This kind of intel is so important in doing the underground work for your audience. It helps define you (who better to define you than your actual audience) as well as your unique skill set and your typical reader. You absolutely have to know this before you do any platform work.
- Use Facebook ads to grow your email list from nothing to several thousand. Listen here how Jason Porterfield did just that.
- Write an amazing ebook that laser-targets your ideal follower and sell it on Amazon. In the back matter, create an opt in page for your newsletter. This way you’ll make a little money from the ebook, and have a free way to advertise your email list. Be sure you have a second giveaway as an incentive to sign up for your newsletter.
- Do Instagram Lives with another Instagram influencer to double your audience (at least for that period of time). Be sure to offer a chat that touches a direct felt need of your audience.
- Start a podcast. It’s not as difficult as you might think. Here’s a post about how to get started.
- Partner with a large group of authors to do an epic book giveaway. Several Books and Such authors did this recently and added a large amount of folks to their email lists. This emphasizes the power of community when building your platform. It’s so much more fun to do it together.
- In light of that, offer to do a newsletter swap with an author who has a similar platform. Offer to write an article that will bless his or her readers, and solicit a similar piece for your audience. Be sure to give something away to that audience (to build your list and bless them!)
- Do a 31-day personal challenge on a social media platform that needs your attention. For instance, if you’re lagging on Twitter, challenge yourself to post every day for a month.
- In Instagram, respond to one of your DMs with your voice. This really builds connection. There’s a little microphone where you type, simply click it and record. I often pray for struggling people this way. It may not build numbers, but it certainly builds trust and engagement.
- Write for other well-trafficked online sites. For those of you who are social media averse, this is a solid strategy for growing your audience, provided you have an email magnet in your bio.
- Teach a writer’s workshop at your local library or close-to-you bookstore. Use textiful or a QR code on your presentation to garner new newsletter sign ups.
- Create a quiz around your novel (which character are you?) or nonfiction book. Here’s some free quiz software (and be sure to use this to build your email list!)
- Research and create a hashtag for your current book. Use it liberally on all your platforms. Here’s an extensive hashtag guide.
- Do a “Day in the Life of” You post every hour (typically on Instagram) and invite all your other author friends to join in. There is power in numbers. #dayinthelifeofanauthor
- Hold a writing, song, or art contest related to the theme of your book. Ask a few writer friends to judge entries, and award prizes. Here’s a post on creating a professional contest.
- Create a helpful infographic related to your book. Canva has some great templates here. Share it widely. Or use it as a freebie for newsletter subscribers.
- Write a thank you card every day for a month–to a reader, publishing professionals, friends who endorsed your book, etc. It’s a slow, quiet tactic, but it fosters gratitude and connection. Yes, physically write it, then send it via snail mail.
- Take one day a month as a learning day. Take a free course on platform building, or listen to a podcast like this one or this one or this one. All these opportunities are free and widely available!
- Consider crowdfunding your book. You’ll have a built in audience when you launch it! Here are 7 questions to ask yourself before you start crowdfunding. Here’s a post about what I learned when I successfully crowdfunded my book Not Marked.
- Host a series on your blog around a topic that interests your readers. Solicit guest posts for the blog series, then ask contributors to cross promote.
- Take a couple hours to be generous and give back. Help a friend who is building a platform by offering to shout them out on your biggest platform (or don’t tell them; just surprise them!) Spend time on Twitter, FB, or Instagram praising others and pointing out what you love about their content and ministry. Quietly bless those you admire with surprising words on social media platforms. This generosity helps you reframe your platform building from trial to privilege.
I hope this encourages you as you build your platform. Remember, each author is unique, so each platform will be different–gloriously so. I give you permission to do what fits you and best blesses your audience.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Such great ideas, Mary! Right now we are smack in the middle of our first summer camp and so I’m focusing on keeping camper parents in the loop with photos of their kiddos doing camp activities and worshiping outside, but I do need to keep up with my own page. Too few hours in the day! I’m so much better at doing this for the camp than for myself. Once I have a moment to breathe, I need to sit down and figure out why that is so and what strategies I can take from my work on the camp’s pages to use on my own. Although, it well could be that camper parents are simply a ready-made engaged audience since they are missing their kids and just want a glimpse of them fighting with foam swords or leaping into the frog pond. Hmmm … things to think about. Thanks for all the links! I’ll definitely investigate more later.
I think you’re on to something. Perhaps it’s recognizing that your tribe (who loves to hear from you) is just as important as parents longing to see their kids…
Kristen Joy Wilks
Oh, and thank you, Mary. This answers so many of the questions I had at the online writer’s conference I “saw” you at this spring. Having something concrete with links really really helps!
I’m grateful. Sometimes we just need some information to make that start on platform building. 🙂
Great ideas, Mary…and hard to read, because it’s all beyond me now. And, in truth, I’m beyond ‘it’; my paradigm has been folded, spindled, and mutilated (especially in, like, the last WEEK), and all I can relate to is this despairing fight against a truly pitiless foe.
No-one really wants to read a 31-Day Challenge of “how do I get up the three steps to the front door tomorrow”, but that’s where cancer’s put me, so the best I can do, the only thing I can do, is to add a #22 to your list…
Write when it’s dark, and have faith that someday, someone will come with a light, and read your words, and they’ll mean something.
So many things I might have done
if I but had the wit,
and with the race now mostly run,
the less and less I fit
into the place I sought to make,
a writer’s bright abode
with gifts for readers to partake,
but I have lost the code
that led unto shared joyous heart,
a memory sublime;
now, bereft, I stand apart
and think perhaps it’s time
to do the thing that’s left to do,
write honest witness, just for you.
I so appreciate these words:
“Write when it’s dark, and have faith that someday, someone will come with a light, and read your words, and they’ll mean something.”
Mary, thank you. Today, that means more than you may know, and far more than I can say.
🙏 Andrew praying for you. I’m always blessed with your words and admire your dedication here.
Thank you, Mary! I love how you always share such practical, hands-on suggestions with us.
I posted Scripture memes on my platforms every day during Lent and saw some growth (mostly on Twitter and IG). Time for a fresh 31-day challenge to myself.
A poll could also be really interesting. I need to noodle on some questions.
Grateful the suggestions were actionable, Leigh! Love what you did during Lent!
This makes me nervous, but I’m going to commit to #8 for the month of July and do tweets for 31 days! I see a lot of fun things on your list to try, so I’ll print it out to refer to throughout the rest of the year. Thanks for the nudge!
Mary E. DeMuth
I think that’s an admirable and doable goal!
Thank you, Mary!
Several years ago, at the recommendation of an executive editor at a major publisher, I sent a query to an agent. (The editor could not take my book because I wasn’t credentialed in the area I was writing about, but encouraged me to “get it in the right hands.” She even recommended a few agents.) I had two agents say no, but the third agent told me no but with a side note, “You simply do not know enough people. It is the sad state in Christian publishing, especially for non-fiction, that is is more about how many you know than content.” He suggested building to 15,000 followers.
I literally had not idea how to do it, and was beginning to struggle with some health challenges. Sadly, I never really worked at it. Only recently have I started writing consistently again and thinking about trying to publish.
Your blog hit on the main area that I need to help with. I am grateful for these ideas. Perfect timing. I will start with finishing a website update (super dated and scattered at the moment) and then will do #1, and work on #3.
Mary E. DeMuth
I’m so glad this gave you a forward-moving framework!
Love all these ideas!
Mary E. DeMuth
I’m glad this was helpful, Daphne!
Great ideas, Mary! I’ll write a thank you card every day of the month. I’m currently working on a similar challenge for my FB group. And as my book progresses, I look forward to trying more of your suggestions.
I love that, Cathy! Blessings as you finish your book.
Patricia Tiffany Morris
This is a fantastic list. I am working on #18 but for about a week. Learning about Amazon and keywords and categories from another writer/author, Vincent B Davis II – I appreciate the many ideas in this post, and have #3 on deck for a e-book on coloring and lettering Scripture without worry about straight lines. And because I started a blog series but got distracted, I’ll work on finishing 3 posts and schedule them so I am accountable and I actually post the rest of the series! Thanks again.
Mary E. DeMuth
Glad the list was helpful!