Building an Author Platform--How to Blog the Right Way by Adam Fout
by Writing Workshops Staff
A year ago
Building an author platform is starting a business. It’s not like starting a business. It is starting a business.
I know bloggers who make $100 a day from ads alone. There are many who make much more than that. The same can be said for YouTubers and podcasters and content creators on Twitch and other sites.
Something they all have in common is a large audience that listens to them and takes them seriously.
This audience is willing to buy anything these people sell.
For authors, especially new authors, nothing matters more than making sales on that first book. That first book can make or break you. The more you sell, the better.
Of course there’s more to it than that. If you can’t write a second book, that’s a problem. If your book gets optioned for a movie or for TV, you might be in good shape even if the first book doesn’t sell well.
But even if you do break out and sell well, if you have an audience that’s dedicated to you and to whom you can market directly no matter what happens with your book, you have a way to make money even if you get dropped from your publisher, even if you have to start self-publishing.
Any good business has customers. You don’t need to wait for your first book to come out to get customers–-you can start searching for them right now.
A blog is an excellent way to start.
Blogging for Profit--Finding Readers You Can Sell Books to
I think blogging is the best choice for most writers because (gasp) they’re usually pretty good writers.
Now you may be the type of outgoing schmuck who loves making videos or blabbing away on podcasts, and that can definitely work too. You need to find the type of content you’re most comfortable creating.
I chose blogging because I’ve been ghostwriting blog posts for years, so it’s perfect, but I had to put my thinking cap on to figure out how I could blog about something that I was passionate about, that I knew well, and that could bring me the readers I need who would purchase my memoir if (god willing) it’s published.
The biggest mistake that most new writers make with blogging is that they blog about writing. That’s nice and all, but I promise you that the competition in this space is fierce. There are a lot of writers blogging about how to write.
They’re almost certainly better than you at it, and they’ve already captured a large chunk of the market.
But putting all that aside, it rarely makes sense for writers to blog about writing for a simple reason--writers aren’t exactly your audience.
Sure, writers are almost all readers (some weirdos aren’t), but they’re unlikely to buy your fiction or poetry or nonfiction unless you’re out there winning awards.
For me, this was an easy choice--I write nonfiction about my life as an addict before I got sober, so it’s logical for me to write about addiction and recovery because that audience is going to be interested in my story.
“Why are you writing this blog post then smart guy?” A just question my liege. I’m writing this because it’s a way for me to give back to the community, but it’s also a part of a blogging strategy (which I’ll get into in a moment, promise).
So your first job as a blogger is to figure out who your target audience is. For example, a romance writer might want to target stay-at-home moms (stereotype I know, but almost certainly true). A science fiction writer might want to target science aficionados of all ages. A mystery writer might want to target attorneys and law enforcement.
Sometimes clients of mine will say, “Well, I want to target everyone with money har har har.”
This is stupid.
You want to target people for whom whatever you write is going to be deeply attractive.
Which means you need to create content that they’re going to love.
Now let’s talk logistics.
Choose Your Website Builder / Blogging Platform
Thankfully, there are tons of website builders and blogging platforms out there for the intrepid blogger. Some just require you to make accounts, like Medium or WordPress, while some are full-fledged website builders (which I recommend for most authors) like Wix or Weebly.
The reason I recommend a website builder is that you need an author website anyway, and you want people coming to that author website when it’s time to promote your book and sell it, so you might as well create that at the same time you make your blog.
These things are simple to make--they’re made for technophobes, but truly, they’re easy peasy lemon squeezy to put together.
Just pick a template and go.
Side note: another reason these pre-made platforms are great is that you don’t have to worry about putting together all the technical hooey that’s required to get yourself found on the Googles--it’s all done for you.
How to Blog--The Right Content at the Right Frequency
If you want to do the blogging thing right, you need to do 6 things:
- Create content that is of interest to your audience
- Create it on a regular schedule and stick to that schedule no matter what
- Share that content across every social media platform possible
- Create content for other bloggers that will link back to your site (like I’m doing right now)
- Optimize your own blog posts for search (this is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and generally just involves keywords once your website is created and running smoothly)
- Create an email list
Let’s go through these one by one.
1. Create Content Your Audience Is Going to Be Interested in
Let’s use the science fiction writer as an example.
Let’s say they write hard sci-fi and do a lot of research to write it. Let’s say they have a background in engineering, so they know what they’re talking about.
What type of content would be of interest to a reader of hard sci-fi?
Science of course.
Now this is a generalization, but it’s something that makes total sense to blog about.
It could be as simple as sharing content about goings-on in the world of science. It could be breakdowns of technology or scientific innovations.
Look, I’m no scientist, so I can’t dive deep into this, but maybe you can, and that’s the point--you write about something you understand and are passionate about and that potential readers of your creative writing are going to be interested in reading.
Now you just have to be in it for the long haul.
2. Blog Regularly
One of the biggest hurdles to making it in blogging is the first 3 years. This is when the blog is going to struggle to get traffic, it’s going to take a ton of work, and it’s not going to show much of a reward for a long time.
Successful bloggers slog through this period and understand they need to commit a ton of time to this. Just like in writing creatively, the only way to fail is to give up.
To make it through those tough years, you need to blog on a schedule. I recommend you blog at least once a week.
I shoot for twice a week, and that works for me. I know a few people who blog multiple times a day, which seems crazy to me.
I know a lot of clients who can’t make it more than once a month. That’s not going to build you an audience. If you can’t blog at least once a week, you’re probably wasting your time and probably need to find another way to build a platform.
Once you’ve chosen your frequency, you need to get that content out into the world.
Enter social media.
3. Don’t Fear the Social
For some reason, social media seems to scare a lot of writers, but even if you hate it, you need to use it.
It’s a necessary evil.
The thing that makes social media rock you like a hurricane is that it’s a free method of getting your blog posts out there to readers, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s free marketing. At first, this might only include your family and friends, but that’s totally cool--hopefully they’re reading your stuff anyway!
I’ve set up a number of automations with tools like IFTTT that make my life easier by automatically posting my blog posts to social media.
Eventually you’ll be able to use these same social media platforms for powerful paid advertising, but for now, stick to the free stuff. No one is going to charge you to tweet or post on a Facebook page.
If you want to do social right, you need to be interacting with other people too. You need to be sharing their stuff and commenting on it.
You need to be social, basically.
4.Getting Links Back to Your Site
Links from other websites to your website are a crucial part of helping you show up on the Googles.
Why do we want to show up on Google? Because then our blog will get more traffic.
More traffic means more potential readers.
More potential readers means more potential buyers.
One way to get links back to your site is to guest post on other people’s blogs.
The process is pretty straightforward. You send them an email or a message on social and ask if they’re interested in guest blogging. You then write them a blog post for free and have some links in there back to your website.
Google doesn’t exactly like this strategy, but I say they can shove it because there’s another huge benefit to this--you get access to the other blogger’s audience.
If you’re the sci-fi guy and you send a guest blog post to someone who blogs about manufacturing, then the readers over there are going to see your name and come over to check out what you’ve got going on (hopefully).
And that audience of yours has grown.
5.Optimize Your Blog Posts for Search
This one is a little tricky. One of the biggest components of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) involves what you do on the page. For the most part, this means:
- You’re writing a post that’s long enough (about 1,000 words or more)
- You’re linking to relevant sources and to other posts or pages you’ve written
- You’re including target keywords in your content.
Google will tell you number 3 doesn’t matter that much, but I’m 99% sure this isn’t true. People are still typing keywords into Google, man. This isn’t going away.
The basic idea is that you’re making sure your blog post is talking about something that people are searching for. You might use tools like Keyword.io, but there are better tools that cost money.
I’m a big fan of KWfinder if you’ve got cold hard cash lying around, but thankfully there’s an effective and free way to do this (yay!).
Try typing phrases into Google. See what the suggestions are. See what pops up.
For instance, since I’m an addiction blogger, I might type in “Is cocaine” and see what Google suggests. If I find “Is cocaine addictive,” then BOOM, I’ve got a topic to write about.
Then I just have to make sure I’m answering that question with my blog post. So I’d write, “Cocaine is addictive--but not in the way you’d expect.” This answers the question while also being an attempt to make the headline intriguing.
Sometimes keywords are silly or impossible to write about, like “heroin farm Afghanistan,” but creative writers can get creative, right? Maybe I write, “Three crazy heroin farms in Afghanistan.” Even though it’s not quite the same, it’s close enough for Google to figure out what you’re trying to do.
6.Create an Email List
This is super critical folks. An email list of, say, 1,000 people, is going to give you 1,000 people you can market your book to.
If you can tell your publisher that you sold 500 books to your email list, they’re going to be happy with you as a clam. And if they give you the boot, well then you have an independent source of income if you write and sell another book.
That’s a list of customers.
That’s a business folks.
Now it’s time to get started.
Action speakers louder friends. If you’ve got a book that’s coming out soon, you need to create your author platform yesterday.
If you have any questions about this stuff, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or just leave me a comment. I love talking to my readers!
Good luck out there writers.
Adam Fout is an addiction / recovery / mental health blogger and a speculative fiction / nonfiction writer in North Texas. His work appears or is forthcoming in december, J Journal, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Pulp Literature, and DreamForge.