Before you publish your book, figure out what you want being a published author to mean to you. Then build your author platform with your post-published future in mind.
There’s a monthly writer’s club in my area called the Liar’s Club, probably because it was started by fiction writers. It is quite a large group featuring writers from all genres, many of whom are published, just like me. Some are self-published, others are traditionally published, and some have done both — because there are a lot of good reasons to self-publish.
Two important reasons self-publishing is valuable are 1) being an author of a book can help open doors; and 2) it allows you to create a platform for yourself, a springboard to launch your career, whether it be for writing assignments, being seen and sought as an expert on a topic, or a variety of other things.
Who do you want to be?
Being able to say you’re a published author is a big deal, but before you publish your book, you need to explore what you want being a “published author” to mean. What I mean is, if you are looking to launch a career — whether it’s writing or something else — by self-publishing a book, you have an opportunity to “create yourself” through your book’s content, your platform, and your bio.
If you are self-publishing, you’ll probably be doing all the marketing, which means you get to create your own image. This can start in the pre-launch phase of publishing your book. So the question is, “Who do you want to be?”
Your author bio gives you a platform and you get to decide what your extended author’s platform will be. By extended I mean that, aside from your book, what are you promoting about yourself? It could be beliefs about management or life, personal philosophies, business knowledge, or even the direction you want your career to go.
The book I wrote is a memoir about the practice of spiritual journaling and how it helped me during an uncertain transition from corporate America into a solo massage practice. As I was writing the book, I was also meditating with a sangha (Buddhist community) and being asked to lead the group in the founder’s absence. That gave me the confidence to search for and become an instructor of meditation with another organization. At the same time, I began teaching spiritual journaling.
As a result, I decided my platform would be that I am a teacher of holistic practices and meditation, including spiritual journaling and channeling creativity that comes from gratitude. “Teacher” is a broad enough term to include writing as well as speaking, so that’s also part of my platform.
Not sure what your platform would be? Ask yourself, “What is my area of expertise?” For example, if you write historical fiction and have expertise in wars of the twentieth century, maybe you want to make that proclamation. If you are an author of a cookbook and a registered dietitian with a knack for making quick, healthy meals and can help working moms who want to change their family’s eating habits, make that your platform.
Before my book launched, I was already teaching holistic practices that have helped me to lead a simpler life. Now I’m doing even more of it. It’s because I set it up that way. Currently, I teach classes to students who are in front of me, and soon I will offer an online course as independent study. This happened because I knew that to create these types of opportunities, I had to put myself “out there.”
In the world of self-publishing, this means I need to take advantage of promotions that get my book into reader’s hands. For me, this meant some post-launch spending that got me read and rated (repeatedly at five out of five stars), and even one request to be interviewed for a magazine. Because I knew what I wanted my platform to be, I was comfortable asking the interviewer how she got into freelance writing, which led to a recommendation to her senior editor. As a result, I now write articles, squarely in my wheelhouse, for an international magazine, specifically in the columns of “Body, Mind and Soul,” “A Writer’s Life,” and “Poetry.”
In terms of post-launch spending, I paid for a short subscription to NetGalley through Smith Publicity. I also purchased three reviews through Reader’s Write, so I could have language and a reviewer’s name to include on book cards, a marketing tool used by traditional publishing houses, which I co-designed through a local FastSigns agency.
All of this has augmented my author platform because I have professionally-created materials and reviews that showcase my work. This has led to my speaking at writer’s clubs, women’s groups, and even a book panel at the Pyramid Club in Philadelphia, sometimes receiving stipends and always getting to showcase my book.
My latest expenditure, supported by the monthly royalties I have received from my book sales, is paying for an advertisement in a magazine geared towards creatives. I’m so excited because I know I’ll reach the right people and that my book will be read (one of the greatest gifts to an author) and will help people.
What’s so terrific about this is that it’s putting me in contact with the people who enjoy spiritual self-help books. This is my genre. This is where I need to be! Helping people find their inner spirit wisdom where simplicity and creativity lives. But this is me — where you need to be is with your own people, on your own platform!
If not, you’ll be trying to push your book to followers on your personal social media accounts. That’s not where your readers are, unless you pick your friends by the books they read. You’ll still be sympathetic when you hear the published author on the panel at your local writer’s club say, “My dad doesn’t like my books.” But you’ll also rally with her as she explains she has a very targeted audience and a platform because she did leg the work. She focused on herself and what she was offering and her audience found her!
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