Part Two: How to Grow and Build Your Platform
Steps to growing your platform
Now that you know what you need to do to identify your platform, it's a matter of expanding it. But where to start?
The place to start is research. Remember all the homework I had you do around other authors in your genre? You're going to use that now to expand your platform as well. Here's how:
Follow the Leader
If you have identified others in your market, then you know the leaders you should align with. Success leaves clues; follow them. Track where other authors have been featured online and make those websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, or fan pages part of your promotion. If you do your research well, you will begin to unearth all sorts of great places to align with. In fact, you might want to head on over to Google Alerts and plug in the names of the authors you are following so you can see what kind of exposure they are getting and where. Not familiar with Google Alerts? It's a free service from Google that will let you monitor keywords and names online. Just type "Google Alerts" into your search bar and voila! It's free and great for research!
Next up is connecting with other authors in your market. It might seem counterintuitive to network with "the competition," but in reality there is no competition. Let's face it, if you read a lot of mystery or romantic suspense you probably don't read just one author, and you are also probably open to considering a few others, right? Readers who buy self-help fall into this same market. Think Lays potato chips: you can't eat just one.
Networking with authors in your market could really open up some doors. Just like in-person networking, getting to know your market could help you gain access to new promotional opportunities, speaking events, etc. Authors are a very generous breed; get to know the folks who have already been out there, and then be prepared to do the same for authors who may contact you.
Your Big Networking Event
Outside of the networking you will do with your fellow authors, you will also want to identify bloggers, reviewers, and other marketing connections online. Much like with the authors, you will want to network with them by following their blogs, commenting on posts, retweeting their information, etc.
Building Your Platform
Now that you have done all of this legwork, it's time to look at the platform you are building and what building blocks you need to get there.
Hopefully by now, you've identified various areas of focus, authors to follow and blogs/websites and other social media to follow. If you haven't, go back and make sure you complete this research. Without this piece your platform will never make sense.
Next you'll want to break down your platform building so that it's both manageable and easy to implement. Here are some tips for breaking this down:
- What? For your particular market, what makes a good platform? Is it a fan base, speaking, product? Write that down first; if it's a list then start a list.
- How? How will you attain this? Start formulating a list and ideally, try to break this down into as many pieces as you can. Meaning that you want to have a list of action items that you need to implement in order to grow your platform.
- Action: what action do you need to take to make this happen? Make a list of tasks: Perhaps it's blogging, getting a Twitter account, or networking with other blogs, forums, etc. Create your action list and make it as complete as possible.
- Divvy up the work: now you need to break the work down into manageable, actionable items. For example, if part of your platform is blogging, don't just write "Need to blog" on a list. Make sure that it's quantifiable -- otherwise you likely won't do it. How many times do you need to blog, etc?
The above work (and yes, at times it will feel like work), will really help you to gain direction. As you begin to pull together all of these pieces, a road map will start to emerge. You'll begin to see where and how you need to show up online. What this will do is keep you laser-focused on goals that will directly help you expand your reach online, as opposed to that endless to-do list that makes you drift from one area to another, never really gaining ground.
If you consider your marketing roll-out as your final exam, then the homework you do prior will really help you breeze through the test. What you'll find on the other side is a campaign that not only works, but might even make you feel like a rock star. Oh, and book sales? Yeah, I know I said ignore them, but as they said in Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come." Build your platform now, and readers will beat a path to your door.