How to Build an Author Platform Without a Book

Marketing, Tips

By Jori Hanna

It’s no secret that your author career benefits from having an active online presence. It’s also well known that there’s no fast way to build a platform that will last long into your career and bring the results you’re hoping for time and time again.

Posting about your book around publication is fairly straightforward, but what should you post in the off season? Maybe you’re waiting for the right links to share or your book is on submission and it will be a while before you’ll have a product to share. It’s also possible your last book released six months ago and your next one comes out in another six months but there’s nothing to say about it yet. What do you post about then?

Whether your accounts are new or old, whether you’re actively in a launch season or in an off season, your virtual spaces should never be stagnant. You should always have an active social media presence, your newsletter should be drawing in new subscribers, and your blog (if you have one—check out this post to see if a blog is the right fit for you) should have new posts every month at minimum.

So whether you’re bored with your current content or looking for guidance on where to begin in general, these tips will help you keep your platform active and engaging in the midst of your off-seasons—no matter how long those seasons are.

Stay focused on your goal.

You wrote a book for a reason. Maybe you were aiming to entertain, educate, or inspire. Maybe you were just looking for an expansion of your current business practices. Whatever the reason was, keep it in the center of your mind. That passion will keep you going through your off seasons when nothing seems to be happening.

If you began your writing career with the intention of helping teach parents about child development and you have a thriving blog, you can convert those blog posts into social media posts really easily. If you’re a teacher wanting to provide quality reading material for the students you love, let that passion drive you. Your audience will be split between parents and students, but you could cover everything from “how to choose quality content” to “how to nurture a love of reading in your teenager.”

Identify your target audience.

Every book has an ideal audience, and every audience has peripheral interests. We promise your audience exists somewhere online.

To find your perfect audience, ask yourself: What else does my audience like? What topics, themes, or objects are likely to draw my audience in? What’s going on in pop culture in this area?

Let’s say you wrote a mystery novel, and your main audience is People who Read Mysteries.

That’s a little broad, so let’s narrow it down. Your audience is likely to enjoy true crime podcasts, crime shows, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, bones and skeletons, and Clue. They may also enjoy puzzles, memes of their favorite detectives, scavenger hunts, and escape rooms.

Narrow it down even more. What are those audiences likely to enjoy? Get really specific here. Which podcasts will they listen to? What social media channels will they follow? Which crime shows do they like? Exactly what mystery authors are they reading?

If you’ve gotten stuck, it’s okay. Go back through each piece individually, including the main category. It’s highly likely that the readers you’re trying to draw in will be interested in books in general. There’s a lot you can do with that on its own.

If you spend any time talking with a bookworm, you’ll probably find they like quotes about books, book marks, sniffing books, drinking tea (or coffee), tracking the books they read, organizing their bookshelf, talking about their favorite characters with each other, etc.

If you post about anything we just listed, you’ll be in your target audience’s vein of interest.

Identify where you fit in your target audience.

Most people have heard the advice from Toni Morrison that, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” If you followed that advice, you are part of your target audience in some way. So, of the things you listed, where do you fit naturally?

Do you like organizing your bookshelf? Do you like watching crime shows? Do you enjoy solving puzzles in escape rooms because it makes you feel like a spy?

Pay special attention to where your hobbies and interests intersect with your target audience. These are the areas that will be easiest to post about when you don’t have news, because you’re probably already keeping up with all of these things in your off time. Creating content about any of these things will draw in people who are similar to you, and by extention, people who are likely to enjoy your writing.

Share your excitement for events in your life.

If you have a book published, have you done any exciting publicity for it recently? Been on a podcast, hosted a giveaway, spoken at a book club? If the answer is no, that may be your first thing to fix. Even if the book has been out for a while you’ll be able to find people willing to host you if you pitch yourself as a point of interest beyond your book. You are so much more than the book you created, and sharing the things that make you so wonderfully you is what will make you interesting to host at an event, in an interview, or to feature in a news story. This also means that how timely your book is has no impact on whether or not someone should want to host you, because the focus will be on who you are, and not on the book you wrote.

This is good news as well to the writers who aren’t yet published. You can get on podcasts and be featured on blogs long before you have a book to promote. Start that publicity now and send people to your website, your social media, or your email list so you can collect them. Then you can tell them about your book when you have one.

Whatever you have going on in your life—be it a birthday celebration, a fun vacation, the latest book you read that you loved, finishing a first draft of your manuscript, or landing a publishing deal—there should be something you can post about. And if you can’t find something in the last week that fits the bill, this is your sign to go out and make a story to tell. Visit a coffee shop, take a photo, and then reflect on what that experience was like for you. Don’t review the coffee shop you went to, but do talk about the human experience you took part in. Did it mean a lot to you that the barista asked your name? How can you apply that to the rest of the world? Maybe there’s a small lesson you’ll take from that going forward—to remember to ask people their name because it helped you feel seen at the end of a long week.

It doesn’t have to be much, but something as simple as getting your morning coffee can become content for your social media channel as long as you make it introspective. Share your thoughts in a positive way and you’ll be surprised how willing people are to engage with you.

When you do eventually have a book to talk about, it will fall into this category. The release is an event happening in your life that you’re excited about. You’re always allowed to post about that. So don’t feel bad about your self promotion if you do it in this way. Your followers should be able to hear your excitement more than the reality that you want them to buy your book.

Try a new post format.

With the rise of TikTok came an influx of short form video platforms. If you haven’t tried YouTube Shorts, Instagram or Facebook Reels, or TikTok itself, maybe it’s time you try them out. Even if you’re not so sure about creating video content yet, that’s okay. The platforms you’re using probably have more features than you’ve tried yet. Try one of those other features. Make your first Instagram Story. Share a photo if you’ve only shared text posts. Add hashtags if you’ve never experimented with them. Try out a trending sound instead of just talking to the camera. Talk to the camera instead of making a video meme. One of the main reasons we get stuck in our online content creation is that we haven’t fully explored our options. This is also sometimes why we don’t enjoy our time online—by not exploring, we haven’t found the spaces that have been designed with us in mind. So try something new. If you don’t like it, you can always delete it later.

Talk about the books you’re reading.

You either are an author or you want to be an author if you’re reading this blog post. We’re going to guess you’re reading books, and in particular, books in the genre you write. (If you’re not, you should get on that. If you want to know what readers are expecting, the best way to find out is to read what the readers are reading. Keep up with the trends in your genre and keep up with current publishing standards. This both gives you something to post about and it may give you insight into why your book isn’t landing with the audience you thought it was perfect for. Your manuscript may be getting rejected because you’re writing in an outdated voice that publishers don’t think will sell, or you may have thought you wrote a mystery when you really wrote a thriller. For a few other ways to increase your odds, check out this blog post about how to get out of the slush pile.)

Imagine you’ve walked into a room full of strangers. One person walks right up to you holding a book in their hand. They say, “I think you should read this book.” You look at the book, see first that it’s their own book, and second it’s a genre you don’t really like. Even more, they don’t know your reading preferences. Why should you trust their opinion? Across the room you hear someone mention the author of the book you just finished that you absolutely adored.

Are you going to stick around and talk to the stranger who already asked for your money, or are you going to walk over to join the group of people talking about your latest favorite book?

Social media is that room full of strangers. If all you do is talk about your book, you’ll risk coming off as the first person. But if you’re talking about the other books you’re reading, the books that have influenced you, you’ll be able to be the second person. By contributing to conversation with other readers of the same media, you’ll have the opportunity to say, “You know, I loved that trope so much I put it in my own book.” Those readers trust you now, you genuinely know what they want, and they’ll probably love your book and talk about it just as fervently as they spoke about the book that introduced you to each other.

Your goal with your platform should be to create an online community around you, drawing in the people who enjoy the same things you do and therefore are likely to enjoy the book you created. When you do this genuinely, your audience will stick around and stay engaged even if you don’t have a new book to tell them about.

We Want to Hear from You

If you have a book ready to be published, we’d love to take a look at your book and see how we may be able to work with you to bring your book to the world. Review our publishing options, and if you think we’d be a good fit for each other, we’d love to review your manuscript.

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