Author Platform Cheat Sheet

Want to start building your author platform, but not sure how? Check out these quick and easy tips below for getting your online presence up and running!

Website

  • I like to recommend WordPress for website building since it does a lot of the heavy lifting for you, but there are lots of other great ones, so be sure to do your research based on your needs.
    • As far as a theme or design goes, choose colors that will complement your book cover, as well as typefaces that are easy to read. Most sites offer the ability to view your design as it would look on a computer, tablet, or mobile device. Be sure to check all three for compatibility.
  • Your domain name should be firstnamelastname.com or firstnamelastnameauthor.com, something that folks can easily find when looking you up. 
  • Be sure to check on your website at least once a week to make sure all data is correct and up to date.
  • You should have social widgets at the top of the page, and the bottom or sidebar too if possible. Also make sure you have a widget for email subscriptions if you are collecting emails for a newsletter.
  • Once your site has been created, make sure you have some version of the following pages available on your menu bar or drop down:
    • Home
      • The home page should feature a nice photo of you and/or your book and a brief introductory statement. I often recommend adding a Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram feed to the home page or to your sidebar. 
    • About the Author
      • Here you can include an author photo and your author bio, which can be the same or different from the bio provided in the book. (Sometimes it’s fun to add more detail!)
    • Books
      • List the description of your book(s) on this page, alongside the book cover.
      • When the book is available for preorder or sale, post links to various retailer sites so you can direct readers to where they can buy the book.
    • Contact
      • You can include a form email or an author email address here, list your social media links, or direct readers to your agent/publicist, depending on your comfort level.
    • When you begin lining up events or get some coverage in the media, you can add a “News and Events” page where you can list events, link to articles, and post photos.

Social Media

  • Choose at least two platforms to keep updated daily or as often as possible. 
  • If you’re not a natural social media user, create a post schedule for your accounts. Hootsuite is a favorite for this, or you can just keep a list and manually add posts.
  • Use a recognizable author/book photo for your bio and cover photo on all sites.
  • Be sure to list your book and website in your social media bios.
  • Make sure you have a Goodreads account and that you have claimed your book if it has already been uploaded. Turn your account into an author account—read about the Author Program here: https://www.goodreads.com/help#join_authorprogram

General Tips

  • Join author groups and stay active with them on social media. This can be an author group (such as a debut group), or something like RWA or SCBWI.
  • Follow your local bookstores and libraries on all social media and interact with them regularly. They can be some of your most wonderful advocates!
  • Engage with followers and those you follow by liking, retweeting, and commenting.
  • Depending on the site, consider using hashtags and mentioning others in your posts when appropriate. This will get you more exposure and allow you to connect with folks more easily.
  • Note that you can include plugs for your book whenever possible, but be sure that you are also providing new content and supporting followers so your accounts are not just advertising spaces.

For more author platform tips, check out the links below:

Platform for Fiction Writers

Beyond the Manuscript: What ELSE an Editor Looks for in a Submission

Rocking NaNoWriMo: 7 Tips for Reaching 50,000 Words

We’re almost halfway through National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, which encourages writers to participate in a 30-day challenge. The goal? Write 50,000 words in the month of November. Tens of thousands of people have participated since the program’s creation, and many of them have gone on to complete manuscripts, make great writing friends, or eventually sell books. Amazing!

50,000 words in 30 days can sound daunting (especially if you’re planning to spend a whole weekend in a Thanksgiving-dinner-induced food coma). But here are seven ways to make the most out of NaNoWriMo and to help you reach your goal. Continue reading

The Right Writer: A Quiz

With the recent press about the forthcoming novel American Heart, I’ve heard a lot of people asking, “Am I the right person to write XYZ type of story?”

First of all—this is not a stupid question! (And because I don’t subscribe to the belief that there are no stupid questions, you know I mean that.) “Am I the right person?” is predominantly asked by writers seeking to create books that feature diverse characters and stories. Hooray! Please do create narratives that are diverse and inclusive, because we can all agree that having more diversity in the book market is a very good thing. An even better thing is when those stories are written by own voices authors who share the experiences or backgrounds of their characters.

Now, few authors create characters exactly like themselves…that’s usually called a memoir. Writing outside our own lives and tapping into the collective human experience is a hallmark of storytelling, and there’s nothing wrong with creating characters who are different from you. In fact, we should always be exploring other points of view—if we didn’t, reading would be really boring! But are you writing a book that would be better (i.e. truer, richer, more compelling) coming from an expert voice? Because there’s a big difference between sharing a story and sharing someone else’s story. Continue reading

“What Kind of Book Should I Write?” An Editor’s Plea to Ignore Trends

When I meet with aspiring authors, I’m often asked, “What kind of book should I write?” Everyone wants to know what the next big trend will be and if they should start writing in that niche. My answer? Ignore trends. Don’t ask someone else what kind of book you should write—write the book that speaks to you. Don’t follow the crowd—stand out from it.

Here’s the thing about publishing: it moves slowly. This may not be news to you if you’re a George R. R. Martin fan (though let’s be real, that one’s all on George), but some folks are surprised when they learn a book can take a year—or two or three—to get published. Factor in the time it takes to write a manuscript and query it, and you can be looking at anywhere from two to five years. Sometimes even more.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the publishing process here, though I will note that those years are well spent developing a manuscript, creating a cover, building a marketing strategy, and launching a book into a competitive market. The real point of this post is that writers should ignore trends no mater how enduring those trends seem to be. Continue reading

Platform for Fiction Writers

Ah, the dreaded p-word. “Platform” is an all-encompassing term that can include blogs, websites, social media, speaking events, TV/radio appearances, celebrity fame, and other outlets that help an author connect to readers, writers, and other gatekeepers in the literary industry. Jane Friedman describes it best: “an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.”

At one time, nonfiction authors were the ones who had to worry about platform—they had to prove there was an audience who wanted to read about their particular memoir, advice, or topic. But now, most fiction writers are expected to have a platform too. The content of a story always comes first, but many publishers want to see an author’s connections in the early stages of the game. So let’s take a look at frequently asked questions about all things platform for fiction writers. Continue reading

Writing Conference Pitches: Dos and Don’ts

Many writing conferences offer aspiring writers the opportunity to pitch agents and editors. These meetings can be a chance to get representation or even a book deal, and as a result can seem totally intimidating. But don’t get overwhelmed—follow these dos and don’ts to make the most of your face time with a publishing pro!

Do…research the person across the table. Spend time before the meeting checking out the agent or editor on their website and on social media so you know exactly what kind of project they’re looking for. Choosing the right person is the first step to finding a home for your book. Continue reading

Seven Things to Do Before Querying Your Novel

Finished your book? Starting to query agents and editors? Wondering how you can stand out from the slush pile? Check off these seven steps before sending off your manuscript, and you’ll be well ahead of the game.

1. Edit. A book that has not been edited by a third party is not your best book, and working with a critique partner or hiring a professional editor is always a smart move for your manuscript. You can connect with thousands of other writers online or in your local community and even find folks in your genre who are willing to read your work and provide notes. A second set of eyes can provide invaluable feedback and catch those pesky typos that you’ve overlooked. Continue reading

10 Things to Do When You Have Writer’s Block

It happens to all of us, that agonizing moment when you sit down to write and…nothing happens. You try all the tricks you can think of to break the cycle, but the words just aren’t coming.

Instead of banging your head against the wall, try the 10 activities below. Some get your creative juices flowing, some engage your research skills, some are just plain fun, and all them allow you to keep moving forward with your manuscript without actually writing the text. And who knows, maybe you’ll be back at your keyboard before you reach #10.

1. Go back and edit what you’ve written. Stuck on a chapter? Go to the beginning of your book and start editing. By the time you reach the sticky chapter, you will have gotten reacquainted with your book and will be full of news ideas to improve. Continue reading

Writing with a Coauthor: 6 Smart Strategies

Thinking of cowriting a novel? A lot of folks have done it. Some recent YA examples include Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan, Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and my personal favorite, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Cowriting can be a blessing…and a curse. On the pro side, you only need to write half a book and you have a built-in brainstorming buddy. On the con side, think of how agonizing it is to write your own first draft, and then imagine having to share that with another human being who is writing an equally agonizing first draft. Or consider having to make compromises when you really, really don’t want to. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Avoid disaster with the six strategies below that will help you make cowriting work. Continue reading

How to Write a Fiction Book Proposal

A book proposal is a document most commonly associated with pitching a nonfiction book. It includes information on the content, the author, the market, and the salability of the project. But when it comes to fiction, few agents or editors expect or require book proposals. I certainly don’t, though I have to admit that I am always happy to receive one. A book proposal helps me learn more about an author than a two-sentence bio. It gives me insight into marketing opportunities. And it provides a snapshot of the project that saves me hours of work when I’m preparing to evaluate a project.

Whether or not you need a book proposal, I recommend going through the exercise. Putting together a proposal will help you hone your pitch and get a feel for being the “brand manager” of your book. A proposal makes you think like an editor, a marketer, and a salesperson all at once.

Ready to give it a try? Here are some elements I love to see in a fiction book proposal (and if you’re writing nonfiction, most of these still apply!): Continue reading