Working in acquisitions at a fiction publisher, I frequently was told things like "I have the url for my website ready to go" or "I made a Facebook page under my pen name that I can start posting on as soon as the book comes out." As brand new authors, these people thought they were telling me "I am willing to do the work to marketing my book" but as a publisher, what I actually heard was, "I have no idea how to create or interact with my platform."
Having an author platform is very important. Readers don't follow publishers. They don't walk into Barnes and Noble and rush to the fantasy aisle to see what new titles HarperCollins has released this season. They follow authors. Authors are the ones they want to see at signings. Authors are the ones they want to know more about. Authors are the ones they are invested in.
So, as the author, how do you take advantage of this before your book comes out?
Don't wait. Get started building your platform right away.
Waiting until you have a book release isn't going to give you something to talk about. A book release might involve an initial announcement, a cover, a teaser, and a link. Without a little creativity, you end up with a handful of posts per book. A post every six months is not going to do anything to build a loyal online following.
Many people with massive followings on social media have never written a book and have no plans to ever write a book. So what do they post about? Their interests, their thoughts, the events of their lives, reviews of things other people are doing, and many other topics fill the vast halls of the social media world. There are plenty of things to talk about besides your own book.
That being said, you do want to be building an audience for your book, not starting an unrelated YouTube channel. If the Piano Guys wrote a book, I probably wouldn't buy it. I love their musical compositions, but that doesn't translate into writing skills. On the other hand, I know several people who own Piano Guys sheet music and are thrilled by it. It's not 100% of their followers, but they have a large enough audience that even a percentage can be a lot of sales.
Instead of trying to build up fame through an unrelated method and then hoping some of those people want to check out your book, you want to build a platform that is based around your book.
Know Your Intended Audience
So who is your intended customer? This can start out with your genre and age range. If you wrote a book for children 13 or younger, you might be advertising to parents and grandparents, rather than the children themselves. Teens and adults tend to pick out their own books more often, and will be the target of your marketing directly.
Identify Your Points of Interest
What about your book will interest your audience? Is it set in Ireland? Is it about a dog? Does it feature space travel? Does the main character suffer from cancer? Whatever your premise is, that will need to be a huge part of your platform. You want to reach people with interest in those topics.
There are a lot of ways to do that. For example, to gather an audience of dog lovers you might write blog posts about your own dog. You might share pictures of you and your dog. You might review movies about dogs. You might post about other people's books about dogs. You might follow people who make their own dog toys. You might post links to the latest research on dogs. You might review your favorite dog toys. You might share recipes for DIY fancy dog treats. Whatever you choose to post, you'll want to aim to interest your book's audience.
Build a Personal Connection
Then you have to take it one step further. Not all people who love dogs buy books. But those that do have a lot of options. You are not the first author who wrote a book about a dog. So once you have followers, the next step is to get them to like/trust you. If your book is fiction, you want them to emotionally connect with you. If they find you enjoyable to read/watch/listen to, they will expect the same from your book. If they find you trustworthy and knowledgeable, they will be more interested in your non-fiction.
You don't have to be a Kardashian to connect with people on social media. Your personal business is your business. No one needs to know about your latest boyfriend or which dress you wore last night. These people aren't your best friend, entitled to a recap of all of life's major events. But they are your followers. So let them follow along with your hobbies and your professional adventures. Maybe you got your first Dalmatian. Maybe your puppy was housebroken. Maybe you found a new favorite dog park. Maybe you finished your first draft. Maybe you just got feedback from your writing group. Maybe your book was inspired by your grandmother and her pet pug. As your book progresses, you want to keep your followers up-to-date on the major events: when you sign a publishing deal, when you finish an edit, when you have cover art, when the book goes live on Amazon, when you hold a copy of your book in your hand for the first time, when the book releases. By treating the publication of your book like an adventure that they are on too, you will come across as friendly rather than pushy and they will be eager for updates.
After your book comes out, you can still keep readers in the loop. Tell them when you get your first review. Tell them about your first book signing, and your second, and your third. Tell them about getting your first pay check. Tell them about brainstorming ideas for a sequel. Tell them about the sale running on your book in honor of National Man's Best Friend Day.
Treat your Followers as People, Not Pocketbooks
During the publishing process, you can't stop posting the things you were posting before. You still need to write those blog posts or reviews, you still need to share pictures, you still need to provide them with research or links to fancy dog treats. Just as you want to keep your promises to your readers inside your book, you also want to keep your promises to your followers and continue to post the content that they followed you for.
The best marketers I know don't view their social media channels as a way to sell their book. They view them as a way to connect to readers. They encourage readers to leave comments, attend events, send them messages, invite them to visit their schools, and feel like they are part of the author's publishing process. If you can genuinely connect with people on social media, particularly the people who might someday be interested in your book, you will start out with an awesome author platform.
Happy platform building!
Need more help? Check out my marketing tips and tricks Pinterest board for advice from book marketing professionals and prompts for blog or social media posts: https://pin.it/1OcndFv