Thursday, November 9, 2017

How Beginning Writers Can Build a Platform P.2: Finding Your Readers

In the first post of this blog series, we discussed why it’s important for today’s aspiring author to build a platform. To summarize: Most agents and publishers search for writers who already have an established readership. Why? Because this readership often translates into book sales. If you establish a platform before you begin pitching to agents/publishers, then you’re more likely to be given more consideration. 

So how can writers find their target reader? 

Sure, there are services you can purchase and instantly receive 1000s of new followers. However, this isn’t considered an authentic platform. Why? Because the followers you gain online should consist of the target readership of the books you write. 

For example: I write young adult fiction. So, I try to stay present and engaged with teen readers on Instagram. Is Instagram my favorite social media platform? Definitely not. I much prefer Twitter. However, teen readers are mostly found on Instagram; therefore, I need to produce content that they can find and enjoy. 

The content you post should… 

1. be easily found by your target readership. 

This is possible through utilizing hashtags and engaging with accounts/posts similar to yours.

2. pique their interest. 

What are some of the core interests of today’s average teen girl? Once we answer that question, we can then make it even more narrow and ask, what does today’s 15-year-old book-loving teen girl enjoy doing in her spare time? Perhaps she likes to shop for new books at the bookstore, hang out with her friends at Starbucks, and post #Bookstagram pictures.

3. consist of your passions as well. 

Where does the interests of your readers and your own passions intersect? Thankfully, I’ve always been a coffee-lover. This is a passion that I have in common with Starbucks-loving teens and many book lovers today.

4. reflect your brand. 

How do you want to be known in the industry? What kind of books do you write? How is this reflected through your choice of color scheme, Instagram filters, and fonts? Your brand should remain authentic and true to who you are. This brand is the reputation you will have amongst your readers. (More on branding in the next post.)

5. remain consistent. 

If you want to target your specific readership—and stay true to your brand—then it’s important that your followers know what kind of content they can expect from you. Each post should have a purpose and needs to be geared to your specific target audience.

For example, let’s say your followers on Instagram follow you because of the artistic photos you post of your bookshelves. Don’t you think they’d be confused if you randomly posted a picture of Trump and expressed your political views in the caption?

You also want to remain consistent in how often you post. When can your followers expect new content? Once a week? Once a day? This is how you can build a steady stream of followers that eventually snowballs. 

If you’re new to platform-building, where can you start? 

Do your research. Find out where your readers are found. (Pinterest? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?) Then, set up an account in 1 – 3 social media platforms. (Hint: You may want to start out on one social media platform to begin with.)

Study other authors in your genre, and take note of how they attract their readership. What kind of content do they post, and how often? What hashtags do they use with their posts? Do they invite readers into conversation by including open-ended questions in the caption? 

Then, make a plan. After evaluating your notes, decide on the following… 

Once your plan is in place, take action! Post content and engage with others. Follow other social media accounts that are similar to yours. Interact (like and comment) on their posts. Find posts in the hashtags you use and like those posts and follow the accounts that posted it. 

No, a platform isn’t going to be built overnight – so go ahead and take pressure off of yourself. Instead, make simple and attainable goals to start out with. Approach this in bite-sized pieces. Do your research. Celebrate every milestone, despite how small. 

The more interactive you become, then the more you’ll enjoy it—especially as you watch your followers and engagement increase. 

Is your platform remaining stagnant? I’d advise taking a step back and evaluate, 1) what you’re posting, 2) who you’re posting it for, and 3) how often you’re posting. Sometimes it’s just a matter of trial and error. But keep in mind that your platform certainly won’t be increased if you decide to give up. 

Next week, we’re going to discuss how to use your brand to boost your platform. Don’t forget to leave your questions/thoughts in the comments! 

~ ~ ~ 

If you’ve established an online platform, would you mind sharing with others the steps you took to build this readership?

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