The author platform isn’t what it used to be. A new definition is emerging, based on the reality that in the 21st century, readers don’t depend on the Today Show or the feature pages of the New York Times to find a new book to read.
Instead, they’re looking online and expecting to find a more direct path to a favorite or yet-to-be-discovered author.
The tired old model
By definition, the old model of the author platform was the writer’s public visibility and reputation that the publisher’s publicity department used to promote and sell the book.
During the many years I signed up authors as an acquiring editor at Simon & Schuster, Bantam, Wiley and elsewhere, I did indeed look hard at the writer’s platform, and favored authors with high gloss visibility in the national media, big buzz for recent accomplishments, an Ivy League affiliation with maybe a Nobel Prize thrown in for good measure. We insisted on a stellar track record in book sales and appearances on radio and TV. Everyone understood that the bigger the platform, the higher the advance. But like everything else in the book business these days, things have changed and all bets are off.
The new approach
It’s still about visibility, but today’s approach has changed. The New Author Platform requires a focus on developing an unobstructed back and forth between authors and their readers, with the authors — not the publishers — controlling the flow. Now it’s the author, not a publicist, who inspires readers to buy the book. The New Author Platform allows not only well-established authors, but unknown, first-time beginners to do an end run around the conservative gate-keepers and reach readers directly. Maybe in the coming days, more updates will come about with the help of a blockchain development company that can implement better security for stored information, ease (and again, security) of financial transactions (if any), and better data access.
The New Author Platform
Here are some of the elements of the New Author Platform I discuss with my author clients who want to build their currency and visibility with readers online.
Successful authors today are designing websites filled with their work-in-progress, writing frequently updated blogs, tweeting, and shooting home-style, brief videos to post on their sites and on YouTube. Many who are focusing their efforts on building and designing much-improved websites for themselves and others are finding that their skill in the field of UX is such that they are seeing it as a potential career path. Those interested in this may want to create a ux portfolio to showcase their work to prospective clients in order to drive business in their direction. Authors may come across these and decide that they want to make use of their services in the construction of their websites. These websites are hosted online, with some making use of Melbourne servers services, and others using platforms like WordPress to help them grow. They’re offering original content in samples and chunks, with invitations for feedback, and taking every opportunity to comment and join forums and other online venues on topics that relate to their own work.
In this way, they’re creating a public face that represents who they are and what they want to say.
Readers like to know and trust an author before buying their book. An artificial, smiley-face false front won’t do the trick. Instead, authors need to extend their literary skills to create a genuine bona-fide online persona that has human quirks, dimension, and nuance. You can be funny, cranky, indignant, nostalgic, didactic.
As long as you’re honest and persuasive, you have a better chance of getting potential readers interested to the point where they make the final commitment and put their money down.
Authors don’t need to be full professors at Harvard to contribute useful comments and information online. Post brief sections from your book, and take social networking seriously by commenting and tweeting to build your reputation and visibility. This is true whether your subject is science and technology, history and biography, food and cooking, parenting and relationships, really any subject in any genre, and whether you’re a fiction or non-fiction writer.
Consider yourself a public service resource in the field you’re writing about. Your reputation and expertise will flourish in proportion to the value of the content you offer. Also, for better control of online reviews and comments on your write-up, you might want to consider hiring companies such as Reputation Defender and similar ones.
A cardinal rule of the new author platform is never to actually ask people to buy your book. Rather promulgate your work by making an enduring connection. Establish an authentic online personality, offer valuable information, analysis, opinion, and inspiring entertainment.
These are the elements of the New Author Platform that will ultimately sell your book.
Here are four illustrative case histories with strengths and weaknesses as noted.
1. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
The co-authors of the hugely successful Freakonomics books offer up a website that exemplifies the New Author Platform. It’s deep on content with terrific value for the reader, including a very active blog with posts on breaking news from their famously no-prisoners-taken perspective.
The authors and a roster of 13 top-drawer contributors (but no women on the roster — hmm…) post daily and cover topics from the current budget crisis to the economics of the latest NFL Lockouts. The site also does a great job with sharp video graphics that explain things so that even mathophobes (like me) can understand the numbers. The site is easy to navigate, cohesive and sharply focused on the subject of the books, but there’s no hard sell. Overall, a great sense of humor and brilliant content.
2. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson — This portrait of Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party concentrates on William E. Dodd, who became the U.S. ambassador to Germany in 1933, and his daughter, Martha. Current #3 NYTimes non-fiction bestseller.
This bestselling author has created a charming and engaging website. Larson is funny and self-deprecating, providing both an official and a “real story” author bio and including some humorous jibes from his young daughters and a full-page devoted to photos and tributes to his late dog Molly.
What’s missing is an active back and forth with readers. While Larson invites visitors to send in questions about his work or on the subject of writing, he doesn’t promise to respond, saying only “From time to time I’ll choose one and answer it in my blog as frankly as possible.” And there’s no option for comments on his blog posts — which however, are definitely worth reading as deeply felt and revealing insights from an enormously successful writer. The latest, for example, is about being “stranded in the dark country of no ideas,” after completing In the Garden of Beasts.
3. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain — Ernest Hemingway’s first wife narrates this novel set in Paris. 17 weeks on the NYTimes fiction bestseller list.
This is a glitzy publisher-generated website and it shows. There’s some very interesting background information regarding how this novel relates to the true story of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage to Hadley Hemingway during the period documented later in his book A Moveable Feast. There’s also an excellent time-line with key events in Hemingway’s life for fans and readers.
The site also has a couple of video taped conversations with the author, but that’s as close as readers get. There’s no blog or invitation for readers to weigh in. So the website stops short of creating reader engagement, and remains a publisher’s sales tool, like an elaborate publicity kit.
4. My Dangerous Pleasure by Carolyn Jewell — Book 4 in the My Immortal series. Self-published author of historical and paranormal romances
This website establishes the author as an easy-going, likeable person, with quirks and idiosyncratic tastes, who encourages readers to contact her, promising to reply to every email.
The site includes a personal blog about Jewell’s struggles as an author. There’s also has a section directed at writers, which is highlighted on the homepage, offering tips and advice on topics such as “Why do romance novels get no respect?” and “Are critique groups any help?” The peer-to-peer advice is frequently spot-on, and probably much appreciated by aspiring writers, but does this focus inspire visitors to buy her romance novels?
What about you?
Please weigh in on how you’re building your platform, what seems to be working well, what isn’t, and please include any special tips and advice for fellow authors. Your input is greatly valued!
Christine Jenkins says
I am going to start a blog with my cousin. We both have unpublished manuscripts. Hers is fiction and mine is memoir. We’re thinking of doing a blog that is unrelated to our books. Will this still be useful as a platform? Thank you!
Isiah Farrington says
Thanks for excellent
I really enjoyed reading this post. It helped convince me to start my own blog (). I never realized how important it was to have an online community with your name present. Thanks for making it clear that getting published is not solely about writing a well-written novel and for giving tips on how to go about writing a blog.
Hi Alan, thanks for the post. I used to find the idea of building a platform when I have yet to publish scary but I really agree with this part of your post: “The New Author Platform allows not only well-established authors, but unknown, first-time beginners to do an end run around the conservative gate-keepers and reach readers directly.”
In addition to worrying about not being taken seriously, I thought I wouldn’t have the time to write and blog, but I’ve found since I sharing my process on authorwannabe.com I have been working on my novel more regularly than ever. Hopefully one day I’ll translate this platform into readership, but for now it’s great just to be able to connect with other writers who are also on the path of figuring things out.
Adell Merkle says
This post has been very helpful to me. I’ve just started a self-hosted blog and this article helped much. thank you!
Alan Rinzler says
Don’t worry. No one can write your book except you. Thousands of books have the same idea or story — from Homer’s Odysseus to George Lucas’s Star Wars — but each is unique with the author’s fresh voice, approach and experience. Authors are compelled to write their own story, and don’t need to troll for other people’s ideas.
Matt Neal says
I’ve got a quick question about platform content. Some people have mentioned giving information about upcoming novels. What about the concern that someone may steal your ideas?
Thuy Rock says
Dear Mr. Rinzler
I have enjoyed reading your blog all day and night. I know I have consumed more information tonight then in the last 10 years! Tomorrow is around the corner and I must leave and say goodnight. As a aspiring writer, I have indeed taken most of your steps and tomorrow I will take a few more. Thank you! Crossing my toes everyday.
Tom Evans says
Great article – having played with my platform for several years, I have found that having a multi-pronged approach works for me. I used to have one blog/web site with everything in the same melting pot. This confused me sometimes and definitely the reader.
Now I have three blogs / platforms / soap boxes to broadcast different messages – it has not lead to three times the work, I just direct my output to where it fits best as follows
http://www.tmesis.co – a blog where I explore the wonder of words
http://www.tomevans.co – a blog where I showcase my own writing and workshops
http://www.thebookwright.com – a blog where I talk about writing and publishing and showcase my day job as a writer’s and author’s unblocker and catalyst
Alan Rinzler says
Thanks for the very thoughtful and heartfelt questions. In response:
1. Don’t spend any more time than feels comfortable building a platform. It takes energy, diligence, and can be done gradually, in small increments, choosing only what’s right for your personality. For example, not all authors want to appear in public or tweet, but instead enjoy writing creatively about their work on a website or blog.
2. Readers do want to know enough to engage and have empathy for you as an individual, but yes, you can maintain your privacy. It’s quite possible to reveal only what relates to the content or sustains your public face, which we all show in varying degrees of transparency to suit our purposes.
3. You’re right that there’s no guarantee that everyone who reads what you’ve created as your platform will convert to buyers, but some will. The more creative you are in the written parts of your platform and in the generous samples of your content, the more people will be aware of you and sales will increase proportionately.
Best of luck!
Dear Mr. Rinzler,
I am writing to ask what a person like me can do with regards to this incredibly scary idea of “platform.” I grow weak just thinking of the incredible time consumption and insurmountable task I’d face both “platforming” (if that’s even a word) and struggling to write what the whole intent of the platform is: the actual book. I don’t want to reveal too much of my personal life or personality online, as that seems 1) incredibly narcissistic and 2) extremely frightening considering the total lack of privacy individuals have on the internet today as it is. I am very shy and social-phobic in real life and have very few people even offline who I feel I can trust. But despite my fears, I know that this “platform” is a necessary evil if I have any intent of ever being published someday.
I have just a few questions, then: First, what advice can you offer on minimizing time spent blogging/tweeting/etc. and maximizing time spent working on one’s novel? Second, would I be short-changing myself in terms of readership, potential agent attention, etc., if I don’t include any biographical information or reveal anything about the author to the readers, but keep my content in a more general perspective, i.e. about the book itself or content related to the story? And third, how can I ensure that even half of the linkers/followers will become potential readers or buyers, and is this even a guarantee?
Thank you very much for your continued contribution to aspiring authors such as myself, guiding them along and offering much-needed and easily accessible advice to achieve their publishing goals and dreams. I appreciate and anticipate your response, and enjoy reading your “platform.” :)
Alan Rinzler says
Given the circumstances, you’ll have to step up to be the spokesperson for the book.
You’re the best person to represent it a historical record, a document for the ages. All of the marketing, social networking, blogging and other promotion you elect to do can be based not only on his platform, whatever it may be, but yours as well, which is a plus. And unless the public knows his name already, using the book’s title for the url is the best bet to help people find it when searching online.
Linda Nathan says
Thanks so much for this wonderfully useful article. I plan to post it on my business Facebook page and recommend it to my clients. I’ve been a freelance editor and writer, and more recently a publishing consultant, for over 20 years, but only in the last year or so has self-publishing become truly exciting to me as I’ve watched the revolution going on in the industry. When the small Christian publisher that bought our first novel recently was unable to publish it due to crises, we realized that we really wanted to self-publish after all because of a number of factors. The most important though is the freedom involved. We’re currently beginning to build a new website and develop in the directions your article discusses. Thanks again for the inspiration!
Sandra Novacek says
Great post! I’m in the process of platform-building for a memoir written by my late husband. This is a bit awkward since he’s obviously not here and was not an established author. The memoir is his first book and probably the last. However, after I self-publish the memoir I may create a YA historical novel. I’m currently working on the creation of a website and blog and wrestling with the domain to use. The .coms for my husband’s name and the book title are not available. What would be best to use? johndoe.net? johndoememoir.com? johndoebooks.com? Something else? Also, I’m really feeling challenged/conflicted creating a platform for a person who isn’t alive and when I’m the person will be publishing, promoting and blogging. It would be great to hear someone else’s thoughts on ways to handle this. Thanks.
Alan Rinzler says
Posting content is now a universal and highly effective technique for getting feedback and attracting readers, agents, and publishers. Don’t worry. No one can write the book you’re writing except you. Ideas aren’t books, and authors don’t stalk other writers to steal from them. In fifty years, I’ve never heard of anyone trying that, since it’s basically impossible. Publishers, moreover, are happy to find your content online, since they can see if they like it and also appreciate your important efforts at self-marketing.
Lulu B. says
Confession: I’m stuck in the past; still wanting to cling to the old way of getting published (query letters to magazine editors, book proposals to publishing houses, etc.) But I know the train has left the station and if I don’t get with it pretty soon, I’ll never get anywhere as a writer.
I have what I think is a pretty good idea for a non-fiction book. In order to build my New Author Platform, should I start a blog that contains content I’d like to see included in the book? What I find confusing is what’s to prevent another person from coming along, reading my blog and then writing a book proposal based on my idea?
My second question (it’s really my third) is: If I post content for free on my blog why would any publisher pay me to write a book?
I’m new to all this and trying to learn the modern way of doing things so sorry if my questions are naïve.
I feel lopsided, like having one foot rooted firmly in the past and and the other foot moving forward allowing me to break out into a whole new world of being a published author.
After working with 4 webmasters, my website still leaves a lot to be desired, but it is useable. http://www.silversages.com
My books are written for seniors age 50+ with an emphasis on silver sages, age 65+. After a year of marketing via email to senior centers, book clubs,book signings, libraries, bookstores, etc. etc., I started in a new direction in Nov.,offering free EBooklets to anyone who requests them by way of the CONTACT link on my website. 1,000+ emails later, I’ve only had 4 requests. The marketing email was written by a professor of writing at a college. I tweak it every 250 or so emails.
Seniors Are using the computer and the internet. The senior age group is growing very fast, everyday. There is a market for motivational materials for seniors. They are lifelong readers who say they want to be the best they can be.
How do I build a platform mailing list without hiring someone to sell me, so called active lists of senior names? How can I reach–really reach–seniors?
Nina Amir says
I think this is a great post and you are right on. I worked on my platform for 10 years, and it wasn’t until I fully embraced social networking and blogging that it all came together. However, the book I sold to a traditional publisher tells the real story. I began blogging a book–actually publishing a book one post at a time in Cyberspace (about how to do just that…blog a book)–and that landed me a deal with Writer’s Digest Books. The combination of my blogging (I have 5 blogs), my social networking, my speaking, my podcasting and radio appearances all worked together to create the type of platform of which you speak–one the publishers actually were excited about.
My platform is not huge. It’s small by comparison to some other writers, especially if you look at just one of my blog or just one of my social networks. However, I believe it comes across as authentic. And I give away information every day across a variety of venues–in several areas of interest to me. In this way, I’ve made myself known to enough people and proved myself a good enough business partner to be attractive to a publisher.
My book, How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at A Time will be release by Writer’s Digest Books in March 2012. In the meantime, I continue to blog and to share information across all the social networks. I also speak and appear on the radio once a week.
I often coach other writers–fiction and nonfiction–on their blogging and social networking efforts. For the most part, they don’t want to blog or to get involved with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (or Google+, which I have to admit I have not tried yet). They don’t know what to blog about and don’t see the value. Yet, there is so much even fiction writers can share via a blog (how they create characters, do their research, write; facts about their novel’s location, food, climate, famous sites and people; and tidbits on their struggles with plot development, daily life, and outlook on world events) and blogging is THE most effective way to drive traffic to a website. In fact, a blog can serve as a website. Plus, a blog is all about writing, something writers know how to do. Once they wrap their arms around the wealth of content ideas they can cover on their blog, authors and aspiring authors can blog away happily and create a superb New Platform simply by posting regularly and sharing those posts to their social networks. Add a few extra comments here and there to their followers, some comments on other people’s blog and in some groups, and some old fashioned speaking engagements and media gigs…and viola! They’ve got platform.
How do I know this? I did it. If I can do it, anyone can do it.
Thanks for this great post. I’ll be sharing it on my blog!
Dianna Winget says
This post (and all the comments)are so helpful and informative. I write middle grade fiction and my debut novel, “Fly a Little Higher, Piper Lee,” will be out from Harcourt next fall. I’m having a website professionally designed and feel so much more confident about the types of things to include. Thanks very much and I look forward to continuing to learn from this site.
Valerie Willman says
Alan. Thanks. I find the concept of *New* author platform refreshing.
Caroline Reid says
Thanks Alan. That’s awesome.
Alan Rinzler says
An acquisition editor considering your book on marketing would be very happy to learn of your strong business network. That’s exactly what publishers want to hear, so they can market to precisely those potential buyers who are already connected to you and your work.
Be straightforward about it, don’t exaggerate or oversell, but there’s no need to worry about the importance of including this essential part of your platform.
David Dalka says
Learned of you via your inside cover blurb in Publish Your Nonfiction Book(2010). A way you’ve built platform.
As I finish my current proposal, I’ve found my in person networking after 5 years of meeting tens of thousands of people at various relevant industry conferences are making my marketing plan section less tedious than it would be otherwise.
So I think I have a comment and question. The comment is that a person’s real life business network, if strong, can become powerful platform. If you appreciate what I’m saying fully, I would ask for your opinion on how an author can convey this platform most effectively to an acquisition editor while still doing this in a humble manner?
Karen M. Rider says
Finally, some one is making sense of what’s happening to authors (aspiring and established) as they navigate a sea of change and challenge on the rough seas of publishing. Thank you for the great examples.
Fiction writers can blog about backstory, character development, story research and secrets learned along the way. At least, that is what I plan to do. I also announce kudos, challenges and successes on my blog. I keep my website content for more professional material, more formal but still personable– and it’s due for an update this week.
A great resource for figuring out how much you want your personal life to become part of your public “book life” is the book BookLife by Jeff Vandermeer. Blog of the same name.
Ultimately, every writer has to decide for herself what she can and cannot commit to in the social media sphere and has to be willing to let go of things that are not working after a period of time and try something new.
My other blog http://www.yourwritingchallenges.blogspot.com offers some guidance on setting priorities, gaining perspective, developing a process and staying in the ‘present-mind’ as you pursue your writing passion.
Karen M. Rider
B. Mac says
Livia commented, “…what I still struggle with, is the observation that blogging, etc, still seems more naturally suited to nonfiction authors than fiction authors. The freakonomics blog is great, for example, as are some other blogs like the unclutterer, or even bent objects. Fiction authors have a harder time — you hint at this in part 4. She blogs about being a writer, but does that encourage people to buy her romance novels? Fiction writers have a harder time providing useful/relevant information, which is something nonfiction authors can do much more easily. This leaves — blogging about writing, which may or may not be helpful, and also goes toward a very narrow audience, or somehow building a platform by simple force of personality.” I can’t speak for C.J., but my own experiences running a writing site as an authorial platform to premarket a superhero comedy have been mostly positive. Depending on your interests and what you’re writing, perhaps it could work for you.
1. I’m not sure how many sales this will lead to, but I’ve had several hundred thousand (non-paying) readers. I am reasonably confident that I can convert at least .5% of my online (nonfiction) readers into paying (fiction) customers. That’d be 1500-2000 customers I didn’t have before.
2. It’s been economically helpful in other ways. My website got me a copywriting position and has provided some freelance work.
3. “This leaves — blogging about writing, which may or may not be helpful, and also goes toward a very narrow audience…” All other things being equal, I suspect that marketing fiction to a thousand writers would be more effective than marketing to a thousand non-writers because the writers might encourage their own audiences to look at it. Granted, most writers will not have a vast audience, but I think their audiences are collectively large and the links themselves will help you on Google/Bing/Yahoo.
Alan Rinzler says
Regarding whether to do a website or a blog — I recommend both. Ideally you would have a blog within a website, which is something you can do on a free platform such as WordPress.
The blog is your vehicle to communicate back and forth with your readers, though your posts and their feedback and comments.
The rest of the pages on your site can be devoted to your work, where you could include things like a sample from the playscript and a link to buy that book, audio files with actors reading, an author bio, and video links with clips of yourself reading and talking about the issues of youth suicide. It would be fine to weave in other information about Australia, if it relates to the subjects of the written works you are promoting on the site.
That’s the general idea, and you can see many examples that readers have supplied here in comments.
Caroline Reid says
This is all such helpful information.
I’ve just had my eyes open to the potential of new media by a writer twenty years younger than me. It’s been like a smoke haze lifting. I had a playscript published in Australia last year but no promotion by the publishing company at all (they’re small). Sales are poor and I’ve been pondering how I can improve that situation. Even though the play deals with the subject of youth suicide, the characters are funny, there’s a lot of black comedy, and it’s set in outback Australia where the landscape is stunning. Sadly, too, the issue has not gone away in Australia and people are still reluctant to talk about it. However, I now have many more ideas about how i can promote this book whilst also celebrating the Australian outback and character. Also, with access to actors, creating audio files with actors reading monologues is an exciting way to go.
My interest in The Author Platform has also coincided with a shift away from writing for stage; my focus is now short fiction. I facilitate a young writers group and find them inspirationals. Through them and sites like yours, Alan, I’m inspired to create an on-line prescence. I have been pondering, though, is it better to create a blog at this stage, rather than a website? For some reason, I’m thinking blog. What do you think? I would appreciate your advice.
Alan Rinzler says
You’ve done it. I took a look at your link, and I now know a lot more about the subject of your book — about you, your mother, and your relationship, both before and after her death.
You also managed to work in being an actress for John Sayles in a way that made sense for readers who might be interested in the book, and after reading your PS I laughed out loud.
Keep up the new approach, and best of luck!
Betsy Robinson says
Dear Alan,I hope you take this in the spirit it was written: gratitude!
Betsy Robinson says
Thank you, Alan!
Scooter Carlyle says
I’ve been thinking about Mr. Rinser has said in his post, and I think I need to make some changes to my blog.
I was raised on a large Montana ranch. That, and my bizarre family, really colors how I look at fantasy fiction, which is the main focus of my blog. I just don’t know how to highlight my strengths without being campy.
I’m open to any suggestions from just about anybody.
Glynis Smy says
An interesting post.
Without blogging I would never have met my writing community. My writing platform is my blog,social networking with agents, publishers, small press and authors from around the world.
Phil Bowyer says
Great post Alan.
I believe many authors waste a lot of time blogging, and actually ruin their brand in the process. I have yet to meet an author who isn’t blogging about writing, which like Alan points out misses the boat entirely.
There are other ways to build your brand (you can call it a platform) and unless your blog is unique you will fail. Writing reviews and interviewing authors is great if that’s your business, but if you want to sell books, you need to understand who your audience is (before you do anything else) and then create content that they actually want, and helps build your brand identity as an author of [whatever genre].
Everybody knows who Pepsi is. They didn’t interview Coke, or Shasta, they went out and found people who like cola and sold it to them. I’m not saying to market like Pepsi, just think of yourself as an actual brand entity, not an author.
The more you inspire word of mouth about YOUR books, the more success you will have.
I hope this is OK – I did a chat the other day with group of writers I work with about this very subject, for anyone interested here’s a link to the archive (It’s in PDF): http://asmwrite.phibble.com/asmwrite-chat-080411.pdf
I just want to say, Alan my wife (a YA writer) turned me on to you. It’s refreshing to see an ally out here! Thanks for what you do.
Carmen Anthony Fiore says
I found all the above comments quite interesting and good advice. It’s so obvious that it cannot be argued that the Internet is not the place to be for a writer: even fiction writers need a presence on the Net. Whenever I promote my novels, I emphasize the benefits of reading them from a nonfiction perspective. Of course, readers want an emotional coupling with the story and the characters, but we authors should learn to push the nonfiction informational aspects in our novels that would add to a reader’s knowledge as well as the pure entertainment of reading our novel. Being a former schoolteacher (once a teacher always a teacher)I enjoy the face-to-face meetings with groups and the wonderful personal exchanges with the audience members. My creative nonfiction book about the courageous youths who served in America’s Civil War (many of them won Medals of Honor)titled YOUNG HEROES OF THE CIVIL WAR is a perfect vehicle for me to speak to Civil War Round Table groups. Live presentations are time consuming and require prep work, but are so satisfying to a writer getting live feedback rather than virtual, even though the virtual is essential to any writer’s platform. As self-promoters, we should try to alot time for both: live and virtual.
Eric DelaBarre says
Loved this post. You are so right. With Saltwater Taffy (http://www.saltwatertaffybook.com) we have seen more movement from Mom and Dad Bloggers than with traditional exposure. That being said, it didn’t hurt having Scholastic Instructor Magazine mention Saltwater Taffy in their summer issue, but yeah…the platform of social networking is working quite well for us. Thanks again for this….am going to share it now to my network of writers.
kathryn magendie says
A well-rounded interesting post!
I angsted over my online presence until I finally decided just to be myself and have fun with it . . . not that I’m never serious, but, when I “tried to” do something on my blog, facebook, twitter, etc, it came across stilted/forced, and as well, I never stuck to one kind of “thang” but went from “thang to thang.” The writing has to fit in there, somewhere, along with my neglected house, friends, and family . . . lawd! I admire writers who make their online presence so professional and interesting; meanwhile, I’ll just tottle along I guess and hope for the best :-D
Alan Rinzler says
Thanks for stopping by with these terrific blogging ideas for fiction writers. Smart and funny, especially the adopted vampire daughter.
I found this link for your timely webinar, in case readers here want to look into the recorded version from Writers Digest: http://www.patriciavdavis.com/events/writers_digest_webinar-1
Patricia V. Davis says
I just did a webinar yesterday for Writers Digest on this very subject! The answer to what fiction writers can blog about is one of those so-obvious-that-no-one-sees-it ones. I call it “The Magic Circle” In the center of the circle is your book. Let’s say it’s about an Iraq war veteran who lost his leg in the war, and is now struggling with the senselessness of it all. He moves to the Blue Ridge Mountains which he adores and fell in love with the new widow in the neighborhood who has an adopted child who turns out to be a vampire. The author of this book would have many things about which to blog: The Blue Ridge Mountains, vampire lore, politics behind war in general—in short all the subjects visited in the work itself. Why? Because the reader who is interested in those subjects will be the perfect audience for this particular book, as it contains all those elements in its storyline. Blogging book reviews gets the blogger an audience who is interested in reading book reviews, not an audience for this work of fiction. You might have a popular blog, but will that transfer over to a popular book? Will your BLOG readers be your BOOK readers? Not unless your blog has postings that are on the subject matters in your work. Think also about the themes in your book: Women’s Empowerment? Christianity? Gay Rights? Blog those subjects, too. In short, if the purpose of your blog is to get comments, you can blog about almost anything. If the purpose is to get readers intrigued by your writing, then you need to write in the voice and on the subjects you write in your work of fiction. This holds true for memoir, too, if it reads like a novel. There’s a whole bunch of things writers should NOT be blogging about, too, but this comment is long enough already.
paula hendricks says
thanks alan. what a great post. and your responses afterward show by example how to get connected. the sample web sites are terrific too.
Yvonne Hertzberger says
Thank you. Finally a truly helpful article with concrete, doable suggestions that I can make work for myself. As a beginner just getting my feet wet in the world of publishing and social media this gives me a direction I can actually implement.
Mike Voyce says
This work is authoritative. It isn’t necessarily that one did not already know all this, the power is in the way it’s expressed. It is the mind-set and approach that counts, and it is transparently obvious that anyone who can order their mind in the way Alan has will be successful.
As a, still somewhat inexperienced, Internet radio host (with no script except that written by me) I am learning how critical it is for the message to be ordered and prioritised. Here may be truly where the non-fiction writer has the edge; the fiction writer has far greater latitude to ramble. When blogging, especially about trivia, the core points of interest must be set out without decoration.
This post does that.
Alan Rinzler says
I took a look at your website. The subject matter sounds so interesting, but I was surprised not to find any indication of your book on your home page, with a link to buy. Did I miss something? Even if it’s still a work-in-progress, you might want to feature it there with a working cover and title, (with a caption like “coming in 2012”.)
And definitely weave tidbits from/about the book into your blog posts.
Judith Starkston says
Thank you for the insights into platform building. The comments about fiction vs. nonfiction blogging certainly hit home with me. When I started mine(www.judithstarkston.com) I couldn’t see offering more advice on how to write and that topic isn’t, I think, what most readers are interested in. Sometimes it feels a bit incestuous writers selling to writers. I loved the suggestion that Melville could have posted more about whales and Tolstoy about Napoleon. I’ve tried to use that basic technique–so reassuring to hear the experts think it’s a good idea. My fiction is set in the period of Troy and also the Hittite Empire, tons of fascinating background to give people. Early on I had slipped in excerpts from my fiction into the history–you’ve reminded me to go back to that technique. I’d forgotten. All this juggling of so much besides writing books! I also love to review. Readers like it as a useful resource from a source they begin to know and trust, and I get to know a lot of writers whose friendships, even if many of them are entirely electronic, mean a great deal to me. Thank you for one of the better write-ups about platforming. No hype just thoughtful content. Good modeling!
Daniel McNeet says
Good Post, very helpful, Alan.
Alan Rinzler says
I found your blog posts too far afield and not related closely enough to your book or people who might buy it.
For starters, how about posting more about the actual content of “Conversations with Mom”, since it’s not that easy to understand and sounds interesting. What can you do to help the reader fully appreciate the promise of the book’s title? Who are you, who was she, what are the fine points of your relationship now that she’s no longer alive?
You could also write about the general topic of aging without a mom around, or unresolved conflicts with parents that can no longer be worked out in person. You could also offer tips and links to the may websites and bloggers on line who also focus on these topics.
And by the way, readers of a certain age may be interested to know more about your playing the part of Amy in the film “Return of the Secaucus Seven” — if you can figure out a way to weave it into the subject of “Conversations with Mom”!
Betsy Robinson says
Very informative post. Thank you. I’m not sure I’m doing it “right,” but I’m trying. I just self-published a new book called “Conversations with Mom: An Aging Baby Boomer, in Need of an Elder, Writes to Her Dead Mother” (http://www.betsyrobinson-writer.com/conversations_with_mom_108329.htm). I did it because I crave exactly what you describe: connection directly to readers. I want to talk to them, to have a direct exchange, to send them the book with my own hands. I got a waiver from my agent to do this. I’ve been sending out email promos that reflect the book’s web page, and I sold about 40 books in 10 days. But nothing in the last 3 days.
I blog when I have something passionate to express–for instance yesterday’s about the documentary “Serving Life” (astounding): http://www.betsyrobinson-writer.com/blog.htm?post=804341
My blog certainly expresses who I am, but I don’t think it has much to do with selling books. Am I making a mistake?
Steven M. Moore says
I came here via Penny Sansevieri’s newsletter and am happy to say I like this site.
While I believe I’m satisfying most of your “platform rules,” let me ask a question: I have struggled on my website with the choices of third person “Steve does this…” versus first person “I do this….” Which choice is recommended? I recently changed my bio to first person, thinking that should be the first place to be “more chummy,” but I’ve seen websites go completely one way or another.
BTW, I’m not sure all your “platform rules” translate into book rules. So far, that hasn’t been true in my case. Nevertheless, I’m having a lot of fun writing…and reading (my time spent reading has increased with my time spent writing–go figure).
All the best,
Roni Loren says
Great post! This is a topic that has been on my mind way too much lately, lol. I’ve spent two years blogging for writers and building a decent-sized following (about 1500 subscribers). But my first novel–a romance–is coming out in January and I’m faced with the challenge of figuring out how to reach not just writers, but non-writing readers. For now I have two blogs that both feed into my website where one is for writers and one is more general/romance-y topics, but I definitely am still trying to figure out what is the best approach.
Meredith Allard says
Alan, thank you for the post. I have been blogging for a few months, but I realize that I need to be more specific as I begin to build my author platform. As I read this post and looked over the helpful comments, I can see how I can take elements about the Salem Witch Trials and my recent trip to Salem, MA (both connected to my historical novel) and use that as a basis for future blog posts. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I had never even heard the term author platform until today. But I’m learning thanks to posts like these.
Great article! As an aspiring writer, I have finally started a blog and am determined to build readership. “If people don’t want to read your blog, why would they buy your book?” is the question I keep asking myself.
Vulnerbility online can be scary, but then again, I’m writing a memoir — :)
Alan, Very helpful post. I’ve been working on my New Author Platform for a couple of years. I write both historical fiction and non-fiction so I use my blog to focus on research, history and writing. Using the 1857 receipt book entries of my great grandmother, I draw on them for inspiration for my posts. It’s a lot of fun and I think useful from the comments and emails I receive. Sometimes I write about various aspects of the research I do for a particular novel. Or not.
http://historyweaver.wordpress.com/ I have a special page for the novel I recently published.
Alan Rinzler says
Children do read online. They search keywords and may discover your blog. They also look at YouTube, and they’re on Facebook. You can post a video of yourself talking or reading a few sentences from the book in a style consistent with the content (playful coming-of-age, vampires, historical adventure).
You can also reach the MG market through the very well-organized blogs and web-sites of parent readers or teachers, since they often buy books for their kids. As for illustrations, if there are none in the book itself, you can find free or low-cost images online by searching the specific subject.
Morgan Marshall says
This is a wonderfully informational piece. Thank you. And the comments and links about fiction are especially helpful. That said (and forgive me if this has been touched on already; I wasn’t able to read all the comments), how does an author of middle reader fiction build an online platform? As children don’t traditionally read blogs, and I’m not the best animator…
Anne Lyle says
Nice article – and I totally agree with your four-point summary. I started working on my platform in earnest late last year, when I started getting some interest in my novel (which comes out next year – woohoo!). I blog as a fan of my genre first and a writer second, with the intention of connecting to potential readers as well as fellow writers. However what I’ve found most useful so far (as in, people actually preordering my book!) is hanging out on forums for genre writers and just chatting about the topics relevant to my work. I have a link to my book’s microsite in my forum signature and I did post in the announcements section when my book appeared on Amazon, but that’s all the “selling” I do.
Coincidentally I too am tweeting as the protagonist of my novel. My intention is to tweet the year of his life leading up to the events of the book, in real time (give or take four centuries!) – it’s a lot of fun, and although I only started a few days ago, he’s already building a small following. You can read his adventures at http://twitter.com/MalCatlyn
Ruth Seeley says
I think, Livia (having read your posts about fiction writers blogging too) that the term ‘blog’ should be used loosely.
Writers – like everyone else these days – need a web site, and rather than wait six months to get one designed, a simple blog pointed at (or to, I can never remember which it is but I’ve done it and still have the instructions on how to do so) your author domain name is the fastest and cheapest way to get a web site up quickly. This also means you don’t have to pay constantly to have someone else update it – or take a course in writing .php yourself. You can so easily add events, your Tweetstream, news, where to find you on Goodreads (and you can add Goodreads widgets so people looking at your site will see what you’re reading – at least, it’s easy to add the widget on Blogger) – as well as all the other things people have suggested in the comments – and the updated content keeps you high in Google search engine rankings, which is what you, as an author, want when people are looking for you.
It doesn’t have to take away from your own writing time any more than brushing your teeth or showering does – truly. And the other thing is that a blog is a place where you can show a little bit more of your personality and your enthusiasms, which is a subtle way of connecting with people on a variety of levels. If you’re a novelist who also loves soccer or a novelist and knitter or a novelist and golfer, you expand awareness of yourself as a writer by connecting with people via your other enthusiasms. And perhaps the soccer fans, knitters and golfers aren’t readers themselves, but they’ll be sure to think of you when they’re buying books for the readers they know.
Alan Rinzler says
Thanks for the link to Laurie King’s website as an excellent model for a fiction writer’s soft but persuasive marketing. It’s bright, beautiful, and I noticed the sheer variety of creative design, video trailers for each book, and also personal extensions of the stories through real photographs and her own travels.
I encourage readers here to check it out.
Sue Wilhite says
I would point to Laurie King’s website http://www.laurierking.com/ as a fiction writer’s goal to emulate. She even has one of her main characters writing a Twitter feed! It’s one of the best sites I’ve ever seen.
Aleshia Robinson says
Thank you for this post Allan. I’ve read these tips for self published authors with absolutely no inside connections but it is quite refreshing to read it from an industry professional whose been at it for a while. Wisdom validates itself.
Author of Alcatraz The Lost Pearl
Natalie Wright says
I enjoyed this post; thank you. I’m just starting out and feel fortunate that the publishing and writing world has so many generous seasoned professionals willing to give great advice.
I have a blog and started out blogging mainly for other authors. Fortunately I read some advice that this wasn’t the best way to go for a fiction writer. So I have experimented with other stuff.
My all-time most viewed blog post is about how I won a trip to Ireland. I have also found that on Facebook my page fans comment and respond most to posts that have nothing to do with my writing, such as vacation pictures or just comments about my day, etc.
And I’ve tried to pay attention to what I find appealing in other author’s websites, blogs and Facebook pages. If you haven’t checked out Maggie Stiefvater, author of Shiver, Linger and Forever – a bestselling YA offering, then you should. Her website and blog are all her and it’s fun. And on Facebook she posts daily, right now posting about her travels in her Camaro for her book tour. I point her out as a fiction writer who I think does it right and has a very loyal fan following.
Alan Rinzler says
Only you, the writer, can create real content for tweets and blogs. All authors have to find the balance between producing their work and selling it.
But writers are disciplined, tireless, and relentlessly optimistic, right? Onward and upward!
Bill Birchard says
Appreciate the post. Don’t most authors have to triage, though? Or hire a few assistants? I blog, tweet, and write, and wonder if I have time to do them all well. Thanks for pointing out the examples.
Marilyn Peake says
Great post, Alan! I’m finding the “New Author Platform” a lot of fun to build and use for communication. Thanks for requesting our input.
In March, I decided to experiment with self-publishing three novels and three short stories for 99 cents each on Amazon Kindle. I primarily used Twitter and my website to announce these publications. On Twitter, I mostly chat with other writers and tweet about my day, and I post a limited number of tweets about my publications. Eventually, I plan to expand my author platform, but am holding off until I finish the final rewrite of a science fiction novel and publish another short story on Amazon Kindle. I also had some of my 99-cent publications reviewed on indie blogs, I wrote an article about Twitter and a book review for an indie book review blogger who put out a request for guest bloggers so that she could take a much-needed vacation, and I donated free copies of my books for a couple of book giveaways on indie blogs. I also spend a fair amount of time joking around with some very funny writers and taking part in writing discussions on Twitter.
Despite not doing much so far to build my new author platform, the response has been much greater than I ever expected. After self-publishing for 99 cents on Kindle, I sold a few books at first. Eventually, I started selling 10 books every day. The other day, I sold 17 books in one day. My goal for this month was to sell 100 books, and as of today, I’ve surpassed that goal. Also, for months after self-publishing, I sold very few copies of the sequels to my middle grade fantasy novel, THE FISHERMAN’S SON. This month, I’ve seen a significant increase in sales of those sequels.
This past week, I noticed that my 99-cent publications are suddenly being listed by Amazon under more and more best-selling novels as publications that “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought,” some of the best-selling books by well-known authors. This has correlated with increased sales of my publications, which makes me very happy. :)
Lindsey Petersen says
Thank you for this information. I remember when my ex-agent told me to shut down my blog because people would not buy a book if the same info was available for free in a blog. How wrong she was!!!!!
Madison Woods says
Thanks for this post because I feel a little better about the time I spend thinking up blog posts and corresponding via comments on my blog with readers. I don’t have much traffic, I’m not a published novelist – yet. But I am building a platform slowly and when I do finally get that break, at least there will be an infrastructure to build on.
Also, I’m finding people are just interested in my life as a rural Ozarkian, so I’m trying to merge my real-life and writerly personas by referring readers to my homesteading blog from time to time when a post I make there has pictures my writerly readers might be interested in seeing. I get a lot of feedback when I do that (a *lot* is relative here, lol).
Rosanne Dingli says
Oh, it’s not that hard for a fiction writer to come up with blog material that is vibrant, interesting and connected to their novels. I do this at least twice a week. Because I write in the loose genres of mysteries and thrillers with a strong romantic element (romantic suspense, if you like) I blog about the genre, about my reasons for selecting it, and include other books that might interest my readers. I wrote a religious thriller, so I also blogged about that, and about icons, and the locations of my novels – an ultra-important topic for me. I’ve blogged about food in fiction, and music in fiction and, natch… art in fiction, because I always include some artistic element in my novels and short stories. My regulars keep coming back because although I am consistent in some things, they like to see what I’ve blogged about next. I sometimes give away a short story – and what do you know, the collection that includes it gets a spike in sales. I think I will discuss my characters next, and my sub-plots, and the way I link plot to story, and how I choose and create my baddies, and how… I think you get it. There’s material galore.
Platform – not sure I feel it means that much to me but I do allow that it’s shifting in meaning. The people who like my books and care to make themselves known to me almost become friends. I attract the better-read intellectual sort, the kind that appreciate the amount of research I do for each of my novels. I include references to artists, artworks, music and so forth – some of my readers like looking those up. If one does not get the connections, however, the story makes just as much sense. So I think my reputation (which is what I think matters) is made up of being consistent, supplying more than just a ‘good story’ and entertaining an appreciative crowd.
Alan Rinzler says
Excellent idea, to combine your books and blog into one cohesive website. It’s attractive with lots of good content.
To nitpick, however, since you asked: I noticed that the small recurring photo of you and your dog on the homepage, bio, etc. opens but doesn’t get any bigger. It’s such a great picture, you might think about making it larger on the page and eliminating the link that doesn’t really go anywhere.
Also, the books on your home page should be titled “Buy my Books” since that’s where the link is heading; and I’d recommend your bio be in the first person, not third.
M. Louisa Locke says
I am an indie author who published my historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, in December of 2009, and at the time I set up an author’s website that was designed to feature this one book. (cover, description, reviews, bio, free excerpt, buy page.) The website stayed very static, but it gave a good feel for the book and worked as a place to direct potential buyers.
I also set up a blog on wordpress.com, where I thought I would post a lot about historical fiction, but it ended up almost exclusively being about my journey as a self-published author (which turned out to be much more successful than I could have ever predicted.)
But after a six months of writing, I am getting ready to launch Uneasy Spirits, my second book, the sequel to my first, and I knew I needed to change my website so that it was not so dependent on the first book. I also had been hoping that I would indeed begin to expand my blog into the historical fiction theme, particularly since I had become an active member of a new group, The Historical Fiction eBooks Coop (http://historicalfictionauthors.net) where we are working hard to establish ourselves as a place for readers to go who are looking for high quality independent historical fiction ebooks.
Which leads me to my decision to combine my author website and blog, which I have been busily doing this week. The goal was broaden my platform from a single book to the broader platform of the author of the Victorian San Francisco Mystery Series while integrating my blog audience and my reader audience and my historical fiction audience. I want to be able to put one website link, instead of multiple ones, again in order to strengthen my platform.
This was such a timely post, and I hope that the new website I have designed hits all of your recommendations for an author’s platform. Do check out the site, I would love feedback as I tweak it.
You can find me at http://mlouisalocke.wordpress.com/
Beverly Diehl says
Interesting post – i was directed here via the Writers Unboxed group on FaceBook. I’m not yet published; I have an agent representing two novels and am working to finish a third one. Started expanding my author platform last December (blog, Twitter, FB fan page, Google+, exhaustion). Challenging to fit all this in with my day job and trying to *finish* the novel, but the only people who think writing’s easy are the ones who’ve never done it. On the blog, I’m featuring writing tips, interviews with other authors, short stories or snippets of my WIP (recently I wrote a short backstory piece to help thrash out character motivation). Readership is growing slowly, and that’s okay, because I’m not sure I could handle the unwashed masses all demanding my attention *now* anyway. But it *feels* like I am on the right track. My readers seem to like my voice – and they’re not even family members or personal friends! I do interact with them constantly – answer their comments, visit their blogs and comment, promote them on Twitter.
Michelle O'Neil says
As a new author I love this post because it makes me feel like I’m doing some things right! I write memoir, but as for fiction writers and blogging, I am always interested in knowing more about the authors I love. A fiction writer’s blog does not have to be fiction. I’d love to know what Isabel Allende had for breakfast. It’s all about building camaraderie and relationships(and buzz). It’s actually quite fun.
Carolyn Jewel says
Very interesting post, and I appreciate you taking a look at my website! I make sure I have excerpts of all my books and, when it’s cooked enough, the first chapter of the WIP. Like most authors these days, I have a facebook presence, twitter, and now, Google+. I’m not doing much with the latter right now. I have a blog and that feed also populates to my Amazon Author page and to facebook.
Livia’s comment about blogging is an interesting one. I think I tend to disagree, though, to the extent that it compares the Apples and Oranges of Fiction vs. Non-Fiction writers. But I don’t know that anyone has actually studied the impact of blogs for Fiction authors. Scalzi’s Whatever seems like a pretty good example of a successful fiction-author blog in that he certainly engages a lot of people. I think the purpose of a fiction writer’s blog might be different that someone with a platform-driven blog — Freakonomics, for example. But I need to think about the issue more. It’s complicated.
Alan Rinzler says
Thanks for your constructive comment. Forbes does a great job in providing authors with a forum to post their specific expertise and build their brand, which is precisely the goal of the New Author Platform.
In the past, publishers have usually been more concerned with their own brand but now they’re beginning to realize that readers care more about author’s identity and personality, than they do about who the publisher is, or whether a book is commercially or self-published.
lewis dvorkin says
I very much agree with your post. At Forbes, we’re giving journalists, authors, academics and other knowledgeable content creators the tools to publish content and build an audience around their topic-specific expertise. The tools and the page enable an author, for example, to build his/her own individual brand under the umbrella of the Forbes brand. And, to the point of your post, on Forbes the author will have the ability to curate the community.
Michael A. Robson says
I want to release a book for sale (online) at the end of this year… I have sales goals based on my modest traffic.. then next year I’ll release another updated version, etc etc.
Here’s my idea: perhaps every year, I can submit a Book Layout to several publishers looking for a book deal. If they turn me down, or give me useful feedback, I can go back and tweak the book and come back a year later.. all the while selling my content online, and building the audience.
Alan Rinzler says
Creating a website and blog based on your MG/YA series that includes materials not found in the books themselves is a terrific example of how a fiction writer can build a New Author Platform. I’m impressed with the way you’ve included imaginary poems by your characters and maps of battlefields gathered on trips to “Semdela and Ricamareth”.
This is excellent way to expand your brand and reputation for literary creativity in a manner that offers extra value and sells books.
Will Granger says
Alan, thanks for the interesting post. I have written two novels as part of a MG/YA series and have created a blog based on the books. On the blog, I have a maps, photographs, posters, a poem, and more information – all material you can’t find in my books. I wrote and created it all after I wrote the books. My goal is to make it a fun, interactive site that adds to the experience of reading my books. Here is the link: http://anabarseries.blogspot.com/
I would really like to know what you all think.
Scooter Carlyle says
I disagree, Livia. Most of the blogs I read are of fiction authors, and I blog a great deal about my own fiction. I review other authors’ books, tell fun stories, and open discussions relevant to the genres I write and love. I don’t have that many participants yet, but hey, a person has to start somewhere. Strangely, I seem to be popular in Eastern Europe and former Soviet states. I have no idea why, but I’d better figure it out soon.
Robert Burton Robinson says
@Livia Blackburne said: “I’m starting to wonder if fiction writers are going at it wrong. Maybe instead of blogging in the conventional way, they should be giving away more relevant content. Like giving away short stories (not necessarily on blogs, because people don’t really read fiction on blogs. ScribD, perhaps? Or smashwords?), podcasting their fiction, youtube videos highlighting stories. That might have a more direct transfer.”
That’s what I do. I have over 300,000 words of my fiction on my website, including five books and dozens of short stories. I also offer a free monthly newsletter. Each one contains a new flash fiction short story that is not available anywhere else. I recently recorded an audio version of one of my short stories and also made it into a video. I need to do more videos, perhaps some with me just chatting about my books. I’m a bit late to the game on Twitter, but I’m working at it. I’ve had a Facebook page for a while. It’s a lot of work, but it does pay off.
Alan Rinzler says
Thanks for the link to your excellent article on how a fiction writer can build an online platform. I was impressed with your story of Allison Winn Scotch and her blog, “Ask Allison”. Thanks also for the reference to the ubiquitous J.A. Konrath, whose own sales stats prove how powerful blogging can be to a fiction writer’s platform.
Alan Rinzler says
I agree that fiction writers can build their online platform by giving away more relevant content, like short stories, chapters from a novel, drafts of work-in-progress that invite comments, podcasts, chunks, and youtube videos — all good ideas.
Fiction writers can also provide new material that isn’t in their books by focusing on the specific and unique content of the original work. For example, if you’re writing Moby Dick (no kidding), you can include expanded notes about the history of whaling, including maps of routes to now obsolete hunting grounds, period advertisements for whale oil lamps, and other real-life elements that expand the reader’s experience. And just think what Tolstoy could have added online to War and Peace about Napoleon’s culinary requirements during his disastrous siege of Moscow, or the historical issues underlying the enormous wealth, power and despotism of his hero Pierre, despite his claims to be an ethical prince in Russia’s feudal society — since Tolstoy himself was guilty of such self-serving paternalism with his own estate and its peasants..
The trick is to be creative about each work of fiction and provide something useful that can circle back and inspire the reader to buy the book.
Christina Katz says
Hi Alan and Livia,
First, thanks Alan for another great post, this time on author platform. It’s a topic that I’ve written about extensively in my books and articles for Writer’s Digest.
I covered the topic extensively (though mostly for nonfiction, as Livia said) in Get Known Before the Book Deal and in a few other articles here and there for WD.
I was so concerned that fiction authors would not think that author platform was important to them that I researched many high-selling authors to write “Elements of a Successful Fiction Platform,” which appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest.
Here’s a link if you are interested: http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/get-published-sell-my-work/elements-of-a-successful-fiction-platform
I think Alan makes a great point here: The New Author Platform requires a focus on developing an unobstructed back and forth between authors and their readers, with the authors — not the publishers — controlling the flow. Now it’s the author, not a publicist, who inspires readers to buy the book.
That goes for both nonfiction and fiction writers who wish to stay viable in an ever-changing publishing marketplace.
Best to you both!
Livia Blackburne says
Great post, Alan! What I notice in your post, and what I still struggle with, is the observation that blogging, etc, still seems more naturally suited to nonfiction authors than fiction authors. The freakonomics blog is great, for example, as are some other blogs like the unclutterer, or even bent objects. Fiction authors have a harder time — you hint at this in part 4. She blogs about being a writer, but does that encourage people to buy her romance novels? Fiction writers have a harder time providing useful/relevant information, which is something nonfiction authors can do much more easily. This leaves — blogging about writing, which may or may not be helpful, and also goes toward a very narrow audience, or somehow building a platform by simple force of personality. Some have done this well — John Locke, for example (I blogged about his platform here http://blog.liviablackburne.com/2011/07/author-blogging-youre-doing-it-wrong_21.html), but online charisma is a tricky thing to build. I’m starting to wonder if fiction writers are going at it wrong. Maybe instead of blogging in the conventional way, they should be giving away more relevant content. Like giving away short stories (not necessarily on blogs, because people don’t really read fiction on blogs. ScribD, perhaps? Or smashwords?), podcasting their fiction, youtube videos highlighting stories. That might have a more direct transfer.