To Blog or not to Blog: is that even a question?

When an author starts out on their writing career, they’re told by publishers, blogs on writing, fellow writers, industry experts and online book distributors, that they need to build an author platform.

But why do authors need a platform? Shouldn’t publishers take care of building your brand to sell your books?

Image: Hard Success. Used with permission.
Paolo de Santis: Dreamstime.com

The truth is, publishers only tend to spend money on marketing and promoting books that they think will get the sales. This means that most authors see little to no advertising and marketing spends on their books.

Fair? – no.

Reality? – yes.

This is why an author needs to be an active part of their marketing and promotion through their social media presence.

But what is an Author Platform and how does an author get one?

Jane Friedman, publisher, editor, professor and prolific commentator on this subject, defines an author platform as “complex and organic”.

And she’s right.

An author platform isn’t something you can build overnight: it’s made up of many parts, and those parts are constantly changing.

However, for most authors, it’s about time: the time you spend building your author platform rather than writing your book.

Some book-marketing experts say that novelists should build their author platform only on social media sites because they are far less time-consuming and are direct links to author markets.

Image: Geiser exploding. Used with permission. Leisl Leighton

There is no doubt Facebook, Twitter and so on are useful tools in your platform-building arsenal, but do the affordances of these platforms work against the author, or for them? Facebook could one day implode like MySpace. If that happens, then all those hours spent building your platform on that site would be for nothing.

There’s also the question of who’s in control of the platform affordances. The owner of the platform? You, the novelist? Or is it the audience who comes there to hang out and socialise?

The answer is all three, but does this sharing of ownership work for novelists who are trying to build their names to sell books?

The Case for a Blog

Harlequin Australia, (Harper Collins Australia) have launched their own blog site to promote the romance genre: Romance.com.au.

RWA logo. Used with permission. RWA

Adam Van Rooijen, head of Digital and Marketing Communications for Harper Collins Australia, spoke about creating the blog at the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) conference in August 2018.

Adam said that while Harper Collins Australia would still use other social media platforms, their research suggested that only through Romance.com.au could they reach audiences and expand the interests of the genre in a way that truly reflects the romance brand.

He has a good point. While social media sites ‘are controlled by professional organisations who are paid to help you connect and share‘, their constantly shifting algorithms are making it increasingly difficult to reach target audiences and for you to have control over your brand and how you want to express it.

Cover for Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a digital world.
Used with permission. Kristen Lamb

In her book, Rise of The Machines: Human Authors in a Digital Age, Kristen Lamb talks about the benefits of the affordances of social media platforms, but also about their downfalls. She encourages authors to build a website/blog as a way to ensure stability and longevity for their platform.

As she says in the blurb:

‘The cool new social site might change, but your platform will remain.’

The reason Kristen, among others, champions the website/blog is that, unlike other social media sites, your blog is yours. You control its content, how often you blog, where those blogs get shared, who can comment and what they can comment on. And every blog increases your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

Your website/blog can be your online CV with links to your social media and more. To start you can:

  • talk about your books and your process
  • share excerpts, deleted scenes or personal stories
  • sign readers up to your all-important newsletter
  • celebrate contract signings, new covers and promote upcoming releases
  • have a ‘My Books’ page with buy links.

More importantly, it is the place people – your readers, media, agents, publishers – can find out more about you and make contact.

Your Website/Blog: Author-Platform Manna

Image: Blank paper with pen and coffee cup on wood table. Used with permission.
Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Your website/blog is the base of your platform, the manna that everything social media and marketing feeds from so that it can grow.

‘Essentially for an author, your name is your brand; and for any brand, a website is an integral element in valuable promotion.’ (Eloise Edstein)

This doesn’t mean you don’t use the affordances of social media sites, but ultimately, the best way to express who you are as an author and build an audience interested in you and your work – and who will ultimately buy your books – is through an author website and blog.

I love to hear from my readers. Let me know if you tried blogging and if you have one, pop the link in the comments below – I love discovering new blogs. Alternatively, you can catch me on Facebook or Twitter (@LeislLeighton #amwriting #authorservices #authorplatform) and leave your link and comments there.

[Featured Image at top: People notes meeting team. Used with permission. WordPress stock image. Pexels]