By Iola Goulton | @IolaGoulton
Connecting readers and writers around the world. That's the International Christian Fiction Writers tagline. Our mission, if you prefer.
The contributors to International Christian Fiction Writers are all Christians. We live over the world, so we're definitely international. We're all writers, but we don't all write fiction. Some write non-fiction: book reviews, devotionals, articles, blog posts, books.
More important, we're all readers. I think it's fair to say we're all fiction readers, and we love novels with international settings. For some of us (like me), Hometown, USA is an international setting. For most of you, my home—New Zealand—is an international setting.
Contributing to a blog like this is one way of connecting with current and potential readers. It's part of our author platform. If you're a writer looking to get published, that's probably a term you've heard before. If you're a fiction fan, it might be new to you.
What is an author platform?
An author platform is any means by which authors connect with readers and sell books. An author platform typically includes:
- A website (which may or may not include a blog)
- Social media (especially Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter)
And that's where having an author platform is important for authors.
A good author platform will achieve three aims:
- Attract potential customers
- Engage with potential customers
- Convert potential customers into actual customers
Platform is not about selling—at least, it shouldn't be.
It's about connecting and engaging. (The readers among you will be breathing a sigh of relief at that! Who wants to be sold to?)
I hear three common questions from writers about building an author platform:
- When should I start building my platform?
- What is considered a "good" platform?
- How do I build my platform?
Let's look at each question in turn.
1. When should I start building my platform?It's like planting a tree: the best time was twenty years ago. The second-best time is today. My view is authors should start building their platform as soon as they decide they are serious about writing and want to publish.
This is especially true for Christians, who are often writing as a ministry rather than as a profession. Building an author platform is a low-cost way of spreading the message God has given us. We don't need to publish the next Christian bestseller for our writing to be used by God. It could be enough to start a blog.
2. What is considered a "good" platform?That depends on who you are asking. Some people look purely at numbers, but having 10,000 people on an email list that no one opens isn't as good as an email list of 1,000 (or even 100) if those people are connected, engaged, and ready to buy.
There is no straight answer. My best answer is that a "good" platform is one that helps you achieve your writing, publishing, and marketing objectives.
3. How do I build my platform?This is the hardest question. Google "how to build an author platform" and you'll get thousands of answers. Some advice is free, some will cost you hundreds of dollars. A lot of the information assumes you already have a website,social media accounts,and that magic 10,000 people on your email list.
Very little information is aimed at the new writer who has nothing and doesn't know where to start.
That's why I developed my March Marketing Challenge: Kick-Start Your Author Platform.
It's a 40-day email challenge that takes participants through:
- The Marketing Mix
- What is Brand?
- Know Your Genre
- Know Your Target Reader
- Design Your Visual Brand: fonts, colours, author photo, website logo
- Create and Brand Social Media: Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest
- Create a Social Media Plan
- To Blog or Not to Blog?
- Create a Mailing List
- Website setup, configuration, design, and content
The Kick-Start Your Author Platform Challenge could be for you ...
- If you know you need to start building your author platform but have no idea where to start.
- If you have a blog and a couple of social media accounts but don't know what to do next.
- If you have a website, but aren't sure if you're on the right track.
Each weekday will have an email explaining some aspect of building a platform, and up to three tasks. Some tasks are quick and easy, while others are ... less quick. Saturday will be a catch-up day, and Sunday is a day of rest and contemplation.
There is also a private Facebook group where participants can ask questions, share their successes, and encourage each other.
If you'd like to find out more, visit www.christianediting.co.nz/kick-start and sign up. We're starting on Monday 5 March!
About Iola GoultonIola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).
Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.