Tag Archives: author platform

Broad Universe Reads at Westercon68

Westercon68
The West Coast Science Fantasy Conference aka Westercon is a regional science fiction and fantasy convention geared toward fans, musicians, writers, and filmmakers of the genre. It is typically a four-day event that is traditionally held during the Independence Day holiday weekend. The location rotates to a new city each year, chosen somewhere in the United States west of the 104th meridian line. The guests of honor are chosen from professionals who live in the Westercon region.

TownCntryResort rosesThis year, Westercon was held in San Diego, CA at the Town and Country Resort in conjunction with two local conventions, Conjecture (a science fiction and fantasy literary convention) and ConChord (a filk singers convention). It is a lovely hotel filled with bright blue swimming pools, blooming roses, and garden settings.

This was my first time at a regional literary convention. The size and scope of it was bigger than I had expected. I was registered as a panelist for the first time and I participated in two events. The first event was a lecture on Author Platform, based on the methods that I use to promote No Wasted Ink. My lecture was well attended and I found the give and take of questions during the lecture to be interesting. I hope that my information was of help to my fellow authors.

Broad Universe Reading at Westercon68 (2015)My second event was a panel that I created to feature the local authors of Broad Universe, a writing guild where I am a member. Broad Universe is an international non-profit writer’s guild that promotes women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative genres. It began as a panel discussion at WisCon back in 2000 and has grown into a large volunteer-run group that attends various conventions and conferences to promote the member’s books. One of the more popular activities of the group are known as “rapid fire readings” which feature group readings by the authors in convention panels or as a salon reading in the evening. Broad Universe also offers access to Net Gallery, occasionally have tables where member’s can sell their books at science fiction conventions and is a great place for authors to network via their email list, Facebook group or Twitter.

Our panel was given a great time in the convention on Friday afternoon. Our Broad Universe readers were Jude-Marie Green, Barbara Clark, Wendy Van Camp, Elizabeth Watasin, and Shauna Roberts. I was surprised by the turnout of listeners, many were women that sat and knitted as they listened to our stories. Having my own handmade jewelry in the art show at Westercon, I was gratified to see the support from fellow artisans. There were also a scattering of men and women who were typical convention attendees that came out of curiosity to experience new authors.

After our hour-long panel, we proceeded downstairs to the dealer room where a pair of tables were set up for authors to autograph their books. It was not set up for our group alone, but all the authors had a place on the schedule, including the big name authors that attended the convention. All of us sold and autographs books that afternoon.

Westercon68 Autographing (2015) Jude-Marie Green, Barbara Clark, Wendy Van Camp.Westercon68 Autographing 2 (2015) Elizabeth Watasin, Shauna Roberts

Authors Top Photo: Jude-Marie Green, Barbara Clark, Wendy Van Camp
Authors Bottom Photo: Elizabeth Watasin, Shauna Roberts

For the writers and fans of science fiction, literary conventions are a great place to learn more about the genre, meet famous authors in person, network with your fellow fans, authors, filmmakers, or to explore your wild side by costuming.

Primer for Building Your Author Platform

author platformAs a writer, it is hard to know where to start when building your author platform. What to include, what numbers to shoot for in traffic, when to start working on it, and how it all connects can be bewildering. Before I started to build my own platform, I went to several lectures by successful authors and asked what they were doing to promote themselves and their books and what sort of numbers they had when they started to have successful sales.

It Starts With Your Blog

First, the time to start working on your author platform is now. Do not wait until you have a finished novel ready to upload onto Amazon. These venues will make your book available to sell, but they will do little to market your novel except to list it in their catalogs. Allow yourself at least a full year before your first work is complete to start getting your platform onto the internet.

The base of your platform is your blog. It is the first item in your platform that you should finish. Consider it your home base on the internet, the one place that you wish to funnel all the other aspects of your marketing to. Your website should contain the following elements: a biography with a photo of yourself, a list of clips that you’ve published or links to where your work can be purchased and finally, articles, story samples and other posts of interest. Whenever possible, give a hotlink to your published work so that potential readers can get an idea of your style of writing.

Through the blog, the readers get to know you as a writer and person, creating a better connection between you. On my blog, I write articles about the craft of writing, book reviews of science fiction, fantasy and classic novels that have inspired me as a writer and do short essays about subjects I enjoy commentating upon. Since I’m a science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction writer, I interview other authors in these genre. By coming to read about an author with similar work to mine, it gets my blog in their mind, and it tends to interest the readers to stick around for other posts. Hopefully, that interest will extend toward purchasing one of my stories on Amazon.

This is the base. This is the one basic thing that every writer should have. Not a static author page. Not a simple online portfolio, but a WordPress blog where you can interact with your readership and showcase your work. I recommend WordPress over other blog platforms because it is free to use and free to host when you first start. The only option you should pay for is your domain name and attach it to your blog. Later on, when you are more established, you can move your WordPress blog to a hosted account and acquire more bells and whistles for you platform, but when you are in the first year, your traffic will be low enough that it will not warrant the expenditure.

Reach Out and Touch Your Readers

Once your blog is in place, you need to reach out and market it. To do so, you need the following: A Facebook page devoted to you as a writer, a twitter account, and a google+ account. All of these accounts should be focused on you as a writer. You are building your name as your brand, attempting to make it recognizable, not selling a single book or story.

First open up your Facebook page. Mine is called No Wasted Ink on Facebook, the same as my website. WordPress can be set to automatically post a link to any blog post I create to this page, so promoting my blog on Facebook is no additional work on my part. However, do not use your Facebook page as a place for your links alone, you need to make it interesting for your potential book customers to learn more about you as an author. I like to make small posts about what I am doing as a writer on mine. I write about the writing gatherings I attend, seminars that I go to or simply quotes from famous people that I like. I keep the subject focused on writing. I recommend using a Facebook page to make your reader contacts over having them as Facebook friends. You are limited to 5000 friends on your personal Facebook account, but you can have unlimited numbers of followers on a page.

Second, open up a twitter account that you will devote to your writing career. It should not be an account to make personal comments on. Keep all interactions on this account about writing, either answering tweets from followers or passing on tweets about writing that you find interesting. If you write in a specific genre, tweets related to that genre are also appropriate. Link your Facebook page so that all your Facebook posts are tweeted to your twitter account. It is also possible to set your WordPress blog to tweet each of your posts directly to twitter. Set up a chain so that both services are tweeted automatically.

Third, join Google+. This network is growing larger every day and the more people that are in your circles the better. WordPress will automatically post a link to your blog posts there and I recommend you take advantage of this feature. Just as you did on your Facebook page, leave comments about writing, related genre commentary and other posts related to your writing.

What Numbers Should I Have Before My First Novel Goes On Sale?

You should have the following base numbers in each area before you consider putting your first book on sale:

Facebook Page: 500 followers
Twitter: 10,000 followers
Wordpress: 500 followers
Google+: 500 followers

As you see, building your author platform takes a great deal of work. Writing and maintaining your blog is a part-time job. You will be marketing your work almost every day. Try to not let it overwhelm you. I check my blog, Facebook, google+ and twitter twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening.

Is all the work worth it?

I feel that putting your name as an author out is important, even if you do not have a book to offer yet. The readers will see your writing samples on your blog and get to know you. When your first book comes out, you might not be swamped with readers wanting to buy your book, but I suspect you will have far more than had you done nothing.

When I launched my first ebook The Curate’s Brother: A Jane Austen Variation of Persuasion, I did not have a marketing plan in place for my first ebook. I published a blog post announcing its launch and asked a few of my writing friends if they would be kind enough to interview me on their blogs. I also asked if I could join in a live reading series in my area and was accepted. I was astonished by the number of sales I had in the first three months after my book launch. It was not a blockbuster, but it was far more of a return than if I had published the story in an anthology or magazine. I credit these sales to my budding author platform and consistent blogging.

These steps are only the beginning in creating your author platform. However, before you publish your first ebook, this is enough to get started and to become comfortable with promoting yourself as a writer. Once you publish, there are more things that you can do to get the word out about your writing, but as they say, that is story for another time.

The Base of the Writer’s Platform: Your Website

The Base of the Writer's Platform: Your WebsiteAs a writer, it is hard to know where to start when building your author platform. However, the one thing that I can impart to you about a writer’s platform is that the time to start it is now. Not tomorrow, not when your rough draft is completed, and certainly not when your book is finished and you are waiting to find a traditional publisher or independently publish your work on Amazon. You must give your platform time to be discovered and linked to the myriad of places where readers can find you.

There are two types of author websites. A static website that changes only once in a great while and a writer’s blog where the author posts on a regular basis in addition to all the information that is contained on a static website. Both have advantages over the other. The static website needs little maintenance once it is set up. It is the sort of place that you can hire a webmaster to run for you if you are uncomfortable with computers or simply don’t have the time to work on your site. This sort of site is not as good for linking with social media. The blog website takes time from the author’s schedule. You must write posts, work at marketing your posts to many social media networks, and still have all the same information that a static website contains. This sort of website will bring you in many readers, depending on the content you offer on your blog.

STARTING YOUR WEBSITE

The first task you have for your website is to decide on its name. This can be different from the domain name that is associated with it. Since you want to brand yourself as an author, a natural choice for your domain name and the name of your website is the name you will be writing under. Some people will add the word “author” to their name so that it is apparent that they are writers even if only their name appears. You can also choose a catch phrase for your blog and use that as your URL. My own writing blog is called No Wasted Ink and can be found at http://nowastedink.com. Remember, if you choose a name or phrase as your domain URL, you will have to live with it for a long time. Choose wisely.

I highly recommend that you purchase the domain of your personal name even if you decide to use a different domain for your website. As your sales increase, others may seek to purchase your name domain and then charge you a high price for it. It is best to secure it as soon as possible. You do not need to use it on your blog, but can instead choose to park it at your domain service. Do not purchase the name of your novel, after all, you will hopefully write many more books in the future. Keep all your books under one roof. It is better to dedicate a page on your website to a new book than to give that book its own website.

Finally, do not host your domain name with the same company that hosts your website. I have heard countless stories of authors that wanted to move to a new host, but were unable to get their previous host to release their domain or even to point it at the new location for months at a time. They do this to try and force you to stay with them. If you control where your domain is hosted, none of these games can be played on you. It costs a little more to structure it this way, but I feel that it is worth it for your peace of mind.

CHOOSE A HOST FOR YOUR WEBSITE

There are several options when choosing a place to host your website. Remember, when you choose a free hosting option, the host company will likely run ads on your website and they do not always offer to link your domain name to your website.

For a free static website the following are recommended services:

BIZ.nf
WIZ
BIZ.ly

For a free blog website:

Blogger.com
WordPress.com

If you would rather not have ads on your website and access to email, forms and other features, consider paying for a hosted website. The following can host either a static or a blog website and have push button creation of most of the popular content engines:

BlueHost
HostGator
GoDaddy

STYLE TIPS

Neutral Colors
When picking a template for your website, choose something that is simple in design. You don’t want flashy graphics, bright colors or purple unicorns. Choose a simple black and white or neutral pallet for your site. You want to present yourself as a respectable professional.

Keep It Simple
Make sure that the navigation structure is easy for the reader to follow, no element of your website should need even a second of thought to find information on.

Less Links
Do not post counters, guest books, or prominent links to other sites unless you are active on them. This needs to be the final place where a reader will go to learn all about you as an author and about your books.

It Is All About You
On your front page, you should include a prominent location in the upper third for a form that signs up people to your mailing list, a graphic and clickable link to your latest book or to a magazine article that you have published, and your photo and name.

ELEMENTS TO INCLUDE ON YOUR WEBSITE

Both a static website and a blog have certain pages that should be included. These information pages explain to the reader about your history, list your bibliography, upcoming projects and other relevant information. The basic pages you need to include are:

Biography
This is a paragraph or two about you as an author. Think of it as a resume with your reader as the prospective employer. List information about yourself that you don’t mind releasing the public and give the reader a sense of who you are as a writer. Always include a photo of yourself on this page. It is also a great alternate place to put in a form for a newsletter, since readers who are interested in you are most likely to view this page.

Bibliography
Create a page that lists your published writing credits: magazines you’ve sold stories to, guest posts you’ve written, books you’ve published. If you can links to your work online, even better. Not only readers will be coming here to see your work, but prospective editors and publishers will as well.

Contact
Create a way for people to contact you easily. Most static webhosts provide scripts to create forms for this purpose. The free blog hosts have you use a third party service.

A few optional pages to include:

    A page of novel excerpts so that readers can see a sample of each of your published works or even samples of unpublished ones.
    A page of character sketches
    A page of books that you recommend for reading on Amazon

FREQUENCY

If you decide to create a blog style writer platform, you will create more work for yourself because you must write blog posts. However, this work is off-set by the greater reach your social media will have to create a readership for your books. It is my personal feeling that a blog is a much stronger base than a static website.

In order to keep the workload manageable, you must regulate the frequency of your posts. Back in the 1990s when blogging first began, the gurus of the time all proclaimed that you needed to post at least once a day to generate traffic. As an author, this is not really the case. You must put your creative writing, the writing that earns you income, first over the writing you do for the blog. Therefore, consider microblogging to be your method. What microblogging means is that you post less frequently, but on a regular basis. You can post once or twice a week, but pick a certain day and time to do those posts and really make it shine. Over time, your readers will come to expect a post on that day and you will gain a following.

I post three times a week on No Wasted Ink: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Occasionally, I will post additional announcements or Vintage Holiday Cards. That is my microblogging schedule.

As a writer, you will need to decide how much time you have for a blog and then set up a blogging plan that you feel you can follow. Remember, you will be doing this for a long time, perhaps years, so try and not do too much at once. You can always change your blogging frequency in the future if it becomes overwhelming.

FINAL WORD

Your website is the base of your writer’s platform. It is the single thing that you as an author should have up on the Internet so that potential readers can find you and your books. So get started building the base of your platform. It is not as hard as you might think.

Why Is Klout Good For Writers?

KloutA writer’s platform is centered on their blog or website. All channels lead back to it and it is the cornerstone of all the social media “legs” that prop it up, such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Yet, there is another “leg” an author should add to his writer’s platform: Klout, the most overlooked and unappreciated service on the Internet. Many authors view Klout as a popularity contest worthy of an eye-roll and a snort of derision. “Why would I need to waste my time on gaining a number that measures my social media popularity? Isn’t that too high school for me to worry about?”

Yes and No.

Like it or not, Klout is becoming a factor in many of the third-party services used to manage your writing platform or to find writing clients via social media. In these services, the Klout Score is offered to the author as a way to evaluate twitter or other social media followers. You will find it used in Wikipedia, LinkedIn Job Titles, +K, Odesk, Hootsuite, Tweepi, and the Bing search engine. Whether we wish it or not, Klout is slowly gaining favor as a means to measure your influence in social media. This number may translate into dollars when it comes to sales. It is not a perfect system, but it does give others a sense of how much influence you exert in the social media world.

How to Start with Klout.

The first step in adding Klout to your writing platform is to sign up for a free account. Connect whatever social media networks you frequent. Klout supports Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Twitter, Wikipedia and Instagram to create your Klout Score. As of 2013, after Microsoft invested in Klout, Bing was also added as a data influence to your Klout Score. You can also link up YouTube, Flickr, Blogger, Tumblr, Last.fm, and WordPress, but at present, these networks are not part of the algorithm that determines your Klout Score. Consider them to be optional.

The Klout Score ranges from 1 to 100, with the higher scores equaling a higher ranking in the users online influence. Of all the networks, Twitter is the one that Klout looks at the most closely and I would recommend that, at bare minimum, you have a Twitter account to link to before you start your Klout account.

Klout measures influence by using the data from Twitter, such as your follower number, retweets, list memberships, how many spam/dead accounts are following you, how influential the people that retweet you are and your unique mentions. This information is blended in with the data from your other accounts to get your final score. The average social media user has a score in the high 30s to low 40s.

Some authors believe that posting a thousand times and getting a few responses will raise their Klout Score. This is not the case. Klout doesn’t measure how much someone talks, but more about how many people listen and respond. Keep that in mind as you work on increasing your social media standing and your Klout Score.

Set It and Forget It

Once you have your Klout account set up it will give you your first Klout Score. Your score is based on your interactions for the past 90 days. Don’t be upset if your first score is low. This will change gradually over time as you work on the other legs of your writing platform. Don’t spend much time looking at Klout and worrying over your score. Think of it as a stock market with its ups and downs, it is more a long term response than short term. As you build your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ presence, your Klout Score will naturally rise. I check mine once or twice a month. It gives me an idea how my networks are doing at a glance. What I look for is a steady rise in the number that shows that my social media network and connections are growing at a slow, but healthy rate. If my Klout Score dips more than one or two points, I know that something is going wrong and I should look into my networks to see what is going on.

Your goal is to build up a Klout Score that is 50+. This shows that you have an above average social interaction rate and are more likely to be able to market your book successfully. Several publishers are known to look at an author’s Klout Score to determine if they have enough social media connections in order to market their books. If your Klout Score is too low, they may not offer you a contract no matter how good your book is. People on Twitter and other services will be more likely to keep you in their networks because your score will enhance theirs and the ball keeps on rolling as your connections grow deeper and more complex on the Internet.

So is Klout worth the effort? Considering that all it takes is the time to set up your free account, about a half hour at the most, and then letting it run in the background unattended, I say that it is. Klout also offers “perks” to those that sign up for the program and want to spend more time on the site. I feel that this aspect is optional. As a writer myself, I would rather put my time into writing for my blog and working on my books than seeking freebies on Klout, but this is a personal opinion. You might decide that free cups of coffee and other small goodies are worth the effort.