Monday, June 6, 2011

17 Simple Steps to Build a Fiction Platform

Way back in 2008 when I started this blog, I knew next to nothing about how to build a fiction platform. It's a good thing I don't embarrass easily because as I kept my eyes open and learned more, I realized how many things I could be doing better.

Waving Panda
Photo by greggoconell

We have so many fantastic, free media sites to help us with our networking, but we don't always understand how to use them. Fear and ignorance hold us back. And I can only speak for myself, but I was overly cautious. I wanted to build a platform but didn't understand the fundamental mindset behind one.

If you're unsure where to start or how to grow a web presence, I'd like to help.

With that in mind, here are 17 simple ways to build a fiction platform:

1. Decide on your author name. Real name or pen name? Your author name is the foundation of your fiction platform.

2. Get a good head shot of yourself smiling. Use this picture on all social media sites.

3. Fill out a Blogger profile under your author name even if you don't have a blog. Include an e-mail address. Create a new e-mail address if necessary, but include one. Upload your fab picture in your profile. Why do this? Many blogs are hosted by Blogger. When you leave comments, you want your pen name and your picture to be associated with your comments. Also, if the blog host or someone else wants to contact you, they can e-mail you.

4. Start reading author and agent blogs:

    a. Leave comments on blogs (use your author name--an anonymous comment won't help you)
    b. Read the other comments--there's a wealth of info in them
    c. Click on the commenters you enjoy and check if they have a blog
    d. Read the blogs of commenters you enjoy
    e. Go ahead and follow blogs either through Google Friend Connect or by clicking on the RSS feed.

5. Purchase a domain name with your author name. Ex: http://www.jillkemerer.com/

6. Brainstorm topics you consider your strengths. If you decide to start a blog, this will help you narrow down what to focus your posts on.

7. If you decide to blog, weigh the benefits of using Wordpress or Blogger. Go to blogs using these services, do an Internet search of Wordpress vs. Blogger, or ask bloggers their opinion. We all like to share opinions.

8. Create a Facebook page under your author name for networking and accept all friend requests (keep your personal info out of this account)

9. Whenever you log on to Facebook, friend request one or two people it suggests to you. Easy way to grow your network! Don't be offended if not everyone accepts your requests.

10. Create a LinkedIn account under your author name.

11. If you create a blog, use your author name in your URL (http://jillkemerer.blogspot.com/)

12. Check out your favorite author's websites and analyze what you like and don't like about their sites. Take notes on the types of pages they feature, the wording and length of the biography, and the overall look and theme of their site. Bookmark the sites for future reference.

13. Write a short author bio to use on your social media sites

14. Determine how much time you can devote each day or week to building your platform (if you only have 10 minutes a week, stick with a Facebook account. If you have three hours, consider blogging.)

15. Join a national writing organization and attend local chapter meetings. Romance Writers of America has given me priceless information, great contacts, and plenty of opportunities to "get my name out there" by networking in person.

16. Willing to speak at a local writers group? Draw up a list of possible topics. It's never too early to plan for speaking engagements. Remember, a fiction platform doesn't have to be contained to an online presence.

17. Create a Twitter account under your author name. If this terrifies you, see my articles Twitter 101: Creating an Account and Twitter 101: Beginner's Tips. And e-mail me with any questions (jill(at)jillkemerer(dot)com) I'd love to connect with you on Twitter!

Breathe. You don't have to build a platform over night. Just add to your knowledge, add to your social media sites--and keep learning!

I've recommended her book before, and I'll recommend it again. Kristen Lamb's We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media is my favorite book on social media and building a platform. She's also created a hashtag on Twitter to connect the We Are Not Alone tribe--#MyWANA. Just do a quick Twitter search and you'll find tons of like-minded writers plus oodles of great links!

What is your best tip on building a fiction platform?

Have a super Monday!

45 comments:

  1. All great tips, Jill! I've been having a lot more fun on twitter since getting the hang of it. Thanks for sharing. I always leave your blog more informed. :)

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  2. Mine would be to be yourself and don't be afraid to try new things b/c you might find you really enjoy them. :)

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  3. Great advice going on here, Jill. You've just about covered it, and I think it's really important to know that it's a process, one step at a time, as we build that platform. Eventually we get there :)

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  4. Excellent tips!! Still not using Twitter as much--it doesn't really grab me:)

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  5. Good morning!

    Jessica P: Thank you! It's fun to connect with you over on Twitter!

    Laura: Oh yes. I've had to stretch my comfort zone, and I've found that my comfort zone is a lot bigger than it was before!

    Joanne: I agree. Nothing happens overnight. Building a platform is all about baby steps and taking our time!

    Terri: That's okay! Not every program will appeal to every writer, but it is nice to at least try them!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  6. Excellent tips! I like the part about breathing, too. ;)

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  7. A sweet compilation of ideas.

    Yes, yes they are. You've got it goin' on with building that platform. Champion tools in that tool belt. Thanks for sharing your insights!
    ~ Wendy

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  8. Great. Great. Great. I also found that making bookmarks with my book and website was very useful. It's sometimes awkward when a friend or family member introduces me to someone and says, "oh, she's a writer. Read her book!" If I give them my bookmark, the pressure is off. They can check it out, ask questions - or not. Simple!

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  9. Great list, Jill. I've done most of the items on the list. I need to get Kristin Lamb's book. I'm trying to juggle work, writing, family, and social networking. It's a challenge. I'll get it figured out.

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  10. Great tips!

    You have encouraged and inspired me in so many ways. I have learned a ton from you on platform subject and others regarding writing.

    Thank you, Jill. You're awesome!

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  11. Thanks for spelling it all out Jill. I'm excited to say I've done what you've suggested, stumbled my way into the right places over the years, I guess. The one exception is my blog, which is not my name - I named it An Olio a Day... Your thoughts?

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  12. Excellent tips, especially the bolded include your email in blogger! I love when I can hit reply on a comment and email somebody privately. I don't like when I see that pesky "no-reply" email address.

    Anyway - another tip is to read Kristen Lamb's books. We Are Not Alone: A Writer's Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog? It's Me, Writer. I read both in one week and learned so much about social media and platform building!

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  13. Great tips! I bought my domain name a few years ago - it's cheap and easy to do. :-)

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  14. Great tips, Jill. I was able to say yes to all of them, but I've been working at this for over three years. I made some false starts and embarrassing faux pas along the way. Wish I'd had your list back then. =)

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  15. Great tips. Platforms and brands are so important these days.

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  16. Such a timely post! I'm writing my first novel and trying to build my platform right now. Happy to see I've already been doing (or plan to do) a few of your tips!

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  17. Sandra: I need to breathe! I think we all do. Selling ourselves as authors can be pretty intimidating!

    Wendy: Thank you! Sometimes I feel on top of the whole social media thing and others I feel woefully behind. :)

    Karen: What a great tip! It DOES take the pressure off when you can simply hand someone info about your books.

    Lisa: It IS a challenge. I know. Anyone who says building a platform doesn't take time and energy? Well, they're lying!

    Loree: Thank you! I appreciate the kind words--and I'm very glad we connected!!

    January: Awesome! Our instincts usually lead us correctly! As for your blog name--is your author name in the blog title at all? If not, simply change the title of your blog (you can simply type a change in the settings). I'll stop by later, okay?

    Katie: I've got to get Kristen's new book! Loved your post on it last Friday!

    Melissa: I agree. For ten bucks a year, we can hold onto our domain. Yay!

    Keli: Me too. When I started out, I didn't have an e-mail address anywhere on my blog account, I didn't have a Follow button, and I didn't know much about tags, SEO, or how to work with the community of other bloggers. I'm still learning!

    Carol: Yep. They are!

    Leigh: Ooo, congrats! It's good to start platform early because it does take time. And it's less intimidating to add to our platforms as time progresses rather than feeling pressured to do everything at once. :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  18. I like how you've laid this out in bite-sized, non-intimidating pieces. Now, I need to update my blogger ID to show my real name. :)

    Jeanne Ryan

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  19. Great tips Jill. Although I do have to disagree about the Facebook profile. It is actually in Facebook's terms of use that it is your only account (No fake profiles, no multiple accounts). They have made it very clear lately that if they find a duplicate profile or fake profile it will be eliminated.
    While as an author this could pose as a problem it really doesn't anymore. You can leverage the privacy settings on your personal profile to keep things separate but you can also now wield your own page to use like a profile to comment on other authors, writers and such pages. If you use the author page to comment and link then you never have to worry about being swamped with random people connecting with you.

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  20. Thanks for the tips, Jill. I always come away from your blog feeling like I have a better handle on the writing world. A couple of months ago, I wasn't even considering blogging. Now it's so much fun that I can't see myself without it.

    Still not on Twitter yet, but I'll get there ;-)

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  21. After being in this for awhile, I knew most of the tips you provided, but it was a great remider that I need to devote a little time each week to PURPOSELY growing my platform. Thank you!

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  22. Great post Jill,

    One thing that I've found to help is to use something personal in your life to connect with people via social media. Keep it personal but something safe. I often talk about my dog, Oscar. Now, yes he was the inspiration to my non-fiction, "Caring for Your Special Needs Dog," but I use to talk about him even before I knew I would right that book.

    Tons of people are dog lovers. Find an interest that you share with many and you can quickly build a network. But don't bombard people with this info. I only mention my dog about three times a day on Twitter. The majority of my @ messages are about those tweets.

    I hope that helps someone and again, great post.

    Natalie C. Markey

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  23. Yes, good tips! I know I could be doing more but I've been hesitant because I want to put that energy into the thing that's going to make the most difference and be something I'm committed to. But I definitely know who to ask when I'm ready for that next step :)

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  24. Serenissima: Oh good! I'm glad it helped!

    P.W.: Very true. I should have specified that in my Facebook point. Thanks for pointing that out. I have only one account. I use it for networking and I don't include much personal information. Works for me!

    Brandi: Yay! I'm so glad you love blogging--and a huge congrats on your book deal!

    Ralene: Even our purposeful networking can grow if taken in small chunks. :)

    Natalie: Great advice! I talk about my mini-dachshund, Sophie, too! I love when people discuss their cats and dogs. :)

    Cindy: You're great at it--you're just focused where you should be right now!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  25. I agree! Kristen is the best...I stalk her. :)

    I need to start blogging a bit more about the topics in my novel like football and mystery; but, for now I don't think I'm doing anything wrong according to what Kristen has taught.

    Have you bought her new book? I have but I haven't started reading...I'm lucky, thought - I'm actually a member of her writing group that meets on Saturdays. I've only been a few times, but I find it invaluable!

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  26. Great advice. I am looking for all the help and advice I can get as I am just starting out with Twitter and my blog. Thank you for sharing your tips.

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  27. Wonderful tips! When I started my blog it was just to keep family and friends up to date on our goings on. It has changed platforms several times, and I wish I had started out with a more precise vision. I think I have decided that the blog I have now doesn't need to be my "professional" blog, hopefully that will come later:)

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  28. All very good points Jill. I've been meaning to get Kristen's book on social media. Thank you for the reminder!

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  29. I liked this quick run down. Lots of good info here. Kristen's information is invaluable. I'm adopting each new technique as I learn it. Luckily, I didn't have an online presence until I met Kristen, so I didn't have much to undo.

    Tiffany--I struggle with topics for my blog, too. Today I blogged about junk digging TV shows. It wasn't as popular as my blogs about ghosts and outlaws, but those take hours, dude! I needed a break.

    This online networking thing is a huge learning curve. I don't think I've felt this dumb since, well, last time I felt this dumb. :D

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  31. Tiffany: I stalk her too. I just call mine a "writer crush"! And I didn't know you write about football. I love football! Can't wait until fall!

    Rebecca: Aren't we all? :) I've learned most of what I know by watching how my peers do it right!

    Kara: Great idea! I'm glad you're flexible with your blog!

    Lynn: The book entertains as much as it informs--it's a goodie!

    Catie: It is difficult to hit on the right topic. Since I read tons of magazines, I work with a more 'magazine headline' type of post. It works for me!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  32. Wow, Jill, awesome list! I wish I had joined Twitter sooner. I never realized its multiplication power. And now I'm off to Tweet this... :)

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  33. Excellent post, Jill!! The biggest tool I'm learning to use right now is Goodreads. I'm really torn on what to share and what not to share on that site. How much of an open book do I want to be?

    Thanks for this great post.

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  34. Great post! Very well done and very much needed. You inspire me to work harder.

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  35. Sarah: I agree. It took me a while to get comfortable with Twitter, but I've found it to be an amazing networking tool!

    Heather: Yeah, it's tough. I leave reviews of all the books I read, but I think I'll plan on not leaving a review if I read a book I really don't care for.

    Kathi: Thank you!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  36. All great tips! Not sure what more I can add except don't try and compare yourselves with others. Be yourself even if the numbers are small and I believe those that need to find you will, eventually!

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  37. Awesome post, Jill. You are always SUPER helpful, leading us along by hand, when necessary.

    Taking your advice I just hopped over to Blogger and filled out a Profile. Hopefully, I will (at last) have a photo come up with my comment.

    Thank you for caring so deeply about your fellow writers. It is obvious this is one of your missions in life!

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  38. One more note of thanks, Jill. Because of your urging, with my new Blog site, all of the Blogs I follow are AT MY FINGERTIPS, which is VERY COOL and makes them SO much easier to follow!! Tres wonderful!!

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  39. A very useful set of ideas. When I get ready to do another novel, I'll get busy on this. Thanks

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  40. Blogging and Twitter are my favorite social media tools. I definitely think I could do better with my Facebbok account.

    Since my tweets automatically post to Facebook, but I rarely pop over to interact.

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  41. Hi :)

    Great tips.

    Just to add that when choosing a pen name, make it marketable - easy to be pronounced and remembered by the readers.

    Thank you for the very interesting post.

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  42. Hi Jill!

    I found your blog when someone re-tweeted your link on Twitter. Great post! Thanks for the tips. :)

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  43. Ah, gotcha Jill. Sorry, stems from being buried in SM everyday for work. ;-)

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  44. Gina: Great advice and I remind myself of that often. :)

    Patti: You're such an encourager! Thank you so much for the sweet words. And yay for making life easier!

    Nancy: I like the sound of "get to work on another novel." Good luck!!

    Tamika: I'm not great on Facebook either. I miss half of everyone's posts even though my settings are for everyone's to show up. Oh well!

    Jacqvern: Oh yes! And make sure it isn't being overused yet, either. It's a good idea to Google search any pen names and see who shows up in search engines. I wouldn't want to compete with someone who has a huge web presence and the same name as me.

    Kristen: Welcome! I'm so glad you came by!

    PW: That's why I'm glad you chimed in. I know you know what you're talking about!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  45. Hi, Jill.

    # 10, what's a LinkedIn id? I don't think I've ever heard of that before. What are the benefits?

    Great list, Jill!

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