I work with professionals who are writing self-help books. These are men and women who are at the height of their careers and are ready to share their knowledge—some as a way to further their careers, some to share insights gained through years of experience, some as a way to give back in their respective fields. I tell them all the same thing:
As an author, you are responsible for finding and building your readership. You must build your author platform.
I am an editor, not a social media or marketing specialist … but I spend several hours every day reading blogs and articles by specialists in those areas so I can keep my finger on the pulse of traditional and self-publishing trends and best practices. Not only is this daily self-education important for my editing work, but offering insight into these “foreign territories” has become increasingly important to the authors I work with. Many hire me specifically because I have experience in both the traditional and self-publishing worlds.
But simply writing a book—no matter how good it is—doesn’t guarantee readers will buy it, as many first-time self-publishing authors discover.
This idea comes as a shock to many professionals who are dipping their toes into publishing waters for the first time. But many authors who buy into the concept that platform–building for their writing career is every bit as important as it is for their profession often become overwhelmed quickly by all the options for doing that. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn … the list of social media sites seems unmanageable if you’ve never tackled any of them.
I know I don’t have time to manage 16 different social media accounts while writing, editing, and marketing my business, so I understand how overwhelming platform-building activities feel. When I discuss platform-building with the authors I work with, I suggest focusing on actually writing … and one of the best ways to do that is through blogging.
If Your First Thought Is I don’t know what to write about, Keep Reading
Blogging is not only a terrific way to share your thoughts with the world, but it’s also a great way to test ideas and polish your writing skills. You’re an expert in your field, and you know there’s a market for the type of book you’re writing, but if coming up with ideas for regular blog posts makes you break out in a cold sweat, consider these three tried-and-true ideas:
- Engage your fans by asking for their help. Posing a question like, “Would you rather read a chapter in my new book about 50 uses for parsley or one about the best uses for 50 different herbs?” will often lead to more engagement in the form of comments and debates from your followers, and your fans will feel as though they were part of the process of writing your book. Engagement is the name of the game in book publishing.
- Offer content that’s related to your book-in-progress. You are an expert in your field, so share a bit of that knowledge by basing blog posts on concepts from your book. This is also a great way to repurpose some of the deleted text after a revision. Or you can use a fleshed-out chapter to reverse engineer a blog post.
- Tell a story. Blogs are a perfect venue for storytelling. Remember Maya Angelou’s quote that “People will forget what you said and what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” You’re a writer—you’re a storyteller! Write a blog—or two or ten—about yourself and your writing, and let your fans and followers get to know the real you. What’s the story behind your book? What are some of the crazy things your friends and family have said when you’ve told them you’re writing it? What is your writing process? Where do you do most of your writing, and how do you carve out time to do it?
Whether you’ve already published a book or are thinking about writing one, whether you’ve chosen to follow a traditional publishing path or opt to self-publish, the sooner you begin building your author platform, the better. Blogging allows you to build a community of interested readers, and because your book is also for those readers, you’ll have a built-in audience once you publish. The time to start building your author platform is now.
What about you, scriveners? What do you like to read in blogs? What’s the most creative blog post you’ve read by a self-help author? Please join in the discussion!
Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.