Today's guest post was written by Shaun Horton. He blogs at Shaun of the Not-so-Dead, where he posts articles on "writing, the horror genre, and the occasional mad rant." He has published several stories, including the novel Class 5, Cenote, and Paths.
Class 5 is available for free through Amazon today and tomorrow, and Cenote will be similarly available on the 21st of December.
These days, it seems like everyone and their eloquent iguana has talked about how to build a platform as an author. It also seems like just as many are quick flash-in-the-pans that disappear in six months. So, what makes this blog post any different? Well, for starters, I've been working on my platform to varying degrees for going on two years. I've tried several different things, some that have worked, and some that haven't. So what sets this blog post apart is that there is real experience here.
I want to start at the very beginning. When should you start building your platform? I actually started mine six months before my first book came out. I created a blog, I made an author page on Facebook, and I signed up on Twitter. I also joined Goodreads.com and linked up profiles on Youtube, Linkedin, and Google+. I worked hard on my blog, making a post a week on various different subjects related to my writing and genre, and when I finally released my first book, I was ready to let people know.
The quality and sales of the book were negligible, but I could see how well the platform was reaching people by the stats my blog was getting. Things only continued to get better as I kept up with the blog and released more books and stories. Now we're getting to the meat of this post though, and I'm going to go over how I used the different pieces of my platform and how they've worked out and changed up until now.
Facebook has been one of the strong points of my platform. There's just so many people on Facebook, it would just be foolish to ignore it. The best thing to do though, is to make an Author profile, as opposed to a book profile. If you make a book profile, then unless you're doing an entire series, you're really limited in what fits for you to post. An Author page, on the other hand, lets you connect with your readers by sharing multiple works, as well as other things relating to your genre's. People like connecting with other people, and that is just much easier with an Author page vs. a Book page. I try to post on my Author page at least every other day, and I use it to share things like blog posts, interviews, and previews of cover art. I also share relevant posts from other pages and very rarely, I'll post something personal or something I just find awesome even if it's not really related to my genres.
My blog is my favorite part of my platform. I mean, hey, who wouldn't love a soapbox where they can stand, pick a subject, and go on a rant for 500 to 1000 words? All on a weekly basis. I do try to keep my blog more on topic than my Facebook posts though. So my posts are almost always focused on the Horror genre (which I have expanded to monsters which may actually exist. (Cryptozoology)), reviews of horror games, books, and movies, and discussions of the business of writing as I learn things. For the time being, my blog also pulls double-duty as my website, with links to other places to find me, as well as a portal to my books on Amazon. Eventually, if I can keep up with my writing and publishing, I may get a full website, but for now, my blog works great.
Twitter, is a mess. It can be fun, but how useful it actually is, is still up for debate. Even for people that you follow out of admiration, the feed quickly devolves into a stream of random comments, retweets, and pictures. You will also find a lot of people who follow you, only to expect a follow back, and will quickly unfollow you if you don't reciprocate. On the other hand, though, if you know how to use hashtags properly, you can quickly find your tweets re-tweeted, liked, and quoted dozens of times over. So my suggestion would be to use Twitter, have fun with it, share your work, but don't expect too much.
Some people like Goodreads.com, some people hate it. I like it, personally. The key here is to join groups, and take part in conversations and discussions. Don't just pop in and drop news of your most recent release and vanish again. Connect with people, give advice, ask questions. Take part in reading groups. Reading in your genre is something every writer should do, and it makes it a lot more fun to read alongside other people, comparing impressions and interpretations of the works.
Youtube, Google+, and Linkedin
These three sites have pretty much fallen by the wayside in the past year. It is likely that I just haven't found how to use them properly, but the populations of Google+ and Linkedin don't seem to be high enough to warrant the time it would take. Youtube is very popular, but its media of choice is very specific and it's difficult to come up with good material to consistently post to attract attention. I do have plans to use Youtube more in the coming year though, with game-play and video reviews of horror video games, as well as possibly doing some book trailers.
A good author platform is like a good wooden platform. If you set it up, and don't maintain it, it's going to rot, rust, and not work very well. It has to be maintained, which is a lot of work on top of writing and editing your work. Each platform is also going to be different. I've had no luck with Linkedin, but someone else might find it's the key to their sales. It all depends on the amount and kind of work you're willing to put in. I have told you how I built and maintained my platform, but I haven't yet really told you how well it's working out.
So how well has my platform worked? Well, if you based it just on numbers like Twitter followers, Likes on Facebook, or actual sales, it isn't impressive by any means. 280, 83, and 1 sale in the last two months as of this writing. But, if you google my name, various parts of my platform account for five of the first ten results, and that is the final goal of a good platform. Making you easy to find.