Monday, April 15, 2013

An Introvert's Guide to Building an Author Platform

Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, oh my!

Recently I finished writing my first novel, and I've begun the harrowing process of sharing it with potential agents ("sharing it" sounds a little more on top of the process than "sending it out on a wing and a prayer," a more accurate description.) While early feedback on my story has been positive, one criticism I receive is that I lack an author "platform," meaning that nobody in the reading public knows who the heck I am.

I rather like it that way. In real life I'm an introvert (an INFP, for those who give credence to Myers-Briggs). INFPs are supposed to make good writers, and one of the reasons, I would guess, is that we love to work alone. As an introverted person, platform-building is hard to do. Putting myself out there feels uncomfortable and unnatural.The term "platform" is supposed to bring to mind the stage from which a speaker addresses an audience. But hey, aren't gallows built on platforms, too?

Legend has it that once upon a time, an author could toil away in her writing room, spinning literary straw into gold. Every so often she would send a completed manuscript to her fairy godagent, who would shop it around to publishers. When a book was published, there'd be a brief flurry of activity where the author would leave her desk, put on her dancing shoes, and attend the ball of book signings and author tours. But soon enough she'd be back in her cozy garret, hard at work on another manuscript, grateful to kick off her dancing shoes because they pinched.

Those days are no more, I'm told. Now an author must sew her own ballgown and hire her own coach and footman before anyone will even think of inviting her to the ball. In other words, she must emerge, blinking, from her garret and let the world know she exists.

The nice thing is, much platform-building can be accomplished from inside my garret via social media. The Internet is an introvert's best friend. Just as writing an e-mail feels more comfortable than making a phone call, interacting via social media feels more comfortable than making small talk in a room full of strangers--which is essentially what it is!

Think of each social media application as a "plank" in the platform. With the plethora of social media available, choosing which one(s) to use is like trying to drink from a firehose. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, novelist Susan May Warren recommends choosing three forms of social media and doing them well, rather than trying to do them all. I've chosen four: a website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Another author might choose LinkedIn or other applications--it depends largely on which audience you want to reach.

When it comes to constructing a platform, I certainly haven't found all the answers. What I can do is share what I've learned so far, and report back now and then about what tactics, if any, have proven most effective. Here are my examples:

AUTHOR WEBSITE: What to write about before there's a book to promote? The target audience for my historical fiction consists largely of women who enjoy reading and learning about "the olden days." While I do post some info about my fiction, I also post about all things vintage: fashion, food, music, books, trends, historical tidbits, etc. My goal is to build an audience of potential readers who are interested in the era I write about (early 20th century), so that when my novel is published, those who also enjoy fiction will be primed to read it.

AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE: I've built a Facebook page, separate from my personal profile, exclusively for building my author platform. Its purpose, again, is to connect with potential readers and point people to my author website.

TWITTER: I opened a Twitter account to build my author website and also participate in the larger community of readers, writers, publishers, agents, and lovers of all things vintage.

PINTEREST: I use my Pinterest account as a visual representation of my fiction writing, with boards dedicated to the Roaring Twenties, the Edwardian era, Chicago, history, etc., and pointing back to my author website.

I've barely scratched the surface of how to use social media to build an audience for fiction. I'll be returning to this topic from time to time, letting you know what's working and what's not. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions about platform building via social media and I'll try to ferret out some answers.

Introverts need author platforms too! (Tweet this.)


Jenni Gate said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been told I'm an INFJ, so I relate!

I like the advice to do 3 or 4 well, rather than trying to do all. I think I should probably close some accounts and figure out where I want to focus my energy. :)

Jennifer Rova said...

Excellent, "do-able" ideas for platform building. Thanks! I think that when one is engaged in an activity, one has to go outside one's comfort zone. I am a extrovert so I guess my challenge is to write better. Your leadership as president of Idaho Writers League local chapter shows that you have good public speaking skills and organization is one of your many strengths. Good luck with your new book. As your major character would say, "It's the cat's pajamas."