Finding a community of readers
I, like many writers, have always dreamed of getting a big publishing deal. I imagined seeing a beautiful cover with my name on it at a bookstore. Then there’d be the book tour—which would be the extent of working my author platform. I’d just watch the sales numbers increase until I hit the best seller lists. Sound familiar?
If you too have shared my fantasy, there’s one element of the real world missing. And no, it’s not the dream itself (always aim high!). It’s the part where becoming a bestselling author only requires the writing of a great book. You know, where the writer doesn’t have to do any marketing? Where the traditional publisher takes care of all the outreach? These days, it doesn’t matter whether you’re self, indie, or traditionally published, you’re going to have to drum up excitement and knowledge about your book. In other words, you’ll need to build an author platform beyond social media. But how?
Before we get beyond social media, lets take a pause here first. If you’re not on or never post, go ahead and start. Yes, all platforms are totally saturated, but at the same time, if you’re not there, no one can find you. Whether you prefer TikTok or Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, be sure to follow and tag yourself as an author or book “person.” Try #booktok, #bookstagram, or other writerly hashtags so your fellow bibliophiles can find you.
I go through ups and downs with social media. I sometimes get overwhelmed when I compare myself to others, especially others who have awesome pages with creative posts that they do seven times a day. Like in anything, however, comparing gets ya nowhere. Just do you. Start where you are and start with what you like. Gravitate toward TikTok, do that. Hate video? Stick with Twitter. Worried about making your posts visually appealing? Remember there are many free or cheap picture and video editing services like Canva. A couple of clicks can make an okay picture pretty great.
As always, think of the Golden Rule. Post to others as you would have them post to you. In other words, don’t spam people with your own work. Yes, the point of this exercise is to drive your author platform and ultimately to sell books, but everybody hates it when you’re obvious about the sales pitch. So be sure to share other titles you like, tag authors you love, and create a community people want to join.
BookBub is a free service that gives recommendations about new books to readers. If you’re one of their authors, you could get introduced to their thousands of readers. If you get a certain number of followers on their platform, they’ll even send out info about preordering your next book. And, as you might know, preorders go a long way toward making your next title a best seller!
The more you use BookBub, either by creating a profile, making recommendations, telling readers to follow you there on your social media, website, or in the back matter of your next title, the more the site will know you’re there. As with most such sites, users are rewarded with traffic. Remember, you want to be where the readers are, and if they look to BookBub to find you, stand up and be counted.
Goodreads is a book review website where you see reviews from strangers and friends alike. It’s social in the sense that it’ll recommend the books people you know like, assuming your tastes will be similar. The affiliation factor (like social media) makes it extra user friendly because presumably you trust your friends’ or acquaintances’ preferences more than those of the general population. As a reader, I like the more candid reviews. Some authors dislike Goodreads because there’s a myth that trolls congregate there, but that’s not totally true. A three-star review means the reader liked the book. The problem is that we’re conditioned to believe it’s been panned if it’s not four stars or above.
Goodreads is helpful for authors because this is where readers go. Importantly, these are readers who read e-books, indie books, self-published books—all books. This is not the two books/a year type of reader. This is the fifty books/a year reader. In other words, this is who you need to be talking to. So what are your steps? Step one is to sign up as a reader, if you haven’t already. Use the site! Review all of the books you read. This is how you’ll build up a community and legitimacy. Next, start your own author page. Remember to include lots of information about who you are and what you write. Don’t forget a picture. People like to connect a face with a name. Next, take advantage of book giveaways to increase you reviews.
The Story Graph
The Story Graph is the answer to any complaints people have about Goodreads. The interface is fresher and cleaner, and in many ways it’s just more organized. It analyzes the type of book you read the most, from mood to pacing and makes recommendations. It also allows you to add more nuanced star ratings. For instance, I just gave a book a five rating on Goodreads but I meant it to be more a 4.5. I can do that on The Story Graph.
Right now there’s no way (that I can see) to actively promote yourself as an author on The Story Graph. On Goodreads, you can have your own author page and do giveaways. They’re also perfectly happy to sell you ad space (provided you won the lottery or have a massive advertising budget from one of the Top Five publishers…just kidding…but not really). Goodreads is owned and operated by amazon.com, so you win some and lose some with that. The Story Graph is a more “pure” way to keep reading lists, but you want to be involved because readers are migrating there, and again, you want to be where the readers are.
The bottom line when it comes to creating an author platform is: be where the readers are! I’m always looking for my next book recommendation, and so are your readers. Send them your way by being active, having a voice, and creating a community of like-minded readers and writers.