Your Author Platform: Building the Plane While Flying It

Karen DoddGuest Post
by Karen Dodd

From the perspective of a newly published indie author (the glow hasn’t quite worn off yet but I’m expecting to see it on my pillow, scowling back at me, sometime soon) I want to share with you the single most important activity to engage in before you publish your book. Okay, I should say the most important activity besides writing a great book.

Is it having beautiful graphics designed for your website and social media presence? No. Is it having fabulously flashy business cards or bookmarks? No. It’s in engaging with others long before your book goes live.

Seriously, just over a year ago I had nothing to sell, promote, or market. For the first time in my adult life.

I’ll admit it felt a little weird but strangely, it was also kind of Zen-like. So, as I was writing my first suspense/thriller, I thought, what could I do early in the morning before I start writing or last thing at night when I’m brain-dead? I know! I’ll look for people with whom I resonate and I’ll just help and promote them on Facebook and Twitter. Those two platforms were all I felt I could manage at the time.

And that’s what I did. Over the course of a year I made incredible new friends in all corners of the globe, I helped a lot of people without expecting anything in return, and I inadvertently garnered a following of several thousand people. Curiously, without an agenda or those pesky little marketing deadlines, I’d accomplished more than I ever did when I set out to market and promote myself. And I did it my way.

You might be asking, “Did you have a plan, or were you just out there speed-dating?” Yes, I had a plan. Kind of. I searched for other writers who I believed in and felt authentic in promoting. I looked for readers, primarily who read the genre in which I was writing, but not always. If someone looked and sounded interesting, and they supported others and posted helpful information, I would engage with them.

Now, here’s where it got fun. My best beta-readers came from that group, and later, others came from Goodreads. I was referred to great cover designers, formatters and editors, (hello, Rich Meyer and Laurie Boris) and many other fabulous professionals who I never would have known.

Then came the day of reckoning; I was finally ready to publish DEADLY SWITCH: A Stone Suspense. Suddenly, I had all these amazing people who I had supported and encouraged, helping little me. Do you think I had to ask them to share the links to my book? Not a one. They all did it out of the goodness of their hearts. To me, that is social networking in the truest sense of the word.

Here’s what stymies me. When I speak to writers about doing what I’ve described, while they’re writing their WIP, invariably they say, “But I don’t have anything to offer or talk about on social media.”

Yes, you do! You have the unique perspective and experience that makes you the writer that you are. You have everything within you that you’re putting into that “book baby” you are about to birth.

Let me leave with you with this question. If you had just pulled a yummy batch of double chocolate brownies out of the oven and the delicious aroma alerted everyone in the house, would you then take them into a corner and scarf them down all by yourself? Okay, I know it’s tempting and there are days when I would too. But, no — you’d share them and probably take great delight in knowing that what you made with your own two hands was providing others with such joy.

So, next time you groan and think about having to market yourself, as well as write your great masterpiece  — just think about sharing your brownies!

[Note: for more on setting up author platforms prior to publication, check out this article.]

Karen Dodd combines three decades of marketing experience with her passion for writing. She has spoken, taught, and written hundreds of articles focused on helping emerging and as-yet-unpublished authors to create their platform while writing their books. Karen’s first suspense thriller, DEADLY SWITCH: A Stone Suspense, was published November, 2013. She is currently writing the sequel, which is due out in June, 2014. Learn more about Karen on her website and her Author Central page.

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25 thoughts on “Your Author Platform: Building the Plane While Flying It”

  1. It’s never too late, whenever you start. It takes at least a year, one way or the other, to forge those “connections.” For me, it’s been a joy. I’m honored and humbled by all the wonderful people I’ve met through social media and the new friends I’ve made.

    1. I totally agree, Linda Lee. I think that one-year time frame is golden for so many things. I’ve also learned so much and feel blessed that all these wonderful people have come into my life. Thanks for sharing your positive experience.

    1. Ha, ha, Laurie. Your ears must have been burning. I was telling two of my writing colleagues about my great editor…YOU!

  2. But seriously, I, too, have been humbled by the waves of support in the indie community. All you need to do is reach out, it seems, and people are there to help.

    1. I agree! For me, asking for help was always a challenge (I’m an only child:) but doing it this way, I found that I didn’t need to ask. I really think people WANT to help. It’s the gift that gives both ways.

    1. So true, Yvonne! Once again I have to thank my new friend, Martin Crosbie. He introduced me to this wonderful group of indie authors and supporters. Until recently, I thought “indie” had something to to do with race cars…lol!

  3. Well said, Karen. And it is amazing the contrast that exists with established authors who grew up in the traditional publishing corrals. It’s one against everyone, enclosed in there.

    In the Indie it is everyone free on the prairie, and there for everybody else.

    Ok, it’s a gross exaggeration but it renders the idea.

      1. A great comparison, Massimo. Love it! I agree, Elisabeth; we put so much energy into the actual process of writing, that the rest should be joyful:)

    1. Thanks so much, Mary, and my apologies for being MIA for the past few days. So glad you enjoyed the post:>)

  4. Great post and congrats on being published. Don’t worry, the glow doesn’t wear off- well, if you keep writing it won’t!
    I do a similar thing, except I got on the apple cart long after my first book was out. And I support other authors, share stuff on FB and Twitter of theirs (usually witty or thought-provoking snippets) and in return, I’ve had folks ask me for my Amazon links and blog links. So yes, it does work!

    1. Thanks for the congrats and sharing your experience. Supporting others first and then rarely having to ask in return; I think that’s the way the world is supposed to work. I hear you about the “keep writing” part!

  5. Thank you, Karen, for sharing your experience with the hallowed Author’s platform. Your info is just what am looking for.

    My question: How do I find readers of my genre? I write non-fiction historical stories that shook lives.

  6. Thanks, Elina and what a great question! Personally, I have done very well on Goodreads and Facebook. Look for and join groups who read and write in your genre and connect with them. Here’s another trick: find an author in your genre who you really admire and observe who is interacting with them on Facebook and Twitter. Then follow/friend/ engage with them. Be authentic in how you do that; we don’t want to be stalking anyone…lol! Hope that’s helpful. I’d love you to come back and tell me how that worked for you:)

  7. A bit late I know, Karen; it often happens with me, being on the other side of the planet (different time scale), but I usually turn up. Welcome to IU, nice here isn’t it. Excellent post by the way!

    1. Thank you so much, T.D. How lovely of you to take the time to pop in to say hi. I’m loving it here at IU; such friendly and supportive people! Looking forward to getting to know all of you better:)

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