Hey, I’m two classes away from completing my BA degree in Creative Writing and English. Yay! It’s been a long, long road.
I wish I could say the peer writing workshops were where I learned the most but, alas, those were a bust since many students weren’t familiar with how to critique fiction, and even fewer were familiar with my genre, YA fantasy.
The class I did learn the most in, however, was “New Media Writing and Publishing.” When I say “learned the most in,” that doesn’t mean I totally know how to apply it all yet, but the course pushed me to explore important concepts like who I am as a writer, what my books are about, who’s most likely to read my books (target audience), and how to reach them. The idea is that an aspiring author should create an author platform before publishing books so she doesn’t come across as a desperate stranger hawking her wares but, rather, has built connections with her target audience beforehand.
That’s the idea. Author brand, platform-building–it all sounds a bit jargon-y and hardsell-y, but it’s a reality for anyone wanting to build a career as a novelist.
The gist of the class is developing an author platform means lots of soul-searching, research, and hard work to answer the following quesions:
- What is unique/memorable/engaging about me, my interests, and my life experiences?
2. What kinds of stories do I tell? Genre, vibe, themes, characters, etc.
3. Who is my target audience? (FYI: YA fantasy readers are predominantly female with an age range of 12 to 65.)
4. What does my target audience like? What are their interests? What books, authors, and websites do they enjoy? Why?
5. How and where can I engage with my target audience? What do other authors do to engage target readers and how can I do that in a way that is unique to me? What information, experiences, connections, insights, entertainment can I offer my target audience even before my book comes out?
Then use the answers to those questions to:
1. Create your website or blog in a way that will appeal to target readers.
2. Focus on one to two social media channels (at first) where you can comfortably stay engaged.
3. Then go forth, engage with people (don’t just “like” their posts–comment, ask questions), build relationships, and network in a way that is true to who you are as a person and as an author.
Check out these two shiny resources for more information on building an author platform.
Like all Chuck Sambuchino’s books, Create Your Writer Platform is brilliant and funny. Sambuchino’s tips on how to genuinely engage with people online are golden. Just be warned that some of the social media references are a bit outdated since, y’know, the Internet grows and changes faster than the Blob.
Also check out iWriterly’s interview with Brittany Wang. It synthesizes so much of what I learned in my author platform-building class. You’ll get great insights into online engagement by hearing super smart, eloquent Brittany Wang talk about her experiences as an author on Instagram.