A Digital Platform Cheat Sheet For Authors Just Starting Out

Key points to consider as you embark on establishing the mechanism that will allow you to forge a long-term relationship with your readers.

1. There are many options and social media platforms “you should be on.” You should be aware of all your options, of course, but don’t get overwhelmed. Focus on a manageable number of social media platforms, try them out, and figure out which ones you actually enjoy. It’s important that you actually like the social media platform(s), otherwise, you won’t stick with it, for obvious reasons. This means you might end up only focusing on one social media platform, and that’s okay.

2. Do not use the title of your book for your your social media permalinks/urls/profile names. You want to choose something for the long-term, something that can be used for not only your current book, but your future books. Your name is likely the best choice, of course, and that is what I recommend.

3. Establish a hub. You may not know initially what your hub is going to be, just know that you are going to have one place that can serve as the place where people can find the overall roadmap to your digital presence. Likely your hub will be a website with an address that is your name — yourname dot com. On this website you can provide links to your social media, and updated bio, information about your books and other projects, and any other relevant background and news.

4. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are the main social media of the moment for authors and books.

5. Other social media you should check out and consider as part of your digital platform: Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Medium, YouTube, Snapchat, and Goodreads. There are many others. Again, try them all out, see ones which ones work best for you, and commit to the platforms that end up making the most sense. Knowing one platform well means you will have an easier time learning the next, and it also gives you the insight you need for the natural next step in terms of adding to or growing your overall platform.

6. A digital media presence is about connecting and engaging in the conversation, and each platform has its own conversational nuance — How often to post, using hashtags, using images, etc. You don’t want to come across as someone who is just trying to sell a book. Make sure you take the time to figure out the best way to engage, share, and be supportive in the various platforms. This takes time, so make sure you put in the necessary effort.

7. When placing buy links on your site for your books, do not only link to Amazon. You’ll want to include links to BN, iBooks, Indiebound, Powells, and your favorite local bookstores. Linking only to Amazon, for obvious reasons, is not fair to all the other bookstores that sell and support your book. It can also mean that other retailers will not include your book in promotions. Believe me, retailers notice when you only link to Amazon. I take those calls, or hear from the sales person who takes those calls, on a regular basis.

8. Images with well-written captions are very strong currency in the social media space. In other words, don’t stress out about having to write essay-length blog posts.

9. One of the best ways to easily understand a social media platform and forge connections is to share or support the effort of someone else. Try it out by connecting with and supporting a fellow author, bookstore, or library.

10. Remember, you don’t have to be on every platform. But you do have to be consistently active and creative on the platforms you do choose to engage.