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Brand Basics: 6 Debut Authors Discuss Their Author Platforms and Connecting with Readers

6 Breaking In authors discuss the makings of their author platforms—or lack thereof—and how they best connect with readers.
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Every issue of Writer’s Digest, we chat with debut authors about their upcoming releases, how they broke in and what they learned in the process. One question we always ask them—and rarely have room to include in the magazine—is about their author platforms: How do they connect with readers? Do traditional approaches work best for them (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or nontraditional ones? What advice do they have for other authors trying to get their name out into the world?

We compiled feedback from some of those featured authors from the May/June 2018 issue of Writer's Digest here, and the answers are as varied as the genres they write.

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Roger Johns (rogerjohnsbooks.com), author of Dark River Rising:

“When I began writing [Dark River Rising], I did not have a platform in place. In fact, I had never even heard of an author platform. Now, I have a website and I co-author a crime-fiction-oriented blog that appears on the Murder-Books website (murder-books.com). I also have a Facebook page and I work diligently on building my newsletter email list.”

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Mike Malbrough (mikemalbrough.com), author of Marigold Bakes a Cake:

“Because I freelanced as an illustrator for awhile, I made many weak attempts at having some sort of platform in place, but never with much success. I am currently concentrating most of my efforts on a newsletter called “What Am I Doing Here?!” It allows me to offer a more intimate and, I think, valuable look into my work, life [and] career. I can explore all aspects of that question from my process to self-doubt and the purpose of life. Everybody should sign up!”

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Morgan Babst (cmorganbabst.com), author of The Floating World:

“I spend way too much time on Facebook and Instagram, on the pretense that I'm platform building. But more seriously—as a literary writer, it's hard to build a platform before your first novel arrives. I have a few fans (a.k.a., friends) who have read all of the stories I've published in literary magazines (and some of them kindly retweet them), but I've found that the essays I've published have found me more readers than my short fiction ever did.”

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Douglas Haynes (douglas-haynes.com), author of Every Day We Live is the Future:

“While working on my book proposal, I hired a web designer to help me create a visually engaging website. This was money and time well spent, as the site has given me a professional-looking platform and garnered many compliments. I also started an author Facebook page. Currently, I’m working on placing book excerpts and related articles in literary magazines and news sites.”

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Jodi Kendall (jodikendall.com), author of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City:

“I had a website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram years before landing a book deal. My favorite social media platform is Instagram, where I love following bookish accounts and showcasing my favorite current reads, behind-the-scenes author experiences and moments of my life in New York City through visual storytelling. When I post photos or videos, I use select hashtags such as #theunlikelystoryofapiginthecity #mglit #kidlit and #middlegrade to target like-minded authentic users. I love the Instagram Stories feature as well. I don’t overly concern myself with follower count or number of likes. Instead, I focus on curating interesting visual content to grow my account organically. I also frequently speak at schools (Skype and in-person), conferences and bookstores, and attend author, illustrator and SCBWI events.”

Under Construction: Rethinking the Process of Building an Author Platform

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Sheena Kamal (sheenakamal.com), author of The Lost Ones:

“Unfortunately, I did not have a platform. I wasn't even on social media before the book deal came through, so I had to start from scratch. I used to hate the idea of dispersing myself on social media, but I've discovered that there are mediums that I respond to and play to my interests. For example, I prefer Instagram over anything else, so learning how to use that has worked out for me. In terms of gaining readership, I'm open to anything asked of me and have just gotten a website up and running. Baby steps.”

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