3 Blunders That Can Kill Your Author Platform

by Garda / Flickr

by Garda / Flickr

Today’s guest post is from author Kristen Lamb.


The digital age author has more opportunities than any writer in the history of the written word. But with more opportunities comes more competition, and with more competition comes more work.

Mega-agent Donald Maass will tell you there are only two ways to sell books—a good book and word of mouth, and he is right. Books are not tubes of toothpaste, though many of them sell for less.

Each writer is unique, each product is unique, and thus our marketing approach must appreciate that or we are doomed to fail. Too many social media approaches are a formula to land a writer on a roof with a shotgun and a bottle of scotch. I am a writer first, so my social media approach appreciates that books are not car insurance, and writers are not tacos.

Yes, social media is a wonderful tool for building an author platform. But, unlike Starbucks, we cannot hire college students to create our product. We need to be on social media and still have time left over for the most important “marketing” task of all—writing awesome books.

I am going to point out three major social media time-wasters. If we can avoid these social media tar babies, we will have more time to write brilliant books.

1. Joining every social media site for “exposure”

Many writers, when introduced to the wonderful world of social media, promptly develop what I like to call RDD—Reality Deficit Disorder. RDD prompts writers to run out and sign up for Facebook, a fan page, Twitter, G+, Tumblr, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, and on and on.

When pursued to an extreme, writers suffering from advanced RDD curl up in the fetal position under their desks muttering, “Soooo many circles. Tweet … tweet. Be my friend. I like friends.”

Social media is NOT traditional marketing. Social media gains the most power from relationships, and it is impossible for us to be on ten or even five different sites and still maintain the level of interaction required to make other people feel vested in us.

Blitzing out our message on six different sites is the equivalent of spam. People are gravitating to social media by the millions, in part, to escape spam. Bring spam into their sacred space, and you’ll either lose trust or be ignored.

2. Getting too focused on the numbers

We don’t need to “friend” 20,000 people to reach 20,000 people. Social media, unlike traditional marketing, works exponentially not linearly. Having 30,000 friends on Twitter means about as much as the White Pages I just threw in the recycle bin.

Theoretically, I could hold up my White Pages and say, “I have 30,00 friends.” But how many of those people know me? How many of those people do I know? How many of those people can I count on to help me spread the news of my next book? Only a very small percentage—people I personally know and a random handful of weird, lonely people.

In the end, do I really have 30,000 friends, or just a list of meaningless names and equally meaningless relationships?

Instead of “following” or “friending” hundreds of people, spend time networking instead. Get to know people and serve them. Authenticity and kindness are two of the most powerful assets we possess in this new paradigm. We are the product as much as our books. People buy from who they know and who they like. They also promote who they know and who they like, and, trust me, they DO NOT like the writer who junks up their Facebook with form letters and phony compliments.

If we focus on relationships and we write great books, others will promote us to their networks. That’s called word of mouth.

3. Using cutesy monikers

Writers love to be creative. Great! Awesome! But we need to be creative at the right time and place.

There is only one acceptable handle for writers who are serious about publishing and selling books, and that is the NAME printed on the front of our books.

We (readers) cannot purchase books by @FairyGirl, @BookMaven or @VampireChik. When writers hide behind monikers, they undermine their most powerful platform-building tool: the “top of mind.” Each time we tweet or blog, we are adding “beams” (content) to our author platform. The platform needs to support our name to the point that our name alone becomes a bankable asset—in some cases, a brand.

Writer’s Name + Great Content + Positive Feelings = Author Brand

Cutesy blog titles are equal offenders. I have run across many excellent blogs, but the author’s NAME was nowhere to be found. Thus, the author of the blog was working hard to contribute thousands of words a week to build a meaningless platform.

Bottom Line

If we focus on quality, authentic relationships, we will have more time left to write great books. Combine great books with a quality online network and success is only a matter of time. It is a wonderful time to be a writer.

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Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion, Social Media.

Kristen Lamb is the author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Writer. Kristen has coached all levels of writers from unpublished newbies to New York Times bestselling authors James Rollins and Sandra Brown. She is currently represented by Russell Galen of SGG Literary NYC.

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