I’m a marketing professional and blogger who runs an online short story publication … so I’ve been in the game of building an audience online for years. It’s what I do for clients, and it’s also been, essentially, a personal hobby.
But when it came time for my first novel to get published earlier this year, I decided to use a pseudonym. This let me keep my two careers separate, and helps readers find my fiction more easily.
These are great reasons for using a pseudonym, and I’m confident this was the right choice for me. But the down side is that I had to start platforming all over again, practically from scratch.
I know I’m not alone in this. Lots of authors are in the exact same boat, either reestablishing a new presence as an author or learning the ropes for the first time.
When you’re starting from scratch to build an online presence, if feels like there are so many things to do you hardly know where to start. So I’m sharing exactly what steps I took to kickstart my author identity online to prepare for my novel’s launch.
1. I Claimed My Website URL
As soon as you know your author name, claim that url! You don’t want someone else stealing it from you. Then, get something on it, no matter how basic. I quickly got three pages together – a home page, a page with my bio, and a page about the book.
Don’t pressure yourself to make it perfect, just get the key information up and keep it polished. You’re bound to come back to it again and again as you learn and settle into your author identity. I went through three or four different versions of my website before I was really happy with it.
2. I Chose my Social Media
I went with Facebook and Twitter to start. Later I converted my existing Pinterest account to my author identity, too. And I claimed my Goodreads author page as soon as my book was listed. Just as with the website, one reason to do this quickly is to snag your author name before someone else does.
Don’t stress over which network is the “right” network. Start where you’re comfortable, and plan to expand your presence to new networks down the line. The most important thing is simply to get started.
Once you’ve claimed your accounts, populate them with the same headshot and bio you used on your website (or a shortened version of it).
3. I Started Posting
The other reason to set up your social networks quickly is so you can start posting right away. Growing a following organically simply takes time. Even if you feel like you’re posting into the void and no one sees it, the feed you create will help people decide whether to follow you later, so do it anyway.
To get posts out consistently, I use Hootsuite and Buffer. These free tools let you create posts beforehand in batches and then send them later, which is a Godsend when you’ve got other stuff to do than just sit on Twitter all day.
Check in when you can, though, to keep up with new followers and keep things genuine. There’s nothing like responding to someone else’s post or comment to build bonds.
4. I Cross-linked Everywhere
Next, I made sure that my platforms cross-linked to each other. Even if I’m not using the same name for them all, someone who’s a fan of my short story website may be curious about my fiction, so I added my author name and book title to my editor bio, with links. Because I’m a freelance writer, I also added it to my professional bio. I did this for my social media accounts, too.
Odds are, a lot of people who are interested in you are going to be interested in your writing, too. Consider your angles and strategy. If you’re the editor for a car magazine and write thrillers with high-speed chases, that’s a great fit. But if you’re using a pseudonym to prevent your career as a lawyer from mingling with your racy erotica novels, take a pass on this step.
5. I Updated All my Bios.
I’m a regular contributor to a few different websites. As I submitted my articles for each website, I made a friendly request to update my bio to include that I write fiction as E. J. Wenstrom and link to my author website.
Follow the same practices as for the social media cross-linking on this one.
6. I Blogged Like Crazy
First and foremost, I started a blog on my website, focused carefully on a niche that makes me excited and will be of interest to my target readers.
Then I started reaching out to my writing connections online to get all the guest post opportunities I could the week my book launches. Then I planned a special series to revive my old blog about the creative process for the month.
To start out I opted to keep my author blog to a low frequency of one every other month. This freed up some time to pursue the rest to expand my reach as I start out. By the end of the year, I intend to bump that to weekly blogs, but quality and sustainability are more important than frequency.
7. I Got a Professional Headshot
This is something I should have done long ago and got embarrassingly behind on. I’d recommend beginning to research photographers as soon as you start querying agents or preparing your manuscript for self-publishing.
Because as soon as you start looking you see how many choices there are. And then you realize you should get you hair done before a photo. And that you have no idea what to wear. And that your photographer is booked up for the next full month. And so on.
Don’t leave this to the last minute. But even if it is last minute, definitely still go pro for your photo—your author headshot is often your readers’ first, if not only, impression of you. It’s worth doing right.
Then, make sure that same headshot is on everything related to your author platform.
Just Get Started
This is of course just the beginning for my author platform. As I get settled into all these new channels, I’ll keep pushing myself to expand.
But don’t get caught up in all of that when you’re starting out. The most important thing is just to start, and to keep at it. With time, you’ll learn, adapt, and see your following grow right before your eyes.
By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.