I get asked this question a lot, so I figured I’d spill some tea today on how to build a platform in the book community. The bad news, it does take a lot of effort. The good news, it’s actually really easy to do.
I started book blogging and participating in the online book community in November 2016. Within a year, I had over 5,000 followers on Twitter, 6,000 followers on my blog, and 1,000 followers on Instagram. Building that following did take a lot of “work” on my part that year, but it’s truly something that anyone could do. I have ten easy steps below that you can take to build your own platform as well as five common mistakes I see people making that actually hurts instead of helps.
How to Build a Platform in the Book Community in 10 Simple Steps
1 – Don’t think of it as building a platform. Think of it as learning how to meaningfully and genuinely engage in the book community. Like and comment on other book blogger’s/reader’s/author’s posts consistently. If you’re engaging with other people’s content, they are much more likely to follow you and engage with your content as well. Do not expect people to follow you back unless you are consistently engaging with the things they are posting.
2 – ReTweet/Share other people’s posts. The first thing I do when someone follows me is to look at their profile. If they’re only using their account to promote their own work and not actually engaging with anyone else’s content, I’m not going to follow them back, and most people I know are the same way. We want to follow people who we feel we can build a genuine connection with, not someone who is going to spam our feed with self-promotion. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t promote your own work, you SHOULD! That just can’t be the only thing you’re doing.
3- Only follow accounts you are genuinely interested in following. Most people who are trying to build a platform are doing it with a goal in mind. If you’re a book blogger, maybe you want to be sent ARCs from big publishers. If you’re a writer, maybe you want an established platform for when you start querying. Here’s the thing. If you have ten thousand followers, but you’re following eleven thousand people, that is not an indicator of an engaged platform. If a publicist or agent sees that, you’re platform won’t score you any bonus points with them. No one can genuinely engage with the people they’re following if they follow eleven thousand people. It becomes clear that you’re in a follow-for-follow situation, which is not indicative of an engaged readership. Now, on the flip side, if you’re goal is to make every book person in the community feel welcome, and you follow everyone back, that’s great! Just know what your goals are and figure out your follow strategy around that.
4 – Seek out other bloggers/authors with similar followings as your own! Form DM groups with each other, so you can help boost each other’s posts by liking/commenting/sharing. Band together to help each other grow your platforms. These people will ultimately become some of your best friends!
5 – Figure out what version of yourself you want the world to know you as…but be genuine. This is probably the trickiest step in the process. You need to decide what your “brand” is going to be. People with a strong brand are usually the people who get the most followers, but these people are also genuine about the face the present to the world. For example, if you aren’t funny, don’t try to write funny posts. If you aren’t snarky, don’t try to write snarky book reviews. If you aren’t bubbly, don’t try to write squealy, fangirly posts.
There are a few accounts who absolutely nail this that I’ll give you as examples. YA Wednesdays is one of my favorite accounts to follow. Carmen and Ann-Eliza are social activists fighting for change both in the real world and the book world. They’re posts are creative and they promote books that also help bring about the changes they want to see in the world. The YA Book Traveler is another favorite of mine. Sarah is always looking for ways to help uplift beginning bloggers. She hosts the BHP Book Blogger Twitter Chat, and she is very genuine in only promoting the books and authors that she loves. Book Crushin’ is another blog with a wonderful platform. Kelly and Christy’s posts celebrate their love of fandom, they’re very open about the challenges they face as book bloggers, and they’re content is always creative, fun, and engaging.
When I first started blogging, I very quickly realized that I could not post anything negative about books. The idea that an author could see that just caused me so much stress and anxiety. I’m just one of those people who cannot stand to hurt someone else’s feelings or have them be mad at her. This is NOT a good quality to have for the record, but it’s who I am. So I knew really early on that I was only going to post positive things. I wanted to be a cheerleader for the books, authors, and bloggers I loved. Those kinds of posts both on social media and my blog are what give me fulfillment. So I based my platform around being a positive, fun, bubbly person. This works for me, because that is genuinely who I am 95% of the time. It’s my comfort zone and embracing that is what helped me grow my own platform.
6 – If you’re looking to grow your Twitter platform fast, participate in Twitter chats! There are a lot of them that happen monthly. I’d personally recommend the BHP chat, the Novel Nineteen and Class2K19 chats, as well as the MTMC chats. There are a bunch of others too. Keep an eye on your feed and pay attention to the chats the people you follow are participating in.
7 – Post consistently. We’re impatient people. We want to follow accounts who give us consistent content to engage with. It’s okay to take days off here and there. We all need a social media hiatus from time to time for our own mental health. But if you want to build a following, you should be posting most days.
8- Pick one platform at a time and master it. Trying to tackle multiple platforms all at once is a good way to burn yourself out. Believe me, I totally did that my first year as a blogger. Once you’ve established yourself on one platform, you can slow down there a bit to focus on building up another. Every platform is different and the ways to master it are going to be different as well.
Twitter is usually the easiest one to get down, because Twitter is just a really chatty place. It’s very easy to engage with other book people and build up a following of friends there. WordPress and Bloglovin’ also have great communities; however, reading and commenting on blog posts can be very time consuming, so pace yourself if that’s your chosen platform. Instagram is probably the single most important platform in the book community right now. That is where most bloggers and authors are currently spending most of their time. This one is a little trickier to master because you have to not only have engaging content, you also need to post eye-catching photos. I’m still trying to master this one myself. There is also BookTube and AuthorTube. I’m not an expert on those platforms, but there is a tremendous community over there as well.
9 – Get involved in your local book communities! So many of the people who follow me and engage with me online are people from my own book community here in Utah. They know me because my book bestie (The Clever Reader) and I partnered with our local indie to start up a book club. Through that same indie bookstore, I also met a lot of published authors and aspiring writers as well. I love chatting with these people online, but seeing them in person is even better! So go to your local independant book store or even Barnes & Noble and talk to them about book club options and upcoming events. These are the places you can find your people, and most likely, those people will also follow you online.
10 – And if you want to build a following really fast, then giveaways do, of course, help! I will sometimes do giveaways for signed books both because they get a lot of traction, but also because the signed books I give away are books written by authors I want to support, and all the RTs/Reposts on those giveaways get those books more exposure. Using Book Depository is also a great way to do giveaways, both because the books there are inexpensive, and you can ship internationally, which opens up the potential for you to reach a whole bunch of new followers.
Five Common Mistakes People Make When Trying to Build a Platform
1 – Do not, do not, do not set up an automated message to go out to people who follow you back that either tries to sell them a book you wrote or asks them to go follow your blog. Everyone thinks of this as spam. And while I understand the desire to try to do anything to build your platform, this is the quickest way to get people to unfollow you. People don’t want to follow someone who is trying to sell them something. We want to follow people we can genuinely engage with. Yes, I’ve said genuinely engage about a million times in this post, but that’s because it is the single most crucial part of building a platform
2 – Do not DM people asking them to follow you back. This is also not genuine engagement. This tells the person that you only followed them to get a follow back. If you actually want them to follow you. Then like and comment on their posts. Once the two of you establish a rapport, they will most likely follow you back.
3 – Posting negative reviews and negative comments about books is, of course, totally fine! Social media should be a place where you can discuss books openly, but DO NOT tag authors in any kind of negative discussion you’re having. Quite frankly, it’s rude. People at their publishing house will make them aware of any reviews that they should take into consideration. But tagging them in your own just rips their already fragile souls to shreds. Authors truly do their best when they’re writing books. They genuinely try to make their novels the best they can be. Do they miss the mark sometimes, sure. Is it our job to tell them that, absolutely not.
4 – Don’t comment on someone’s post asking them to check our your latest post or to follow you back. This again is not genuine engagement.
5 – Do not get angry at someone who doesn’t follow you back. There are only so many people you can follow if you want to actually be able to get through your feed and engage with people’s content. If someone doesn’t follow you back, it isn’t necessarily a personal thing. If there’s an account you would really like to have follow you back, then keep engaging with their posts. If they still don’t follow you back, and that is hurtful to you, then by all means unfollow them. But don’t send them angry, hateful messages. That isn’t the kind of reputation you want to build for yourself in the community.
Alright, you guys. This was a long post, so the TL;DR is genuinely engage with the community, be yourself, be respectful, and have fun!
I hope this was helpful. If anyone has any questions, feel free to fire away!