Writing Tips Thursday: What Does Your Author Platform Say About You?

Everything is a book cover. We spend our waking lives making judgements that impact on how we interact with the world around us. Consider the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” and why it simply doesn’t work. If you don’t judge a book by its Point of Sale advertisement how are we to know if we’re interested in the content? The same questions can be applied to anything in life – books, clothing, cars, holidays, candy, bunny rabbits and your author platform.

Human beings are a visual species. 40% of our cerebral cortex is devoted to processing visual input, a staggering amount compared to around 8% for touch and only 3% for hearing. We see, compare, judge and interact. Isn’t it more realistic to say “judge a book by its cover, then investigate further on your initial judgement”?

My first question for you, dear blog reader, is how you judged this post upon first glance. Did the picture of the funny coloured people grab your interest? Or was the bit of blurb at the top, captured by a search engine, enough to prompt you to read more?

Well done! You made a judgement.

As a writer it’s likely you’ve given some thought to what the book cover of your first (or next) novel will look like. And the same goes for how your blog looks, if you have one, which for the purpose of this post I’m assuming you do. Who doesn’t right? The interweb is awash with bloggers jostling for your time.

In the last couple of years I’ve read many articles about what the term “author platform” actually means. In fact if you head over to Google and type in “what does author platform mean?” you’ll find Deadly Doses–Politics, Religion and Our Author Platform, where social media guru Kristen Lamb discusses a multitude of brand, marketing and writing ideas. If you haven’t checked out her blog I thoroughly recommend it.

The way I see it is your author platform is your digital presence – how your portray yourself online. This can include your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and so on. It’s not only about the look and feel of what you show to others but how you interact with them and what you choose to say. And because we’re a visual species your image matters more than you think.

Try this experiment.

I suggest you pop over to Kristen Lamb and take a look at her blog. Read away if you feel inclined but for the purposes of this small experiment I invite you to judge based solely on the look of the web page. Try and answer these questions:

  • What do you see that you like?
  • Does the smiling, approachable face encourage you to stay a while?
  • Is the layout neat and tidy or too minimalistic?
  • Does the crisp photo of a curious puffer fish (well, that was there as I wrote this) make you want to read more?
  • Do you feel happy that the navigation tabs at the top of the page are easy to understand and intriguing enough to click?
  • Does the theme look pleasing or not?
  • What are your instant impressions?
  • What do you expect to gain from her blog based on first looks?

Consider all of these things carefully because 99% of the time you make snap judgements within seconds of a web page loading. And that in turn impacts on your decision to read more or click elsewhere.

Looks are everything.

I know it shouldn’t be like that and you’ll no doubt tell yourself that looks aren’t important, it’s what lies beneath that floats your boat. But how are you to know if the boat floats to your liking if it’s too ugly, smelly, small, noisy, leaky or the wrong colour? That boat must fit within the parameters of your comfort zone based on first looks or you’ll not be setting foot inside it.

Books on shelves are adverts for their content. Sure, that includes the blurb on the back but its the cover, and to some degree the title, that grabs your attention. If every book came in a brown jacket and the fonts were all the same then maybe the playing field would be levelled. However, we live in a world that panders to our eyeballs first and foremost.

Your author platform is the same thing. You want people to read your stuff but is that likely to happen if you display a banner at the top that consists of dead bunnies?

Maybe, if the visitor is looking for something morbid or ironic, or worse, a guide on how to kill a bunny rabbit. My point is that your author platform should say something about you. Whether that be your interest in history and romance, like Merry Farmer (not related btw) author of The Faithful Heart and The Loyal Heart, or your thoughts on living in another country, like Piglet in Portugal.

I can’t speak for these writers but I can only assume that Merry uses a photo of a castle to give the visitor the instant sense of history to match the theme of her blog, passion for history and her romance novels – fairy tale castle, history and romance spring to my mind when I see her blog.

Piglet in Portugal occasionally changes the banner on her blog, though the theme remains the same – open country vistas and quaint roads through historic Portuguese towns – colours and vibrant places that reflect her writing about being an Ex-pat in a foreign country.

As an example of how a blog can be perceived and judged easily based on what you see, have a look at Christina Duebel’s site, In The Depths. Christina is an amazing artist and her digital presence reflects this the second you see it.

How do you want to be perceived?

Let’s say you go to work every day in a blue suit. You could be seen as smart, business like, worthy of your salary, a gangster, important, dependable, hard working…and so on. However, if you woke up one day and put on a cartoon pink bunny costume with, fake blood and a comical dagger through your head, what do expect people will think?

Are you off to a Halloween party? Raising money for charity? An eccentric? Or maybe someone who’s a sandwich short of a picnic? Would you expect anyone to recognise you as the blue suited business person? Of course not. Your author platform needs consistency.

My first blog was called Noobcake. Yeah. Funny name right? There are still remnants of it lingering here and there. I didn’t know what I wanted my blog to be when I started and the name tickled me. The green screamer still hangs on (check the Blog Schedule on the right) it was bright, garish and slightly oddballish. But as I grew and rekindled my passion for writing I wanted visitors to take me a little more seriously.

I thought of the long-term. IF I had my novel published it would be detrimental to have a silly green screaming face as my brand. In her book, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, Kristen Lamb talks about you as a brand and how your name is who you are, not TinkerbellNY or MissCuddles27. I changed my blog name, added a few photos of my mug and adjusted the theme. Soon I’ll be moving to a self hosted site where I’ll have more control over my author platform.

A potential buyer of my novel isn’t going to find my book under the name Noobcake. They’ll find it under Dave Farmer, when and if it’s published. Having those two entities is not productive. You need consistency across your digital presence that will help you achieve your goal of being taken seriously as a writer.

Your homework assignment!

Ask yourself why your author platform looks the way it does. Look at it with a critical eye or as a visitor and potential fan who is going to make a snap judgement about you.

  • What does your author platform say about you?
  • Does it still represent who you are?
  • Does your digital presence have consistency?
  • If you have a passion for writing about exotic love stories set in far-flung locations, why do you have a lot of dead bunnies at the top of your blog? And if you write about science fiction why does your blog have a picture of a fairy tale castle on it?
  • Does your theme match your content?

And finally I invite you to evaluate the blogs you frequent. You’re probably used to visiting them but take a moment to examine if they match the attitude and personality of the author, if not why not?

What do you think, dear blog reader?

I’d love to hear what makes you tick and why you keep on writing.

Write for you. Write with passion. Love it. Live it.

What are your thoughts on the author platform?

If you have any writing tips and advice and feel like sharing, pop me an email or rant in the box below!

7 thoughts on “Writing Tips Thursday: What Does Your Author Platform Say About You?

  1. Hi Dave,
    I was attracted to your blog initially by its name, but I’ve hung around because of your skill as a writer. Your writing capitivates me at at times moves me to tears!

    “My first question for you, dear blog reader, is how you judged this post upon first glance. Did the picture of the funny coloured people grab your interest?”

    It was the title which grabbed my attention.

    I now understand WHY you changed your blog’s name and it makes perfect sense. However, I still think of you as noobcake – sorry Dave

    I suppose the mesage I try and put across is that wherever you live life goes on, but with the added frustration of dealing with a foreign langauge and difference in attitude of culture. Must re evaluate my blog. I am known as PiP so if I ever wrote a book it would be under that name and not under Carole

    1. I think you could indeed publish a book with the title Piglet in Portugal as it has a quirky ring to it that would catch the eye, and your name would be in smaller print.

      I figure there’s probably a few people who still think of me as noobcake, and that’s okay, a nice throwback that reminds me of fond memories when I first set foot into the land of the Blog.

      A close second to the image/look/brand – call it what you will, is the content. It’s not enough to pull people in with nifty images and clever themes, if your content is poor then you lose visitors. I think PiP as a brand if pretty decent, it sounds nice, and has that instant likeability factor, not to mention your posts are well written, lively, informative and always with a great sense of humour!

      EDIT: Thanks for your kind words. Means a lot to me!

  2. I think that is why I chose the theme I did and initially keep it minimalistic.
    It was about my words.
    how do we prevent all this marketing and self promotion from affecting our creativity?
    I dont know who said it, but its true, you have to write for yourself, write as if no one is going to read it.

    1. I think as long as you remain true to your natural abilities and what drives you to write, then marketting shouldn’t hinder your style. The author platform or brand and content should go hand in hand.

      Sure, you do write for yourself first and foremost, every time. Write from the heart and let the head give you guidance in matters relating to theme, style, look, brand etc.

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