Starting From the Bottom: Building an Author Platform

Written by: Helena Edge

Writing a book is hard. Finding an audience is harder.

My name is Helena Edge, and I am senior at ODU. I’m a Philosophy major. Academics is among one of my passions, the other is writing supernatural fiction. I put my interest to into practice writing a young adult novel, The Angel Motel, the final edits of which were put into effect this summer. Red-eyed, sleep-deprived, and fighting off carpal-tunnel, then I started the real work: getting people to read it.

I started small. For someone who isn’t comfortable on social media, I decided to familiarize myself with platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. I began posting more, stalking the pages of other writers, and getting a sense of what the author community was like. In my free time I watched YouTube videos on marketing and researched methods on how to promote my work in the modern age.

I even spent a day watching tutorials on how to make a mailing list for getting into contact with influencers and book reviewers. The process is strenuous. As a relatively private person, the thought of networking, of putting myself and my writing out into the world is a daunting one. The more I learned about the importance of a large following, the more frustrated I became with the agonizingly slow growth of the numbers on my social media pages.

But at the same time, this was a good chance to remind me to be grateful for every connection I made, even if it was one or two comments here and there or a small instance of recognition from an admired writer on Tumblr. Gradually, I came to realize that it wasn’t healthy to compare myself to people who have had years to build their readership, not when you’re just starting out.

Instead of spending hours on social media and feeling guilty for each minute, I wasn’t researching marketing techniques, I allowed myself set times during the day to focus on these aspects of authorship, a tip from a friend that has helped immensely.

I also received advice from a professor who is finishing up the publishing process with her own book. She told me that it can take years to build a platform. So, I decided to give myself some slack. Don’t rush. No short cuts. No cheap gimmicks designed to attract followers that may or may not stick around. Take your time to grow a loyal and genuine readership. And the most important thing: don’t expect to be a best-selling author overnight.

I ended up coming full circle. To build up my readership, I decided to do what I do best: write.

With the help of my roommate, I created a website, The Angels Have Eyes, where I can share my work. While I wait for things to start rolling on the publishing side of things, I’ve been writing original supernatural short stories for young adults. I’ll also be posting excerpts from current and future works in progress.

The mountain seems tallest when you’re taking your first steps. Everyone starts out at the bottom, but it’s only those who keep going who make it to the top.