Your Platform-Building Checklist

Sprocket Websites is proud to say that we boast a few authors among our clients. In addition to developing websites, we also help folks with their digital media. Small-business clients call it “Online Reputation.” Authors know it as “Platform.”

The Sprocket team has a checklist that we follow to make it easier to update online profiles. Keeping this information together in a file on your computer makes it simple to cut and paste rather than having to compose on the fly.

Here’s what you’ll want to prepare and save in your file:

  • Your name
  • Your pen name
  • Your website URL
  • The email address you are using as an author
  • A short biography/about-the-author of approximately 50 words
  • A longer biography/about-the-author of approximately 150 words
  • Your headshot, about 300-500 pixels
  • Your book title(s)
  • Your book(s) ISBN(s)
  • The cover image of your book(s), about 300-500 pixels
  • A short synopsis of your book(s) of approximately 50 words
  • URL links to places where your books are sold
  • Your Twitter account name
  • Your Facebook account name
  • The URL of any YouTube videos or book trailers

Why Your Blog Should Be on Your Website

Whether it’s Google, Yahoo or Bing, the goal of a search engine is to bring back the right results from the World Wide Web for whatever is typed into the search box. No one knows for sure what the Google algorithm is for choosing which results are the most appropriate, but their tech team constantly reminds web professionals to be “relevant.”

What do they mean by “relevant?” Let’s say an internet visitor is looking for “Georgia Peaches.” There’s a website that talks about Georgia and one that talks about Peaches. Those are both sort of relevant so both sites will show up, although they’ll appear pretty far down the list. But the one that talks a lot about Georgia Peaches, has as their URL and is listed in the “Online Directory of Georgia Peaches” will show up at the top because it seems to be the most relevant answer to the search.

Many authors have a website on which they post some biographical information, a list of titles and a link for buying books. But their blog is on a completely different website like When an internet visitor is searching for that author and Google looks for the most relevant answer to that search, the author is essentially competing against herself to be the best search result.

There’s additional competition for “most relevant” from online reviews, interviews and the like, each one claiming some level of “relevancy.” Uniting your blog with your author website helps beef up the relevancy level to make it the better answer to a search. And that’s important because your site is the one place where you are completely in charge of your marketing message.

To ensure that they have the most relevant results, search engines send “spiders” to crawl the web looking for new information to add to their knowledge base. If they’ve checked a site more than once and nothing changed in between times, the spiders won’t bother coming back right away. They figure it’s old news and probably not relevant any longer.

If your blog is on your website and you write posts regularly, it will attract the attention of those search engine spiders and bring them back to index your website more often. Also, since you will no doubt blog about yourself and your books, you are providing fresh content that underlines the fact that this is the most relevant website about you. The more relevancy “points” you can rack up, the better your site will rank in search results.

Since every author is now charged with much of their own marketing, it makes sense to approach it like a small business and work to boost your internet presence. Let do their own marketing. You should be reaping the rewards that come with having your blog on your author website.

Beating "Blogger's Block"

Far too many folks start blogging with the best intentions, but their dedication fizzles after just a few posts. One would think that authors would have no problem coming up with blog posts, but a blank screen can scare even the most prolific writers. Instead of agonizing over “blogger’s block,” give your author’s blog the professional treatment by creating an editorial calendar.

Statistical research suggests how often and when to post but the most important fact to know is that readers respond best to a regular schedule. Experts give valid reasons for posting multiple times a week, but for search engine purposes, once or twice a month is sufficient. There’s no point in assuming a schedule you won’t stick to, but a monthly post is only twelve articles a year.

If you plan seasonal posts, you only need to come up with eight more topics and that should be manageable for a busy author! Here are some suggestions for brainstorming blog topics:

  • Events you are about to attend
  • Events you just attended
  • Events you wish you could attend
  • New book ideas you are working on
  • Awards, reviews or other recognitions you received
  • Book-related events in your community
  • Industry-related social or educational events
  • New equipment or software you are using in your writing
  • A successfully-met challenge
  • Milestones in your author career or personal life
  • News of a fellow author
  • Personal development
  • Upcoming speaking engagements
  • Past speaking engagements     
  • Books or blogs recently read
  • Post by a guest blogger
  • Interview with another author, editor, agent, librarian, etc.
  • Answers readers’ questions
  • Comments on topics in the news

Another tip for sticking with your blog commitment is to keep your posts short. Readers are busy, like you, and are more likely to read shorter posts. If you find that you have a lot to say, consider breaking it up into more than one post. Now you’ve filled another slot in your editorial calendar!

If you plan your topics and write a few ahead of schedule, you won’t be tempted to skip posts. And if you unexpectedly have something important to write about one month, just adjust the calendar to use your planned post next time. Another slot filled!

Regularly posting fresh blog content on your website reminds both your readers and the search engine robots that you are a dynamic and professional writer, someone they should watch. Using an editorial calendar takes some of the deadline pressure off so you can concentrate on what you do best:  writing engaging content that will keep them coming back for more!

Dress Up Your Blog with Graphics

Wordsmiths may find it hard to believe, but research shows that people spend more time reading blog posts that have a good graphic element to catch the eye. So what makes a “good” graphic?

First off, the resolution for a web image doesn’t need to be as high as for a print image. In fact, having too high a resolution can slow down the time it takes to load your web page. Your blog software might make your image fit on the page so it displays small, but it’s really still the original size and the page will still load at that speed.

Check how many pixels wide your blog content area is so you can gauge the right graphic size. If your blog is 600 pixels wide and you want your picture to fill about a third of the page, your image should be about 200-300 pixels wide. If your image’s original size is 3320 x 2250, that’s way too big.

Conversely, if the photo you want to use is 40 x40, it’s possible to stretch it out to fill a 200 x 200 space, but it will look awful.

An easy and free way to resize images you have stored on your computer, without having to use special software, is to go to a website called Click on the “Edit” button and when the drop down menu appears, click on “Computer.” Your computer file system will appear in a pop-up box for you to choose the image you want to resize. You can also crop, mess with the colors and other fun things, but the important part is that you can then save the modified image in your computer for later use on your blog.

Harder than resizing is finding an appropriate image in the first place. There are zillions of photos and graphics online. Some are “royalty-free” and only charge a one-time fee. Others may come in packages for which you pay a monthly fee and are allowed to download a set number every month.

Authors, more than average Joes, know about copyright laws. There’s nothing more aggravating than finding out some stranger is profiting from your efforts, and photographers and graphic artists feel the same way. If you’re Googling for images to cut and paste, you’re probably infringing on someone’s copyright.

Getty Images, whose photos have been widely pirated, recently announced that they will allow “free embedding” of certain images for “non-commercial purposes.” Among other issues, the loosey-goosey definition of “non-commercial” has many bloggers concerned, so consider this option carefully before choosing it.

Another option is Not all the images on this website are free, royalty-free or credit-free, so read the notes carefully. If a photo says “You are allowed to copy, distribute, transmit the work and to adapt the work. Attribution is not required,” you are probably cleared to use it on your blog.

The safest images to use are those you create yourself with your camera, pencil or other medium, so you might want to start an archive of your own photos. Get creative with your photos on picmonkey and make your blog posts especially unique!

More Ways to Build Your Platform

Having your own author’s website is the Number 1 tool in your platform. Adding a blog to your website is a very close second. But “build it and they will come” hasn’t been true for a very long time. You need to support your website by also creating platform in other places. Linking to your website from other locations on the web helps you by engaging two important audiences:  Readers and Robots.

Readers, actual human beings, are looking for books like yours so why not make it easy for them to find you by having a presence in the places where they are already spending time? At the same time, robots are constantly scanning the web, categorizing sites to make it easier for humans to find what they’re looking for. By having a number of good quality links to your site, you underscore your relevancy as an author which boosts your website in the search engines.

There are a number of places online where you can build an author profile and include your URL so that it links back to your website. Below are some of the top places you should have an author profile:

Your Publisher’s Website
Most publishers, even smaller or DIY publishers, will host an author’s profile page for you and your book. Make the most of it as it might be the only publicity they offer.

Amazon author page
Every author listed on Amazon has this opportunity. You can post your headshot, your list of books, biographical information and more.

Goodreads is one of those places where readers already are, so you should be, too. It’s reciprocal in that any reviews from readers on Goodreads can appear on your website by using their widget. At its most basic, however, this is another place to fill in your profile information and link to your website.

Illinois Center for the Book
If you are an Illinois author, you have the opportunity to be listed on the Illinois Center for the Book wiki. You can build a nice profile there with your headshot, a list of your books and of course your website URL.

Library of Congress Center for the Book
    If you are not an Illinois author, there are Centers for the Book at other states as well. The Library of Congress is the main Center. When you go to their website, you will find the links to other states. Most states want the author to have a state connection, but if you were born in one state and live in another, you technically have connections to both.

While Google+ is still underperforming as a social media platform, it’s important to set up a profile there because Google is still the most-used search engine and their secret algorithms seem to give precedence to their own products. Play their game for the SEO boost.

Facebook is still a popular social space, but it becomes tricky to know whether to annoy your family with your author news or annoy your readers with your family news. Some authors have two profiles, but then it becomes difficult to keep up with regular posts. At least put a link to your author website in your profile.

Like Facebook, this platform may be more trouble than it’s worth for some. Put the website link in your profile and follow fellow authors to use this tool for research it you’d rather.

LinkedIn has lots of space in the profile section to include your author career as well as any day job you might have. Go ahead and take advantage of it.
Patch is a hyper-local online news source. In addition to being a great place to post information about upcoming book-signings or other events, you can fill out a profile that includes your website.

Don’t panic about having to create profiles at all of these places at once. Do them as time permits. And if you have already put together a file with all the information on your Platform-Building Checklist, you’ll be able to fill in the blanks relatively quickly. With all these links, not only will you prove your relevance to the search engine robots, but you’ll look mighty impressive when someone googles you or your book!