Let’s start off this writing platform process by clarifying what content marketing is and isn’t about. Content marketing is where you build content that people want. They go to you to get that content. With any luck, you show them more content that is relevant and they enjoy that information. Before long, you are set in their mind as an authority on the topic. As an authority, you can help steer people to products and services that you believe in, but that also have a referral program. Or, as an authority, you can steer people to your own products and services. For non-fiction authors, this works fairly well. You build a website full of workout advice, then offer a book that shows a number of other workout options. People want the advice, trust you as an authority, and then buy your book for new workout options. However, that frame of reference doesn’t work for fiction writers. I can’t give you advice about avoiding alien politics, then give you a book about a space captain. So, how can a fiction author build a platform via content marketing?
Step 1a: Short stories to build mailing list
So, non-fiction authors can post articles online, push those on social media, and build an audience. Fiction authors can use the same method, but just in a different pond. Fiction authors can release short (complete) stories and ask people for their email addresses to gain access to those short stories. They can then take these email addresses, build a relationship, and then offer the final product. So, this means entering contents and giveaways with that short story, instead of releasing articles on the web.
Step 1b: Serial writing and rubbing elbows with fans.
This is a great method for generating an audience. In this method, you release a chapter at a time of a book, asking people for feedback. As people become more invested in the story, they naturally become fans. The only trick with this method is that you almost have to start at the end first. The worst part of being a serial fan is having a story you love never be finished. However, if the author can let people know that the story is complete, there is an end, the end is written, etc… it is a lot easier to become invested. In other words, this method works well if you want to build book 2 or book 3… but not so much book 1.
Step 2: Small content chunks on social media.
I think the best phrase that I’ve heard that describes social media is “doom scrolling”. There is so much junk that we put up with. Sometimes, you just need something positive and happy. That’s where a fiction author can come in and help (that sounds really dark, but hold on). An author can present their true selves and interact with other people. They can talk about their works in progress and what is inspiring them. This real life feel can draw people in to them. However, it’s a balance, because you want to make sure you are writing more than you are playing on social media. Remember: you don’t own the social media platform, so make sure you have audiences elsewhere (like the mailing list mentioned in step 1).
Step 3: Fish in the same pond, but don’t expect to catch anything.
This piece of advice is given freely, but don’t expect to gain much traction from it. You can build articles on your blog and gain an audience. That is possible. However, you need to make sure you are following all the search engine optimization guides and building the best content you can. Here are some basic steps to get there:
- Buzzsumo – Find someone else who did it well
Figure out the general topic you want to write about. Plug that into Buzzsumo and see who has gained a lot of traction lately on that topic and how they’ve spun in. Take that website and go ahead and plug it into the next step.
- Google Keyword Planner – Find the missing content
So after you find the website that made the content, plug that into keyword planner. You’ll get a fairly decent list of topics. I remove any high competition phrases, sort by average monthly searches, then see what ‘long tail’ keywords float to the top. Quick refresher, phrases with more words tend to be longer tail words. They are easier to write for because they require additional specificity. Ideally, you’ll be able to pair several long tail phrases together. For example, online writing platform and platform for authors could be smooshed together to become: online writing platform for authors. That keyword is the secret sauce to what you are about to write.
- Grab an outline from online
Take that keyword you just found, and plug it into the search engine. See what comes up. These articles are going to be your competition. So you want to see what pieces of advice they offer and write those down. Then think about what additional advice you would give. Once you have all of this, you have an outline for your article.
- Follow the SEO major markers and publish
I am not going to say that SEO is easy; there is a lot to it. However, the single biggest factor is simply luck. No one knows when their article or website is going to go viral or big. However, if you follow a certain set of given standards, you increase your luck. This is the difference between throwing seeds at the dirt and planting them in the dirt. Both have the potential to grow into something, but seeds inside the dirt are more likely to grow. If you meet the SEO major markers, then you’ll have a much better likelihood of gaining search engine traction.
- Use the keyword in your title and initial paragraph
- Make sure to have a relevant image
- Make sure the content is over 1000 words
- Have lists and other components in the content
- Remove any poor spelling and grammar problems
- Make sure your website loads fast on desktop and mobile
- Finish it out with a closing paragraph and video
Hopefully all these tips have led you to build a platform. To summarize, you can use short stories or a work in progress to build your local fandom. You then can interact on social media to help gain those on the sidelines. Finally, you can reach for the stars by building traditional search engine content. Now, if you are the type of person who prefers to watch/listen, instead of read, here a video that explains the process better.