By Laura Christianson
I received the following email this week:
“I’ve been blogging for about a year, mainly as a hobby and to test my ideas on a small-but-real audience. I’m hoping to publish a book in the next couple of years, and I want to start speaking, too. Should I build a website now?”
“Congratulations. And YES!”
If like this pre-author/pre-speaker, you want to take a strategic approach to platform building, I recommend starting with a blog that’s built into a “starter” website.
Blogging gives you the opportunity to test three key factors that will contribute to your long-term success as an author/speaker.
1. Is my topic viable?
Blogging helps you flesh out your responses to questions, concerns and challenges your readers have. You can rework and repurpose blog content into speaking presentations and book chapters.
2. How passionate am I about my topic?
If you plan to write a book around your blog’s topic, you need enough content to fill the pages of that book and you must feel excited enough about your topic to blog, podcast, and speak about it for the next 3-5 years.
Why so long?
If you sign a book contract with a royalty publisher today, your book will land on shelves in approximately 1 ½ years. That’s when the big push to market your book begins, and that’s also when you’re most likely to land speaking gigs around your book’s topic.
Brainstorm enough blog topics to keep you going for five years. One blog post per week for five years equals 260 articles.
I realize that 260 articles feels intimidating. But once you find your rhythm, crafting 260 blog posts seems like a miniscule amount.
I’ve been blogging non-stop since 2004 and have written thousands of blog posts in my topic area. I’ve never run out of ideas. In fact, I have a huge list of ideas that I’ll probably never have time to tackle.
3. Do I have an audience? Who is my audience?
All you need is 1,000 true fans. That means 1,000 loyal peeps who cheer you on, buy your books, attend your speaking events and tell everyone they know about you. And they do those things repeatedly, with great delight.
One thousand true fans sounds daunting when you’re currently writing for an audience of one (plus your mom and a handful of friends). It takes time and effort to find those other 995 true fans. But a blog will help you get there faster than if you sit in your recliner watching The Voice and hoping your blog will get “discovered.”
Blogging will help you clearly define who your ideal target audience is, how many of them are out there, and specific challenges they face that you can help them solve.
Your “starter” website
After you choose a viable topic you’re excited to write and speak about and you commit to recruiting 1,000 true fans, it’s time to build a “starter” website.
Your website is your online home – it’s the place you’ll send event planners, literary agents, editors, and of course, readers. Websites do not have to be fancy, but it does need to radiate a professional aura.
Your “starter” website should include the following pages:
Home – Think of this page as a billboard that gives visitors a snapshot of who you are, what you do, and how you can help them.
About – Your story, your history, your qualifications.
Books – If you’re in the process of writing a book, you could title this page Works In Progress.
Speaking – A brief description of your speaking topics, a sample video of you speaking, an overview of the types of venues and audiences for which you want to speak, and a way to contact you.
Blog – Your blog needs to be one of the pages on your website. You never want to send readers away from your site to a third-party blogging service. This dilutes traffic to your website and brands you as an amateur hobbyist-blogger. Now that you’re shifting to “professional author-speaker,” your blog needs to show that you mean business.
Contact – Include a contact form and/or your email address.
If you’re serious about writing and speaking, it’s time to get serious about building a website. It’s one of the best investments you will ever make in your writing and speaking career.
Laura Christianson helps entrepreneurs establish a vibrant online presence. She owns Blogging Bistro, a business that builds custom websites and provides website education. Laura has authored several books and thousands of articles. She serves as Marketing Director for West Coast Christian Writers.
Learn more about Laura and Blogging Bistro at bloggingbistro.com.