3 strategies to build a profitable author platform without an audience

Writers Marketing
12 min read
In this Article

I want to let you in on a little secret…

You don’t need a massive author platform to launch your book and be a thriving writer.

As a first-time writer, you can successfully sell loads of books even if nobody (right now) knows your name! You just need a way to market your books effectively.

Today, I’m sharing exactly how to sell books without an existing author platform. You’ll also learn tips for growing your author platform to sell more books down the road!

Let’s jump in.

Author platform

What is an author platform?

An author platform (sometimes called a book platform or a writing platform) is the combined visibility you have from all different platforms containing your target audience. The more people you can reach with your writing, the stronger your author platform.

That “target audience” part is important. Because although people like your best friends and your family are incredibly supportive, they probably aren’t part of your target audience and don’t count towards your author platform.

What does count is:

  • Your social media presence
  • The subscribers on your email list
  • Your blog readers
  • Any reach you have from public speaking or events

Building an author platform takes time and becoming a marketing maven won’t happen overnight.

But fear not: you can still sell books without an author platform (and without getting a Ph.D. in Marketing). In fact, selling your books before building an author’s platform is beneficial for a few reasons.

First, you can channel all of your energy to your book sales rather than stressing over hitting a certain number of followers.

Second, you can take the money you earn from your book sales and reinvest it into future book marketing activities, helping you snowball your reach.

And lastly, when you sell your books, your writing platform will grow naturally. It’s a trifecta of wins!

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3 simple strategies to launch and sell books without an author platform

During Tim Grahl’s From Zero to Platform: The First 3 Steps to Start Your Book Marketing webinar, he said:

What’s easier: work to get 10 million followers on Twitter, or work with someone who has 10 million followers on Twitter to promote your book?

-Tim Grahl

Growing your social media following might feel like you’re moving slower than a snail, but that doesn’t mean you can’t access a large audience while waiting for your platform to grow. These three strategies are perfect for helping you access your ideal readers and promote your book (even without 10 million Twitter followers).

Book launch strategies

#1 Partner with influencers

Influencers share everything from bucket-list-worthy destinations to their favorite reads. With each social share, they can generate buzz and sales, and there’s no reason why you can’t get in on the action.

1. Develop reader personas

When planning your influencer campaign, it’s tempting to reach out to the influencer with the highest number of followers. But more followers doesn’t mean more sales. You want to make sure the influencers you reach out to cater to your ideal readership.

Finding the right influencers to promote your new book is easy once you understand your ideal reader. To develop a reader persona, answer the following questions:

  1. Who will read your book?
  2. What are their interests?
  3. What’s their age range?
  4. What job do they have?
  5. What authors do they like?
  6. What websites do they go on?
  7. What are their hobbies?

You can answer these questions by speaking with potential readers or researching them online.

2. Find out where your reader personas hang out online

Online hangouts can range from certain social media platforms— – like TikTok or Twitter—to podcasts, blogging, and even private Facebook groups. Once you know where your reader persona hangs out online, find out who influences that space by noting who’s name commonly pops up.

3. Create a win-win situation

After uncovering a few influencers in your niche, come up with a win-win situation. In other words, what will the influencer receive in return for promoting your book?

Here are some examples:

4. Make the pitch

A well-crafted pitch will keep your email out of the junk bin! There are three components that make or break a good influencer pitch:

  1. Intro: tell them what you love about their platform or what they do. Make sure you personalize this section as much as possible.
  2. Middle: briefly discuss your book and what it would mean to you if they would check out your book to write a review or share it with their audience.
  3. Outro: state the details of your win-win situation, thank them, and include a summary or copy of your book.

Here’s an example of a pitch that follows the above formula:

Hi Amanda,

My name is Dana and I've been an avid reader of your blog for a couple of years now. My favorite post of yours is the one where you talk about the biggest lessons you learned from starting your own business, many of which I can relate to.

I recently wrote a book about the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. I think both you and your audience would really enjoy it and I'd be thrilled if you shared it with them!

I also know you offer guest posts on your blog, so if you are open to sharing my book, I'd love to write a guest blog post.

I've attached the ebook version of my book, but if you send me your address, I can also forward you a hard copy.

Thank you so much!

#2 Partner with other authors

Just because you don’t have your own author platform—yet—doesn’t mean you can’t leverage an existing platform of someone who reaches your readers.

1. Make a list of your favorite books

To start, create a list of your favorite books. From that list, keep any books your ideal persona would be interested in reading. (Your goal is to come up with a list of other indie authors who also write for your ideal reader.)

2. Contact the authors of your favorite books

With your list of books, the next—and most challenging—step is to find the author’s contact information. You might find some emails easily but you might have to put on your detective hat for the others.

Here are some different ways you can find contact information:

  1. Any direct email: start by searching for the author’s email. If you can’t find their email, look for their assistant’s or publicist’s email.
  2. Their publisher’s email: if you can’t find the above, reach out to their publisher. Google the publisher’s name + “contact” to pull up their publisher’s contact page.
  3. Any email located on their site: if their website has a search function, try searching for “contact”, “@”, or “theirdomain.com” to pull up any pages that might contain their email address.
  4. Follow them on social media: if you follow them on social media, take time to interact with their content before reaching out. Following and immediately reaching out to ask for a favor can come across as inauthentic.
  5. Use Norbert: Norbert is a freemium tool that helps you find email addresses. You can find up to 50 emails for free.

Once you have their contact information, it’s time to draft and make the pitch!

3. Make the pitch

Just like our influencer pitch, you want to make your author pitch as personalized as possible. Follow this formula to write your pitch:

  1. Intro: tell them what you loved about their book.
  2. Middle: state what your book is and explain how they inspired you. Share what it would mean to you if they checked out your book and wrote a short review or shared it with their audience.
  3. Outro: thank them, and include a summary of your book or a copy of it.

Here’s an example of a pitch that follows the above formula:

Hi Molly,

Last year I read your book Reach Out because I wanted to improve my networking skills. Your book gave me the courage and confidence to expand my network and get me more clients in the process!

I recently decided to self-publish my own book, and in chapter 4 I recommend my readers to check out Reach Out. I attached a copy of my book so you could read it for yourself.

If you have the time, I'd love for you to share my book with your audience or leave a short review!

Thank you,

#3 Grow your email list

You don’t need thousands of subscribers to sell your book, or to become the next Amazon bestseller. You can still make a big splash with a small list. We’ve put together some inspiring stories of creators who had big launches with small lists; go through them for a daily dose of inspiration.

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, a New York Times Best Seller, uses her email list to promote her books. She notes that her subscribers are enthusiastic about the books she promotes and says that:

[My subscribers] actually click on links to my books and book events more than almost any other content I provide.

-Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Your email list is a versatile tool you can use to:

  • Send out teasers of your book to encourage subscribers to buy the full copy
  • Get feedback from your audience as you write future books
  • Build anticipation for future launches
  • Host giveaways for things like signed copies of your book

ConvertKit creator and author, James Clear, uses his email list to send out exclusive chapters of his book:

James Clear newsletter
James Clear offers subscribers a secret chapter to promote his latest book. Image via James Clear’s newsletter.

How to build your author platform for future book launches

Although you can successfully launch a book without an author platform, selling your next book is easier when you’ve built a readership of raving fans.

Creating healthy marketing strategies requires consistency (and patience) but luckily, you can automate certain areas of your book marketing so you can spend more time writing and less time glued to social media.

The best way to make a living as a writer and build a platform as an author is through your email list because:

  1. You own your readership: unlike social media platforms where you can lose your account—and followers—at any given moment, you own your email list.
  2. No algorithms to “decode”: email marketing gives you direct access to your readership without jumping through hoops to get your content seen.
  3. There’s a high ROI: email marketing boasts a hefty ROI of $35 for every $1 spent. As an author with a limited budget, you won’t need to spend lots to earn lots.
  4. Inspire future writing: your audience will tell you what they like reading. Take ConvertKit creator Srini Rao, a blogger who turned his most popular blog posts into a Wall Street Journal bestseller.
  5. Build reviews: the best way to get reviews is to ask for them. But it’s near impossible to ask for reviews when you don’t have a way to reach out to past customers. Your email list gives you access to a never-ending supply of reviews (as long as you keep selling your book)!
  6. Show proof of success: showing that you have an engaged readership and past sales can help you land a book deal and form partnerships with book distributors and literary agents.
  7. Your email list will always serve you: whether you decide to sell print-on-demand books or eBooks, you can use your email list to promote your writing, regardless of the format.

With ConvertKit, you don’t need to stress about building an author website to collect email addresses for your email list. We give you the tools you need to build landing pages for your book, collect subscribers, and even sell other digital items using ConvertKit Commerce!

To get started, create your free ConvertKit account. Once in your ConvertKit dashboard, click on Landing Pages and Forms to make your first landing page:

ConvertKit landing pages

Click the Create New button and then Landing Page:

ConvertKit landing page

You can choose from different free landing page templates. We even designed ones specifically for authors. You can find those by choosing eBook in the Template Category filters.

ConvertKit ebook landing page
ConvertKit has a library of landing page templates—even ones specifically for authors!

After choosing your template, you can customize the colors, fonts, text, and imagery before publishing it.

To get the unique URL for your landing page click Share:

ConvertKit landing page
Get the shareable link to start growing your email list.

Now you can encourage people to sign up to your email list by doing things like:

  • Adding your landing page URL to your social media accounts
  • Sharing it on social media
  • Including it in your email signature
  • Adding it to your website

Author and ConvertKit creator Ryan Holiday is a shining example of a writer who grew a tremendous list. His email list has grown to over 320,000 subscribers over the years. Like you, he started out with a small list that grew with consistent care.

Scheduling weekly newsletters (like Ryan) helps you keep your subscribers in the loop, build anticipation for your next big launch, and build a readership of avid fans.

Use your book to grow your author platform

By leveraging existing platforms of influencers and other authors, you can grow your name and sell your books without an author platform.

And while you’re working on your author platform building, ConvertKit helps you stay connected with your readership so you can focus on writing your next best seller!

Start building your author platform today with our free guide to self-publishing a book!

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Dana Nicole

Dana is a freelance writer who works closely with B2B SaaS brands to create content people enjoy reading. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sipping on a warm cup of tea and reading a good book (the scarier, the better). See what she’s up to at www.dananicoledesigns.com

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