Build Your Author Platform (Without Using Any Wood)! I know how, so Ask Me Anything!

Laurel McHargue
Oct 18, 2017

I've been building my author platform since 2011 and it's getting stronger every day! Although I'm not always this dirty at the end of a work day, there are many times when I feel this crazy:

When my son said he didn't have time to create a website for me, I figured it out myself and use that "platform" to blog and to advertise my work (www.leadvillelaurel.com)

When I published my own books (check out my Amazon Author Page: Laurel McHargue), I had to find ways to get the info out to potential readers.

When I was asked to host an AMA, I said "yes." This is something you will do many times.

I've done press releases...public speaking...a Kickstarter campaign...

I know things about building an author platform. Ask me anything.


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Conversation (27)

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Where do you live 

Oct 18, 8:06AM EDT0

Hi Victoria,

I was raised in Massachusetts but have been living in Leadville, Colorado for the past ten years. It's a small mining town in the Rocky Mountains sitting at an elevation of 10,200'--A crazy place to live, I know, but it has inspired all of my books so far!

Oct 18, 9:40AM EDT0

Thats great....

What exactly do you like doing most

Oct 20, 7:44AM EDT0

Which is your favourite book so far that you've read ?

Oct 18, 4:12AM EDT0

Hi Heenal,

Life is too short and there are too many wonderful authors across genres to pick one favorite of anything (that's my opinion, anyway, although my favorite color is--and always has been--green), but I am particularly fond of John Steinbeck's work.

I recently read his book Travels With Charley in Search of America and loved it. Charley was his poodle, and his adventures were often poignant, sometimes funny, and always informative.

Barbara Kingsolver is another favorite author, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle being particularly enjoyable.

Bill Bryson has a great wit. If you're at all interested in outdoor adventures, his A Walk in the Woods is laugh-out-loud funny, and A Short History of Nearly Everything is one you'll have to read . . . or listen to . . . many times.

So many great books, so little time.

Oct 18, 7:00AM EDT0

What other marketing campaigns have you tried to get more exposure for your platform?

Oct 15, 2:00PM EDT0

Hi Ashley!

You name it, I've probably tried it!

"They" say that the best marketing you can do for your work it to publish more work, so that's my focus.

  • I currently have six books available in different formats (my first one published in 2013)
  • I blog at http://leadvillelaurel.com/
  • I publish a mid-monthly newsletter in which I always highlight other authors/bloggers as well as whatever I'm working on
  • I've just successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign for a calendar project
  • I use PRWeb to publish press releases about every couple of months (that motivates me to complete new work!)
  • I have a good relationship with my local newspaper
  • I've said "yes" to radio and TV interviews (local so far) and to speaking on panels and for different events
  • I update my Amazon Author page whenever something changes
  • I do book giveaways on Goodreads and through KDP
  • Of course, the usual Facebook (Leadville Laurel), Twitter (@LeadvilleLaurel), Instagram, LinkedIn . . .
  • I'm a member of CIPA and Chaffee County Writers Exchange and both attend and host writing workshops
  • I volunteer my time (and donate books) to classrooms

And I'm always on the lookout for opportunities to share my work and help others with theirs.

Oct 18, 3:50AM EDT0

What is your favorite book you've written and why?

Oct 9, 7:03PM EDT0

Hi Brandon!

What a great question! But it's akin to the "Which is your favorite child?" question, isn't it?

You could say I'm dodging the question, but because my four books (not counting my haiku "starter" journals) are completely different genres, I'm proud of each for different reasons.

My first novel ("Miss?") is based on my actual journals from my first year of teaching, and as such, it holds a painful and wonderful place in my heart.

Waterwight, my first YA fantasy, started with one of my wild dreams, and the fact that I could turn my dreams into a series (working on Book II now) is simply too fun to be true. I love the challenge of making sense of nonsense!

My husband claims the The Hare, Raising Truth is my best work, and I must say that this 2nd person perspective novella was a blast to write.

Hunt for Red Meat (love stories) is my first memoir-style short book about three years of hunting the wily Colorado elk with my husband. I always look for humor in my blog posts, and this work highlights that.

So, to answer your question, I love all my children for very different reasons!

Oct 18, 3:32AM EDT0

What made you want to be an author?

Oct 9, 5:45AM EDT0

Hi Allison,

Since I was a tiny tot, I told stories, usually based on whatever fantastic dream I'd wake from and share with eye-rolling family members.

I liked having an audience for my stories and making people laugh. Somehow I always knew I'd eventually write books, but it took leaving full-time employment to get me to that point. Fortunately, my husband can pay the bills and encourages me to write. Without his support, I'd have a truly hard time completing any long work.

Now that I've started, I feel like I may not live long enough to write all the stories rattling around in my head and heart! That's a good challenge, though, and at least I know I'll never be bored!

Oct 18, 3:19AM EDT0

How long have you been writing for?

Oct 9, 2:09AM EDT0

Hi Philip,

My 5th grade English teacher got me into writing poetry, and although it probably wasn't very good, she made me think it was!

I then kept a journal through my high school years, mainly because I needed a shrink and spiral-bound notebooks were cheap therapy.

I started writing for real "to become an author" in 2011 when I set up my first website and started blogging. My first novel hit the streets in 2013.

Oct 18, 3:03AM EDT0

What genre would your work fall under?

Oct 8, 4:25PM EDT0

Hi Timothy,

If "they" had a multiple-genre category, that's how my work would be listed. I refuse to be boxed in one category, and so on my Amazon Author page you will see I have the following books:

Haikus Can Amuse (a haiku starter journal)

Waterwight (a YA fantasy available in 3 formats)

The Hare, Raising Truth (an adult fairy tale)

Hunt for Red Meat: love stories (a memoir)

"Miss?" (a loosely fictionalized account of real events)

Hai Class Ku (a classroom version of Haikus Can Amuse)

I also blog at http://leadvillelaurel.com/

. . . and I publish a mid-monthly newsletter!

Oct 18, 2:58AM EDT0

How many books have you written?

Oct 8, 2:53AM EDT0

Hi Ryan,

I have written and self-published six books so far and I'm working on my seventh, a sequel to my YA Fantasy Waterwight, which will be a trilogy! https://www.amazon.com/Waterwight-Book-1/dp/0996971106

Waterwight: Book I is also available in audiobook!

You can find all of my books on my Amazon author page, which you should set up if/when you have your own books.

Amazon Author Page

Oct 18, 2:51AM EDT0

How does your platform differ from others?

Oct 7, 9:06PM EDT0

Hi Brian,

I'd have to say the most striking differentiation is that I publish in many genres.

A good friend once told me I should "focus on being an education writer," and I immediately rebelled. Don't put me in a box.

I've written short stories, memoir, YA fantasy, adult fairy tale, blog posts, newsletters . . . and I plan to write in as many genres as possible because I think that will make me a better writer.

I also seek out opportunities to speak to groups, in person and in radio and TV interviews.

Oct 18, 2:45AM EDT0

How did you attract your first readers?

Oct 6, 2:48PM EDT0

Hi Melodyama!

My first readers were people who couldn't say "no" to me--my friends and family! They were my first critics and my first cheerleaders. They were (still are) the ones who would tell their friends about my work.

What attracted my second, third, and fourth readers was my writing style, and perhaps some of the good reviews they might read on Amazon. Good reviews are really important. Good writing is even more important.

Also, I give away lots of books through Goodreads and KDP, and whenever I travel I tend to hand out many. I've gotten reviews and new readers by doing that.

Oct 18, 2:37AM EDT0

What are your thoughts on plagiarism? Is it more rampant today compared to say 5 years ago?

Oct 5, 11:54AM EDT0

Great question, Shilpa.

As a former English teacher, my thoughts on plagiarism are something like this:

"BAD! VERY BAD! Don't steal other people's work!"

Plagiarism is theft, and theft is bad.

Although I have no statistics to back up my assumption, I'd assume that palgiarism is at least as rampant as it was 5 years ago, but (and it's a big but) it's also easier to catch with today's search engines.

As an author, I'd say it's good practice to try to mimic other authors' styles, but there is no honor in flat-out copying without crediting the source.

Oct 18, 2:29AM EDT0

Hello Laurel and thank you for hosting this AMA with us! What is your opinion on Amazon from the viewpoint of an author?

Oct 5, 4:45AM EDT0

Hi Tatiana,

You're welcome!

Hmm. My opinion on Amazon as an author.

As much as I would like to give the globe-gobbling mega-company two thumbs up, my thumbs would be wobbly.

Here's the rub: Amazon is the new Master of the Universe, and as such, can do what it wants with its rules. Still, it's where I've published and distributed all of my books. Both the Kindle Direct Publishing service (KDP) and CreateSpace (an Amazon affiliate...although I fear they will soon be gobbled by Amazon as it has already created a beta platform for print books) have made it a breeze to publish your work whenever you're ready to publish.

Frankly, I'll keep hosting my work on their platforms and allowing them to take their hefty cut of sales because I love the convenience of their service and the speed with which I can get my work out there.

I made the decision to establish my own publishing imprint (I set up an LLC, not too difficult) and purchase my own block of ISBNs (from Bowker) because I plan to write many books and I want to stand out from "CreateSpace"-labeled books.

So I suppose I'm giving it one thumb up and one wobbly thumb sideways.

Oct 18, 2:21AM EDT2

What is your opinion of self-publishing vs traditional publishing?

Oct 5, 4:22AM EDT0

Hi Nina,

I think the ease of self-publishing has made it increasingly difficult for new authors to be picked up by traditional publishing houses.

Just as wonderfully talented actors cannot march to L.A. and expect to be cast in the latest Spielberg film without first landing an amazing agent, new writers cannot expect to be discovered by a Big 5 publishing house (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster) without representation by an even more amazing author agent.

Years ago after several months of dedicated time spent constructing query letters to countless targeted agents in as many agencies, I grew frustrated by the feeling that I was being held hostage by strangers who were clearly inundated by people like me--good writers wanting to be "discovered." I was making no forward progress with new work.

It took another writer friend's persistent encouragement to publish my own work to get me to finally listen, to finally get over my ego, and to publish my own first novel through KDP and CreateSpace. It was liberating in many ways, and now I cannot imagine wasting any more creative time trying to land a traditional publishing company.

There are many non-big-5 publishing companies out there, but beware any that expect you to front any money at all. Another huge benefit of self-publishing is that you keep all rights to your work--something you lose with most publishing companies.

Ultimately, I believe traditional publishing companies will go the way of the dodo bird.

Oct 18, 2:07AM EDT0
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