Or watching the latest crime caper on TV and–five minutes in–the characters all break into song?
You’d probably throw your book across the room. Or your remote at the TV!
But if your author platform–and particularly your website–doesn’t scream your genre, you’re probably triggering the same reaction in your readers.
Which can drive them away, when you want to drive them in.
A tangled but strong web
These days, a book doesn’t exist in isolation.
A book is just one part of an author’s brand
Your ideas, your persona, your authority, your presence and your network gel together to create something bigger.
A website in particular speaks volumes about who you are and the value you want to provide readers.
Not surprisingly, website platforms are very easy to get wrong.
So easy, in fact, even big-time authors have big-time trouble with them.
Which means you may unwittingly copy them thinking that if it’s good enough for Patterson, it’s good enough for you.
But we both know that an author who was around since before the Internet has a big leg up on you. And doesn’t even need a website.
So these authors are not good examples!
Famous authors don’t need the web
These days, your website is your home base. It contains so much visual identity and brand, it’s an easy tool for analyzing an author platform as a whole.
But do famous authors really know how to create good websites?
Many of them are actually horrible examples of best practices for you, an author at the start of her platform-building journey.
Take the website of James Patterson. This does not say thriller writer whatsoever, and as of this writing, he’s wearing an eye patch to promote his new pirate book. Eck.
Only an established crime writer who can sell billions slapping his name on four or five books a year can get away with this.
George R.R. Martin’s site is marginally better (and has definitely improved over the years).
There is an air of fantasy about it, but it looks more like a store for wizard merchandise than the online platform of an author.
J.K. Rowling has probably one of the most non-user-friendly sites I’ve seen in a while. It’s slow and doesn’t even invite you to sign up.
There are even instructions on how to navigate the site!
(Note to expensive developers: if you have to give users instructions on how to navigate a site, you are using the Internet wrong.)
So how do you do platform well?
A good example is E.L. James’ site.
And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that E.L. James started out as a self-published author.
She knows the power of putting every ounce of her genre into her entire business.
For example, right at the top of her site, you see the tagline “provocative romance.”
Everything about her visual identity, from her colours to her book colours, sends a consistent message.
Her platform strategy even includes a wine list of her own house wines, which aligns perfectly with the content of her books.
How to use genre to make your platform more powerful
You may be thinking that applying your genre to your platform is a tall order, but you can pull everything together in just a few easy steps.
1. Make a list of the elements of your genre
Go through the books, movies, TV shows, website, photography or art that relates to your genre.
Anything and everything will give you clues about what an audience expects
2. Scope out the competition
Make a list of all the major writers in your space.
What do their book covers look like? What do their websites look like? What can you do better?
3. Keep your eye on the prize
While you want to use an integrated approach to your entire brand platform, you don’t have to worry about every single font or photo.
Because the number-one most important element of your platform is your books.
So keep writing them, no matter what.
“Genre sells” means using your genre to permeate everything in your platform: your book names, your book covers, your freebies, your website design, your fonts and colours, your photography, and even your email newsletter.
Because these days, you can’t get away with slapping up any old theme or content on the web when you start to build your platform.
And using famous authors as a guide is a seductive trap. And seductive traps are inevitably ineffective.
What’s easier is to simply use your genre to build an identity that tells readers exactly what they’re going to get from you: a fantastic book from an author who cares about giving them a fantastic reading experience.
Now get out there and give them that experience.