start here

3 Content Creation Frameworks for Authors

Short-form content has gotten all the rage in the author community. These powerful platforms can source you new readers - lots of them. But where to start?

Short-form content has gotten all the rage in the author community. With the rise of platforms like Reels and TikTok, authors can reach readers with lower friction than other formats. And tens of millions of readers are engaging in conversations on these platforms.

For some authors, short-form video content may be the perfect way to reach their target audience and have fun marketing their books. But for other authors, TikTok feels like a Gen Z hellscape. I guess that almost all of us though are still curious about where and how we should start going about this creator thing.

Today we will be exploring three frameworks that can help make creating content to promote our books online easier for us as authors.

But before we unpack these frameworks, we first need to cover the three pillars of author content creation that apply no matter what framework you use, which platform you create on, or what your target readership is.

Pillar #1: Create where your readers hang out, but not everywhere your readers hang out.

Assuming you know your target readership, you may be wondering if they even consume content on the internet. I’ll save you some research and just tell you the answer: yes. With over 2 billion accounts on Facebook, 1 billion on TikTok, 2 billion on YouTube, and billions of internet users that can be reached through platforms like email, it is almost a certainty that a vast swathe of your target audience is reachable through the internet some way or another…

Right. So where can we reach our readers? This is a question that is highly dependent on your target audience. Most authors write, in one way or another, about things that they are familiar with. Odds are you at home use a few social platforms yourself (maybe at times you shouldn’t be like during writing sprints… it’s okay the writing gods forgive you).

There’s a good chance that you as a reader are part of your target audience for your stories. Thus, creating on the platforms you use is probably a good bet. The key here is that although many target audiences exist in multiple locations on the internet, it is rare that an author has the bandwidth at the early stages in their career to create in multiple formats. Thus, it’s essential to pick a content format and continue levelling up and growing your audience until, if ever, you’d like to expand into other formats.

Or more concretely, don’t feel pressure to have to keep up with a blog, a podcast, Instagram posts, and daily TikTok content. By spreading yourself so thin you risk only adding stress, not new readers, to your life.

Now picking that particular content format isn’t so easy. That’s why we have our second pillar.

Pillar #2: Create what you love, but have it be integral to your stories and brand.

If you take nothing else away from these pillars, then please do remember to always make it fun. The idea of being a creator when marketing your books is to make the discovery process fun, not something that feels like a chore.

Creating content should be storytelling and creative, something that enhances the worlds you are building instead of being a distraction. And if done correctly, it can be a fertile testing ground to see what new story ideas, characters, and problems your readers are most interested in.

Pillar #3: Create how you want. Seriously, you write the rules.

I’m here to permit you to post whenever you want.

There is no algorithmic bias that says you have to post a certain number of times a week at a certain time each day according to any of my research and from speaking to creators that have upwards of millions and some even tens of millions of followers.

Every social platform rewards retention more than anything else. To define retention, it’s the percentage of time that a creator’s audience watches a specific piece of content compared to its total duration. Platforms like YouTube presume that if someone watches 80% of a 3-minute video, odds are that the content was more engaging and satisfying than watching 30% of a 10-minute video.

Notice how the 10-minute video would have a higher AVD or average view duration. Average view duration is defined as the average length of time an aggregated audience watches a specific piece of content. With all of this taken into account, most creators have a narrow view of retention. They think that it’s about getting people to watch to the end of a particular video and optimizing for that.

The thing is, getting people to watch 10 seconds of just about any video if it’s short-form content, is relatively easy. It’s why many short-form content platforms have become synonymous with eye candy, and flashy stunts, among other things. As authors, we are not playing that game. Yes, it’s fun to constantly play the viral slot machine, hoping that one piece of content will change our life.

But in reality, one piece of content will only drive direct sales to your brand for a short, concentrated burst. That can make a huge difference, even a life-changing difference when read through and word of mouth is taken into account. Even so, as authors, we are not one-hit wonders chasing the highs that other people are teaching us how to pursue.

Because there’s a lie in that narrative. The lie is that these platforms optimize for retention within a single piece of content to begin with. Platforms now tend to optimize for retention across pieces of content, looking at the holistic picture of a creator. This is especially true for YouTube.

If you upload 5 videos and a high percentage of a cold audience clicks on video 1, also go on to watch videos 2, 3, 4, and 5, YouTube knows it has a winning creator. An audience is building a relationship with this person and their stories. This ultimately means more time on their platform, and these algorithms will then begin to pump out recommendations to people similar to those who have not just engaged with one piece of content but the people who have converted to fans.

There’s no way to hack this system. If there was, everyone would do it. The truth is that the key to creating successful content as an author lies in the same ingredients that make your stories so great. It’s about creating a world people want to be a part of. A process you want to regularly engage with. And creating in formats that inspire you and feed into your larger vision and mission for your career.

But I know what you’re thinking. How would you do it? Well, here are three frameworks that can help with the “how” when it comes to this often scary, wide-open world of book discovery. The beauty of these frameworks is that they are custom-made for authors by an author (yours truly).

Author Creator Content Framework #1: The Problem Solver

This is the most basic playbook and it’s one we are all likely familiar with. And as most fiction authors will know, it’s not a playbook that is easy for us to utilize.

For non-fiction authors, this framework is especially powerful. It works like this.

Identify the core problem you are trying to solve for your audience in the world you are building.  Then share insights that help your audience understand the problem and implement solutions in their life. The trick here is to stay laser-focused on the single problem you are trying to solve for your audience. At a high level, that core problem or meta-narrative that an author builds their brand around may seem to be abstract. Such as a health and fitness author helping someone have healthier habits in their life. That is a broad problem that can apply to so many different audiences.

So instead, focus on speaking to a specific demographic that resonates with the values you’d like to build your community around. And niche down, uncomfortably so, until you can build trust and reputation within that niche to be able to expand your brand, or in other words build your world out more.

Author Creator Content Framework #2: The Storyteller

This entails making bits of your story free and accessible to audiences so that they can be welcomed into your world and build parasocial relationships with you and your characters.

The process here boils down to three key points:

Repurpose content from your existing stories, whether it be the character bios, the actual chapters (in audio or textual format), or enticing plot lines.

Distribute this in a way that has low-friction access points for your target readers (aka make it free, and the ability for a cold audience just discovering each piece of content to be able to engage meaningfully with it).

Use regular calls to action to convert people from your low-friction, free content to your mailing list, community, or products (such as books, comics, subscriptions, etc.).

Examples include everything from uploading serialized audiobooks to places like Spotify and Apple Podcasts, uploading serial fiction to platforms like Wattpad and Royal Road (here’s a helpful guide I made on this topic), and using platforms like Instagram and TikTok to share teasers from your story in the form of page flips, panels of text on Instagram, or the endless other trends and micro-formats that spring up.

Author Creator Content Framework #3: The Curator

To curate is the act of selecting something of interest and displaying it.

It’s a beautiful way authors can work to grow together, and the passionate community of reading creators is quickly rising to become the booksellers of our digital age. Just look up BookTube on YouTube and you will find hundreds of creators with tens of thousands of subscribers.

But how do we curate well? How can curation help to market our own creative worlds?

In short, it’s by adding an additional layer of value on top of simply recommending content. For instance, very prominent curators in the indie community, such as Written Word Media and BookBub, provide a valuable service for readers. They deliver them discounted books on they know they will be interested in.

Many authors have taken that same approach. And although it can be effective for authors to utilize the power of author curators, I do caution authors against constantly training their readers to expect discount deals from you. Even if it’s not your books, you are building a brand in which readers derive value from you as a result of you offering them discounts on ebook retailers. And although that can make you very popular with habitual readers in specific, they also may come to expect those same discounts from you — which ultimately could lead to you decreasing the lifetime value of your readers due to less willingness to pay for your books.

With, this there are specific types of curation that authors can utilize to supercharge their discovery.

Translator: someone who takes complex or discordant information and delivers it to a specific audience in a digestible manner.

Synthesizer: someone who takes ideas and concepts from multiple sources and mashes them together into a chimaera (or one piece of content).

Tastemaker: someone who shares the “best” or most “useful” iteration of an idea, product, or vibe.

Traditionally publishers and record labels served this purpose, but even in the internet age, there is a massive opportunity for those tastemakers. WaveMusic and Promoting Sounds are two prominent examples in the music world. In the author world, reading creators on TikTok often share the best books they read, with this culminating in many reading creators running their own online book clubs. The simplest way is to simply share books and things you love with the world.

And that’s it! A brief guide to three pillars and three content creation frameworks that can help get you started with finding new readers on social platforms. I’m excited to see what you create and even more excited for you all to help bring joy to the lives of readers everywhere. We just have to find them first…

Michael Evans

Michael Evans

Michael Evans is the author of over a dozen sci-fi thriller novels, a Harvard student, and the co-founder and CEO of Ream, a subscription platform for fiction authors. In addition, he’s also the author of Creator Economy for Authors: A Guide to the Future of Publishing.
You can connect with him here.

Read more