Sunday, June 8, 2014

Building a Platform

For a writer, a platform is what makes their career a success.  Much like sports teams have fans, writers, too must have followers who enjoy reading their work.  A writer's platform includes all of these followers, from the people who read a writer's blog, to the ones who enjoy a writer's Twitter posts, to Facebook fans, to people who purchase every book or novel published by the writer/author.

Although this sounds rather simple to accomplish, it really requires patience, time, and valuable content to achieve.  This is why agents and magazine editors use a writer's platform as one of the main criteria in their decision-making.  So if you're starting out in your writing career, how can you begin to build a solid platform?

Planning is key.  The first step is to create social media accounts for your writing persona.  These should be separate from your personal accounts.  These should be active - schedule reminders to update your feeds at least once or twice per week.  Make sure you have a professional-looking picture on these accounts.  If you have work already published, create a website with links to all of your social media accounts - and make sure you use memorable page names, but that they are not too complicated or hard to spell
( vs.  This should all be relatively inexpensive, maybe even free.

Next, which I tell every writer in my writing and critique groups, is order business cards with your name and the url's for all of your social media sites.  Give these out everywhere you go.  Leave some behind at the bus stop or on the table at a restaurant.  Introduce yourself as a "writer" or "author".   If someone asks, "What have you written?"  simply reply, "I wouldn't know where to begin... but here, this is my card," and give them your business card.

Third, produce content!  Create content that is intriguing, but also create content that offers something to the reader.  Know your target audience so that you know what to offer your readers.  In other words, if your target audience is "post partum women", create posts that describe your own experiences: if you're a man, tell these women what they can expect from their partner; if you're a woman, share the ups and downs of motherhood.  For the above example, do not create content about myopia in teacup breed dogs.  Do not write fiction about murdered children.

Fourth, be patient!  You cannot build a platform overnight; you cannot sell one million copies of a book overnight (unless you're Dan Brown); just like Rome wasn't built in one day.  If anyone offers you the secret to achieving this kind of success quickly, RUN the other way.

Finally, do not anger your followers with unsolicited advertisements for your new book!  Even if it's free, PAY FOR AN AD, do not target the people who trust you not to spam them with Twitter posts about downloading your free book.  Unless you're James Patterson or J.K. Rowling, people do not care that your new "soon-to-be-classic" is available for download on Smashwords for free. It's just one more post to delete or ignore among all the other 9,999 books that are produced each day.  Literally.  And don't badmouth other writers or their work.  They are not your competition, just like Brad Pitt is not competition for Judi Dench.  There is plenty of room for all writers.

The key here is to give so that you can receive.  After all, if you build it (your platform, that is) they will most definitely come.