One of the hot topics of discussion in the world of writing concerns the writer’s platform. Some ask, “Should I have one, even though I don’t have a book?” or “I’m fiction author, so is it necessary for me to have one?” Let’s look at both these questions and some related ones.
What Is a Platform?
In simple terms, and speaking from a material standpoint, a platform is a series of planks connected together to make a raised surface for an individual to stand on. In politics, a platform is a candidate’s basis for being elected; each plank is a promise that he makes to be elected. In writing, the platform is your place in cyberspace for people to find you and know who you are among other writers. Each plank is an outlet where you can be noticed and heard.
The Planks of the Writer’s Platform
I read articles that say a writer’s blog or website is the platform, as that is the hub of his or her activity. In theory, I agree with this. However, looking at the definition of platform, the blog is only one part of the entire structure. It may be the main section, but it is not the whole platform. When you add your presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other social media outlets, those the additional planks strengthen the entire platform. Author interviews, books blurbs, author bios, and book trailers are additional planks.
But I Don’t Have a Published Book
There are a lot of writers out there who claim they don’t need a platform since they don’t have a book to sell. I can understand this, but in the busy world of cyberspace, even with a book you may not be heard; it might take months—even years—to develop a fan base for you and your books.
Let’s look at this through the lens of a historical landmark event. Everyone is familiar with the moon landing in 1969. We are introduced to the astronauts, we follow them to the rocket, we cheer the liftoff, and then we rejoice as it lands and the astronauts walk on the surface. The significance of this (besides the event itself) is that we know a great deal about it before long before the rocket leaves the launch pad. In a speech on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy promised we would put a man on the moon before the decade was over. That was eight years before it happened.
Now, let’s suppose that you, the author, are an astronaut, and your book is the moon landing. NASA is your publisher (traditional or self-publishing). Your platform then is the announcement to the country that you are heading to the moon writing a book. The news travels around from one person to the next, interviews are posted in papers and on television, and this leads up to your departure into space book being released. If you release the book first and then develop a platform, it’s the same as landing on the moon first and then telling everyone about it. Imagine the disappointed astronaut on the moon’s surface jumping up and down and waving his arms at the people on earth—and nobody is paying attention.
Your platform sells you and your brand and allows people to get to know you and your style of writing, and from there you build a fan base of followers. That way, when the book is released, you already have the attention of a number of people who will buy your book and/or tell others about it, and you hope they will get on board and buy as well.
How do you sell yourself? That’s where the blog comes into play. Talk about yourself, the genre you write, the books you have read, and other basic things about who you are and what makes you tick. Have someone interview you asking these questions. There are bloggers out there who specialize in helping people get discovered even before a book is available. On Twitter, follow fellow authors of the same genre and pick their brains. Find out how they got to where they are right now. They may soon follow you, and from there you can develop a following of your own.
But I’m a Fiction Writer
I read an article that argued that only nonfiction writers need a platform. If this were true, I wouldn’t have met all the fiction writers I’ve met in the last three months. I truly believe all writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction, should build a platform. Fiction writers have it a bit easier, though, as they can base their platforms on their stories, whereas nonfiction writers have to establish themselves as a type of expert to show why their particular book should be read instead of others on the same subject.
It’s Never Too Late
Even if you already have books published, it’s never too late to begin building a platform and getting people to take notice of you and your work. There are a number of people out there who are ready, willing, and able to help you get started. Just don’t expect followers and sales increases in a week’s time. You need to develop patience, as it can be a long process.
How Do I Begin?
If you look at your writing as a business, you’ll want to advertise yourself in every corner of cyberspace that you can. Without it, you’ll be the lone astronaut wondering why no one knows you’re on the moon.
One of the first things you can do is get both a Facebook and a Twitter account. Create a Facebook fan page that talks strictly about you as an author and/or your upcoming book. Provide links on your Facebook page, Twitter page, and other social media sites places that always draw people to one central location (usually your blog or website). Talk a little about yourself and provide links to your book (if already published.) If you’re still waiting to be published, talk a little about the book and the creative process behind it.
There are many articles and books available on this subject, but you don’t have to do anything exactly the way others prescribe. Your main goal is to market yourself and your writing, whether or not you have publisher (who may not be able to give you the support you want). If you want to get ahead in this industry, you need to be willing to step forward and make yourself heard.
What about you? What is your opinion of the Writer’s Platform? Share your thoughts and comments here, and let me know what you think.
For the remaining Mondays in December I will be posting my Writer’s articles including a look ahead to 2014. If there is a subject you’d like to see me talk about, post it in the comments section.