This week’s post is geared specifically toward my friends in the writing world. It matters not whether you’re forging ahead with the indie route, or have aspirations of becoming a traditionally published author. If you’re doing things correctly, the route is the same—you need a platform. For those of you saying “NO, not another piece on author platforms,” let me respond by saying, I see many out there who are still querying like crazy, without building this critical component. Therefore, it bears repeating.
If you’re a non-fiction writer, building a platform involves informing potential readers of how you came by your expertise, qualifications, and credentials. One’s education, background, and involvement with particular subject matter all comes into play to establish who you are within the context of your topic. In other words, people want and need to know what makes you and your expertise unique.
For those who write fiction, you will eventually need two things—a good book, and the ability to sell it. The reason I say “eventually,” is because the development of your platform should begin long before your manuscript has been given a final edit and it’s ready to go. Depending on how many hours a day you’ll be available to promote both you and your work, it’s safe to say you’ll want a minimum of six months. However, many successful authors begin building a following one to two years before their work actually becomes available.
Some of you might be thinking, “Wait! Did he say something about promoting every day?!?” I did. Your success in becoming a “known entity” will be a slow and steady process if you’re doing it right. To create an online presence, you have to show up. It takes a certain tenacity to stick with it, doing many things well, over time. You must be willing to put that time and effort in, to market both you, and your work. No one can do it for you. And don’t buy into the whole concept of author’s being “discovered.” For all intents and purposes, overnight success is nothing more than a fallacy. In order to build a community around you and your writing, personal connections must be made, and it doesn’t happen overnight. The bottom line—there are no shortcuts.
Whether or not you realize it, agents and publishers are watching. They read what you post in your online writers groups. They track your conversations on Twitter. They notice the posted pics of you doing a keg-stand at your buddies back-yard barbecue last night. I often cringe when I read what some individuals write in their posts on Facebook. If I can see it, so can everyone else. Just like writers, agents and publishers are a tight-knit community. They talk to one another.
You’ve worked hard to become a writer. Don’t throw it all away by posting some foolish comment that burns every bridge around you. The way to attract an agent, or publishing house, is not by damning them up into a heap every time you turn around. Agents and publishers are career professionals with a job to do. That job involves making a profit. Who do you suppose they’re going to want to represent? The writer who has worked hard daily, for months on end, having conversations with potential readers to become a known and respected entity, or the individual who schedules tweets every fifteen minute that scream “BUY MY BOOK!” I suspect you know the answer.
A publisher, or agent, in our present environment, is likely weighing three different criteria—you, your writing, and your platform. Some won’t even consider your query if you haven’t developed a successful platform. Ideally, they want to work with authors who have an existing audience.
You may not have a book available yet, but you have the ability to blog, enter writing competitions, engage in conversations with potential readers, and volunteer a bit of your time and energy to others.
People are far more likely to purchase a book from someone they have gotten to know and can relate to than they are to pick up a complete stranger’s work. Further, the cultivation of these relationships often grows into long-term friendships, opening up new perspectives and opportunities to learn from others.
I think the watchword here is focus. We all tend to spread ourselves too thin from time to time, trying to do far more with the hours we have available than is humanly possible. Start paying more attention to building your platform. Educate, and entertain your target audience, and your work might just become too hard to resist. Excel, and you might even get the attention of someone who can’t wait to represent you.
As always, I would love you to weigh in with your thoughts, comments, and experiences, regarding this week’s blog post. Thank you for stopping by, and have a wonderful week.
All the best, AB
Al, you are the King of info. this is all good common sense, but how many of us follow it. It bears repeating and you repeated it so eloquently.
You’re absolutely correct, Thea…it is based on common sense. However, we all live and learn, myself included. I started out wrong-footed—if I had only known then what I know now. Hopefully, I can help others to avoid learning the hard way, as I did.
This great advice. I have heard a lot about platforms, but never had it explained so well. It will definitely make me more conscious of the things I say. Thanks Al!
Thank you Liz. I was quite naive when starting out, thinking that writing, and editing were the difficult part about becoming an author. Hello, rude awakening! Building an author platform is a time-consuming affair, but if you are passionate about writing for a living, which we are, it can and will become a labor of love. The bonus…people like you and the rest of the wonderful friends I’ve come to know and adore make the journey a real pleasure. I’m so glad you stopped by.
Oh oh. I’m in trouble now. Al, you’re making me work!!!
Such a kidder you are, Mr. Enright. Truth be told, I watch and learn, taking many of my cues from you and a number of other pro’s that I’m proud to call friends. Always a pleasure, Sir.
Thanks for another great post Al! Some very sage advice here. I am really enjoying getting to know my twitter community and I can see how having a wonderful website with a journal and other great features really appeals to those who like to check in with what I am doing. I love having a journal because it also gives me the place to write about things that fire me up – such as the environmental & humanitarian issues that I am passionate about. I hadn’t really thought about it as building a platform, but through twitter and friends like you I am seeing just how wonderful and important it is!
Thanks a Million!
Well done, Michelle. Each of us, as writers, have something fresh to bring to the table. We all have different experiences and perspectives that contribute to the betterment of our online community. I’m thrilled that you are part of it, and that it’s enjoyable for you. That’s what it’s all about. Thank you for your visit and your kindness.
Another great post, Al.
I agree with Liz – you’ve explained so well what a platform can do for a writer and how important it is to have one to be successful. Like you, I had a rude awakening after my book hit the store – more hard work await and I was not in the least prepared. Now I realise that writing and editing a book is the easy part, for me anyway :-). The promotion part, something that demands work every day? That really scares the daylight out of me, and I’m not someone who got scared easily :-(.
After reading your blog, as always, I take away something useful and follow it up with action – I actually put out a sample of my new book on twitter yesterday. If it was up to me, I would have waited until it’s published, and even then, I’d hesitate and wonder when and how often I should promote it. Now I know that even if I do it every day, it wouldn’t be sufficient, so I shall take it in my stride and just do the best I can :-).
As for what you said about reading a book from someone you’ve got to know, I must say that I found it a bit weird initially – I was used to reading classics when the authors were already long dead, and we sort of knew them a little bit, a few snippets about their lives and times. Even those modern fiction we read, we knew a little more about them, from their interviews and live TV programmes. But to know a writer you chat on Twitter every day? That was a strange feeling, but thankfully it’s something that’s easy to get used to, and as you aptly commented, it opens up a whole new world, bringing long-term friendships and new perspectives. I’m so enjoying this wonderful experience and ready for more challenges on the way.
Thanks for everything!
Junying…first, let me say how wonderful it is to have you back. You were missed the whole time you were away on holiday. I love writing these weekly posts, because friends like you are so generous with your feedback and experiences. Your stories are equally as valuable as anything I write on my blog. Thoughts about your own writer’s journey let others know that they are not alone along this challenging road. As always, thank you so much for your visit, and lovely contribution.
Great post Al. I’m reading more and more about what works and what doesn’t work for online marketing, and at the end of the day – it truly comes down to common sense.
In my previous life – it was called ‘networking’. It was done face to face, and you could easily spot the person who only wanted to sell something to you, who really didn’t care about anything you had to say, and looked past your shoulder as he/she spoke with you to find the next “victim” for his sales pitch.
It may be more subtle to weed out these people online, but I believe eventually they will be found out, and then they’ll be “unfollowed,” just like you would walk away from the guy who’s talking your ear off only about himself at some convention.
Excellent points, Eden. As writers, I believe we owe our readers authenticity, concerning our attentions. No one enjoys a hard sell. My favorite situation is when an individual becomes a friend then says, “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you—I think I’d like to check out your writing.” Heaven on Earth! As always, thank you so much for weighing in on this weeks topic.
Well put, sir. Presenting the traditional information in a way that inspires, rather than freaks out, budding writers!
As you were!
Thanks Michael. I appreciate that, my fellow #pubwrite friend.
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As usual, you hit the nail on the head!! 🙂 And explained the concept very well. People don’t just buy our book, they buy US! We have to sell ourselves every bit as much as our books. I have heard it said that most writers spend more time marketing than writing. I find that is true in my case. But I am also meeting great people and having fun! I just have to manage my time wisely and make sure to leave good, quality writing time in my busy days!
You have a very solid handle on things, Shay. Patience is the name of the game here. Always a pleasure to have you contribute to this forum.
Great advise that I would do well to heed. Thanks!
The pleasure is mine, Darlene. Thank you so much for your visit, and I hope it helps.
Hi Al! Great post. Writers should focus on the positive. Although building a platform is time consuming, it’s also fun. I’ve met so many amazing writers through blogging and tweeting! I’m thankful I don’t have to write in pre-internet solitude.
Hi Stephanie. I concur with everything you’ve said. Fellowship enriches and informs our own experiences as writers, and though time-consuming, I wouldn’t trade the relationships I’m building for anything—not even a perpetual spot at #1. We’re all in this together. Other writers make it a sheer joy for me. Thank you so much for your visit and comments.
Excellent post. I’m slowly but surely working to create a presence and build platform/following. As crazy as it sometimes feels, I’m with Stephanie and am glad I’m not taking this step pre-Internet.
Raelyn…thank you so much for your visit and comments. I can’t imagine a world without the wonders of our global connection, via WWW. IMO, I don’t believe many of us would have embarked on our writer’s journey, were it not for this wonderful tool we know as “the internet.” I’m endlessly thankful for it, as it’s my ticket to knowing you, and all the other fab friends I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
Very wise words! I’m working on building a platform now. Sometimes it seems like too much work, but then I have to stand back and realize that I just have to build it bit by bit every day. That’s a lot less scary…usually :D.
Hi Sonia. Building bit by bit—that’s the way to do it. The following quote by Robert Collier says it best.”Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” Keep up the good work, and thank you very much for visiting.
Interesting and insightful overview. I like that you also explain the reasoning behind the ‘to-dos’. Thanks for this post!
Hello K. C. I’m so pleased that you found this week’s post helpful. I really appreciate your visit and lovely response.
I’m very glad I’ve still got just over 6 months until my publication date… I’m just starting to try to build my platform right now – have Twitter, have blog, working up towards Facebook and a website when I have some appropriate visuals.
Given that you said the minimum time-frame is six months prior to publication, Al, can you suggest which platform-building activities are the most important?
Thanks a lot, for an excellent post!
Hi Rik. Sounds to me like you’re postured for success. Great question about “which platform-building activities are the most important.” This is only an opinion, but in order of importance, I would say Twitter is number one, as conversations with readers and fellow writers is key to becoming part of a thriving, and enthusiastic community. Next is blogging—I post no more than once a week, to free up time for staying connected on Twitter. Facebook is great for finding answers and opinions from fellow writers/authors. I highly recommend joining at least one writers group and becoming actively involved in it. Once you have decided on a book cover, go ahead and develop a separate FB Author’s Page, and post items specifically related to your book on it. I hope this helps. As always, friends can tweet @threecifer on Twitter to talk directly. Good luck with everything and let me know how things progress.
My dear Al, you have really hit the nail on the head here. A platform is sooooo critical. I find myself urging other writers who don’t have published works yet to do the same. I am with you…market, market, market. But, at the same time, as you say, don’t overwhelm yourself (still learning about the balance thing myself).
GREAT GREAT POST, as usual.
Lisa…others would be well served by following your example. I have learned so much from talking with you about your experiences and philosophy. Thank you for all you do to help others in our community. You are the best.
So true, Al. Of course, there’s the opposite side of this problem: those who found the social networking sites and went “oh! can I play?” and have to work hard on focus so that there will be something to promote eventually.
I don’t personally know anyone like that, but I’m sure that would be a real struggle. 😉
Thanks for this post – it’s reminded me that I need to work harder at doing just that…finding (or deepening) a platform for my writing. At the moment, I’m so busy with my blog, but even that’s not really serving my purpose because, whilst I am posting poetry, I’ve not really done any writing of late. And writing is what I really ought to be concentrating on.
I think it’s improtant that we act the way we want to be perceived EVERYWHERE and at all times – so, if we want to be a published author, we need to be mindful of that when we post on Facebook…etc…even our posts on our blogs can misrepresent us if we are not careful.
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