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