"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 17, 2010

Building Your Platform

I wrote this blog for Get It Together Productions blogspot, where it first appeared on November 26 2010.

We writers continually face the challenge to not only to keep our writing fresh for today's readers but to also be knowledgeable about new technology and marketing trends. We are expected to be able to describe our book and its concept in one line and to state our a platform right up front. The platform has, in fact, become increasingly important to agents and editors before they will consider a contract. They want a ready-made audience and a way to create a buzz for your book. In this tough market, it isn't sufficient anymore to assume the publisher will handle the marketing so you can sit back and write your next book. They want you involved.

So what is a platform for a writer? According to Merriam Webster, a platform is simply "a plan, a design." It is: (1) "a declaration of the principles on which a group of persons stands," (2) a "device or structure incorporating or providing a platform," and (3) a "place or opportunity for public discussion."

We spend months, sometimes years, plotting our books. When the book is finished, it's time to take a good hard look at ourselves. What have you got going for you--other than having written a marvelous book--with which to get readers' attention? If you look through Writer's Digest Magazine, you'll see some of the "Breaking In" writers state their platforms as social networking; i.e., a blog and an audience on Twitter and Facebook. This might also include doing guest blogs and having a website. Some writers write articles for magazines, ensuring a byline. Other writers speak at conferences and talk to writers' and readers' groups, or they teach writing classes. It's always smart to join a writer's organization that reflects your genre. This will open more doors with which to reach readers. If you have special expertise pertaining to your book it will give you more credibility. For example, you're a doctor and you've written a medical thriller.

What if you feel you don't have any particular expertise with which to build your platform? No title behind your name. No Masters or PhD. Does it doom you and your book? No, just dig deeper. Be creative. Perhaps you did an incredible amount of research for your book. Perhaps you spent a year talking to locals and exploring the Australian outback where your book is set. Is there a way you can "brand" yourself? To identify yourself in some unique way?

A platform boils down to any means you have to get your name and your book out there. Start building your platform early on, even before your book is finished. A solid platform will help you get published and maybe even become a "name brand" writer. But, first and foremost, write the best darned book you can! Everything else aside, your book will stand on its own legs. It will be the foundation for your platform.


Karen Finnigan said...

A really well-written article, Linda. A lot of food for thought. Working on a platform is optimistic too, kind of like saying, I'm going to sell, so I'd better start thinking about this aspect of publishing early. A variation on positive visualization. Would that be fair?

Linda Sandifer said...

Yes, very much so, Karen! I think it's a lot harder to get published nowadays than it used to be so an author has to be creative in marketing/selling and not just in writing. The former were areas that publishers used to like to control so writers only had to worry about the latter. But times have changed.

B.J. Anderson said...

Thanks for the article! Lots of information to think about, and I agree with Karen about the positive visualization thing. I think every writer needs more of that!

Eunice Boeve said...

This is timely for me as I'm ready to send out my novel, Crossed Trails, a sequel to Ride a Shadowed Trail. I've been researching publishers and a platform is the requirement of many, sometimes called a business plan. I don't have any credentials to help me, so like you say,I must get creative, or as some say, "think outside the box." But, oh my, there's a dense forest surrounding that box and it's hard as heck to force my way through to get to the gems that might, I say might, be lurking there.

LadyMac said...

Good job. I liked Karen's comment too.

I'm longing for the good old days when the agent and publishers took care of everything but the writing.

Linda Sandifer said...

Hi Maxine, Yes, I wish they would just let us write! Ah, the good old days.