Wouldn’t it be great if there was a magic potion you could drink, a stunt you could perform or even a test you could take that would automagically take you from obscurity to popularity in one painless step?
Wouldn’t it be even better if someone would just hand you the keys to the perfect Writer Platform and you could just hop in, rev the engine and race off to Author Superstardom?
So great, right?!
Right. Back to reality.
Ok, so perhaps there is a bit (read a lot!) more effort involved in building a strong platform that draws people to you and your work. But there is a way to flatten the learning curve and increase your chances of a favourable outcome.
The shortcut? Seek the advice and perspectives of those who have already successfully navigated the near impossible. The following is some of the most useful and insightful advice to be had from authors and experts who have built thriving platforms – and lived to tell about it.
1. Alan Rinzler, The Book Deal
“What we publishers all hope for when opening a proposal from a literary agent is not just a great idea for a book and a promising ability to write, but an aspiring author’s track record in book sales, appearances on radio and television, respect in the professional community for teaching, research, and scholarship, as well as financial success in the field and anything else that has put the author’s name in public and produced a long list of entries on Google.”
“The bigger the platform, the higher the book advance.”
2. Jane Friedman, Being Human at Electric Speed
“Getting a book published does NOT equate to readership. You must cultivate a readership every day of your life, and you start TODAY. Your readers will not be interested in reading just one book; they will be interested in everything and anything you do—and that includes interacting with you online. Audience development doesn’t happen overnight (or even in 6 months or a year)—and it’s a process that continues for as long as you want to have a readership. It shouldn’t be delayed, postponed, or discounted for one minute.”
3. Chuck Wendig, terribleminds
“You are your platform.”
“Ah, but your writer platform isn’t all about you.”
“You shouldn’t stand above and apart. You should stand within.That sounds like some real Zen Hippie Shit, but your platform isn’t about screaming so the cheap seats can hear it. It’s about connecting.”
“Do not confuse “followers” with “buyers.” Tweets and blog posts are free. Your book will not be. They may buy. They may not. Keep expectations in check.”
4. Rachelle Gardner, Rachel Gardner, Literary Agent
“It has never been more crucial for authors to play a major part in marketing themselves, BUT it has never been easier. Where are readers hanging out these days? The Internet. That’s the best place for you to find readers for your books.”
“The Internet has leveled the playing field. With a well-written and compelling blog, you have the potential to build a significant platform. If you take the time to research website optimization and do everything recommended to build traffic on your blog, you can build a sizable audience in a matter of months. Then when you begin to use Twitter and Facebook strategically, you can grow your audience exponentially.”
“You can, and you must.”
5. Seth Godin, Seth Godin’s blog
“I am calling BS on the author who thinks there is a conspiracy keeping them out of the publishing world.”
“What you need to do is the hard work day by day in building a group of people who trust you, and want to support you when it’s time.”
“It is about writing for your readers, as opposed to finding readers for your writing. Totally upside down for most people in the book business.”
“Start today to build the platform that you will be able to use three years from now.”
6. Chuck Sambuchino, Guide to Literary Agents Blog
“Platform is the connections and avenues you develop before you need help spreading the word about your book. Publicity is when your book is out and you ask other people, many of whom you do not know well, to cover your book in the media.”
“Publicity is very hit and miss—almost alarmingly so. You never know when or where someone will discuss your book. Platform is guaranteed. If you’ve created a newsletter with 10,000 subscribers, that is your platform to control…”
“…you must offer other people distinct value to get them to follow you. Make them smile; inform them; cull together information; teach them how to change a tire; create some website that makes their lives easier. If you can do this on a website or in person or through social media, then you will gain followers and fans and contacts. Thus, you will create networks of people who trust you and will consider buying your book(s).”
7. John Locke, Best Selling Author Official Website
“I write to a specific audience, and I know how to find them.”
“Study your book and try to determine the type of person it speaks to.”
“Get your book into the hands of as many people as possible and figure out what those who LOVED it have in common.”
“If you have a book, a website, a Twitter account, and a blog, you’ve got the right tools.”
8. Jonathan Fields, Tribal Author
“There are a million ways to drive people to your email list. Most often, it involves some variable of creating valuable content, then adding an opt-in form on a landing page, web-page or blog page and relying on some combination of advertising, organic search and social media to drive traffic to the page with the form. The value and relevance of your content, bundled with a strongly worded offer and even a relevant giveaway to incentivize subscribing will build a nice sized, genuinely interested list. But, it’ll take time.”
“[But] numbers do not automatically translate to engagement and value from a book marketing standpoint. Nor do they reveal what is often the more powerful aspect of a 2.0 savvy author’s platform… who else they know.”
“Build a REAL following of people defined by mutual adoration and a shared love of the content, the conversation and the ideas you bring to life. And, spend time developing, genuine relationships with like-minded people across the social web.”
9. Scott Stratten, Unmarketing
“It’s a business. It’s a marketing platform. It’s a tool that you should have some focus and a plan, because you spin your wheels all day on social media if you don’t have some kind of strategy.”
“Well you have to understand that the writing isn’t what speaks for itself, it’s the ideas, it’s the concepts. People need to run with your concepts, they need to relate to your concepts and actually want to embrace them. The thing with building a platform is you can test those things out.”
10. Jeff Goins, GoinsWriter
“Nobody who changed the world did it by waiting for an audience.”
And yet many of us are doing just that.
We’re holding back.
We’re putting our best art on pause.
We’re biding our time with mediocre work, waiting until someone invites us to take the stage.”
“If this is you, if you’ve chosen to believe this lie, then let me tell you the harsh truth: That day will never come.
The day in which you will be discovered.
The day when you will finally be rewarded for your art.”
“It won’t happen. Not if you’re simply waiting around.
“You will never have the influence you so desperately crave if you do not start living into your future now.”
11. Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn
“You can write online and get feedback on your work. You can collaborate using virtual spaces. You can create online experiences, transmedia stories, apps and serialized books, and experiment with subscription models.”
“You can record your book and get it transcribed. You can use speech-to-text software. You can hire a freelance editor online, as well as a cover designer, a proof-reader and any other specialists you might need if you want to self-publish.”
“…[it’s] about empowerment. It’s about you and your book reaching a global audience on your terms.”
12. Christina Katz, The Prosperous Writer
“I am a person who does not distinguish between writing, selling, specializing, self-promotion, and continuing ed, and also a person who sees all of these things as essential and necessary to my writing success … For me, there is no separation. Writing is the center… I find it impossible and irrelevant to distinguish between writing activities and platform building activities. My approach is far too holistic.”
13. Guy Kawasaki, Guy Kawasaki
“There is no scenario under which thousands of social-media followers is not a good thing.”
“…[idea of] Artisanal Publishing; a person has, from beginning to end, control of the process.”
“People with their own platforms can write and create high quality books, self-publish them and succeed.”
14. Cory Doctorow, craphound
“First-time novelists have a tough row to hoe. Our publishers don’t have a lot of promotional budget to throw at unknown factors like us. Mostly, we rise and fall based on word-of-mouth.”
“It turns out that, as near as anyone can tell, distributing free electronic versions of books is a great way to sell more of the paper editions, while simultaneously getting the book into the hands of readers who would otherwise not be exposed to my work.”
“I still don’t know how it is artists will earn a living in the age of the Internet, but I remain convinced that the way to find out is to do basic science: that is, to do stuff and observe the outcome.”
15. Kristen Lamb, WarriorWriters
“Social media is like us being the band that goes to all the parties and all the mixers so people at least get to know us, like us as artists and grow to be loyal fans. Blogging isn’t a chore, it is a demo tape of our artist voice. It is a free performance at a local mall. And, since writing is our art, if we will approach it as such, our attitude toward it will improve because we will be approaching with a totally different intent.”
“If our intent is to share our passion, to affect people, instead of a chore to be endured and a way to part people from their money, the experience will be more enjoyable for all concerned. Eventually,once people come to love and trust the artist they will be more willing to part with more money to buy the art.”
16. Dan Blank, We Grow Media
“Most people feel they are wasting time on social media or in developing their audience because they aren’t focusing on the right people, on the right milestones, and don’t understand how building an audience actually HELPS your writing progress. People feel overwhelmed by all of this because they have no plan, no strategy. An author platform is about making hard choices on where to focus your energy, and is as much about what you DON’T do, as what you do. This is a process of refinement, focused intently on your goals as a writer.”
“Build an audience NOW, not when you are panicked at publication. The worst time to build an audience is when you DESPERATELY need them to buy your book. That is when you see all of the bad examples of authors on social media and the web. They feel they have no choice but to spam people in order to get them to pay attention. But an author platform is about NOT doing that.”
17. Michael Hyatt, Intentional Leadership
“A young man once asked a wise old woman, “When is the best time to plant an oak tree?” She answered: “Twenty years ago.” He then asked, “When is the second best time?” She answered, ”Today.” So it is with a platform.”
It would have been great if you had started five or ten years ago. But if you haven’t, [now] is the best time ever to launch yours or take it to the next level.Why? Four reasons:
- You don’t need anyone’s permission. You don’t need to audition, submit an application, or wait for approval. You are in control of your own success.
- The technology is easier to use than ever. Whether you want to write a blog, launch a podcast, or create your own video channel, the hardware and software make it simple to get started.
- The pioneers have mapped the trail. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. You can build on the experience of others.
- The cost is minimal. In most cases, you can get started for free or for a few dollars a month. The biggest investment will be your time. But even then, you can maximize your efficiency with the current tools available.
“Very simply, a platform is the thing you have to stand on to get heard. It’s your stage. But unlike a stage in the theater, today’s platform is built of people. Contacts. Connections. Followers.”
18. Dean Wesley Smith, The Writing and Opinions of Dean Wesley Smith
“…writers are business people. Writing is a business. And an art.”
“We all must keep working on the art AND the business. Learning both.”
“The key is to keep it in balance and write the next book.”
19. C.J. Lyons, No Rules Just Write
“…what is marketing at its heart? Engaging an audience.
And what are we as humans hard-wired to engage with? Stories.”
“Whether it’s giving us a vicarious experience or making us feel like we can change the world or simply making us laugh, we as an audience engage with stories on an emotional level and we transfer those emotions (hopefully positive) to the product being advertised.
“Forget about thinking of marketing as that “icky business stuff” or “blatant self-promotion.” Instead concentrate on telling a story, your story, with your unique voice.”
“Every piece of content you send out to the world whether it’s a tweet or a pinterest board or a novel, let your voice shine through, engaging your audience, and you won’t need to worry about building name recognition. It will build itself.”
20. Corbett Barr, ThinkTraffic
“When you are all-in on what you do, people notice. When you care about what you’re making so much, you bring fresh insight and dedication, and that shines through for your customers to see.”
There’s something attractive about unrestrained dedication, and people notice, join in and help promote what you’re doing.”
“There’s no substitute for being all-in.”
21. Chris Brogan, Chris Brogan
“Start somewhere. People complain all the time that nurturing the digital channel takes time. “I just got on Twitter. I don’t have time to get a hundred thousand followers!” Of course you don’t. You have all the time in the world to figure out ways to automate or falsely inflate or do a hundred other efforts that won’t help. And you’ve neglected to just start.”
“What does take time in building up a network of any kind of value is creating interesting content that is of actual use to your community. That takes time. I can’t see a way around that. But the acts required to show people that you care? To connect and make people feel seen doesn’t take very long at all and pays off greatly. Because it’s people that will fuel your growth.”
The Next Step
No one else has lived your life, had your experiences, or seen the world through your eyes. What can you share from your unique story that will help you attract your audience? Consider applying some of the advice suggested by the authors and experts above to your own marketing strategy. Start now, share freely and focus on consciously and creatively building a connection with people who ‘get’ you.
Do you agree with the advice and insights above? Do you have your own platform building wisdom to share? Help your fellow writers by sharing your advice below.
Original photo by deanjenkins