Everywhere you turn these days, you hear the word.
It’s a must have, a deal breaker.
And you’re told that if you expect any success at all as a writer, you should have started building yours three years ago.
You hope for an out, but it appears that nobody can escape its reach.
Whether an Indie or traditional author, a writer of fiction or nonfiction, published or still grinding through your debut novel the robustness of your platform is continually questioned.
So you’ve tried.
You’ve tinkered with a free blog, only to have it succumb to a quiet and anonymous death.
You’ve dipped your toe into the social media whirlpool and found yourself repeatedly dragged under.
Oh, and don’t forget that you also have to write a book worth reading. Even the sturdiest of platforms won’t support a book that’s garbage.
Or maybe you haven’t tried at all.
The web is rife with stories of the fruitless efforts of your writerly comrades; those who’ve already attempted the “platform thing” and failed miserably.
So why bother?
A writer’s life isn’t a cakewalk at the best of times, so why add more pain and suffering to your (possibly ill-chosen) life’s path?
If so many others have tried and failed, the concept clearly doesn’t hold water, right?
Still, the threat remains.
No platform building means no significant web presence, no engaged audience of adoring fans (or at least no direct access to them) and wasted opportunities for book marketing, promotion and visibility.
If you decide that building your writer platform is a colossal misuse of time, what’s your Plan B? How will you connect with your target readership, promote your work and build your authority and influence as an author?
Forced against your will, do you succumb to the pressure?
How to Remove the Threat
Authors are inundated with the “how-tos” of platform building (some advice better than others), but few are addressing a more immediate concern: how to encourage authors to actually WANT to build their platform. And dare I say, even enjoy building their future empires.
A steep hill, I know, but creativity and inspiration can’t flourish under extreme duress. So in order for you to move forward with the idea of platform, we must try to remove the unappealing gun-to-the-head “motivational” technique that you’re currently working under.
Here are four concepts that may provide a bit of direction, and help you approach the problem in a new way:
1. Inaction Leads to Nowheresville
Avoidance may be a good strategy for some threats, but not this one.
The opportunity for interconnectivity, the sharing of ideas – and the amplification of those ideas – that new media provides will only increase over time. So don’t fear innovation and change, embrace it.
Choose growth and strive for continual learning and self-improvement. Be a problem-solver. Stop avoiding challenges and instead, lean into them. Accept risk as part of the game.
Remember that your abilities aren’t fixed. Skills can be honed and improved upon and being a writer doesn’t preclude you from being a savvy business owner, a clever marketing strategist or a social media crackerjack.
Those that are stubborn or not open to new information and ideas, stagnate. Successful writers are constantly seeking, asking questions, and then applying what they’ve learned.
So beat inertia by taking the first step. And then another.
Combine quick wins (like setting up a social media account) with longer-term strategies (like developing your author brand or outlining your writing goals for the next 5 years).
2. Mindset Changes Everything
This is a slippery one.
As writers, I think we can be especially creative with the mental barriers and invisible scripts we allow to run on a loop in our brains.
Here are a few that are platform related (I won’t get into the “I’m fat”, “I’m unlovable” scripts 😉 ):
“I’m a writer, not a marketer.”
“Writers write. My agent/publisher will take care of the rest.”
“I don’t have time to write and promote my work.”
“I’m terrible with technology.”
“I can’t start any platform building until I have a book to sell.”
“What could I write about on my blog that people would be interested in?”
“I’m a creative person. I just don’t understand the business side.”
“Author X is so much better at this than me.”
“It’s easier for Author X because of A, B, C…”
“This kind of thing won’t work for my particular situation.”
“I’m an introvert.”
“I’ve already tried and it didn’t work, so forget it.”
Identifying the negative internal dialogue can be tricky. After all, you’ve been listening to it for so long it has gone from thought, to belief, to fact.
But in order to move forward, it’s vital that you throw out the negativity. It will permeate everything if you let it. You want people to recognize the quality of your work, your talent and your voice – not your negativism.
Take responsibility for your own actions and the present state of your writing career. Don’t blame others, the technology or the industry for your failures. If something doesn’t work out the way you hoped or anticipated, learn from the situation, and move on.
“…attitudes towards a task matter just as much as a person’s actual ability to perform them.”
Think of platform building as a challenge and an opportunity not cruel and unusual punishment.
Look for the benefits and what you can gain from the experience and the effort.
Think cooperation, not competition and realize that the success of others increases the possibility of your own success.
Don’t hoard ideas and information. Share your work and the work of others, giving credit where credit is due.
And perhaps most importantly, curb any feelings of entitlement and choose gratitude instead.
3. Prioritize What’s Important
Have you noticed that it’s unsuccessful people (not successful people) who complain about lack of time?
In fact, top performers treat time differently than the rest of us. They treat it like a valuable commodity where ideas, opportunities, tasks, and so on, are either worth their time, or they’re not.
Value your time and use it wisely. Get focused on the tasks that can really move your career forward and be prepared to make some sacrifices to attain your goals.
Most of the time, “busy” doesn’t equal productive. Write down your goals and develop a simple strategy to get from here to there.
Recognize mistakes so that you don’t repeat them, and stop looking for excuses. Look for what you can improve, and identify areas of your schedule that you can streamline.
Building a writer platform takes time and hard work, so don’t expect instant gratification. Learn to control your time, rather than allowing others to control it for you, and be prepared to Do the Work.
4. Knowing the ‘Why’ and the ‘Who’ Makes it Easier
What’s your purpose? What excites you? What exactly is it that you’re striving for and why have you chosen this particular path?
If you haven’t worked it out yet, building your platform will remain a daunting task.
As Simon Sinek notes in his book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, the common denominator shared by people who are more innovative, more influential and garner more ardent followers, is that they know why they do what they do, not just how they do it.
Knowing your “why” and being able to communicate it effectively to the “right” people (i.e., your ideal readers) makes marketing your work infinitely easier.
How do you find this elusive group of people?
You look for them.
Don’t expect them to find you. Follow the breadcrumbs they leave as they seek to satisfy their interests both online and off.
They’ll leave clues in the form of comments on blogs within your genre or niche. They’ll pose questions and state opinions on forums and Facebook groups. They’ll follow similar people on Twitter, and likely be influenced by the same sources and speakers.
Find the intersection between their interests and your purpose.
Learn as much as you can about your readers.
Empathize with them.
Understanding their desires will help you connect with them on a deeper level.
The size of your readership won’t matter nearly as much as the quality of your connection to them, so take great care to form this relationship early. Don’t just “collect” readers or followers. Invite them to join your community, believe in your message and take part in your journey.
It’s this small but loyal group that will help you build a writing career that matters.
Less Fear, More Platform Building
You may still not be jumping for joy at the prospect of building your writer platform, but the threat has been removed the gun raised.
If you’ve tried and failed, procrastinated, or refused to build your writer platform until now, then it’s time to press the reset button.
Decide to take action TODAY. Even if it’s just one small step toward your goals.
“To create anything remarkable, it takes not one giant leap after perfect prep, but many baby steps in the right direction once you have barely enough to get started.”
~ Tim Ferriss
So, what’s stopping you?