Let's Talk Platform–Why We Need One
Today we are going to talk about platform. Platform, next to the actual writing, is simply THE most valuable asset we possess. Platform and content are the two things we control, and they are the largest determining factors as to whether or not we will have a successful writing career.
So what is a platform? There are two sides to platform. First is the definition of our platform (our author brand). What is unique about us or our writing that can be a determining factor in our content? I happened to teach about social media and was an editor for years. Thus, I used my strengths to dig in and forge relationships. NYT Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer was a Green Beret and leader of an A-Team before he became a writer. Thus, Bob uses his unique perspective as a soldier to give a distinctive quality to his platform.
In Hollywood, the mantra is, “Give me the same…but different.” This should be our mantra in defining our platform. We need SOMETHING that defines us as a writer…but at the same time makes us stand out from all the others. Same but different.
Our platform definition is basically our image, and affects the way we will approach others. Think of it like how we dress. Do we approach people as the three-piece suit Power Point guy? All business and professional? Are we the D&D T-shirt video game guy, and we quote Blazing Saddles far more than is socially acceptable? Are we the seductive yet snarky diva who teaches about bringing out the inner muse? Defining platform goes a lot to adding to voice.
Just go read Bob Mayer’s blog…then pop over the Chuck Wendig. Both have amazing blogs, but very different voices and presentation. Both authors use their strong suits, and their personalities come screaming off the screen (in a good way).
I liken myself to Erma Bombeck meets technology. I strive to add a heavy dose of humor and common sense to all of my social media endeavors. I am using something unique to me; the ability to be funny…honed over 18 schools and countless Mean Girls whose sole mission in life was to make my life hell. Years of always being the new target…um, kid developed in me a strong defense mechanism. I learned to be funny. Kind of like peeing on yourself so no one eats you.
Writing out your tags (discussed in Blogging Part 3) will give you a good clue as to HOW to define your author image (platform).
Once we have defined our platform, then we go about building our platform. This can be a simple presence in a blog or on FB…or, if you read my book WANA, it is a complex layering of all the major sites worked into an intricate lattice that is designed to grow with your career and withstand upsets in the industry or on social media. The WANA Method maximizes time on social media.
Building a platform is comprised of content and exposure. How much content are you putting out there? One blog every quarter and tweets about the weather is not a lot of useful content. Content makes up the beams to construct the platform. If we are putting out 2-5 quality blogs a week, that is like laying down solid beams of hardwood. If we don’t blog and only play with farm animals on FB, think of that like building our platform with leftover Popsicle sticks. Yeah, there is something “wooden-ish” there, but it sure as heck ain’t load-bearing.
This is the point of all that we are doing when on social media. We are creating a load-bearing structure using content and relationships. This is the platform that will hold our reputations, our public images and our futures. Do we want that made out of beams of African Teak or cheap particle board? The better a platform is constructed, the better chance it can withstand a major change.
MySpace is hemorrhaging right now. In my book, I recommended it as an alternative for a website (a lot of writers are broke), NOT as a place to really build a presence. If you can afford the optimized website, go for it. The point is that I already had a HUGE presence on MySpace. But, because I had built my platform the way I teach you guys, I was able to keep most of my followers as tastes changed in favor of FB.
There are still people who love MySpace. But as this major shift ripped apart social media…my platform remained intact. Members of my MySpace platform could easily find me on FB as they transitioned. And, the even better part was that I made enough of an impression that they WANTED to find me. That is awesome no matter how you look at it :D.
I teach you guys how to do the same.
Platform gives us a number of advantages.
The Six Degrees of Separation
As society advances, we have more and more choices and are inundated with information. People tend to pull in to what and who they know. Actively participating on social media is like rolling dice. The more times you roll, the greater chances you have for being successful and opening that ONE door that changes your career forever.
Friday’s blog got a ton of comments. One of my regular followers, Kait Nolan, offered a lot of useful advice for self-publishing and shared how she had been very successful (based in part on her using WANA). An agent I met at a conference happened by MY blog, saw HER comments, then clicked and checked out her platform…and offered her representation.
My circle of connections overlapped with Kait and her enthusiastic participation. Because she had a very nice platform (complete with a mini-bar, BBQ grill and hot tub) she was able to impress an agent. No query required. Kait met someone who knew someone, and we wish her the best as she takes her career to a whole new level.
The more you participate and offer quality content, the better your odds of opening that door that changes everything. I am the headliner for a social media forum at the RT Booklovers Convention in LA. Know how I got the offer? Romance Author DeeDee Scott , who I talk to on FB all the time, recommended me. She knew the head of publicity for the RT Booklovers Convention, and, when Carol mentioned needing a social media expert, DeeDee jumped in and sang my praises.
But how would she have ever even KNOWN me had I not been active on social media?
Platform Gives Us Options
Too many writers are out there betting on that ONE thing to come through…an agent will represent them then NY will offer them a deal. Nothing wrong with that, but it can make us crazy in the meantime. To be blunt, an author with no social media presence and only a manuscript has limited options.
Yet, if we have a large platform, our options improve. We can indie publish or self-publish other works until an agent bites. Even still. I have an agent and she is shopping a proposal. This hasn’t stopped me from publishing WANA. I also have “Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer” coming out soon. AND I have a THIRD book in the pipeline with WDW Pub. Thus, I am being productive and prolific in my meantime.
I could not do this unless I had a large platform. While I am waiting on the big houses, I am making money with an indie press…and building my reputation (platform), which will increase my odds of 1) a better deal from NY and 2) a better chance of being successful when my books do finally hit the shelves. A lot of people KNOW me and support me (You Guys ROCK, btw). Heck I could get so successful at indie, I wouldn’t need NY at all. Best news is, I have OPTIONS.
I also have the luxury of being picky. Platform makes us the pretty girl that every guy wants to marry. We can stay single and break all their hearts if we want to, or we can settle down. But the best news is that we don’t have to settle for the first offer that comes our way.
What are some tactics you guys use to grow your platform? Any suggestions? Thoughts? What are your biggest challenges? Share! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
And, to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention WANA in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel.
Also, I hope you guys check out my guest post at Writer Unboxed. Bring Back that Lovin’ Feeling–What to Do When You Feel Burned Out.
Until next time…
In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.
Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home.
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
Oh! No! Melodrama–Avoiding the Reader Eye Roll by Roni Loren
E-Publishing & Pricing–How Much is a Book Worth? by NYTBSA Bob Mayer
Great writing series (How We Write Wednesdays) by Jenni Holbrook-Talty and Anna DeStefano
Exploring Romantic Suspense–The Hero some interesting thoughts by Author Jamie DeBree
How to Avoid Becoming Another Boring Writer’s Blog by my fave Jody Hedlund
Across the Twitterverse by Author Piper Bayard
5 Tips to Avoid Being a Media Moron by the ruthlessly funny Tawna Fenske
Are Romance Heroes Good Role Models? by Paranormal Author Jami Gold
Why Your Self-Published Book Might Suck a Big Bad of Dicks by the hilarious genius word pirate Chuck Wendig