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
Great post, Kristen, as always! Platform is a tricky thing I’m just now starting to wrap my head around. I have YOU to thank for that, as well as the ever-lovely and above-mentioned Kait, of course. 🙂 I think one of the most important components of building a successful platform is simply being yourself. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be mindful of what we’re saying and who could be watching, but rather that if our true personalities shine through our social networking material, that in itself can go a long way toward the Hollywood mantra you mentioned: “the same…but different.” Each one of us can bring something new and unique to the table. It’s therefore so important to not pretend at being someone else, or force ourselves into a persona we think we should have, but rather take what we already are, mold it into something presentable, and basically just be ourselves. Readers can smell a phony even and perhaps especially on the Web; sincerity and genuine personality goes a long way.
A writer has to evaluate the Three P’s, which I blogged about some time back at Write It Forward: Platform, Product and Promotion. Thus every author’s situation is different. But you can work on all three. Sometimes we become too focused on one area, but they are all self-supporting. Platform has to be built and takes time and consistency. Too many authors wait until after they finish their manuscript to consider platform or they think the product (the book) is their platform. It doesn’t work that way. You have to start right away, now, today. I think the best way to do that is not to jump on Twitter and Facebook and start blogging, but educate yourself. Get Kristen’s book, We Are Not Alone: The Writers’ Guide to Social Media and see how she puts content ahead of technique. You’ve got to figure out exactly what your platform is before you start trying to build one.
Loved this Kristen and now the messages you and I shared upon “meeting” the other day via FB make your witty personality in your writing all the more endearing. I can not wait to read your book as I became so engrossed in the idea of building the platform that I literally stopped work on the book. I don’t look at it as wasted time however as I have built an amazing circle of friends and supporters, but it’s time to get my focus back and find balance between the two. Funny…many of my author friends tell me the book was easy, the marketing of themselves and their books was what they really disliked. I believe the opposite will be true for me. I LOVE the marketing and connecting. BUT none of it will serve me if I don’t get back to that writing. Guess I had better go get busy. : )
As someone who has built a few websites in recent months, from scratch, I think one of the best tools a writer has when they don’t have the skill set to build a website, or pay to have one built, or even want to use a template offered by most hosting companies is WordPress. You can have pages, you can get backgrounds and it doesn’t cost you anything. It’s simple and as you learn wordpress, you’ll figure out neat ways of improving it. Also, as Kristen has pointed out before, title and using tags will help you get seen. We named the Write It Forward blog using write it forward in the URL with wordpress, but the title is Bob Mayer’s Blog. Google either one, you find Write It Forward along with Who Dares Wins Publishing…it’s all connected.
I recently saw a short podcast about how a writer’s blog is their hub. This really hit home with me and I believe its true. Websites tend to be static, but blogs are interactive, by having one as the base of your operation will help do all these wonderful things Kristen’s is talking about.
Another fantastic post, Kristen. I do love the humour you inject.
I have a love/hate relationship with the word platform. I outlined both of these intense emotions in the last couple weeks at my writing blog, Wordbitches. Feel free to read if you want to delay building your platform by surfing…
The “Hate” Side (Why I Hate the Word Platform): http://wordbitches.com/2011/01/24/why-i-hate-the-word-platform/
The “Love” Side: (Platform Building: More Than Pimping Yourself) http://wordbitches.com/2011/01/31/platform-building/
Kristen, I’m heading over to Who Dares Wins Publishing RIGHT NOW to buy We are Not Alone. A thank you for being the guidepost to link me up with Kait, but also because I’m totally digging what you’re doing with your WANA blog and your other social media exploits. I’m speaking at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference with Bob Mayer and I certainly plan to bend his ear about the future of publishing (if he’ll let me!). I’ve got a lot of thoughts on that subject–especially on the agent’s role in a digital future. So keep up the good work. You are now on my radar screen and your blog is on my virtual desktop. Mean Girls, step aside. You’ve risen above them!
-Laurie McLean, Larsen Pomada Literary Agents
Platform is very important and something that I’ve really been giving a lot of thought to. When I started getting into social media with my writing I focused on getting out there and building my platform instead identifying exactly what that platform is. Let’s just say it didn’t fare too well. So these past few weeks I’ve been taking a step back and think about many of the points you mentioned ( I also took time out to revamp my blog, thanks to your blogging series! Writing out posts ahead of time really helps!).
If I can offer any advice when it comes to identifying what your platform and voice is going to be, talk to someone who’s close to you! I spoke with my best friend of 10+ years and she was like, “Margaret, you know you are like a totaly fan girl?” and everything just snowballed from there. I would ask the people closest to you what you’re like in social settings and take that feedback to help you identify your platform. It’s so crucial to learn that first and I wouldn’t know that if I didn’t learn the hard way!
Thanks for the mention, Kristen. 🙂 I’d thank you for the earworm on the other post as well, but now I have to go watch Top Gun, which means I need to dig around in my extraordinarily unorganized video collection for the VHS tape. *eyeroll*
One of the hardest things about platform for me (I have 5 loosely connected platforms at the moment) is keeping up. My platforms are separate for branding purposes, and I don’t think they’d be nearly as effective if I tried to lump them all together. I do have an “umbrella brand” that brings everything together, but it’s been a lot of work setting it up (and I’m still working on it). Obviously my main platform (my rom. suspense/real name) gets the majority of my time. Needless to say, I used (and continue to use) the techniques in your book to build and grow those, with good success so far.
The other hard part for me is trying to keep myself from getting stuck in a “self-pub author” chasm. I was slipping into that for awhile there, and a blog post by a good writer friend sort of made me sit up and change course. While I’m proud to be publishing my own work and intend to continue on that path, I don’t want that to be the first thing readers think of when they think of my books. I want them to think, “hey, isn’t she the one who writes those action-adventure style romantic suspense books?” Or even just “isn’t that the chick who writes those serial novels on her blog(s)?” To that end, I keep my publishing blog off to the side, and try to focus more on my actual work, rather than the method I use to get it to people. I don’t want people to buy my books (or not) due to how I publish, but rather because they want to read what I write. And that’s a hard line to walk sometimes, but I’m getting better at it. 🙂
Obviously I need to work on not writing an entire post in a blog comment…
“Kind of like peeing on yourself so no one eats you.” ROFL.
I think finding our unique platform is one of the most difficult aspects of social media and marketing ourselves as writers. Like most writers, I want to do a little of everything. Focusing that in and finding a voice that encompasses, yet defines, our interests and abilities is a real challenge. Thank you for this series and for all of your help.
Thanks, too, for the shout out. You rock!
I’ll take African Teak over Popsicle sticks any day.
I’ve gotten into social media slowly but surely, and already I’ve seen a difference. I used to google my name for fun, before I read your book, and really came up empty. Tamara LeBlanc didn’t exist. Now I google my name and a whole slew of cool things pop up, reviews on my book, blogs I’ve posted, Facebook and comments I’ve made. Friggin awesome!!!
So, Kristen, I bow to you (bowing now, nose nearly touching my knees) for this post on platform.
I also loved the paragraph about Kait…WOW! If that doesn’t convince an author of the importance of platform and social media, nothing will.
Have a great week!
I read your posts even though the subjects are way ahead of where I’m at because I enjoy the way you write (peeing on yourself so you won’t get eaten…lol) and because it’s fascinating the way the world for writers is changing.
Another awesome post! How do you do it? I’m really looking forward to your new book. The title makes me laugh!
Tactics… I don’t use a lot of tactics to grow my platform. I post updates on FB and tweets on Twitter but other than that, not a lot. My thought is just write and post regularly and don’t worry so much if my platform isn’t growing as quickly as I want. It distracts from my message if I do.
Also, talking to other writers and reading other people’s blogs to see what they have to offer helps. It’s like I get connections with other people in a good way. They’re my friends even if I haven’t seen them in person.
I love how you infuse humor and tell it like it is. I get a kick out of the WANA blog. I thought I had followed you on twitter already, but discovered that I hadn’t so I took care of it last night! I fully agree with Piper as well. Eventually, I think I’ll get there! LOL Have a great week, Kristen!
Dang, guess I was platform-building (and peeing on myself) for years and didn’t know it. I suspect many of us write outside of blogs, if only with emails. Those who also pub in articles or compilations, don’t neglect the power of a BIONOTE! I have gotten book contracts based on an editor skimming magazines or online articles on a particular subject, liking the writing, and tracking me down. In email, the “signature line” works the same–include pertinent links/notes/whatever. Rather than that single “indy” tile, call yourself an expert in X. (Heck, somebody has to say you’re an expert first…then others quote it. *s*) With facebook, twitter, and other public presences, be sure you’re promoting YOU as a brand, not just a single book or blog. Like Kristen, make yourself the go-to expert in a given area. I love Kristen’s book and her blog because she explains easy ways to do what I’ve always wanted/needed to do and just sometimes accidentally did the right thing…now I have a road map.
Thanks for the information Kristen. It was very useful (and entertaining). I’ve been writing for some time now but recently decided to become a serious blogger to hone my skills and do exactly what you’ve mentioned here: create a platform. I’m hoping to craft better pieces using the information you’ve provided. Faafetai (Thank you in Samoan)
I feel like I’m an entry-level platform-builder,but I’m working on it. Today I blogged about whether we build the platform for launching or hanging. 🙂 http://pamparker.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/platforms-launching-or-hanging/
Since we’ve all latched onto the peeing-on-oneself image, let me just say, Kristen, that before I got your book, the thought of developing a “platform” would nearly bring me to – well, you know. And/or curling up in a fetal position.
I hated selling stuff, even as a kid. Never had a lemonade stand. Never sold those wretched candy bars. And now I’ve got kids in school – all that wrapping paper? Shudder. But you got me to see self-promotion in a new light – as sharing what we’re passionate about and want others to enjoy. I’m blogging regularly, and re-vamped my blog so it’s in line with my interests/training (19th c), dipped my toe in the twitterworld, and met a lot of supportive, unique people. I still have a long way to go, but it’s not a sprint, so that’s okay.
Sort of a testimonial rather than a comment, LOL!
First off, congrats to Kait. I don’t know her but love to here good news about anybody, especially success stories. See Kristen Lamb? It’s your sweet web, and we’re all just stickin’ to it.
As for the other words that you used to make up this post. I like all of them.I only leave here aiming to work harder. Shanks.
Given that today I’m the one most benefiting from this 6 degrees of platform thing, I’d say I need to send Kristen a fruit basket or something. 😀 Believe me, nobody is more stunned than me.
Platform is something I’ve been slowly working on over the past three years. I love blogging and I’ve always been a regular at it. Actually my crit partner often believes I need an intervention because seldom does a month go by without my doing some new blog thing. We won’t talk about how many are on my dashboard… In any event, once I settled on my pen name, I immediately went out and nabbed up all the internet and social media real estate associated with it. Then I started building.
Blogging was easy. Twitter made sense once somebody explained it’s like a giant instant message conversation. Facebook I’m still working on. And Goodreads–Kristen you totally need to go back and add a chapter to WANA about Goodreads–is one of my favorite hangouts. All of these things got EASIER when I found Kristen’s book and started applying her principles (okay yeah, I admit, I still avoid FB like the plague…), but still, it made progress. You have to go to 13 pages deep in a Google search of my name before you find something that’s NOT me. And I did all this before I had any books out, before I decided to go indie. I was making connections, friends, acquaintances, developing a support network. So that when I did go indie, did have books out, that network was in place to help me let people know, which, in turn, helped me sell 4k+ books in 10 months.
I know it’s temping to hope for a New York contract and that somebody else will take care of “all that other stuff”, but people, I’m here to tell you that indie or traditional, you’re gonna have to build that platform no matter what, and it is NEVER too early to begin. And hey, it just might help you avoid those dreadful queries!
Thanks for the shout-out and link! You’re the best. 🙂
And gosh darn it, I think you inspired *another* blog post. You *are* my muse.
Every time I read your posts, I get the most practical help, things that make me say, ‘Huh, I never would have thought of that’. The last time I took your advice, I made some changes to my site and the same day I was featured on a huge daily publication! So,thanks, and I’ll keep reading.
Hi Kristen, I am new to your blog and am enjoying every post. I have zero experience in the writing arena, so I am grateful for your practical tips and stories about your experiences. It is also great to hear the news that it is possible to find an agent through networking. Congratulations and best wishes to Kait!
Thank you so much for sharing your expert viewpoints with all of us writers here. Reading your blogs has really helped me stay focused and make positive, and meaningful, changes in my writing. So far, in the last 3 months, I’ve found some big writing no-no’s to revise in my story, I’ve signed up for a writing conference in April, been reading more fiction and books on the craft of writing, changed the way I tag my blog, put my name out there, and guts’d up enough courage to enter two writing contests. I may not have crossed some of those bridges without helpful tips from you and your readers. Thanks Kristen!
AWESOME! I am so happy that my brilliant editor Jenni Holbrook-Talty thought up the title, “We Are Not Alone,” because it really encompasses all we are doing here. This can be a team endeavor if we make some effort. I am thrilled at your progress and please keep me posted. Thank you for always being generous with comments and praise. You are deeply appreciated…and I can’t do all this alone either. I think the comments from all of you is what spurs me to dig deeper, research, read, and work hard to bring you guys the best information. I couldn’t stay encouraged any other way :D.
I am at the very start building up a platform the way you suggest.
Since I literally stumbled over your blog last year – (yeah, I stumbled down the basement stairs, broke a foot and was couch-bound for six weeks – thus reading more online, thus seeing your blog on Freshly Pressed and therefore nobody should say a broken foot is not good for something *BIG lol*) I remembered, that I always wanted to be a writer.
I am following your ideas and advices and I think I am very avant-garde with it, because I have not found the same ideas in German blogs and among German writers yet. Most of them seem to see the Internet as a possibility to publish their stories via a blog or – if they are having a name already – displaying a homepage.
But I do not see them really networking. Or I have been in the wrong places so far. 😉
So I am really eager to get everything up and running in the right way from start on. It is a great chance for me and my writing being ahead of the wave so to speak.
Thank you very, very much Kristen. 🙂
Kristen, as always… I look forward to your blog posts.
+1 on the pic of Napolean Dynamite… “I’ll do whatever I want to do – GOD!” *flicks head sideways*
Your book has helped me in many ways to change how I was approaching social media. As an IT pro, it was not too hard for me to create my own website, customise it, etc but I was no social media expert. Although I was savvy enough to join Twitter, I was wasting my account away by not utilising it much or not well enough.
The one biggest change for me since reading WANA is that i’ve seriously re-focused my time so that I am wasting as little of it as possible. Heck, i’m working on my twitter platform on my bus trips to and from work (thanks iPhone!)
What has already been happening? The amount of readers and hits on my blog is increasing as is the comments. My Twitter account followers is growing at a rapid rate and i’m making fantastic connections and building great relationships.
The strange thing is, the more busier I am with social media, the more I seem to also be getting done on my book. Maybe it’s the newfound discipline, but my second book is being written faster than ever before.
I don’t have much spare time anymore, but it’s all about time management 🙂
It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that we still need to allocate time to our craft as well as social media, but as you said in your book and blogs… it doesn’t have to be hours out of your time per day… even a focused 5-10 minutes doing the right things online will be a huge benefit.
It’s inspiring to see Kait Nolan get an offer like that through connecting and being involved, and I am very happy for her. Well done Kait, and I wish you the best success for your writing future.
Above all, I am enjoying every minute of social media and building my platform, i’m even really enjoying blogging.. when before I was wondering where I would get topics from.
WANA opened my eyes, although I do hunger for more information and this blog fills the gap for me.
I love the fact that we are building a global group of friends, colleagues, mentors, and much more.
Just be your natural self.Why talk a lot? You talk a lot. Horrible and annoying.
I work of my blog content all the time and try to keep it interesting. I want readers to drop by and see what I’m writing. I want readers to get to know me as a real person. Not just someone who gives out advice on writing tips all the time. My goodness, I’m not even published yet. I’m new too all this writing, blogging and Facebooking. I get bored very easily. And as most folks, I like variety in my life. Writing is only part of who I am. Blogging about a new brownie recipe, or a beautiful poem I read, or how great it was today to walk my dogs in the park, can give your blog a taste of human interest. With all this said, writing is my main focus, and thanks to your great book, Miss Kristen, when I goole my name Sherry White/treehugger-peninhand.blogspot.com I’m the third one down on the list. Most be doing something right.
Well this is the first I’ve ever heard of you and I love what you’re saying and how. My only concern is I don’t have a unique factor like humor; my humor is drier than dry and my jokes are all anime references that I’m not entirely sure readers understand.
Still, this gives me hope. Am very tempted to just quit social media, especially Twitter.
It just goes with the job. I am tempted to quit writing every other day, LOL. It is just one foot in front of the other. How does a book get written? One word at a time. How do we build a platform? One blog, tweet, post, relationship at a time. Stick in there. Many of the methods I teach will help this be more fun and less time suck.
I am happy to make you a peep :D.
Extremely helpful post – I’ve bookmarked and will be returning. Thanks!