What’s a platform anyway?

A few weeks ago I was a panel member at a writer’s conference workshop. The subject was building a platform.

Today, I’d like to share a few points that we made at the workshop. But first, here’s my go-to person for all things writer-ly, Jane Friedman, who tells us what platforms are and are not:

Platform

“What editors and agents typically mean by platform

They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.

Let’s break this down further.

  • Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves?
  • Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.)
  • Proven reach. It’s not enough to SAY you have visibility. You have to show where you make an impact and give proof of engagement. This could be quantitative evidence (e.g., size of your e-mail newsletter list, website traffic, blog comments) or qualitative evidence (high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre).
  • Target audience. You should be visible to the most receptive or appropriate audience for the work you’re trying to sell. For instance: If you have visibility, authority, and proven reach to orthodontists, that probably won’t be helpful if you’re marketing vampire fiction (unless perhaps you’re writing about a vampire orthodontist who repairs crooked vampire fangs?)

What platform is NOT

  • It is not about self-promotion.
  • It is not about hard selling.
  • It is not about annoying people.
  • It is not about being an extrovert.
  • It is not about being active on social media.
  • It is not about blogging.
  • It is not about your qualifications, authority, or experience, although these are tools for growing or nurturing a platform.
  • It is not something you create overnight.
  • It is not something you can buy.
  • It is not a one-time event.
  • It is not more important than your story or message (but hopefully it grows out of that).

Platform is not about bringing attention to yourself, or by screaming to everyone you can find online or offline, “Look at me! Look at me!” Platform isn’t about who yells the loudest or who markets the best.

It is more about putting in consistent effort over the course of a career, and making incremental improvements in extending your network. It’s about making waves that attract other people to you—not about begging others to pay attention.”

***

Jane goes on to tell us what activities build platforms, which I’ll save for another time. I’d like to share what my publisher told me to do once I signed a contract with her small press six months before my memoir was published – definitely enough time to get started and develop a daily and weekly habit.

First: create a blog. I felt great about that since I started a blog four years earlier. However, I needed to change my blog’s focus – not so much on my end-of-life bucket list, but now more about the subject matter of my book and all aspects of my writing life.

Next: create Facebook personal and fan/author pages. And she suggested I join a new Facebook group every week. I’m currently a member of many writing groups and groups about suicide, mental illness, and bipolar disorder (the subject matter of my memoir). I also joined Twitter, which has taken me years to get experienced in, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest. Fortunately when I publish a blog post – at least once a week – it links to Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and to my Amazon page. Voila!

Here’ a list of things to do to stay in your reader’s eye every day (and it’s pretty much what I still do now):

Monday:
AM:

  • 1 update on personal Facebook page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • join 1 group
  • comment on other group members’ posts
  • send 3 friend requests
  • 1 tweet on Twitter

PM:

  • 1 update on Fan page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • review 1 group
  • send 2 friend requests along with commenting on their posts
  • 2 tweets on Twitter
  • reply to 10% of followers tweets
  • respond to any new blog comments

Tuesday:
AM:

  • 1 update on personal Facebook page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • join 1 group
  • comment on other group members’ posts
  • send 3 friend requests
  • 1 tweet on Twitter
  • Comment on other blogs

PM:

  • 1 update on Fan page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • review 1 group
  • send 2 friend requests along with commenting on their posts
  • 2 tweets on Twitter
  • reply to 10% of followers’ tweets
  • pick 5 other groups, authors or books and like them on Facebook

Wednesday:
AM:

  • Post blog entry (blogs have the highest readership mid week)
  • post on Facebook pages and Twitter that you updated your blog with a link
  • 1 Facebook update
  • 2 tweets
  • 10 comments total on each site

PM:

  • Comment on other blogs with link to your blog
  • request bloggers to add your blogroll
  • add them to yours if they agree

Thursday:
AM:

  • 1 update on personal Facebook page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • 1 tweet on Twitter
  • respond to any new blog comments

PM:

  • 1 update on Fan page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • 2 tweets on Twitter
  • reply to 10% of followers’ tweets

Friday:
AM:

  • 1 update on personal Facebook page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • 1 tweet on Twitter

PM:

  • 1 update on Fan page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • 2 tweets on Twitter
  • reply to 10% of followers tweets
  • respond to any new blog comments

Saturday:
AM:

  • 1 update on personal Facebook page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • at least 1 tweet on Twitter
  • pick 5 other groups, authors or books and like them on Facebook

Sunday:
AM:

  • 1 update on personal Facebook page
  • comment on 5% of fans updates
  • at least 1 tweet

***

Yeah, I know all this takes a lot of time. And really it’s not the end of it. I went on a Women on Writing (WOW) blog tour right after my memoir was released, I created another blog tour on my own after my paperback and eBook were published, I went on several radio and online interviews, I have guests on my blog regularly and write guest posts for other’s blogs, and one of my favorite things to do – give readings and talks about my book. It’s never ending, but very well worth it, mainly because agents and editors will Google you when considering whether or not to represent you.  They want to find authors with strong platforms.

What are you doing to develop or maintain your platform?

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