Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Writing About Writing ~ Building A Writer/Author Platform

Good grief! Can you imagine having to plug out an entire novel on this thing? Actually, it looks very similar to a typewriter my grandparents had upstairs in my uncles' old bedroom. I actually used it a few times. Let's just say you build up a tremendous amount of patience as well as excellent spelling skills using these babies. There were no inkjets for these - these used typing ribbon. And there was no 'undo' button or whiteout. If you made a boo-boo, you had to redo the entire page. OY!!!

I just thought it would be neat to share this, but I digress. On with today's post...

Going through the re-vamp of my blog, website and author platform stuff, it made me realize the importance not only of starting the platform as early as possible but also the vital importance of maintaining it. I mean, seriously. Every single published piece, no matter how small, matters and truly helps to build your 'writing worth' up in this often very fierce field. Other things to include are professional connections to your chosen area of expertise, speaking engagements, building up a solid following and interviews. These are all things that in combination help an editor decide whether to turf your submission in the dreaded slush pile or giving your work a serious go over.

I'm sort of in an awkward position with my own platform in that I have been told I am a very 'eclectic writer'. Basically, that's a nice way of saying that I've done many different things in various genres. I am most known for my work with children and youth with special needs, but I have also written shorts and novels for adults. I have narrowed my focus somewhat to clean and contemporary young/new adult fiction, but it sure has been a long road.

So, what is a writing/author platform? Essentially, it is sort of like a resume. It's proof that an editor/publisher should consider your work over other stuff they may receive because you have the backing to sell books/magazines. Authors who believe that all the work in promoting and selling their books once they sign that contract are in for a huge surprise. A publisher will give you a chance if they believe in your work, but you have to show that you've earned that nod by taking on most of the promotional stuff. And it's hard, but rewarding, work.

I am a long-time fan of Writers' Digest, their books and awesome advice. I even wrote an interview article for their "The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing" several years ago. I have shared many words of writing wisdom from their magazine and blog so when I was going through my research folder, I found an older article they wrote about the building blocks of creating a rocking writing platform.

They go into greater detail in their article, but here are the top ten pointers:
1.   A website and/or blog. It helps to start building a readership as early as possible because the more followers you have, the better the impression you'll give. There are alot of options out there and many of them are free. You can always hire someone to tweak it once you have a bigger budget to work with. 
2.   An e-newsletter and/or mailing list. This isn't essential at first but putting one together and gathering a large number of subscribers/recipients is a great way to connect with readers and show potential editors/publishers you interact with your readers.
3.   Article/column writing samples. In the beginning, having only smaller publications are a great place to start and can lead to other opportunties. Build up that writing resume up so you have samples of your writing to offer.
4.   Guest contributions. Write to different blogs, eZines and other places in your area of professional expertise to see how/if you can contribute. The bigger, better-known and highest followers, the better.
5.   A track record of strong past book sales, if you have published books.
6.   Interviews, reviews or other contributions from individuals of influence that you know. I have approached many public figures in many different areas that have similar interests and focuses that I do in order to help further the messages I try getting out there. Try to do the same! You really would be surprised to know how many well-known public figures would be willing to help you out if your message is in the right place.
7.   Public speaking appearances. Not one of my favorite things, nor are face-to-face or recorded interviews, but it is a great way to put a face to your name and get your work out a bit further.
8.   An impressive social media presence (eg: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Authors' Den and others).
9.   Membership in organizations that support the successes of their own. That includes writing associations, reading groups, author blogs as well as professional organizations that represent the areas you are writing about/for (eg: I write for PsychCentral, I'm a member of the Liver Association of Canada, I am connected with several nonprofit organizations for troubled children, youths and teens, etc.).
10. Recurring media appearances and interviews. I touched on this already in public speaking. This point includes print, radio, TV, and online.

Just remember that you don't need to tap into all of these at once. When you are just starting out, do what you can and build from there. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is an impressive platform.

Good luck and happy writing!

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