In 2004 I made a momentous decision. I was going to close my coaching business which I had loved doing for the past seven years. I was going to devote myself to my passion–writing. From dabbling to serious. I was excited. By the time I had gathered at least twenty-five stories about my twinship and our family’s summer home I had also made the decision to write my first book. More excitement.
I joined writing groups, went to open mics, attended writing workshops, author book signings, and finally registered for a conference in New York City–the Big Apple. When I met an author who had published seven books I was impressed. He exuded confidence with an almost regal bearing. I think I gushed as I talked with him.
He looked at me through rimless glasses. “What is your book about?” Hey, I knew about the elevator pitch and fired that baby off. “And my dear… what is your author platform?” Platform? I looked at the floor, William Jennings Bryant flashed through my mind. Tippecanoe and Tyler too. Mugwumps. High school social studies. No, wrong platform.
Mr. Impressive continued. “What do you stand for? Why should I buy your book and not one of the five hundred other memoirs rolling off the presses each month?” I decided then and there not only to be excited about being a good writer, but I would know what it was about me that made my writing good.
“Platform is one of the most difficult concepts to explain, partly cause everyone defines it a little differently. But one thing that I know for sure: Editors and agents are attracted to authors who have this thing call “platform.” What editors and agents typically mean by platform is that they are looking for someone with visibility and authors with a proven reach to a target audience.” Jane Friedman.
I’m thinking of Dad and the little red chair. (https://etheleemiller.com/built-to-last/ ) Building a writer’s platform is not so different. As a writer you need to know:
- What your platform is
- Why you need it
- What you have to use to build your platform
- Use things (tools) that make it strong enough to last.
Very simply your platform is something you can figuratively stand on and be visible. It has to be big enough so you stand out. Strong enough to hold you up, and functional enough to be there, but not in the way.
In 2004 I knew I wanted people to know I was a writer, a good writer of memoir and short stories. The how to build and using the tools did not come easy. I readily admit I am not a social media maven. And today social media tools need to be in your tool kit. I cannot tell you the nuances of SEO. But I did learn the tools and how to use them. I have a presence online.
What worked for me and is key was building relationships with people who delight in knowing technology intricacies that escape me; those people whose fingers fly across the keyboard to gain access to my website settings, or facebook page so they can tweak widgets, plug-ins, and doohickeys so I get my content out. I am a basic online platformer (social media). I’m a heck of an offline platformer (organic, face to face, in-person). Both work. Over the years since my 2004 decision to be a fulltime writer, I have built a solid platform as an honest, ethical, entertaining and informative writer and speaker. And it’s built on a foundation that was laid years before I saw myself as a writer.
A platform is a Long-term Marketing Plan for the author/entrepreneur. It can include activities that build who you are as an author–your brand, integrity and trust, your author website, a large email marketing list, content and conversion marketing, using audio podcasts, social networking, professional speaking, and of course everything from writing articles, blogs, and books to multimedia products.
Just as our books were not created overnight, neither is the platform. It’s a process. I offer an example. I am a graduate of Wagner College on Staten Island, NY. When each of my books was published, I sent a copy to the college library and a brief letter to the alumni magazine. Got a very nice thank you from the librarian, and a blurb in the class of ’69 section of the mag for the first one. When my second book, Seedlings, Stories of Relationships was published last year, the editor of the alumni magazine, Laura Barlament, contacted me to use part of a story in the magazine as it contained a reference to college. Would I give permission? Would I! “The Heel” also appeared on the Wagner Facebook page for Valentine’s Day. (https://wagner.edu/wagnermagazine/?p=4340) I reworked the story for a storytelling gig at Odyssey Storytelling, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVM7zDUy8I4) a monthly event in my home base of Tucson, Arizona. And the video is up and out there too. Platform in action and fun to boot.
Did I plan while going to Wagner those fifty years ago to use my experience in a book? Certainly not, but it’s a part of my foundation.
What experiences became the foundation for your platform?
Next blog: Three Characteristics of Your Writer Platform