If you are a writer, or want to be a writer someday, just know that it is never too early to start thinking of yourself as a writer and building your platform.
Yes, you can start promoting your writing career now!
But what is a platform? This buzzword has been around for years, mostly in marketing circles and politics. In recent years it has migrated to individual authors. These days, it is a question you might hear from an agent, or a publisher. But even if you self-publish, you would do well to know what your platform is, and how it can help you.
The idea is that whatever your circle of influence is, they are there to hear whatever your great mission is. How many people come to hear what you have to say? Your platform is the stage upon which you shout that message. It usually consists of a concrete objective (or tagline, but you don’t really have to get that fancy), your social media profiles, website, contacts and memberships. It is the pool into which you have thrown yourself, and the message that they associate with you.
For instance, Mary Sharratt is an author with a very solid platform. She writes historical fiction that features strong women. Her tagline is “Writing women back into history.” She has several books out, and with each new book, she goes 1000% into the subject matter, and promotes the book appropriately. For her last book, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen, she had articles and posts on a different website or blog almost every day of her launch month. She is on Facebook and Twitter, and has a blog. She also belongs to several groups, including writers’ groups (online and offline) and the Historical Novel Society. She is solidly ensconced in her topic of choice. She knows what is happening in that world. This is a great thing for her publisher, because it helps her to market each new book, even if the subject matter is slightly different. There is always that strong female character and that historical element.
An author might be very strong on certain social media, and have cultural or personal experience with which they imbibe their work (think Leigh Bardugo or Amy Tan). They might be part of a larger community that the publisher is trying to reach. They may simply have a magnetic personality that everyone wants to follow. And if they have optimized that, they have a platform.
So you see, you can start your platform any time you want. If you find that things change, you can change your platform if you want to later on. But you won’t build it overnight, so rather than try to build something that is not going to feel genuine, take your time. It’s not imperative that you have a platform at the beginning. See what resonates with the readers you want to reach. What questions do you hear from others? Which of your writings is the most popular? Which questions raised in your writing do you most want to explore?
I would advise you to build it slowly. Change pieces of it as you see fit. Try out different things and see if they work – different social media platforms, different types of stories. Ask yourself the hard questions about what your message is, and build your platform to help convey that message.
What types of hard questions? Questions like: why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish through my writing? Who do I want to reach? What is my goal as a writer? What are my expectations for this book? Do I want to write as a full-time profession?
This may take some soul-searching. You may not discover all the answers with your first book. That’s okay. But if you start now to build your tribe, they may segue with you as you change and grow through your career. And that is a beautiful thing.
Whatever you do, make sure it’s something you can believe in. Take that soul-sucking marketing-speak and make it work for you.
With 20 years of experience in publishing, Linda has worked with countless authors and runs BookMania! providing literary services to publishers, authors and organizations. She has reviewed for Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, BookPage, and has had articles, poems and essays published online and in print. She also runs Publishing Bones, a website for writers, is a member of the Cracked Walnut literary reading series team and has taught at the Loft Literary Center for five years. She only recently started a book blog (why fight the inevitable?) and is working on a Certificate in Book Arts, a novel and a chapbook of poems. She has piles of books everywhere. You can find her on Twitter at @LindaWonder.
This article that Linda wrote is so, so, so very important. Especially for all authors who are seeking representation, you need to begin working on promoting yourself early! Agents don’t do all the work for you. There are many that won’t even take on a writer who doesn’t know how to promote themselves and their writing. Learning to build your platform and build it early can catapult your career in writing to the next step! Heed Linda’s advice!
A huge thank you to Linda, as well as all of the wonderful people who have been, are, and will be a part of this feature. Your words of advice are helping so many wonderful writers succeed in achieving their dreams!
We hope you all have a wonderful weekend!