Three ‘Build Your Platform’ Resources

In a previous post (Writer’s Platform?  Where to find yours), I offered this equation to sum up the components that go into a writer’s platform:  Writer’s Platform = W (writing) + V (visibility) + N (personal & professional networks)

I mentioned, too, that I was in the rudimentary stages of developing my N component.  With so many N possibilities out there – Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Goodreads etc.- it can be a confusing and taxing process.  Which N is most important?  Where should you devote time and energy?  How do you integrate different components?

Fortunately, help is available. Here are three resources that I’ve used and would recommend to anyone who is striving to develop a cohesive writer’s platform with a strong N presence:

imageThe February 2015 issue of Writer’s Digest has a number of articles devoted to the topic of social networking.  Among the most helpful: Get in Good With Goodreads by Michael J. Sullivan (how to tap into the world’s largest online reader hub to grow your audience) and Your Author Website 101 by Jane Friedman (everything from buying a domain name to building an effective  website). Another very useful article – Success Stories in Self-Promotion by Jessica Strawser and Tiffany Luckey – profiles 7 authors who ran successful promotional campaigns that pushed their self-published books onto bestseller lists.  Methods vary proving that one-size does not fit all when it comes to networking, but clever ideas abound in this article and, best of all, they’re free for the taking.

downloadBlogging for Writers: How Authors & Writers Build Successful Blogs by Robin Houghton (Ilex, 2014 is a colorful, well designed, and easily navigated book.  Framed around the premise that blogging is a powerful marketing tool and a worthy addition to any writer’s platform, Houghton lays out the key elements for building a credible blogsite that will attract readers. Fortunately for technically challenged individuals like myself, Houghton strips away the jargon and shows step-by-step how to set up and use the free features of WordPress and Blogger as well as their paid-for options. Lots of vibrant, successful blogsites are given as examples.

download (1)Melding the components of a writer’s platform together is made easier with Carole Jelen and Michael McCallister’s Build Your Author Platform: A Literary Agent’s Guide to Growing Your Audience in 14 Steps (BenBella Books, 2014).  Although each chapter focuses on separate aspects – using Facebook, harnessing Twitter, fostering connections through LinkedIn, strengthening your exposure through blogs and so on – Jelen & McCallister tie the individual pieces together, giving readers a cohesive picture of how the parts support one another. For newbies like me, simple step-by-step instructions, lots of examples, and flurries of screenshots make what could be overwhelming, palatable and practical instead.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Goin’ on a Blog Tour – One Traveller’s View

Notes from the Launch Pad

Make It Snappy – Writing the Just Right Book Blurb

cover - early pdfLarry Verstraete (www.larryverstraete.com) is the author of 14 books for youngsters.  Missing in Paradise, a novel for middle grade readers, is his most recent release.

For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.

Writer's Platform? Where to Find Yours

images (6)The term ‘writer’s platform’ has been floating about for years.  Every writer needs one, we are told. You’ll never get published otherwise. And even if you have been published, it’s critical to future success. No matter how good a writer you are, you’re dead in the water without a solid platform.
Yes and no. But more about that later.
There’s no doubt that agents and publishers are attracted to someone with a strong writer’s platform, but first, what is the meaning of the phrase?  There are numerous definitions.  In mathematical terms (did I mention I have a chemistry background?), here’s my own:
Writer’s platform = W (your writing) + V (your visibility as a writer) + N (the personal and professional networks you cultivate)
A writer’s platform represents your viability, your worth on the writer’s stock market if you will.  When purchasing a commodity (the writing you produce), agents and publishers (business people, essentially) assess the value of your current work and pit the quality of your writing against potential net returns it offers in the future.  Proving that you have the ability to reach your target audience and that you have visible, vibrant connections to those who will purchase what you write makes you – and your product if it is excellent and timely – attractive to agents and publishers who might front your project.
Creating a solid writer’s platform takes energy and time. There is no one size fits all, no one right approach, and no quick and easy method.  For illustration purposes and because I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I’ll use my own situation as an example of how these components work together.

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W – Writing
Your current piece of writing – the one you are marketing – is the most important element here.  If it is shabby, ill-conceived, or heaven forbid in the case of non-fiction, inaccurate, then the rest of your platform matters little.  But also important in the W department is the legacy you carry. Because I frequently write non-fiction for kids – much of it from a pool of science, history and true adventure – it helps that I have a science degree, was once a teacher who worked with youngsters the same age as my target audience, and have a list of credible titles under my belt. While these details might not be important for say poets or romance writers, they add authority to my non-fiction, making the W part of the equation more attractive.
V – Visibility
What is your impact as a writer?  Can you give proof of your engagement?  For my V, it helps that I belong to several professional writer’s associations and groups, and that a number of these are specific to my youth genre.  Also a plus, I’ve maintained contacts in schools and libraries, participated in book tour circuits, presented at conferences, festivals and in schools, judged writing contests and so on. These are V components – visibility factors.  Again, these will be different for writers of other genres.
N – Networking
I have a personal website. I write this blog, too. These are evidence of a wider reach – the N or networking component of my writer’s platform.  Some of the elements in my V list could also count here – participating in writer’s groups, for example.  I’m slowly incorporating other N elements that many say are important to a writer’s platform – Facebook, Linked In, Goodreads, Pinterest – the list is long and getting longer.

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Based on my own experience, it’s easy to get sidetracked in the N department.  When I find time slipping through my fingers as I peruse Facebook, tone up my Goodreads bio, or pin images to my boards, I try to remind myself of their place in the scheme of things.  No amount of networking (or even visibility) matters if the writing I do falls flat.
According to Jane Friedman, a prominent blogger and the CEO and Co-founder of Open Road Integrated Media, building a solid writer’s platform is a career-long endeavor. In her opinion, much of the emphasis to jumpstart the process early is overblown:
If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform. I think it’s causing more damage than good. It’s causing writers to do things that they dislike (even hate), and that are unnatural for them at an early stage of their careers. They’re confused, for good reason, and platform building grows into a raging distraction from the work at hand—the writing!  (2013 post, Writer Unboxed)
Other posts you might enjoy:

Your Mission? Write a Statement
Dancing Between Censorship and Free Expression
Stepping into Nothing… Hoping for Something
Larry Verstraete (www.larryverstraete.com) is the author of 14 books for youngsters.  Missing in Paradise, a novel for middle grade readers, is his most recent release.
For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.
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