To write well, you must commit to multiple drafts. Allison K. William’s new book Seven Drafts will show you how to capitalize on each one.

To write well, you must commit to multiple drafts. Allison K. William’s new book Seven Drafts will show you how to capitalize on each one.

Even though it’s September, it’s still toasty in Virginia. As a spring and summer girl, hot weather is my jam. I’ve long seen fall as a major bummer filled with darker days, cooler temperatures, and for a long time, the return of my seasonal depression.

As I’ve aged and healed, I’ve also come to see fall as a time of color, rest, and gratitude.

This year I’m psyched about what fall means for my newsletter.

Over the next few months, I’ll interview platform divas and emerging writers about how they’re managing their author platforms. The list includes writers across all genres so there should be something for everyone. 

 

The first interview in this series is with Allison K. Williams 

For the past six months, I’ve told every writer I know to buy Allison’s new book Seven Drafts: How to Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book. Now you finally can. 

When I first met Allison at the 2016 HippoCamp Conference, I knew she was someone special. She’s a commanding presenter with an impeccable grasp of her craft who makes writing exciting and accessible.  

A former circus performer and aerialist (hence her stage presence), Allison has an MFA from Western Michigan. She’s an award-winning playwright, novelist, and guerrilla memoirist who edits the Brevity Blog.  Allison lives in Dubia and hosts writing retreats in fabulous locales like Tuscany. It was an honor and pleasure to speak with her. 

Allison, you’re a speaker who’s been labeled as “so informative it’s like drinking from a fire hose” and so inspiring participants leave “feeling like they can go punch a dragon.” What role does public speaking play in your platform? 

As many people know, I was a full-time performer before I was a full-time writer. So personally, speaking fills that need for performing and sharing with an audience that really burns in me. Professionally, I’ve found that public speaking—whether that’s delivering a keynote, teaching a webinar or co-hosting a Writers’ Bridge episode—is the best way to reach a large number of writers and get them on board with what I have to say. Sharing expertise and do-this-now tips for both writing better and selling books is also my service to the community.

I’m so, so stoked about the publication of Seven Drafts. I know this question is a little like asking which one of your kids is really your favorite, but here goes. Which chapter is your favorite? And if that feels unfair, which one was the most fun to write? 

Honestly, I love Chapter 4: The Technical Draft! I am so interested in the mechanics of language and sentence structure, and this chapter lets me share tools and tricks that make everyone’s writing better at the sentence level. It’s not a grammar tutorial—I’m discussing how words function to deliver meaning. Why shouldn’t you use “would” and “could” casually? What’s the difference between an intentionally long sentence and a run-on? Discovering these things absolutely rocked my world as a writer (dork alert!) and I hope they’ll help other writers. Because writing is like dancing—yes, you gotta feel it and go with the flow, but a good grounding in technique makes everyone better. 

I love that chapter too, though I’m also a huge fan of your chapter on the story draft. The exercises in it are so good! What’s the one thing you hope readers of your book learn or understand after reading Seven Drafts

That you’re not the only one. That for the vast majority of us, writing a book takes five times as long and is ten times as much work as we anticipated, even after reasonably estimating our time and work! But your words are worth that time and work. 

That’s so true and something all writers need to hear. So, let’s talk a little about platform. Initially, writers build their author platform so they can connect with readers who will one day buy their books. What role will Seven Drafts play in your author platform? Are there any doors this book might open that were previously closed to you? 

I’d like to do more keynote speaking, and more guest teaching, and I think this book will help. I’ve done all the full-time faculty-ing I care to, but I’d love to be a writer-in-residence, and I definitely need a book out for that to be an option. And it’s a symbol of expertise. One more reason that people can trust my writing advice is that a traditional publisher thought it was good enough to make a book. 

That’s a great answer. I regularly tell writers to think about the doors they want to open with their books well in advance of their book launch so they can build a platform that makes that vision possible. I can’t wait for your next keynote! 

I’ve seen your posts on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter. What social media platform are you most comfortable using?

I go back and forth. I love Instagram for the creativity and fun photo-editing time, but it’s emotionally more intense than other platforms. I have to want to go a little deeper when I’m writing a mini-essay as a caption. I’ve only been posting once a month or so lately because I just haven’t had it in me. Twitter I find more light, more fun. It’s easier to engage for 1-3 minutes and check back out again. Facebook, almost all my participation is in groups. I rarely post to my own timeline; I’m more interested to see what’s going on with other writers. 

Are there any social media secrets you’d like to share? 

I think a lot of writers building platform place a high value on posting or advertising themselves and underestimate how powerful listening is. Just chiming in with congratulations or support or answering a question is a great way to interact. I used to be a very envious person, and by actively practicing joy for others’ achievements, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of that feeling. Now, instead of “why didn’t I get that thing?!?!” I get to experience “Yay, I told her about that residency!” or “Wow, I know how hard she’s worked to get that publication!”

Listening is an underrated way to build an author platform, but I find it very energizing. You’re one of the co-hosts of the Writer’s Bridge. What would you like authors to know about this organization? 

Platform-building goes far beyond social media, and we talk about all of it: newsletters, email lists, websites, even the process of querying agents and just plain writing better. An amazing group of writers show up every two weeks—and everyone is welcome—and the networking has really led to a lot of fruitful collaborations. People review each other’s books, they host each other on podcasts, they guest on each other’s Instagram Reels and support each other at real-life events (when those are safe to do). 

If you could tell readers one thing about building an author platform, what would it be? 

Being a writer is different than being an influencer. You don’t have to wear cute outfits, or take professional-quality photos, or have ten thousand followers. You also don’t have to share anything you aren’t comfortable sharing and you get to draw your own boundaries. Share your writing voice and connect for real with people

What are you currently reading?

I’m really enjoying Charlie Jane Anders’ Never Say You Can’t Survive right now—it’s all about writing through hard times, and I love the chapter titles like “Hold On to Your Anger. It’s a Storytelling Gold Mine” and “How to Tell a Thrilling Story Without Breaking Your Own Heart.” Inspirational and instructional!

What’s next for you? 

Next is a three-part webinar series How to Build a Developmental Editing Business through Jane Friedman—we’re going to look at how and why to developmental edit, communicating with clients and getting them excited to revise, and the nuts and bolts of making money as a developmental editor. This is the first time I’ve taught editing as a practice and I’m excited to plan this new class!

I know it will be a fabulous class! I can’t wait to hear the reviews. 

You can follow Allison online by clicking on the following links: 

 
Give your writing life and author platform a boost: buy your copy of Seven Drafts today then sign up for the Writer’s Bridge.

Don’t want to miss another post? Sign up for my newsletter

 

 

The secret to building an effective author platform is something you might have overlooked.

The secret to building an effective author platform is something you might have overlooked.

This week, I move into my new home. 

The box towers in my house have grown so large, my cat, Miss Foxy, recently gave me a look that said, “Your box kingdom has exceeded my ability to guard it.” 

Like my kitty, I’m ready for a return to normal life. 

Living in transition makes it easy to see why author platforms are so daunting. 

How do you get everything done when your to-do list never ends? 

The answer is simple, <<First Name>>. 

Work smarter rather than harder.  

So far, we’ve talked about online platforms and how to write your way to a bigger audience.

Now let’s capitalize on what you’re already doing. 

Speaking 

You don’t have to wear a microphone to call yourself a speaker. Think of the people you’re already in front of—students, spiritual communities, clubs and volunteer organizations, other writers.  

To work smarter rather than harder: 

  • Make a list of your official and unofficial speaking gigs.
  • Try to expand your reach. Could you speak more frequently or on a larger stage?  

 
To up your game: 

  • Pitch a segment to a podcast.
  • Start a podcast.
  • Sign up for a local reading, Moth, or other storytelling event. 
  • Volunteer to speak at your local library or writing organization. 
  • Pitch a session at a writing conference.

 

Joining 

Supporting your community can help you build meaningful relationships with people who might one day become your readers. When joining an organization, there’s no need to promote yourself. If someone asks what you do, tell them you’re a writer, but don’t make it your focus. Instead, find ways to be of service.

To work smarter rather than harder: 

  • Make a list of the organizations you belong to—start with writing-related groups like book clubs, critique groups, nonprofit writing organizations, then expand your list to include alumni organizations, religious/spiritual/self-help organizations, business organizations, and nonprofit and volunteer organizations. 
  • Assess which organizations align with your passions.  

 
To up your game: 

  • If you’re a passive member of an organization, could you either leave or become more involved? For example, could you become a reader for a literary magazine or help with an event? 
  • Volunteer to support the causes you write about. Think about the beats I mentioned in last week’s blog post. If you’re looking for inspiration, see Carol Michel’s essay on marketing your book without social media.
  • Support your local independent bookstore. Attend their events and regularly buy their books. I can’t stress how important this is. Local book stores support the local authors they know. Unless you have a big platform, they’re less inclined to help strangers.  

 
Pass The Torch

When it comes to teaching, writers frequently think of MFAs and tenure track positions. But Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, started her career teaching free classes in church basements. 

Guess what? I did the same thing—only I taught free mindful-writing courses at a mental health center. And for those of you who are curious, I don’t have an MFA. 

To work smarter rather than harder: 

  • Make a list of the ways you’re already teaching others. 
  • See if you can do it at a higher level or for a larger audience. 

 
To up your game: 

  • Teach a free seminar at your local library, religious organization, or community center. 
  • Volunteer to run a group at your local nonprofit writing center or library. 
  • Volunteer with organizations that mentor young writers like America Reads, or NEAs the Big Read. 
  • Teach skills other than writing—think gardening, building bookshelves, cooking, etc. 
  • Pitch a session at a writing conference.   

 
Be a Good Human 

This is probably the easiest and most overlooked way to build your author platform. It’s also the most fulfilling. 

Get to know the people around you. Ask them questions. Be curious about their answers. See if you can be of service. 

Above all, treat everyone with kindness and respect. The person you least expect might be integral to your writing career. 

Being a good human in real life will increase your authenticity online. 

To work smarter rather than harder: 

  • Make a list of your regular connections. 
  • Ask yourself: How am I lifting these people up? How am I being of service?

 
To up your game:  

  • Post online about your colleagues’ successes and share their publications.  
  • Write reviews for the books you love. 
  • When possible, attend the readings of the writers you know and admire. 
  • Complete random acts of kindness. 
  • When appropriate, ask cashiers, servers, and others you engage with how they’re doing. Listen to their answers.  

 

To really work smarter rather than harder, clarify your priorities.  Remember, you don’t have to do everything. In fact, doing a few things well can be more effective than spreading yourself thin. 

Quitting, setting limits, and saying no are just as important as saying yes. 

Have some platform or limit-setting questions? Send me an email. 

In fact, as we end this month, <<First Name>>, tell me something you’re ready to quit so you can say yes to your writing life. 
 

 

Want to write your way to a bigger author platform? Here’s how.

Want to write your way to a bigger author platform? Here’s how.

I planned to finish revising my book by the end of August.

Then we bought a new house.

The day I signed the contract my muse said, “Are you kidding me???” then promptly skipped town.  

I’ve been writing long enough to know that sometimes now is not the time to write. When that happens, the best thing you can do is keep the faith and work on writing adjacent tasks like reading, journaling, and giving others feedback. 

HippoCamp reignited some of my creative fire. 

Then I started reading a colleague’s manuscript.

And low and behold, my muse returned. 

So, while preparing to move, I’m also writing again. 

For many of us, working on our projects is our greatest joy.

But writing can also be a great way to build your author platform. 

While social media can help you increase your reach, bylines, blogs, and newsletters can help you build a fanbase that might promote your work.

Bylines

Bylines include articles, essays, reviews, short stories, and flash pieces you publish in literary journals and news outlets. To maximize your reach, think New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, and Huffington Post as well as glossy magazines like The SunCreative NonfictionMs. MagazineVanity Fair, and Harper’s.  

These publications signal to agents and editors that your writing has been vetted. If you write literary fiction or nonfiction, publishing in acclaimed literary journals might be a great way to build your platform. But, if you write other forms of creative nonfiction or trade fiction, publishing in outlets with a large digital footprint might be a more effective way to showcase your work. 

As you write, think about the beats or topics you can mine for material. Most writers should have three. For example, I write about the writing process, mental health (which includes grief), and resilience. 

Corie Adjmi, author of the short-story collection Life and Other Shortcomings (2020) and The Marriage Box (2022) publishes on women’s issues and the Jewish experience.

Laura Cathcart Robbins, host of the podcast The Only One in the Room, writes about addiction, Black lives, and biracial relationships. 

Katie Rose Guest Pryal, author of the Hollywood Lights Series, writes about mental health, disability, and higher education. 

So what kind of bylines should you aim for? Obviously, publishing within your genre is essential. But, if you’re ready to branch out, op-eds and short essays are great options.  

Many writers have successfully used Susan Shapiro’s book The Byline Bible to build their list of publications. Marion Roach SmithCreative Nonfiction, and many others teach courses on opinion pieces and personal essays. 

And guess what? This is something I do too. 

If you’re interested in building a byline portfolio, my Last Dash to the Finish Line coaching group might be an excellent way to meet that 2021 goal. Send me an email so we can schedule a free 30-minute consultation. 

Blogs 

Writers regularly ask me if they should start a blog. Some hope blogging their books will lead to a publishing contract or perhaps a platform that rivals popular bloggers like The Bloggess

But friends, it ain’t that simple. 

While blogs are still a viable way to reach your audience, they’re a lot of work. You need to have something valuable to say, and you need to say it one or more times per week. In the beginning, much of that work is thankless. 

I asked Jane Friedman for her opinion on blogging while preparing this week’s newsletter.  Here’s what she had to say. 

“Blogging that grows your platform can’t be focused on you and your personal stories. It has to be focused on others and market aware: aware of the community you want to be known in, aware of that community’s problems and obsessions, and aware of your unique position—or voice—in all of that. While blogging can be a wonderful creative outlet and it can be part of a daily writing practice, today’s professional blog is measured by how much you inform or inspire others, not how well you express yourself.”

If you have a burning desire to blog, take Jane’s upcoming workshop Blogging Strategies that Work in 2021 before you get started. This will help you develop something that matches your efforts with your ability to scale your work. 

You can also guest blog for established platforms like BrevityHippoCampus Literary Magazine, or other writing blogs that accept guest posts. But don’t limit yourself to blogs about writing. Think about who needs to hear your unique message. For example, if you write about motherhood, guest blog for ScaryMommy or another parenting blog. Same goes for any topic you write about, be it business, mental health, or sports. 

Newsletters

While starting a blog might be a gamble, a successful email newsletter is considered the platform golden goose. When done well, an email newsletter can turn followers into super fans who will champion your work. 

Many authors use newsletters to advertise book launches and upcoming events, but the best newsletters help their audience solve problems and explore their obsessions. 

Jane Friedman has a great post on email newsletter basics. She also wrote an article on whether to blog or develop an email newsletter and another on what you should know about email newsletters

If you want to learn about voice-driven writing with a purpose, subscribe to Marie Forleo’s newsletter

My mission is to help all writers create stories that transform the world. That means ensuring everyone has access to the right tools and the inspiration that turns ideas into finished products. 

My newsletter is a labor of love that helps me fulfill that mission, but let me be clear, it takes a lot of hard work. I spend three to four hours per week writing, revising, and preparing each post. 

If you like what you see, there are a few ways you can pay this forward. 

Tell your friends about my newsletter so they can help me fulfill my mission. Share it on your favorite social media channels. Let followers know I offer giveaways a few times per year and scholarships for my classes. 

While coming up with your questions and thinking about your reader’s problems and obsessions, don’t forget to write, write, write. And if your muse is on a vacay, keep listening for its return. It will come back to you. Pinky promise. 

 

Wondering what kind of virtual presence you need? Check this out!

Wondering what kind of virtual presence you need? Check this out!

I can’t tell you how good it was to reunite with my writing peeps! 

At HippoCamp I was able to: 
See the friends I’ve made over the years.
Connect with people I’ve met online.
Have spontaneous conversations without a Zoom screen. 
Learn, get inspired, and have the chance to share some of my expertise. 

Oh, and here was one of the greatest gifts: I got to meet some of you. 

What an absolute treat! 

I attended so many high-quality sessions with inspirational figures in our field. I can’t wait to tell you all about it in future newsletters. 

But I want to start this one with a quote shared by Joey Garcia during a session called “What Happens to Your Book in a Newsroom.”

 Your network is who you know.

Platform is who knows you

Later that night, I sat in on a Writer’s Bridge session where Allison K. Williams and Ashleigh Renard, broke this down further.

When writers first approach the concept of platform many dislike it because they see platform building as a transactional “tit-for-tat” way of relating to others. That’s bound to make anyone miserable. A real platform is a bridge between two people. It’s an opportunity to both know others and be known. In these writer’s bridges, you can also serve your community. 

Just hearing that made me feel better about my platform. 

As I said in my last post, all you need to do to begin your platform is tell one person you’re a writer. Do that, and someone knows you. 

But what comes next, depends on your goals. 

In the coming weeks, I’ll interview some platform divas and emerging authors who can share their platform secrets. 

But before we get there, I want to talk about the types of platforms you can build. 

This week, we’ll start with your online presence. 
Next week, I’ll talk about writing opportunities including bylines, blogs, and newsletters. 
After that, we’ll discuss all the other ways you can connect with your fellow humans. 

Okay, let’s talk virtual presence. 

Author Website 

If writing is just a hobby, and all you care about is spending your time crafting beautiful sentences, then you don’t necessarily need a website.

But, if you secretly harbor any publication desires, you need one. And you need to create it well before you query agents or publishers. 

Think of your website as the virtual warehouse for all the cool stuff you do. It’s a place where agents, publishers, and most importantly readers, can learn who you are and what you’ve written. 

In the early stages of your writing career, you don’t need to hire a professional. But you do need to buy your domain name. Ideally, this should be your name and not the title of your book.

To get the 411 on what you need, check out this blog post

Social Media Accounts 

If you’re platform resistant, this is probably the header you’ll most likely bristle about. I get it. There are SO many social media platforms. And to top it off, these platforms are always tweaking their algorithms and features which means the learning curve is endless. 

When it comes to social media, you’ll want to develop a three-pronged approach that includes:  

  • A way to network with other writers, editors, and agents.
  • A way to reach your readers.
  • A way to have fun. 

 
Do you need to be on all the platforms? Nope. 

Just pick the one you feel most comfortable with and consistently add content to it. Ideally, your preferred platform should also be the one where your readers hang out. 

Jane Friedman has a social media hub filled with articles on social media dos and don’ts. You can also attend the free Writer’s Bridge meetings that take place every other week. These live sessions are a great place to learn tricks and tips from some social media experts. And they’re recorded so you can access them later if their live sessions don’t suit your schedule. 

Here’s a list of the current most popular platforms along with a brief description of what they do.  

Facebook: This is largely for the over-forty crowd. Most writers are gaining traction by joining Facebook groups. They’re great for networking and connecting with niche interest groups who might become your readers. And, if you build an author page, you can use it to create ads that will help you market your work. 

Twitter: The average Twitter user is between 25 – 34, though I find lots of writers, editors, and agents hang out there. If brevity is your thing, this might be a great place to network—especially when it comes to finding agents and editors. But to make the most of Twitter, you should tweet multiple times per day.

YouTube: With an average user age in the mid-twenties, this one’s ideal for reaching younger readers. But, because you can create your own channel, it’s also a great content delivery system. You can create book trailers, interviews and so much more.  Public speaking coach Gigi Rosenberg regularly creates videos to share her content on YouTube. Many end up in her newsletter. 

Instagram: This largely visual medium—think photos and videos—is a favorite with the under-thirty-four crowd.  Writers frequently include meaty captions for their posts. You can also use hashtags to increase your reach. 

TikTok: Couple less than sixty-second videos and hashtags and you have TikTok. With an average user of under 25, this is a great place to reach a younger audience. Some authors, like Ashleigh Renard, have capitalized on this platform’s popularity. Read about her successes in this post. 

Reddit: Reddit is a network of communities you can join for mutual benefit and support. Some of the most engaged users are under thirty. While Reddit isn’t designed for marketing, you can become a trusted source of information on this site by posting regularly and commenting on threads posted by other users. The Subreddits tend to have a narrow focus. You can find ones for survivors of suicide loss, day traders, games, illnesses, and even books. Use them to understand the conversations happening around the subjects you write about.

Clubhouse: This is an audio-only platform that requires an invitation from a current member.  It’s a great place to learn from celebrities, coaches, and authors, all while sporting your bedhead. Lurk for a while, then create a room. You can even join some of their writing groups.

Pinterest: If you like bulletin boards, you’ll love Pinterest. It’s a favorite platform for boomers, Gen-Xers, and most of all, Millennials. If your readers fall into these demographics, then Pinterest might be an option for you. There’s even a Pinterest on building an author platform. Go figure!

Linked-In: Most people think of LinkedIn as a business tool, and largely they would be right. But, if your professional role is linked to your book, setting up an account and sharing your publications there might give you yet one more avenue for connecting with potential readers.

Phew! That’s a long list. 

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you must do all the things all the time. You absolutely don’t. 

Here are a few guidelines to get you started: 

  1. Choose one to three platforms. 
  2. Create a social media plan and a manageable schedule. 
  3. Make it fun.

Here’s my current social media plan: 

  • Facebook: I use this one to connect with family and friends and to network in the various groups I belong to.I consider many of these people potential readers. 
  • Twitter: This is where I do most of my literary citizenship. (Think: sharing articles and lifting up other authors) 
  • Instagram: This is also a place where I connect with both writers and readers. Of the three, this is the one I’m still learning to master. 

My social media diet:

  • A maximum of 15 minutes after my writing time,
  • 15 minutes right before or right after lunch,
  • 15 minutes around 2:30 as a break between client work,
  • 15 minutes at the end of the workday. 

 
What makes it fun? 
I love to connect with other authors I know. I also enjoy reading humorous posts. 

 Let me know what you love–or hate–about building a virtual presence.  Have any tricks and tips for us? I’d love to hear from you. 

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and keep writing on! 

 

Building an author platform? These three concepts will help you maximize your efforts.

Building an author platform? These three concepts will help you maximize your efforts.

This Saturday, August 14, 2021, I’ll present a breakout session titled “Creating a Bird’s-Eye View of Your Book” at the HippoCamp Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As a  four-time HippoCamper, I’m a huge fan of this event. 

The conference was supposed to be a jubilant homecoming celebration filled with hugs—oh the hugs!—meet-and-greets, and long talks over meals where writers can network. Sadly, the Delta variant has put the kibosh on the touchy-feely aspects of our weekend meeting. 

I’ll arrive vaxed, masked, and armed with hand sanitizer and the results of my first-ever COVID test. 

While I’ll certainly do some socially distanced mingling, it won’t be the same. Our world has changed. This affects not just our gatherings, but how we build our author platforms. 

Last week, I defined author platform

But how do you know if you have one? 

If you’ve told one person you’re a writer, you have an author platform. It’s that simple. 

 The two questions you need to ask yourself are how big do you want it to be, and how would you like to grow it? 

So far, I’ve received some excellent questions from our writing community. 

Over the next two months, my goal is to help you:  

  • understand what a vibrant platform entails, 
  • discover your values, interests, and the skills you can employ,
  • and find out-of-the-box ways to grow yours with the fewest internal grumbles.  

Let’s begin by shedding a few platform myths that might be holding you back. 

Myth One: A big publisher will market my book. All I need to do is write my masterpiece. 

Truth: Unless you’re the darling of your publishing house or a big client who’s a proven seller, it’s likely you’re going to spend a significant portion of your time (and maybe some money) to market your stories. And you have a vested interest in doing this. Poor sales for your first book can make it harder to sell a second one.  

Myth Two: Platforms are just for creative nonfiction writers.

Truth: While the size of your platform matters most for creative nonfiction writers, authors from all genres need to understand how they’re going to reach their readers. For example, I know a very talented poet who published her chapbook through a small press. In order for her book to qualify for a print run, she had to obtain 50 pre-orders. How do you get preorders? Platform. 

Myth Three: I don’t need a virtual presence to be successful.

Truth: While there are many ways to build a vibrant offline platform, you’ll still need a virtual presence. I’ll share more about what’s essential in a future post. 

Myth Four: To build my virtual presence, I need to be online all the time.

Truth: You’ll need to find consistent ways to nurture your online presence, but platform success doesn’t require you to become an Internet superstar or set up a webcam in your home. 

Myth Five: If I self-publish, I don’t need a platform.

Truth: The difference between a self-published book and a traditionally published book is who’s taking on the risk. If you’re the one financing the deal—engaging editors, hiring cover artists, paying for print runs, covering all the marketing costs—it’s in your best interest to have a sound platform and marketing plan. Failure to do so can lead to disappointing sales numbers—like less than 100 sales across the lifetime of your book. 

Now that we’ve gotten the myths out of the way, let’s talk about a few key concepts you need to consider. 

Authenticity

The number one platform killer is fear. We fear we have nothing to say or that no one will listen. While it’s possible to overshare or make mistakes that require course corrections, most platforms are built through trial and error as we build our courage and learn to become our authentic platform selves. 

To do this we must capitalize on our interests, talents, and skills. 

At the end of last week’s newsletter, I suggested you answer a few questions. Click here if you forgot to fill them out. Once you’re done, it’s time to move on to the next concept. 

Effort

Effective platforms are built on sustained effort. That means the creator frequently hangs out in spaces where readers can find them—whether that’s attending the readings of the poets in your area, speaking at conferences and teaching webinars, or belonging to specific social media groups.

As a platform builder with limited time and competing priorities, you want to focus on platform-building activities that align with your passions, skills, and talents so you can have fun as you build authentic relationships with potential readers. Once you know what those activities are, categorize them by effort and potential reach. While it’s likely you’ll need to engage in occasional high-effort activities, balance them with tasks that require less energy. 

Here’s a chart that illustrates my point. 

  High Effort Low Effort  
High Reach  Delivering a webinar to 250 people Writing a successful Instagram story with 3% engagement
Low Reach  Delivering an out-of-town reading for 5 people Writing a tweet no one reads

Classes, presentations, and speaking engagements can demonstrate you’re a subject-matter expert and trusted member of the community. While they’re certainly worth the investment, they frequently require large time commitments. Most instructors complete 3 – 5 hours of prep for every hour they teach. The typical prep for a webinar or conference breakout session is 10 – 15 hours, though 20 – 25 hours is not uncommon. And that doesn’t account for travel time or potential days away from the office. 

Scale 

For some people, the confessional nature of social media is a major turnoff.

Here are some things people have said to me:

“I hate taking selfies.”

“I don’t want to share what I had for dinner or create videos filmed from my bed, just so someone will read my damn book”

“But it’s easier to connect with real people. Online, I’ve got nothing to say.” 

I hear you. I get it. And I promise you don’t have to share your dinner with the world. 

But, you do need to recognize that the world has changed.The in-person events we once relied on aren’t guaranteed to expand your reach. Plus, even if you’re more comfortable with building in-person connections, think about how you search for information.

Whether it’s real estate or a book recommendation, it’s likely you’re Googling it. 

The effort required to reach an offline audience is one of the reasons successful platform builders try to scale their reach as quickly as possible. It’s why many speakers opt for high-capacity webinars and keynotes over small classes with a workshop component. 

It’s also the reason why so many people choose to build their platforms online. 

In a virtual world, COVID is less likely to cause problems. And if an event gets canceled, you might feel disappointed, but you won’t fret over whether your airfare and hotel will be reimbursed.

IRL, fire marshals can post building limits, but on the Internet, the capacity is endless.  

While it can feel scary to post your first tweet or Instagram story, the effort required is relatively low and so are the stakes. You can try on several identities and voices to see what works best. If something isn’t effective, you can drop it.

Next week, we’ll take a closer look at the types of platforms you can build and how you can use them to your advantage.

In the meantime, do you have a burning platform question? It’s likely others have it too. Send me an email so I can add it to my list. 

While you consider your platform, keep writing on. 

 

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