Sometimes I cringe when I hear the term “author platform.” 

Feelings I associate with it include: 

  • Stress
  • Obligation
  • Fatigue
  • Overwhelm

Those feelings typically arise when I think about my social media accounts, or to be precise, when I neglect my social media accounts, which I confess has recently happened. 

If you’re now thinking but don’t you coach writers on this topic? Shouldn’t this be something you’ve mastered??

Why yes, I do coach writers on this topic. 

And I’ll tell you what I tell them. 

Author platforms are continual works in process. They’re created and managed by human beings with complex lives and competing priorities. While some people are lucky enough to hire assistants or publicists to help with their online accounts, most of us do the grunt work ourselves. 

As a platform builder, I frequently make calculated decisions about my writing life. 

I have to balance writing and doing the work that gets my writing noticed. 

Sometimes I get behind on paid work and need to trim things down to meet client deadlines. 

I must choose between spending time with friends and family in real life (IRL) or sharing tidbits with my online peeps. 

And for me, vacations need to be vacations from technology and not opportunities to Instagram—or at least they do according to my values. 

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about social media. 

It’s a great way to network, promote your work, and connect, but it can also become a massive comparison-laden time suck that can lead to anxiety, depression, and low motivation.

That can lead to a few hours on the couch, crying “Why me??” while the pint of Ben and Jerry’s you’re holding melts. 

Still, many writers feel like their social media accounts are where they cultivate their brand. But an author platform encompasses so much more than clever online posts. While my social media accounts currently feel a little like overgrown lawns, I’ve spent the summer teaching classes, presenting at conferences, meeting with clients, and drafting essays. All of these things are part of my author platform. 

Because I know I’m not the only one who groans at the thought of self-promotion, I want to talk about how you can improve your platform—even if you’re ambivalent about social media. 

Let’s start with a definition. 

An author platform includes all the ways you can reach readers—from your author website and social media accounts to articles, essays, and stories you publish, as well as anything else that gives you an opportunity to say, “Hey world, I’ve got this cool thing you can read. Come check it out.”

This could include classes you teach, presentations you deliver, or associations you’re affiliated with. And let’s not forget your email newsletter. 

All authors, no matter their genre, need an author platform; however, for nonfiction writers, the size of your platform can affect your chances of getting a book published. 

A great author platform is broad in scope and leverages your strengths. When done well, it’s not a time suck or a burden. In fact, it should be fun to work on, and it should help you authentically engage with other people.

Throughout the month of August, we’re going to look at the types of platforms you can build, the importance of authentic engagement, and the role IRL networking plays in building your platform. 

Before we begin this adventure, I’d like you to answer a few questions: 

  • What are you passionate about? 
  • What’s your preferred way of connecting with other people? 
  • How much time can you devote to your writing life? 
  • How do you want to spend it?
  • What’s your current definition of author platform? 
  • What parts do you excel at?
  • What parts make you cringe? 
  • What questions do you have about this topic?

If you’re intimidated by this topic, pay close attention to this month’s newsletter series. And, send me your questions so I can try to answer them in my upcoming posts. 

My hope is that by the end of the month, you’ll recognize all the ways you’re already building a platform, and then you’ll engage more authentically with it. 

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