The theory behind having a writer platform is that it allows you, as an author, to present yourself in a cohesive way to your readers. You’re the scientist who pens science fiction. You’re the musician who wrote a story about a group of bards. You’re the indie author who also doles out writing advice. Then, you take this high-level concept and market yourself in a number of online and offline ways.
In the past, platforms were engineered by marketers for individuals as part of an overall marketing strategy. Now, self-developed platforms are often touted as a “requirement” before an agent or publisher will even consider your work — which isn’t necessarily true! Yes, it helps if you’re internet-savvy, but you don’t have to be internet famous to get a book deal. You still need to write, polish, and revise a great story. Without that? You don’t have a firm foundation to base a platform on.
What a writer platform should do
Platforms can increase the visibility or brand of an individual in a real and tangible way. If you decide to use this marketing tactic, remember that your platform is to promote your work. Just getting people to peruse your blog is not enough to convert them into readers. That’s where the disconnect often comes into play. If you are not actively marketing your stories, then you are merely trying to get more people to pay attention to you — not your books.
Popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to book sales and, more importantly, touting topics unrelated to your stories creates a separate audience that doesn’t necessarily overlap. There is a market for writing and publishing advice. That does not mean those readers will pick up an author’s stories, too!
Writer Platform for new authors?
This is part of the reason why writer platforms are a terrible idea for new authors. You can promote a person all you want, but if you have no work for readers to check out, no stories for people to buy? Then a platform will create a celebrity — not an author representing their work.
When you’re just starting out, writer platforms are a huge distraction because you’re learning how to write and you’re not ready to put your work out there yet. This isn’t a bad or an awful thing. This is normal. Platforms weren’t even an option ten, twenty years ago for authors learning the craft. The internet has made building a platform seem like it’s the easiest thing in the world, but even then it takes time for your audience to grow. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on the work and easing into a platform gradually.
In many ways, the writer platform is the snake that eats its own tail. The work has to come first, but the author is a part of that work, but it’s the work that readers will buy. It’s the work that keeps putting food on an author’s table and the more an author writes and publishes, the more readers they’ll attract.
Checking your writer platform
If you have a writer platform, I strongly encourage you to inspect it. Take a look at what you’ve been doing for your books versus what activities you’ve done for yourself. Scrutinize the actions that overlap and assess what you were comfortable with. Focus on the things that highlight your work and the process: book signings, excerpts, interviews, etc.
Once you have those core activities in place, then toss in the personal details you want to share. The minute your platform interferes with your work or feels like an obligation, then pull back and re-assess what value it has to you. Use tools to measure effectiveness (web analytics, book sales, etc.) and don’t be afraid to drop or add items that work best for you and your readers. Take notes and write down what you’ve done, how it worked out for you, and why it didn’t.
After all, marketing isn’t just about building awareness, it’s a science that includes many different formulas. It’ll take some amount of experimentation to incorporate your books into a strong platform. Regardless, I would encourage you to build a platform based on what you want to get out of it, rather than what you think you should. If becoming internet famous is your goal, then may Shakespeare be with you. However, if you’re worried about getting more visibility for your books? Then start with your stories and worry less about how popular you are or aren’t.
Monica Valentinelli is an author and game designer who lives in the dark. Her hobbies include: tormenting her cats, designing jewelry, and hiking in the woods. In addition to her genre work, Monica has a professional background in online marketing with a strong emphasis on copywriting, web analytics, social media and search engine optimization. Find her online at: www.mlvwrites.com.