The Mystery of Building an Author’s Platform

Photo courtesy of Peter Griffin

This topic has been hot lately, or maybe I’m just noticing it more because of the status of my own book coming out. I’ve spoken before on how being “just” a writer is not enough anymore, if it ever was at any point. Even with a lucrative and traditional publishing contract, these days the bulk of marketing and promoting your book is on YOU. This can seem very intimidating to new and established writers, and in point of fact, it’s a monumental job.

It’s not enough to post now and then to the popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter once your book is out there. It’s not enough to blog, even if you’re really good at updating regularly. It’s not enough to visit other relevant blogs and commenting appropriately. You may be asking yourself — then what the hell is ENOUGH? Not to mention, how do you fit all this extra activity into an already busy day AND find the time to write and keep up with your fiction habit?

Good questions. I’m sure not going to pretend to have all the answers, because I don’t. I’m just like you. I am struggling with juggling a full-time freelance career with trying to get the word out on a collection of flash fiction with trying to finish my first novel with trying to build an author’s platform with maintaining important relationships with doing the dishes that insist on piling up in the sink. And I don’t even have a family at home that demands huge chunks of my time.

So, let’s address this question of exactly what is an author’s platform, anyway? And how do I get me one of those? All I can offer is opinions and observations from my own experience. Your mileage may vary, because after all, just like the one-size-fits-all approach to writing, some things may work for you and some may not. And to be perfectly honest, if I have any kind of an author’s platform it has been completely by accident. I have been online since late 1997, long before I started writing seriously and long before I had an inkling such a thing would be necessary to my writing career. At the time, I didn’t even HAVE a writing career.

From where I sit, establishing an author’s platform needs to start way, way before you even finish your novel or collection or ebook. It’s been said a thousand times in a thousand different places, but utilizing social media is all about building sincere relationships. That does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of effort. And frankly, if I have to tell you how to build a relationship, I’m really worried about you. It’s all about giving with no thought of reciprocation; reaching out and becoming involved with people and what’s important to them because it’s important to you; to be there for others in any way you can. I don’t mean you become St. Theresa or sacrifice your entire life, but if you can do something for someone else, do it. It may not be returned in kind, and be prepared – it most likely will not, but you’re still building good karma.

Some of my best friends and staunchest supporters I have met through social media sites. But it has taken months, even years, and these are sincere and solid relationships from which I have received a myriad of blessings, just like in “real life” friendships.

Does it sell books? That’s a secondary consideration for me, because I love people and I love helping people. The things I’ve done to assist others has been done from a strictly personal space. If that eventually pays off, it’s another blessing but certainly not the primary one.

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Another thing I’ve observed is people really respond to personal honesty. I’ve blogged here about some of the obstacles I’ve faced, I’ve blatted and whined and cried and laughed and ranted and raved. For some crazy reason, people really respond to that. I actually blogged at a different site for over six years, almost daily, through some of the most difficult moments in my life. That blog was raw and bleeding, but it backfired and I learned I may have shared a little too much. This blog has become a sort of compromise, but everything I blog about is honest. I don’t set myself up as some kind of know-it-all, because I sure don’t. I just tell it like it is.

The point is (yes, I eventually get to a point, but you know writers. They have to puke up a lot of words because that’s what they do) no matter what you’re blogging about, come from a place of honesty and include your personality. Sure, people may come to you for information, but deep down they really want to know the person behind the curtain. They know you can’t possibly pee rainbows and poop kittens all the time, and most are very supportive during the times you might be struggling. They can relate. That’s part of building a relationship. You can attract all the followers you want by following an x+y=z formula, but if you don’t offer something above and beyond, you won’t keep them and they won’t give a rat’s ass about your newest project. Involve them. Share with them what you’re going through. Invest in them.

The mystery of the author’s platform is — well, there is no mystery. As Barney says, “Sharing is caring.” That’s a road that goes both ways.

Pre-orders of “Not Nice and Other Understatements – A Journal of Flash Fiction” are still open for autographed copies.

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11 thoughts on “The Mystery of Building an Author’s Platform

  1. Your honesty and transparency is most definitely one of the reasons why you’re so LOVED.

    You make those hardest to swallow, when reality BITES moments easier to get down with your wit, style, panache and “je nu se qua” perspective.

    You celebrate life openly, you’re also (mostly) as open when you grieve.

    We, your adoring public encourage you to stay the path and walk out your purpose. Nothing brings more joy. You’ve found what you love, now make your difference TO the world.

    Luvya Nettz,

    ~J

    • Wow. I don’t even know how to respond to this. I know I couldn’t have gotten this far in my writing endeavors without the support and generosity of many, many people. I just try to pay that back by paying it forward.

      As for transparency — sheeeit. I never got the hang of holding back. It’s been balls out or nothing my whole life. Which you know better than most.

      Luvya right back. :)

  2. I’m fascinated how other writers go about this process. If looked at from a ‘work’ perspective it can be daunting. But, like you (and myself) if you see it as a chance to build relationships and a solid core of people you really like and want to communicate with on a daily basis, your likelyhood of getting readers from that group is much greater.

    And yes, as soon as you have something to say, SAY IT! Don’t wait until you are sold then panic because you don’t have a ‘platform’–YIKES! Being a writer is about writing whether you are published or not, self-published or just like to share your creativity with the Web. It takes commitment, devotion and time, not to metion loving what you do to make this work–even the best writers can toil away in obscurity if they aren’t being heard.

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head, Patti. Blogging is a great way to start, but if you don’t care about people then why should they care about you? Today’s internet people are very savvy, and they can sniff out a fake quicker than a dog can sniff out a treat hidden in the couch cushions. It’s counter-productive and you don’t fool anyone.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for pushing me on the fan page thing. I’m blaming you. Heh!

  3. Such a great post. I agree with everything you’ve touched upon (especially those dreaded dishes piling in the sink).

    The fact is, money follows passion, and not the other way around (as mentioned in David Siteman Garland’s latest book, Smarter, Faster, Cheaper), and I have always loved this way of thinking, and am thrilled it has come to the forefront of marketing (finally!).

    Personal relationships are what are most important to me, as I want to enjoy the journey of becoming a full-time writer. I don’t want the focus to be on getting there, I want the focus to be on how I get there, so that I can help others along the way. In my opinion, what else is there?

    I have always found marketing to be a head-scratcher– so many cookie cutter options to choose from, and no way to measure their impact. The all business/no personal platform of yesterday always made me think to myself, “There has to be more to it than this.”

    Looking forward to following your blog. :)

    • Thanks, Krissy, it’s good to have you stalking — I mean, following! 😉

      It’s corny and might sound trite, but in my opinion you are totally correct. It’s about the journey, not the destination. I agree 100% that there has to be more than a formulaic approach. In the long run, it just doesn’t work.

  4. haha Oh it’s my pleasure– your blog is wonderful! :)

    Everyone reaches their goals in a different way, but similar elements are always in place– persistence, consistency, passion, and definitely accountability when you’re looking to connect with others throughout the process.

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