Why does that matter to you? Because all writers—published and not-yet-published—need to establish and build their platforms.
I’ll be honest: platform building isn’t my favorite part of being a writer. Instead of creating stories or editing my manuscripts, I’m writing blog posts or trying to decide whether or not to share a sarcastic meme on Facebook. But it doesn’t stop there. Social media is about being social, so I can’t just post and share things. I keep checking in to respond to and interact with people who interact with me.
If platform building is so time consuming, why do we do it?
- It builds relationships. My husband loves hiking and camping. I didn’t grow up doing anything like that, so it’s not how I would choose to spend my weekend. I’ll go camping with him though because we have a relationship. The things that are important to him are important to me. Something similar happens when an author establishes a relationship with readers: they’re willing to read something different or go to unfamiliar events because of the relationship you’ve developed.
- It keeps you connected. When I lived next to my friend and her kids, I bought the kids Christmas presents every year without having to think about it: I saw them weekly, so I knew exactly what they liked. Now that they live thirty minutes away, however, I have to call their mom to ask what the kids are interested in. I just don’t know them like I used to. The same thing happens with your platform. The more you interact with your readers, the better you’ll know them so you won’t have to ask what they like about your stories or what they want to see next. You’ll know because you’re connected.
- It keeps you visible. If you can write and edit quickly, you might publish 1-2 novels per year. That’s up to twelve months between releases, which leaves a lot of time for your readers to forget about you and find new favorite authors. If you have an active platform, however, your readers will always know how to find you.
- It identifies your buying audience. Before a publisher agrees to publish a book, they want to know how they’re going to sell the book. One place they look is the writer’s platform. How many followers/fans does the writer have? Has the writer even started developing a platform? No one expects an unpublished writer to have hundreds of thousands of fans, but at least having an Facebook account shows the publisher that you’re connecting with and learning how to interact with your audience, and that’s what will help you sell books.
All of that makes sense for published authors, but what about unpublished writers? Why do you need to have a platform if you don’t have any audience?
Because some day you’ll have an audience and you’ll want them to be able to find you. You can’t wait until your book releases because you’ll need to start marketing before then. You’ll want to announce your book contract and share your book cover art when it’s designed—all of that information helps generate buzz and interest in your project, but you can’t do that if you don’t have a platform from which to do it!
That means building your platform now. Here are the three most basic principles to remember as you’re starting this process:
- Stick with the platforms you already use. If you don’t like Twitter and have never used it, don’t force yourself to use it for your author platform. Instead, use what you’re already using—if you have an Instagram account, set up one for your writing persona.
- Go to your audience. If you’re writing for young adults, check out Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram. If you’re writing for senior women, try Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re not sure where to find your audience, search for the most popular social media platforms for that age/gender. (Pew Research studies this type of information and releases their data to the public.)
- Be active. Don’t just create a Facebook page. Post to it. Like other people’s pages. Comment on other people’s posts. Share their posts. Comment. Get involved. It’s called social media, so be social!
You can start building your platform at any time, but start it before you submit to agents and publishers. That will show them that you understand the necessity of platform and that you’re already working on it.
Speaking of agents, stop back again in two weeks to look more in depth at the role of the literary agent in your novel-writing journey.
Until then, what questions do you have on platform? Where do you need the most help or encouragement?
My debut novel—Summer Plans and Other Disasters—is now available on Amazon! Sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the unpublished prologue: find out what inspired Calista Stephens to make those summer plans. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for writing tips, updates on Guiding Light, and more!