Who Needs a Platform?

platformI was talking with a friend about a new consulting firm being built by a small group of professionals. I learned that, in creating their business model, they made a decision: a prerequisite to being a partner in the firm is that each individual must be building and maintaining a solid platform. The method is up to the individual: writing books and/or blogs, speaking to large groups, interacting with the public via social media or traditional media.

It’s an acknowledgment that each primary member of the firm has the responsibility to:

1. Personally be proactive in reaching out to people who might potentially become their clients; and

2. Personally take part in increasing the company’s public visibility and reputation.

Isn’t this the job of somebody in the marketing department? Don’t businesses hire advertising agencies and PR firms for this sort of thing?

Yes, and yes.

But this start-up business is intelligently recognizing that marketing and PR can no longer be left to “someone else.” Sure, someone else might be hired to do their part. But it starts with the people to whom the business is most important: the owners and originators of the company.

As a writer, you are the owner and originator of your company. When we ask writers to have a platform, and we talk about your responsibility in helping to reach your target audience, we are not asking anything of you that’s not also being asked of people in many kinds of business these days.

Yes, your publisher bears responsibility for marketing and for finding an audience for the books they publish. They need to do their part, and you need to do yours.

I know it seems like a lot to ask. Frankly, it’s overwhelming for most people. Speaking as a business person responsible for maintaining my own platform, I can relate to how hard it is! But this is the way of the world right now. I shared this anecdote about my friend’s company in hopes that it would give you some perspective.

Yes, a lot is being asked of you. But you’re not alone. It’s not just some unfair requirement made up by publishers. People in all kinds of other businesses are facing the same kinds of expectations.

Who needs a platform? Almost everyone, these days.

Does it help to put it in this perspective? What are your thoughts on platform building?

 

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  • http://www.jamesscottbell.com James Scott Bell

    The good news now is that fiction writers finally have a platform-building program that makes sense: self-publishing. That’s because it makes actual readers. And that’s why trad publishers are all over their A list to write novellas and short stories prior to a major release. They know this is what a fiction platform building is all about.

    So don’t pressure new fiction writers to be doing all those things that were fashionable in 2007. Especially starting a blog, which is the biggest time suck for the smallest return known to man.

    Encourage them to work at their craft and publish.

    • http://www.jlmbewe.com J.L. Mbewe

      Wow. This is something to think about, and seems to make a lot of sense in regards to James Scott Bell’s response. A lot more sense then a blog for me to reach my readers. But doing the blog thing has helped me to grow and develop other writerly habits, but perhaps this puts things into a better focus. Thanks!

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      Very enlightening post, James.

    • Ashley Wilde

      I agree that blogs seem to be a huge time eater. I have not bothered with one, since my novel is still a WIP. I see other unpublished authors putting up blogs, and mostly promoting to other writers. How many other writers are going to buy your book when it comes out? Blog after blog promotes a book or a friend’s book to–you guessed it–other authors. Isn’t that a little bit like egg farmers trying to sell eggs to other egg farmers? The point is to reach readers, isn’t it? I’m just sayin’…

      • http://susereads.wordpress.com sue berg

        some do actually aim their blogs at their readers. one, whose blog I haven’t visited in a long time because the computer with the bookmark to her blog croaked, used to tell about her current WIP in progress and post part of if for reader feedback. a great way ti entice readership of both blog and finished book …

        but i agree — it seems almost foolish to spend time creating a blog all about how to be a writer, aimed at writers, especially if you are writing a novel and not books about how to write novels … and even worse, if you haven’t yet published a novel …

        just saying … so I agree that having a blog just because someone says you “need” one … well … it seems like a waste of time. But maybe I am wrong …

        I honestly don’t feel confident to tell other writers how to be a writer, from a writer’s perspective. But, I am a reader and a picky one at that …

        • http://lauralibricz.blogspot.com Laura Libricz

          Instead of blogging about writing, why not blog about subjects that you are passionate about? I’ve been blogging for a year now, have just independently self-published my first historical novel and although blogging is a ‘time-suck,’ I get hits from all over the world when someone googles a certain subject that I have blogged about. And right in the margin is the link to download my book. Blogging helps me free my mind from subjects that are irrelevant to my books. It also gives me a chance to post articles, short stories and poems that are in different genres. And writing short articles, 300-1000 words, is a great exercise in keeping my writing tight.

          • http://susereads.wordpress.com sue berg

            yep! great idea. :-)

            I do blog about just about anything except the novel — when I do take the time to post. I haven’t focused enough, though, to encourage anyone to make repeated trips back … it’s hard to do, since I have far too many interests to focus better. I’m working on it, though …

            I think I still have the year 2000 attitude toward blogging — basically it is an online journal of random thoughts and if anyone wants to peek into them, fine, if not, well, it’s been put into words and now it “lives” as electronic pulses somewhere “out there.”

            Personally, I visit blogs and FB so infrequently — they take so much time to keep up with. I want the traditional printed magazine in my hands that I can take with me, fold over a corner, scribble a note in the margin —
            Oh, yes, technology is letting us take the Net with us everywhere and is getting lighter and lighter to carry but it just is not the same …

            oh well … I’m a semi-Ludite, I think … **sigh**
            I enjoy the technology to do the things i want it to do but beyond that … **shrugs** **sighs**

            [and my brain is sort of asleep because I am not sure there is any logic behind anything I’ve typed here — sorry]

    • http://veronicasicoe.com/blog Vero

      I agree with James Scott Bell on this one.

      The best way for a fiction writer to advertise for himself is by writing good fiction not by behaving like a telemarketer or salesman, or wasting his time with all sorts of channels and activities that say nothing of his storytelling abilities — which are his capital — but about how well he can sell something, which is a different type of ability altogether.

      I am weary of the constant demand that a writer should try and sell his own books even if he’s published by someone else. All that results in is “Me! Me! Look at me! Buy my book! Me! Me! Me!” and that is not conducive to increased sales. There’s a reason why it has more credibility and generates less annoyance if someone other than the writer blows the marketing horn, while the writer writes fiction and convinces through storytelling skills.

      • http://susereads.wordpress.com sue berg

        maybe I have the wrong idea — I truly agree about the “selling” and telemarketer feel of so many writer’s blogs and FB posts and Twitter Tweets.

        I really have a hard time with any kind of “selling” … no, that isn’t true. I can “talk up” a product or company that I believe it but usually only if I do not benefit in any way if the person I am talking to takes my advice.

        But — I guess, I am probably wrong in our approach to our story blog —
        it is supposed to be used for short stories associated with the town our novel takes place in. some stories may actually realate to the novel and, hopefully, most will not (so we are not locked in to taking the novel a certain direction it does not want to go). We started the blog because there are already people who keep asking when the novel will be out for them to read. The short story blog was for them — not really meant to draw in new people. If, in the end, it does .. great but for now, just to “service” those who are already interested.

        Is that a wrong attitude? Should we be aiming more for new people instead of the ones we are pretty sure of already?

    • http://susereads.wordpress.com sue berg

      so, that is why my co-conspirator (co-writer) and I started a blog just for short stories based in the town where our novel occurs. some stories may relate to the novel but the intention is to make most of them just about other events “in town” … we were doing well for a short time, adding to the stories but then … the plot of the novel took an unexpected turn and that slowed down producing “other” material until we get the new kinks worked out …

      • http://tnealtarver.com TNeal

        Good thoughts to consider as I work on a web page designed around my debut novel.

      • Ashley Wilde

        I was thinking sample chapters and some short stories (related or not) on a reader’s blog would be a great idea too. Related content I was considering: some photographs about some of the places where my story takes place, that might be featured in a book trailer. Perhaps some background on the locations, though not so much as to make it look like a page from the Visitors Bureau! Some of my friends write amusing content about the “writing life,” but if I was a reader interested in the novel, I think I’d quickly lose interest. I like writing, and also tutor children. I don’t think my fiction readers want to hear about what I have to say about interventions for learning disabilities, even though I’m rather enthusiastic about it. So, writing about odd subjects I’m passionate about isn’t going to work for me.

        • http://susereads.wordpress.com sue berg

          I like those ideas … :-)
          photos and location background would be interesting. Even stories of the “writing life” can be fun — a lot of readers really do want to know about the writers too. and — well — info on learning disabilities — there are a coupld of ways to handle that —
          * another blog not 100% about that but primarily about it
          * OR I used to visit a blog of a woman who rubber stamps and she shared info about autism because her son was diagnosed — not overly often but enough to let the blog followers how things were progressing — so you could actually include info about learning disabilities, especially if you can relate it to reading …
          it’s a matter of balance. you’d be surprised what blog readers find acceptable — especially once they feel like they are getting to know YOU and your story and your location …
          Like i’ve commented a few times in the past — those FB pages I enjoy most are the ones that are building relationships between the writer and the followers and then among the followers. It is, unfortunately, one of those cases of “I don’t know much about art but I know what I like” — I know what i like, but not real sure how to duplicate those results … **sigh**

          • Ashley Wilde

            My novel isn’t about learning disabilities, and I can’t imagine why I would blog about dyslexia unless I frame it as a sort of communitity service project on a future author site I might have.

    • http://makingbabygrand.com Dina Santorelli

      Excellent advice! Although I do love blogging, it’s important not to let it keep you from working on your fiction. And reading! Must read! Is there any time left for sleeping? :)

    • http://tnealtarver.com TNeal

      That’s helpful to know. I think the rise of eBooks makes it possible to expose readers to a format that’s easily accessible and involves little commitment in time or cost.

      Of course knowing and doing are two different things. So now I better get back to writing my next blog.

    • http://annalabno.com Anna Labno

      Thank you, James! I might consider submitting small articles to the press. I can write short stories well. I’m trying my hand at writing the whole novel. I don’t have time to do all. I can’t. I hold another job and have small children at home. One person can do only so much. Also there are agents who know writers are so different. They work with writers to help them throughout. If the agent asks you to do it all, I agree self publishing is the answer.

      It was great meeting you at your seminar.

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      Encourage them to work at their craft and publish. Refreshing words to hear. Thank you. Publish can take many forms; electronic, blog, print on demand, to name a few.

    • http://www.marcusbrotherton.com Marcus Brotherton

      James … and Rachelle … I’d love to see a fuller guest post from James Scott Bell on this idea he raised.

    • http://www.deankmiller.com Dean K Miller

      thanks, Mr. Bell, for the statement which supports my own feelings/experience. Not that I’ll be self-pubbing right away, but I see the sense of short storys, etc. as an effective tool to building a platform.

      It’s got to be done. Just finding the most efficient and effective way is the trick.

    • http://www.meghancarver.blogspot.com Meghan Carver

      It seems logical to reach readers with short stories and novellas, but I’ve also read that self-publishing can be death for a writer who wants to be traditionally published, especially if the self-published story tanked. So I’m confused. I love the idea of publishing for free to get readers interested, but what if it gets lost in all the other self-published works and doesn’t get noticed? What will agents and traditional publishers think of my full-length novel proposal then?

      • http://www.jamesscottbell.com James Scott Bell

        Whoever says self-publishing is “death for a writer” was right in 2002. And is wrong now. A self-publishing stream, done with quality and consistency, is better than anything else a writer with designs on the traditional world can do. The forward-thinking publishers (and they are hiring forward-thinking people now) recognize this. If you have a proposal that kills, the competent team at a publishing house is not going to look askance at your self-publishing record. They’ll see a writer serious about the business, and start talking turkey.

        • http://www.meghancarver.blogspot.com Meghan Carver

          Thank you, Mr. Bell!

  • http://richardgibsonwriter.blogspot.com/ Richard Gibson

    Whether it is as a writer, a consultant, whether as a one-person business of whatever type or an employee within any company short of drudgery, you need a platform (or platforms). It might be internal or external, it might be something other than the kinds of platforms we talk about with writers, but you need it.

    I’ve pretty much operated on that premise (long before knowing what ‘platform’ meant in this context) within companies, with partners, and for myself since about 1976, more or less, and mostly not regarding writing. So I don’t really expect much marketing or other services from publishers – and therefore when they do something, it is all the more pleasant to get it.

  • http://cherylbarker.blogspot.com/ Cheryl Barker

    Rachelle, thanks for sharing this info. Interesting to hear that others in the business world are being challenged to build their platforms, too.

  • http://terripatrick.wordpress.com/ terri patrick

    Rachelle, I agree with what you have posted but would like to nit-pick the word choice of platform being used interchangeably with media tools.

    Your example is these business professionals are to be actively promoting their consulting expertise in combination with company directive. In other words, none of them are allowed to sit in a cubicle but must be interactive with their clients.

    Books, blogs, tweets, and speaking engagements are the media tools to use to build their platform. Michael Hyatt is a great example because it took him a while to realize his platform was “Leadership” and then all his efforts with media tools funneled into a cohesive message and business.

    Your platform is, “partnering with authors to bring worthwhile books to publication.” That’s the foundation of your career, and passion. The tools you use are blogs, workshops, networking with publishing professionals and writers. Your platform is solid.

    For novelists, their primary platform is writer of stories. Their platform is branded by the genre of their fiction. Novelists can build a platform on a primary theme that runs through their stories – like Paty Jager with her Western Romance and Mystery platform as a storyteller.

    What novelists need to create and build is their Author Persona, and that can be used to interact through online media tools with readers, and build an audience. A novelist is required to entertain an audience, and connect with readers. Readers who read the authors books as a way to escape from everyone standing around on platforms.

    The Author Persona “has the responsibility to:

    1. Personally be proactive in reaching out to people who might potentially become their clients (READERS); and

    2. Personally take part in increasing the company’s (AUTHOR AND PUBLISHER) public visibility and reputation.”

    To sum up – fact and fiction are unique. Professional consultants deal with facts and offer services.
    Novelists create an experience a reader chooses to escape from the facts and engage the emotions.

    Nonfiction builds a platform.
    Fiction blooms with a persona.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      I like your breakdown of platform and persona. It helped me put some things into perspective.

    • Jeanne

      Terri, you helped clarify some of the questions floating around in my head. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      To build an author persona – some kind of credibility. I will think on that. How else does one build this apart from media?

    • http://www.amywrites.net Amy Morgan

      This perspective adn clarificatin has been extremely helpful. All the push of a platform makes me feel I will never be up to the challenge, however building an author persona – that I feel I can do.

  • Paul Martin

    I’m relatively new to the writing community. I first encountered blogs in business and technology. There is a computer scientist named Tim Bray who announced on his blog that he was looking for a new job. Within a couple of months, he had multiple offers. I suspect that Tim had spent some time doing other things to pursue opportunities, but the blog certainly helped.

    A platform is more than a blog, and can be built in many ways. Certainly a track record of accomplishments can help. I am sold on the idea. I could use some more advice on how to go about it.

  • http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    For a novelist, the most important bit of platform-building is really “platform identification”.

    I’m finding that it’s harder than it seems. Even identifying a unifying theme in my books (both published and not) has been a challenge…packaging that theme in such a way that it’ll be attractive, yet not exclusive, is even more difficult.

    I’m using my blog as the trial venue for this, and after a couple of months a pattern – and a platform – seem to be developing. To say that it was a planned process would be to claim more credit that is due – it has been largely organic.

    Part of that organic ‘growth’ has been trying to write at least five posts per week. I figure that if I can’t think of five new things to say out of every seven days, the platform’s probably not viable.

    So…what’s my platform called?

    No idea. Haven’t gotten there yet.

  • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

    After reading Michael Hyatt’s book “Platform,” I have a deeper appreciation for creating a product with “wow” in mind. James Scott Bell made a good point about what is necessary to build a platform today. Terri refers to it as “author persona.” If I understand correctly, I’d be better off self publishing some free Kindle short stories than working on a blog. Then I could promote those short stories on Twitter to develop name recognition. Moreover, it appears to be better to work on magazine submissions than continue querying with a blank resume. This is how I interpreted James’ post, at least. It seems both reasonable and doable.

    • http://susereads.wordpress.com sue berg

      good idea. Free or even 99 cent stories through Kindle, Nook AND other eReaders …

    • http://annbracken.weebly.com Ann Bracken

      I really like how you interpreted what Mr. Bell wrote. This seems more like something I can handle.

  • http://www.gabrielle-meyer.blogspot.com Gabrielle Meyer

    I look at building my platform as a two-fold mission. One is to attract potential readers and influencers when my books are published and two, I’m building relationships with other writers who will not only encourage and teach me as I pursue my dream, but also help me to achieve it. You’ve said it before, Rachelle, in this business it’s not only what you write, but who you know – and building a platform enables you to get to know a lot of people you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to interact with.

    Building a platform is hard. Period. But it’s part of the job, whether we like it or not. It shouldn’t dominate our time, but it should be a priority. Thankfully, the reward of meaningful relationships is worth the effort.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      See comment below. Woops!

    • http://www.jlmbewe.com J.L. Mbewe

      For the record, I’ve been meaning to tell you this, I think you do an excellent job on your blog. :-)

  • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

    Relationships really are a key to success. They say if you don’t know anyone, then no one knows you. I’m thankful for those I’ve come to know.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      Oh wow, this was suppose to be a response to Gabrielle. I can’t scoot it up there though. :-P

  • http://poletosoul.me/ Christine Macdonald

    It’s a delicate balance. Blogging may seem like “the biggest time suck”, but really, it’s another way to keep the wheels turning on your own, personal marketing machine – which is a really your platform.

    What I lack in time from working on my manuscript, I gain in taking the VERY necessary steps with Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging. It’s important to know, that I’m not just posting updates about my book – but that I’m connecting with people on topics that are the within the thread of its subject matter (self worth, stripping, humor, addiction…)

    My thoughts on platform building? Another labor of love – and you get out of it, what you put in to it.

    Great post, as always!

    • http://lauralibricz.blogspot.com Laura Libricz

      Well put, Christine

  • http://terripatrick.wordpress.com/ terri patrick

    The most important thing to remember when building a platform, or creating an Author Persona, is that it takes time and effort as it did to write your books.

    When you accept that time and effort agenda, your platform or persona will begin to evolve. There’s a beauty to marketing that few see because they confuse that term with advertising and promoting. The noise of choices in social media is a distraction for writers and storytellers.

    Everyone must follow their own path and if something feels like a “time suck” that means you will not shine there. Authors need to shine through their stories and for their audience.

  • http://www.stuck-in-a-rut-coaching.com Sean Mantack

    I think that in this day and age people expect you to build a relationship with them before they part with their hard-earned cash. Building an author platform is a great way of interacting with your prospective audience/clients/customers.

    People have to buy into you, before they will buy from you, this is easier to achieve through building an author platform than sims trying to promote your book after completion.

    Building a author platform is a win -win situation as far as I am concerned, you are building trust and a relationship with potential clients/customers and you are also showcasing your writing skills, therefore expanding your author-ity as an expert author.

    I personally think that building an author platform enables you to connect with the people that are interested in you, in what you have to say and also in what you have to offer.

    Excellent post by the way.

  • http://susereads.wordpress.com sue berg

    Thanks, Rachelle, for this post! In the middle of the replies to the post about Facebook, I did ask about this subject — so I really appreciate the blog pst as a reply to that question.

    I guess successful platform building is more of a relationship building effort than in a marketing effort, though. We’re all getting advertised and marketed “out” — we’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount that enters our lives and, I for one, really don’t want to add to the weight of it all.

    Thanks for clarifying the necessity for building a “platform” — it really helps. Now, to identify those things that make some blogs and facebook pages work so well in building relationships as opposed to looking and sounding like just another “ad” … :-)

  • http://darcyflynnromances.com Darcy Flynn

    Rachelle, thank you for this post. I”m a debut author and am still trying to figure out the best way to build my platform or brand. So far the comments have been helpful but I confess I’m struggling with how to find my readers. I know they are women, ages 16 and up, with moral convictions, possibly church attending gals. :) I’m getting tons of advice from my writer loops but much of it doesn’t seem to help that much.
    I’m not a prolific blogger and find it is a time suck as someone stated earlier.

  • http://www.lifesentencepublishing.com Jeremiah Zeiset

    I’m going to go against the grain here and say that a platform isn’t the most important thing.

    Take an author who isn’t the social media type. Instead of doing something they aren’t good at and don’t like, they’d be better off investing their energy in other methods.

    And regardless of how successful a person is in social media, the most important thing is still the quality of that person’s business, whether it’s writing, retail, services, etc. Ultimately, viral marketing is still the ultimate method of marketing.

    To those that are great social media gurus, congratulations. You’re fortunate.

    Jeremiah Zeiset
    LIFE SENTENCE Publishing

  • http://www.lifesentencepublishing.com Jeremiah Zeiset

    I’m going to go against the grain here and say that a platform isn’t the most important thing.

    Take an author who isn’t the social media type. Instead of doing something they aren’t good at and don’t like, they’d be better off investing their energy in other methods.

    And regardless of how successful a person is in social media, the most important thing is still the quality of that person’s business, whether it’s writing, retail, services, etc. Ultimately, viral marketing is still the ultimate method of marketing.

    To those that are great social media gurus, congratulations. You’re fortunate.

    Jeremiah Zeiset
    LIFE SENTENCE Publishing

  • http://www.frankly-books.com Sally

    Great post, Rachelle. Building my ‘brand’ if you like is one of the things I really like about being a writer. I find that it makes me really think about why I do certain things, to take time to consider different, often free, advertising avenues and makes me take responsibility for my (potential) sales.

    Darcy – I find that it is less of a ‘time suck’ if I put a timer on and write all of my blog posts for the week in one go. I allow 1 hour for each post and just go for it. Then the rest of the week is free for writing.

  • http://www.lifesentencepublishing.com Jeremiah Zeiset

    I’m going to go against the grain here and say that a platform isn’t the most important thing.

    Take an author who isn’t the social media type. Instead of doing something they aren’t good at and don’t like, they’d be better off investing their energy in other methods.

    • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

      What are those other methods? And do they resemble some form of raising awareness about your work?

      • http://www.lifesentencepublishing.com Jeremiah Zeiset

        Thanks for asking!

        We work with each of our authors to develop their own unique marketing methods. Speaking is the number one method of promotion, without a doubt. But not everyone’s a speaker. In some extreme cases, authors do no marketing and rely entirely on our company’s marketing. In other cases, they may take the personal route, telling everyone they meet about their book (in a non-obtrusive way, of course).

        Or, this is the best anti-social social media method yet: take advantage of other’s platforms! It’s amazing how many facebook pages, blogs, etc. are willing to endorse a book.

        Again, each individual needs to find 3 or 4 marketing methods that they enjoy doing, and do them well over time. Those efforts are bound to be fruitful, as long as the author is ‘bought-in’

        Jeremiah Zeiset
        LIFE SENTENCE Publishing

  • Jeanne

    Wow, lots of great thoughts here are generating lots of questions in my mind.

    First of all, Rachelle, you did broaden my perspective. I hadn’t realized that lots of other businesses are working on building a platform just like writers are. I hadn’t quite considered that.

    As someone who hasn’t delved into the deep waters of building a platform, what are the first steps? I’m on Facebook and Twitter, and still figuring those out.

    I hear yes, blog, no don’t blog. Does blogging begin to build opportunities to get to know potential readers? Or is it better to try to publish short stories and articles? Building an “author persona” or a platform will take time. I want to use mine wisely. Any thoughts?

    • http://aboutproximity.com Lisa

      What is your twitter address Jeanne? I would love to follow you :)

      • Jeanne

        @JeanneTakenaka

        I’m not sure if I have to write anything else, but this should get you going.

        Your blog looks interesting!

  • http://aboutproximity.com Lisa

    I use blogging and social media as a way to encourage others. I don’t see it as a time suck at all.

    I have built wonderful friendships through blogging. Conversation and connections have opened up, that would not have otherwise. I have strengthened my writing skills, and learned invaluable lessons. My writing is no longer done in solitude, but in community.

    I think Micheal Hyatt says this in his book Platform, creating a platform is more about giving than taking. You should build your platform on not what you can get out of it, but what you can give others through it.

  • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

    Okay, this post really resonated with me, Rachelle!

    Most of you know that my day-job is as a structural engineer.

    Although I do a lot of technical writing related to my day-job, it is on a competely separate topic from my personal writing endeavours.

    As a result, I tend to think of my writing/publishing/blogging activities as a hobby/ministry, rather than a business.

    However, over the last couple of years, my day job has been evolving to include a lot more involvement in marketing. It is an unfamiliar territory, that I’m not very comfortable with.

    This post helps put that in perspective for me.

    That I should see my role as a marketer and platform-builder as no less crucial to my day-job as to my hobby.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.jilliankent.com Jillian Kent

    I’ve been struggling with the whole blogging thing lately. It’s become a real concern to me. You can read more here if you want: http://jilliankent.blogspot.com/

    I know it’s important to get the word out there and we have to participate to that end with our publishers but there’s many ways of doing that without the constant time suck of a blog among many blogs. How much time do we all have these days?

    I agree with James Scott Bell. I don’t have all the answers but I am actively seeking to discover what will work best for me in my writing career. I only have 3 books published, have worked hard to do all the things I possibly can and in my opinion I’d rather be writing my novels than writing a blog few others visit. That doesn’t mean I’m getting rid of my blog. But I will be making changes that will increase my ability to produce books.

    Building relationships is important and it takes time. I think that might be one of the problems we all face. This is a “give it to me now, I’m entitled to it world” and that’s not going to work. Establishing a writing career needs to be well thought out one step at a time and it can’t be all about platform all the time.

  • http://annbracken.weebly.com Ann Bracken

    Thanks for this post, Rachelle, and to everyone for their comments. I understand that platform is important, but it’s been this nebulous, seemingly unattainable goal to develop one. I have a better sense of what I should do now.

    I have a twitter group I interact with frequently. I’m a member of RWA, and my chapter is known for doing book bombs (we pick a time and day and all buy each other’s books). I’m occasionally on facebook, but that’s filled with mostly family and friends. My ‘blog’ has sat dormant because I don’t know what to do with it. I’ll be taking PJ’s advice and posting short stories, I think.

    So, is that enough platform? I hope so. What more should I do? Suggestions anyone?

  • http://jomurphey.blogspot.com Jo Murphey

    Great post Rachelle! wrote business and marketing plans for my own companies and others in years past. Think short range goals (1-6 months) and long range goals (1-5 years). Plan it out. What you need to do and when. I wrote a sort about this very thing last year. Most people know how to do what they do whether they are a baker, mechanic or even a writer BUT have no idea about the other stuff involved with running a business. Publishing is a business whether traditionally published or self.

  • http://annalabno.com Anna Labno

    But writers hold multiple jobs. It’s not the same as if you would work for one company. Writers need to support themselves and don’t have time to do all. The best selling tool is the quality of work you write. The rest needs to be balanced to the ability of the writer.

  • http://www.roughwighting.net Pamela Wight

    I read your blog post with interest, and the comments are fascinating. It DOES get frustrating to put so much time into a ‘writing platform.’ It’s stressful and definitely takes away time from WRITING. On the other hand, since I began a blog over a year ago, I have honed my writing for a weekly 300-500 word post; met some terrific people who enjoy reading my work; opened myself and my writing to friends and acquaintances who always knew I was a ‘writer,’ but didn’t know what that meant; and found great places to educate myself on self-publishing (because, really, that seems to be the way of the new world.)

  • Jeff High

    There is an old adage that companies don’t sell to companies, people sell to people.

    The point here is that people (buyers/ readers) want to connect with you, but what they are buying are your stories, your writing, not you.

    That said, as a soon to be published author, it seems wise to give some attention to the social media outlets (Facebook, etc.) but only as a vehicle to point potential readers to a website about the fictional town I am writing stories about. Until the books release, I am methodically adding short stories that serve as freebees that hopefully will to serve as momentum builders for the books release, and hopefully, will be added fun for those who buy the book and want to know more.

    I think Terri’s comments are well chosen, persona definitely has its place. Readers want to identify with you at some level. But they are buying the stories.

    I like blogs. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be reading this one. Many writers love them, use them, and they work. But my love is writing stories. So it seems wise to build platform by focusing my time and energy in this manner.

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  • http://infinitecharacters.com/ Connie Almony

    There is a part of me that wants to hate this blog post :o) (in general). There are so many people who are very gifted “do-ers” who are just not gifted “show-ers.” So if we are only taking notice of those who are waving their arms in the air, we may miss the person who will really dig in and do the work.
    However …
    Isn’t there always a “however?” It is true. Especially for authors. Your gift is your ability to connect to others through your words. Use them! And if you are not good at that pesky interaction stuff, connect with authors who are. Work together with them and let them rub off on you a little. Do signings and speakings together. Ask them for help or just have coffee with them, soaking up their giftings through osmosis. And if you still feel inadequate in this area, do what Moses did when God asked him to speak to Pharoah—pray! God sent him Aaron to help him speak, but later Moses grew able to do it on his own.
    You can do it!
    Marketing doesn’t always have to be about ME or “look at me.” In August, I ran an article asking “Would Jesus Market Himself?” We do this because we have something to share. It can’t be shared if no one knows it exists. God prepared His people for the message of His Son many years before the message even arrived. So marketing is not always self-centered. It can be message centered. It depends on how you do it.

  • http://www.janesdaly.com Jane Daly

    My day job is doing business development for a bank. I have built my work platform by networking and building relationships. I’ve found that it’s the same in the writing community. Since I don’t see my fellow writers/editors/publishers on a weekly or monthly basis, I can network with them through social media, email, etc.
    The most important thing to remember is that your platform is YOU.

  • http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com Cynthia Herron

    Rachelle, having read Michael Hyatt’s recent bestseller, Platform: How to Get Noticed in a Noisy World, it helped me better understand building our “tribe” and all that it entails. And, of course, a platform is a MUST in today’s world.

    At September’s ACFW conference in Dallas, when asked what he thought the greatest platform-building tools were, I believe I understood Mike Hyatt to say: Twitter, a FB author page, and a blog (but only if due diligence were followed…meaning a regular posting schedule combined with interaction).

    I love the ease of Twitter and networking with like-minded folks. I enjoy blogging, too, but it IS work. Again, I think of it as a way to connect with friends first, and future readers second.

    Since FB manipulates…er…limits who sees our posts, our author pages may be less visible/influential than other forms of social media, but I still maintain one.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

  • http://www.anemulligan.com Ane Mulligan

    I’ve been building a platform for 10 years. THese people have watched my writing journey and waiting with me for the moment I finally get a book published. Do I think it’s been worth it? YES! I absolutely do. Especially in this day’s market, most debut authors are entering the market via small press. That takes a ton of marketing and if you don’t have a platform in place, your sales will be negligible.

  • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

    Interesting thoughts, Rachelle. For a fiction writer, I’ve heard it said that a platform and brand is really just you being you. Obviously, it’s different for non-fiction authors.

    I started my blog initially because I thought I was supposed to. But in that process, I’ve found my voice and I’ve found other writers. It’s been such an amazing way to connect and for me, the relationships are just as important as a “platform.” I want to be known for who I am and my honest analysis of life from my POV. I feel like that’s the best way to “market” myself, instead of making myself into a salesperson…of myself. But that’s probably just me. :)

    But I also agree with Mr. Bell–working on your writing craft is, for a writer, ultimately necessary. If you promise something through a great platform but don’t deliver, then you only have disappointed readers.

  • http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ Wendy Paine Miller

    My two cents: Why wouldn’t authors want to try to connect with or reach as many potential future readers as possible?

    I also think it’s valuable to note this line “The method is up to the individual: writing books and/or blogs, speaking to large groups, interacting with the public via social media or traditional media.”

    If a blog isn’t the way for you, so be it. There are all kinds of ways to be creative while reaching our audience.

    The takeaway is assessing just how responsible we are willing to be. It’s a good question. One that we should ask ourselves often in this industry. No matter the path we choose.
    ~ Wendy

  • http://KlockKhronicles Tim Klock

    It may be hard work to maintain a platform, but it seems well worth the effort. The Internet can be used for free (or at least relatively inexpensive) advertising for you and your work. I appreciate this blog in particular. It is interactive. It is not just some person sharing their opinions, but each article is very interesting, thought-provoking, and the readers are allowed to voice THEIR opinions. I feel connected. Thank you.

  • http://www.candidkathryn.com Kathryn Elliott

    To me a successful platform only seems possible when a writer finds that unique balance between personal and public life. I struggle with this, and set some new ground rules recently in regards to how much time to devote to blogs, social media, and alike. Much harder than I anticipated!

  • http://www.sueharrison.com Sue Harrison

    Back in the 1980s I was so fortunate to work as an assistant to a man named Bill Rabe who was the head of the PR dept. in a small Michigan university. He had worked for the Detroit News and was an absolute PR genius.

    For our little school (3000 students) he developed the Word Banishment idea. Each year Lake Superior State University puts together a list of words that should be banned from the “Queen’s English” for over use, misuse and abuse. All year long the PR dept. receives nominations from the public (from all over the world) and then selects about 15 words or phrases to ban. So much fun!! His idea earned Lake State recognition and is still going strong. The past few years Fox News has broadcast the Word Banishment list to the whole world.

    Creativity is so important when you’re building a platform.

  • Janet Bettag

    Word of mouth advertising is probably the most effective method of drawing attention to goods and services. In order to get people talking about a book, the author has to develop a network of contacts who might be interested in it.

    Platform building really isn’t anything new in marketing. It’s just a different way of saying “creating a network.” I did PR and marketing for a CPA firm about 20 years ago. The primary thrust of their marketing efforts was getting out into the business community to meet people, learn about businesses, and introduce them to the services of the firm.

    Social media marketing is just a high-tech version of going to Chamber of Commerce meetings to meet people and exchange business cards. It may not be a comfortable effort at first, but it’s a great way to meet amazing people.

  • http://www.peterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    This is a great post about platform that spawned an even better discussion. I have nothing to add, other than to say “thank you.”

  • http://rebeccavance.com Rebecca Vance

    I completely agree. I am working on my debut novel and I am just starting out. I read up on all that I can and everyone says that you must have a platform and it is never too soon. I started a blog where I review debut authors. I had Facebook and the blog, but not much traffic. I would find the debut authors on Kindle and write a review. No interaction. I wondered if it would go anywhere. Then, I got a Twitter account. Oh wow! Now I have requests every day. I am also on Goodreads, CulturalBook and World Literary Cafe. It boomed on me and now I have about 75 books in the queue that I found on Kindle prior to Twitter and 51 in the promised reviews. Yes, this is enough to keep me busy for a long time. My point is that the contacts that I am making are valuable. When my book is published, if all goes as planned, I will already have a following. I am still working on the website. I have a blog through WordPress and I know that I can turn that into an actual website, and I am trying to do that myself due to finances, but I am not too technical, so it may take awhile. Thank you for all of your great tips. Your blog has been a great help!

  • Catherine Hudson

    Wow, very interesting reading. As an unpublished author I can learn so much from all of these comments – and the valid points you made, Rachelle.

    In the end I believe it may simply come down to balance, and watching market trends.

    I need to focus on my craft…and be learning how and when I will begin the issue of Platform.

    Thanks everyone

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  • Stephanie M.

    Am I the only one who might puke if she hears the word “platform” once more??? I was much happier when it meant shoes.

    • H.G. Ferguson

      Move over, I’m right beside you so we can puke in peace!

  • H.G. Ferguson

    Two things strike me, and hard, about all this emphasis on author marketing, ad infinitum et nauseam. First, for those of us who, like myself, work 40 hours a week at a real job in the real world, “free time” is critical and we ought to be spending that actually WRITING, not popping out of social networking cakes and dancing across the table. Second, pundits who talk about what everyone MUST DO fail to take into consideration temperament, personality, skill sets, etc., etc. etc. Not everyone is equally adept at social media. Some people would rather be shot in the head than stand up in front of a group than speak. Not everyone can be an effective public speaker. Or ANY kind of public speaker. Some people — gasp — feel the same way about — gasp — social media. Now as writers we ought to make the most of what opportunities we find, but we are WRITERS. Not “Mad Men” and “Mad Women.” Not SALESPEOPLE. This distinction is becoming increasingly blurred, even obliterated. And this, to make it blunt, is wrong.

  • http://www.henwoodtitles.weebly.com Brian Henwood

    I’ve treid blogs, I have self-published, I’ve made my own web pages. I have made real effort in promoting myself and selling books. The problem is, I hate it.
    .
    I am not a salesperson and never have been. I do not feel comfortable in that role, and I loathe “having” to push my wares on people.
    .
    So the solution for me is not “keep selling yourself. Keep meeting people who you can solicit from.” It’s making me not want to write anymore. There must be some way to reach readers without goingdoor to door and hard selling.

    • H.G. Ferguson

      There is. Be faithful in what you are called to do. That is the way. Be faithful to your calling, and true to yourself. The way to “reach” is to make the most of the opportunities that come your way. And they will.

      • http://www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com Donna Schlachter

        I agree that not everybody is a born salesman. However, if you had the cure for a deadly disease, wouldn’t you want to share it with as many people as possible? Okay, so your book isn’t a cure for a physical disease, but you don’t know how the story can touch a life and save a soul. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth sharing. And that’s what promotion really is — sharing. Our readers won’t care how cheap our e-book is or how many free bonuses we’ll send them for one low price if they don’t know that we care for them. We need to write the best book we can, find the best publisher for that book, and then let folks know the book is available. All you’ll need is to hear from one reader how your book changed their life, and you’ll figure out other ways to let more folks know about the book. Remember: the book is not the product. The product you’re sharing (selling) is your relationship with the reader. The book is just the medium.

  • K. J. Henry

    Bravo, H. G., Bravo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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