There’s a lot of talk these days about building an author platform. In his outstanding e-book, Platform-Building Ideas for Every Author, author, editor, and former literary agent Terry Whalin says that “one of the keys to selling books into the marketplace (and to a publisher) is visibility” (p.5). Yet, most writers have a “hit-or-miss” approach to achieving this visibility that is so crucial to professional success.
One of the challenges we face, however, in developing a platform is where to start. With so many venues available to us today–venues like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn–the task of building a platform can be overwhelming. So where do we begin? Here are some steps I took that may help you as well:
- Explore the options available to you. Social media venues have personalities. If you like short and sweet, Twitter may suit you well. If you like longer posts, Facebook may be the venue for you. If you prefer professional over folksy, then you may like LinkedIn. Whatever your personality, there is a social media venue out there that will fit you.
- Experiment with your chosen options. You won’t know if you like something until you try it. As you experiment with different social media venues, you will find those that work best for your professional goals.
- Educate yourself on how best to use your chosen venues. Some venues are followed by people who like to know about your personal life. Other venues have followers who are more interested in your writing and not in the details, like what you had for breakfast this morning. Find out the general preferences of your followers and build your platform according to those preferences.
- Establish your goals for building your platform. Ask yourself what you want to achieve through your platform. For most writers, the ultimate goal is the sale of one’s books. But don’t forget the goal of building relationships. Any marketing expert will tell you that relationship-building lies at the foundation of selling. When people know you and trust you, they are far more likely to purchase something from you. But lest this be misconstrued as exploitation, be assured it is not. The underlying motive in anything we do must be service to our readers. Our Lord has given us gifts not for ourselves but for sharing with others. Building a platform is one way to do so.
One of the best resources I have come across in building a platform is Jeff VanderMeer’s BookLife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer. Another excellent resource is Stephanie Chandler’s The Author’s Guide to Building an Online Platform: Leveraging the Internet to Sell More Books. Both of these resources offer valuable insights that will help you make the best choices for you.
As you build your writing platform, ask Holy Spirit what direction to take, always remembering that “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1 NIV).