I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I love reading and hate going through a day without a pen in my hand. Until recently, I had been stuck in an archaic way of thinking. I believed that getting published meant only writing and sending out your work. I undervalued the importance of building a platform.
The 2013 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition is an invaluable resource for any writer, especially one who is seriously committed to their craft. Not only does it have listings for agents, book publishers, and magazines, it is bursting at the seams with helpful articles from industry professionals. One such article “Perfect Pitch: Pitches That Never Fail,” by Marc Acito has a tiny section about building a platform. Acito talks about how it’s an important for a writer to establish themselves. Agents and editors alike are attracted to authors who have been published before and have entered contests.
This anecdote really stuck with me. As I’ve explained before, I have been working on a project that I started last semester in my Core I class. It was originally a multi-genre piece about the Kennedy Assassination, but now it has turned into so much more. I can no longer just write the book and expect it to get published. I must put in the time to earn publishing credits and establish a reputation. That is why I am condensing the novel into a short story and entering it into the Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. It is my belief that if the short story version of my project is successful, then it gives me more credibility come publishing time.
I have been published once before in Nth Degree Magazine, but I need more credits before I even think about writing my novel. Browsing through the Writer’s Market has given me a head start. I have drafted a whole plan of attack when it comes to building my platform, a strategy that includes blogging and making the most of my Twitter followers. Every time I get a new follower, I view them as a potential reader. A few years down the road, they might be buying my book. Might as well make them a fan early on. By having a built-in audience, I will have more clout with agents and editors.
Another article “Build a Platform: Or You’ll Miss the Train” by Jeff Yeager stresses the 10 ways to build a platform:
1. Create your own website, keep it current with a blog and other updated content, and make it interactive with forums, contests, surveys, newsletters, a guestbook, etc.
2. Write articles, stories, op-eds, and even letters to the editor for magazines, newsletters, and other print publications read by your target audience.
3. Contact other high-traffic websites frequented by your target audience, offer to guest blog or contribute content to them (even for free), link your site to their, and participate in networking forums.
4. Position yourself as the go-to-source for information regarding your area of expertise by joining related professional organizations, earning certifications, and registering with online and print directories like LinkedIn.com and Poets & Writers, as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
5. Send periodic press releases about yourself, your activities, or some timely aspect of your work/field to targeted print and broadcast media, and offer to sit for an interview–you might be surprised by the response.
6. Hold a publicity event–or dare I say a publicity stunt or gimmick? Challenge your church group to see how much weight they can lose by following the instructions in the diet book you’re writing, or hype the mystery novel you’re writing by hiding clues around town to the location of the buried treasure–the real treasure might be the media exposure your generate.
7. Give talks, teach classes, offer workshops about your specialty at libraries, schools, churches, and online–but make sure the press knows all about it.
8. Get involved as a volunteer or board member with nonprofit organizations related to your field of interest/expertise; it looks good on your resume and they can be valuable marketing partners for your work.
9. Partner with or co-author a book with a well established, widely recognized expert or celebrity, or try publishing your book through an established franchise like the Dummies or Chicken Soup serials, where your personal platform is less of a factor.
10. Post your own book trailers and other video content to YouTube, create your own podcasts, or publish your own e-zine–even amateurish efforts can catch fire.
This is very good advice, but I have five of my own rules when it comes to building a platform for fiction writers:
1. Send your stories to every single publication you can, no matter how small or insignificant you think it might be.
2. Spend a few hours a week finding an audience for your blog. Comment on similar blogs. A thoughtful comment can generate dozens of followers.
3. Enter contests. Even if you don’t win, placing is a good for your resume.
4. Intern or freelance for a magazine. Even if your dream is to be a sci-fi writer, publishing pieces in magazines is a great way to gain exposure and clips.
5. Make your own web show. I know this sounds silly, but in order for an author to be successful in today’s competitive market, they need to sell themselves. Giving the audience the chance to know you will generate more interest in your work.
Once this semester is over and I finish my story, I am going to dedicate time to working on my blog and building my platform. It’s the only way to become a successful writer.