Saturday, March 13, 2010

Building a Platform Without a Hammer and Nails

Over the past year I have come across several references to the importance of a platform in writing. Although I grasped it is an essential tool in achieving publication, the principle of how to apply it to me and my book seemed ambiguous.  This said, I set out on a quest to understand what a platform is and how it works. Now I would like to share my findings with you.

According to Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, author of How to Build a Writing Platform: 10 ways to Achieve National Visibility for Writers, ”A writing platform is one tool to promote yourself and sell your writing.”

Laurie explains that a writing platform does the following:

• Drives books sales.

• Speaks to the writer’s ability to promote and sell his or her book in national and international markets.

• Provides security to the publisher.

• Acts as a vehicle to promote the author and his or her book.

If most of you are like me then I'm sure you're asking, “ How do I accomplish such a feat?” Well, Laurie gives us lots of advice in this department. Using some suggestions from authors Frishman and Spizman’s, 101 Best Selling Book Proposals: The Insiders Guide to Selling Your Work, Laurie provides ten ways to build a writing platform:

• Create your own website with blogs, forums, newsletters and photos.

• Blog or write for an established website.

• Figure out what your specialty or niche is, then build your writing platform around that.

• Give talks about your specialty in schools, churches, libraries and local groups.

• Teach classes or offer workshops.

• Offer products or services related to your niche.

• Participate in online communities and forums.

• Sell or donate articles or bits of book chapters to magazines, newspapers or newsletters.

• Conduct focus groups or use surveys to convince publishers that your idea has merit and will sell. This will build your platform by providing you with tangible support.

• Ask an organization to commit to buying a hundred or so copies of your published book—and include their letter of commitment with your book proposal.

If you have already set the above suggestions into motion or you don’t have the time to accomplish them, then Laurie lists four more ways to establish a platform.

• Hire a book publicist.

• Make readers, publishers and agents laugh, learn to insert humor into your writing.

• Secure an agent who believes in you. He or she will help build your writing platform.

• Plug into an established series. For example, tailor your book idea to fit the Chicken Soup series or, the Dummies line.

Although I get the feeling a platform relates more to non-fiction than fiction, it is my impression that building a following will only add to an author’s credibility. I would also be interested to learn more about your platforms.  Do you have any other advice about platforms by which a new author could draw from? If so, I’d be interested to learn more about it. Until next time, happy writing.