Platform 101 for Regular (Not-Famous) People Like Me

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t decide to be famous when I grew up.  Because I’m starting to think that if my face was plastered across magazine covers and my name was on the marquis, I would have a lot easier time getting people to read what I have to say.

But, alas, I decided to be a plain-old, regular gal.

And, while I like my regular life with my regular kids and my regular husband and my regular job, I imagine that authors with big-time names and fancy doctoral degrees have a much easier time building their platform than I do.

You see, I write pregnancy and parenting books.  And, while I do have three fabulously adorable kids that give me lots to talk about on the pregnancy and parenting front—I’m not an OB, I’m not a nurse and (shocker) I’m not Jenny McCarthy.

Which means I’m not an “expert”.  And I’m okay with that.  But will my readers be?  And, since I’m not, how do I convince my readers (and the world) to read what I have to say?

Here’s what I’ve learned about platform building for regular folk:

1.    Stick to writing what you know.  For some reason, people generally don’t like to hear advice from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.  (Who knew?)  So, since I’m not a doctor, I steer clear from giving medical advice, but give everyone the nitty gritty details on what it’s like to go to the doctor—something I’ve done a lot of.   You may not have a diploma on your wall—but if your life experiences have given you expertise in something, write about it!

2.     Write what you know in lots of places.  Once you’ve written what you know, write it in a lot of places.  Spread the love and submit articles for magazines, guest post on blogs, start a blog of your own and post user generated content on websites like Yahoo! Shine.   Get your name out there—and before long, people will start regarding you as an “expert”.

3.    Keep your blog focused on your area of expertise.  For a long time, I wrote blog posts according to the whim of the day.  And I found that my readership shrunk and my posts seemed stale.  Why?  Because they weren’t focused.  Based on some advice from my agent, Rachelle, I decided to keep my blog 100% focused on pregnancy and parenting—and thus, create a level of expertise for myself through my own blog postings.

4.    Get to know the experts in your area.  I had the most amazing OB read and endorse my book.  With his endorsement came the assurance that while my book wasn’t written by an OB, the advice in it was medically sound.  Likewise, I try to stay well read on the pregnancy and parenting front, so that when I publish material, it comes with the backing of the experts in the field.

5.    Get out there.  If you want to get your name out there, you have to actually get your name out there.  That means prying yourself away from your computer (fun as it is to write the day away) and meet people.  It can be as simple as going to playgroups/school meetings/ministry events and getting to know people in your audience and as complicated as setting up speaking engagements around the country.  Regardless, if you’re not out there talking about your book, no one else is.

Question:  What are your best platform-building tips?

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45 thoughts on “Platform 101 for Regular (Not-Famous) People Like Me

  1. Word hard to build community… stay connected to your readers. Trust builds when there is a mutual exchange of kindness between the author and the reader. Readers give us their time, their minds as well. In exchange, we should extend the hand of fellowship.

    peace`elaine

  2. Erin, wonderful post! Such helpful, practical guidance on a much needed topic. My best platform building tip has been to make myself available to speak/teach about what I write whenever invited. Eye contact and conveying your topic with passion and conviction makes all the difference in the world. It builds great community and unexpected “expert” status.Thanks for a great post!

  3. Hi Erin,
    I’m a regular gal, too. I practiced numbers four and five and met up with a local women’s fiction author. I contacted her after I saw her book in Writer’s Digest and we had a great time discussing industry details over coffee.

    Wonderful tips.
    ~ Wendy

  4. I like your #2. That’s good advice for me, as I write quite a bit but it tends to stay within a certain radius, because it’s always seemed like the most efficient use of time; write where I know I will be accepted (and get a paycheck).

    OTOH, I’m always questioning how much crossover there is between nonfiction magazine work and the audience who will buy a novel. Still haven’t gotten a good answer to that one…

    • Hi Kathleen- I’ve found that magazine stuff definitely crosses over to non-fiction book audiences but I’m not sure about novels… it’s an interesting question to ponder.

  5. These are things I have come to learn myself. Having said that – I still don’t know where I “fit”. Sad, but true. After 52 years, you’d think I would know what I want to be when I grow up LOL.

    Like you, I’m not an expert on anything in particular. Lots of interests and hobbies, but it’s intimidating when you try to write about something you are just learning about. There are soooooo many blogs about EVERYTHING that I often feel I am just another nobody that everybody will overlook.

  6. You’ve been given great advice, and you’ve taken it to heart. The only thing I would add is that don’t self-edit your platform building. Do your research into where your audience can be found, and concentrate on those forums. But branch out, too, and have priorities; just don’t dismiss anything without checking it first. I learned so much from Dan Blank’s author platform course, and it’s literally changed my life by turbo-charging my writing career. Continued good luck to you!

  7. And here I was convinced you were famous…. ;-)

    From one regular gal to another, this is a great post! And is something fiction authors can benefit from too. Especially sticking to our area of expertise. It would be really silly for me, as a contemporary romance author, to write about historical stuff on my blog. But since I write contemporary romance for the Christian market, it makes a lot of sense for me to blog about romance and faith. :)

      • I love your photography style!! I like the way it is bauutifel but very artsy, which I think is kind of unusal to be that arsty. If I get Senior pictures I want definately you to do them!

  8. My favorite part of this is to get to know the experts in your area. I’m pretty sure museum curators in these parts recognize my car now. :)

  9. Great advice – it reminds me of that saying, be the right size in your own life – and that’s really paid off in my career too (and given me a lot more peace). Very useful advice!

  10. Great advice – it reminds me of that saying, be the right size in your own life – and that’s really paid off in my career too (and given me a lot more peace). Very useful advice!

  11. Erin, I like how your blog ties into your book and your life as a mom. Your voice and warm, friendly personality shine through, and that’s what will help attract readers.

  12. Erin, thank you for the info on focusing the topics at a blog. I still struggle with that because I write about politics in thrillers and a column but get a lot of positive feedback about the more spiritual posts. Maybe I should just give in and stick to politics, still not sure because my main audience for the thrillers are women. Thank you again for getting me to move an inch closer to some kind of resolution.

  13. I appreciate your concrete advice here, and your last point gives me the little push I need to start getting out into my community and making some human-to-human connection (the thought of public speaking freaks me out a little, I admit!).

  14. Erin,
    Nice focused blog post–kind of shows what you’ve learned: Stay focused on your blog. (Nice fun blog by the way too!)
    I enjoy the “getting out there” part of building a platform but have to balance it with “the stay home and do the writing” part of my life. That’s one of the benefits of social media–it’s another avenue for getting out there.

  15. I like your regular thoughts, your regular teachings, and your regular life – after all – most of us are just normal, regular people trying to live our simple lives (sometimes very irregularly!). Thank you for the post!

  16. Great tips, Erin. I especially like tip #2, Write What You Know In Lots of Places. I think this is happening more and more for me as I put myself out there, which takes effort for all of us. I’m sure our agents and publishers appreciate it, but it also develops our skill levels and increases our comfort levels bit by bit; a good thing :).

  17. Terrific post, Erin! My current blog has focused, lo these 12 years, on all things personal and, ahem, unfocused. If one of my several non-fiction book proposals gains traction, though, I will have a dedicated blog for that topic. I’ve already registered domain names to go along with potential blog start-ups. Thanks for encouraging the non-famous among us that we, too, can have a platform to stand on!

    • My blog is unfocused, too. But my interests are, too. I’ll focus when I know how…for the moment, I’m trying to tie things together under the idea that faith, parenthood/family/marriage, all intertwine. But none of that has anything to do with writing. Historically when I’ve tried to write about writing, my hits drop by half at least. So I have learned to shrug and say, This is what I”m writing about now…may not always be that way, but for now that’s life.

  18. Hey Erin,
    Lots of good stuff here. As a fiction author, I don’t feel the pressure to build a platform, but I do need to develop a community of readers who will consistently buy my books because they enjoy my writing style. And there’s that word again. COMMUNITY.
    I think no matter who we are, that’s the most important thing to focus on developing.
    And for the record, I’d much rather young mom’s get their advice from you than from Jennie McArthy! :)

  19. great post…and very timely for me. i often wonder where i fit in this whole big blog world out there. writing what i know means writing encouragement and hope and the love of Jesus. but an expert? maybe one day…

    until then, i love the advice. and the spirit of writers who willingly share their “secrets” so the rest of us might have a little less bumpy road…thanks!!!

  20. Thank you for this Erin, you’ve ‘focused’ me! And of course you’re an expert, you’ve got children haven’t you? That makes you an expert in my eyes, not someone with a degree but no sprogletts, do they really know what they’re talking about?!

  21. This is great advice Erin. I feel like I am learning the hard way and still have so far to go. I love the advice about keeping your blog focused. Makes lots of sense — and I think I just might have to take this to heart. I love to write about whatever is on my mind, but when we’re building a platform, there is much more to be strategic about. Thanks!

  22. People ignore #1 so often. And not only does it ultimately hurt them, it hurts everyone else more by spreading misinformation.

    That being said, I’m no expert and have no facts to back up my above claim… :)

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