Platform Builders

When I started writing seriously in 2004, my focus lay completely in fiction. I’d written devotionals and snippets of life pieces in the past, but they served my own need for expression, then resided silently in a folder on my computer. Fiction was and is my passion.

But then something unexpected happened. In 2006 God presented me with the desire and opportunity to write as part of a team for a blog to help those in spiritually mismatched marriages like my own. I jumped in because I wanted to help other women avoid some of the heartache I’d experienced to reach a place of thriving in my faith and my marriage.

From this blog a ministry was born. Readership grew as did our perspective and understanding of the need we’d tapped into. This led to a book about how to thrive in this type of challenging marriage (aren’t all types challenging?), a Facebook presence, then a Twitter page. We suddenly found ourselves reaching readers in ways we hadn’t thought possible at the beginning. Our main site (www.SpirituallyUnequalMarriage.com) started showing up as a resource on other ministry and church websites. Thank goodness for Google Alerts to let us know!

All this coalesced into our platform, which became the turning point for a publisher to say yes to our book. How did that happen?

Here’s what I did:
1. Identify a need. As authors, we pretty much get the message today that we have to do more than just market our book. People want more. Common trends have set a pattern of having take away value. So, identify a need you can fill. Offer something to your reader that they can use and apply to their own lives. Once you identify a need, you can clarify your message. And you’ve just identified your market.

2. Create a presence. Social media has exploded at an astonishing rate in the last year alone. The heavy hitters (Facebook and Twitter) revolutionized communication. And now Google+ looks to be another joining the slew of social media giants. For our purposes, I will say that Facebook turned out to be surprising success. We wanted another means to connect with readers and be a resource and that’s what happened. Why? Because we made our page about our readers and meeting their needs, not about selling our book. Again there’s that take away value.

3. Consistency. Though we started with just our blog, we were and are consistent about content and postings. We brought this pattern over to our Facebook and Twitter pages, which builds presence, trust and reliability. Readers trust a growing presence that’s consistently putting information out there with a clear message that has no strings attached. Trust me, people smell an ulterior motive faster than the garbage dump next door. Be honest, be authentic and be original, but always stay true to your message.

4. Become a resource. Past experience opened the door to serve a specific market with the goal of being a resource. That was always the purpose—how did we assist others in finding the help they needed in a difficult marriage? What could people take away and apply to their lives and marriages? Over time, we presented ourselves as a reliable and helpful resource that other sites and churches could tap into. We showed we were there to help, to partner with individuals and groups, and to share what had worked for us in order to help others on the same path.

5. Be patient. (I can still hear my wise agent, Rachelle Gardner, telling me this.) Building a platform takes time. Factor that into your writing plan. Don’t rush to submit a project before it’s reached its potential because it’s a bigger challenge to turn a no into yes.

As I said this journey began in 2004 with my focus on learning the craft of writing and growing in my understanding and abilities. From mid 2006 to late 2009, our platform grew to the point that a publisher was willing to take a chance with our message. That platform is still growing to day with the addition of a special book site (www.WinningHimWithoutWords.com) focused on the message of the book and offering free resources for listening and downloading, as well as teaching videos. We’re also working on partnering with other authors to promote each other’s books and ministries through our newsletter, websites, and speaking engagements.

How does that affect my future as a fiction writer? Same game plan with some minor adjustments. The stories I write serve the same niche we found for our nonfiction and thus brings me back to step one. And away I go! See you on the shelves!

32 thoughts on “Platform Builders

  1. Sometimes I wish I could strike the word “platform” from the English language. From platform shoes to writer’s platform–I just don’t like the word!
    But then I read posts like this and I think, “OK, I can do this.” All I need to do is break the concept of building my platform down into manageable steps (like you did, Dineen) and tackle them one at a time. And, more importantly, don’t make it all about my success. Instead, think about what my readers need & determine how I can meet that need.

    • Exactly, Beth. That’s the only way I could do it. Otherwise, it’s just too overwhelming. I still have a lot to learn but I’ve made peace with the understanding that I can’t do it all at once. This is one time it’s a little better to just see one tree at a time instead of the whole forest. 😉

  2. There are great suggestions, Dineen, and I like the way they work for fiction writers as well as non-fiction writers. We fiction writers don’t have to identify a need in quite the same way as non-fiction writers, but we do have to keep up on what kinds of stories are selling. They’re selling because they’re what readers want and are buying. The other four points work, too. Fiction writers are advised to have a web presence, be consistent in our blogging and social media efforts, offer valuable content on our blogs and website, and understand that it takes time to build a readership.

    Since you write both fiction and non-fiction, what do you see as the biggest differences when it comes to marketing your books. Do you plan to do much the same with your novel when it releases as you’ve done with your non-fiction book?

    • Keli, I think my biggest challenge will be to broaden my marketing to reach a wider market and not just the spiritually mismatched. This is something I’m actually doing in my nonfiction marketing as well, mainly in marketing my speaking.

      There will be some overlap in the sense of launching from my existing platform to reach fiction readers as well. That will help build my brand too. A new website for just my writing, etc. Plus I’m building connections with other writers and we’re working together to combine our marketing efforts. This is in the nonfiction realm but I’m looking for ways to apply this to the fiction side too. Some stuff has just been done and done again. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, but I do believe we can be a little more creative about it. And working with others usually brings out some very cool and successful ideas. This blog is proof of that! 🙂

  3. Dineen I have been thinking about a website and will eventually have one for the non-profit that I’m establishing. Along with that I write fiction but am being led to write some non-fiction as well, especially about hospice and end-of-life issues. Definitely not fiction! Would you combine fiction and non-fiction on the same author’s website? It seems a little broad, but it also seems like a good way to show both “sides” of an author’s platform? Maybe I just need two websites? That’s a lot to think about for a newbie! 🙂 Thank you for this great post.

    • That’s a good question, Sherri. If you use this nonprofit and theme in your books, I could see you using one site. Especially if part of the proceeds (or part of them) from the books that address it (nonfiction and fiction) are intended to support it. It’s a great way to show a deeper side of who you are.

      If this isn’t the case and there isn’t a clear connection, I would suggest separate sites. I know it’s more work but may serve both you as an author and your nonprofit better. You can still have links to both on each site of course.

      In my fiction book, The Soul Saver (Barbour, May 2012), I actually have my nonfiction book in it as a book the women’s ministry in this church is studying. They have a group for the spiritually mismatched. Plus I dare to dream of writing a Bible study soon so for me, putting what I write in one place with my tagline fits the bill. At least initially. We’ll see how it goes. 🙂

  4. Being patient is such good advice. I also love it that you were open as a writer to switch to non-fiction when fiction is your real passion.

    I love your message and your platform

  5. This was a lovely post. So wonderful to hear a bit of your story and the journey you’ve been taken for a ride on. Thank you for the encouragement.

    • Oh me too, Erica! I want to do it all and just can’t. Like I said in an earlier comment I had to make peace with that. I tend to be a bit “driven” at times. I’m really determined to walk into this intentionally and be clear as to why I’m doing each part. Just because it’s what everyone else is doing does not mean it will work. It’s a good place to start but the challenge is to find how you can tweak it to work for you or do it another way. It’s difficult to discern though. Lots of prayer, right? 🙂

  6. Oh, yes! Patience is THE key in the world of publication. Unfortunately I never seem to possess enough! I am learning, slowly. I think your post, like so many of ours have shown, says that you just never know what God has planned for us, and sometimes it’s all just a big wonderful surprise!

  7. Great post! I was confused for awhile between branding myself and branding my genre (thrillers), which are not the same thing. Very useful information. Thanks Dineen!

    • I know what you mean, Martha. I was too for a while. It took time and more writing and exploration for that to clarify. I wonder sometimes if we’re pushed to figure this out too soon or just plain in too much of a hurry, which I will confess has often been my case.

  8. Great article! Thanks for sharing your personal journey. Patience is certainly something that writers must learn. I would say at heart, we must all be very patient creatures! So much of what we do takes waiting and even silence. A lot of faith too. As we give to readers and go about this writing and social interacting job, we are receiving so much in return to make us better people, better writers. What a process. What a ride.

  9. I’m not sure if this comes under the heading of “not minding my own business” buy as soon as I read your blog this morning an dlearned about your work, I sent a link to your website to Ann M. Velia of Las Cruces, NM, a woman I’ve worked with who concentrates on writing for and mentoring Christian women whose husbands do not yet share their faith. Anyway, since Ann is older and has been unequally yoked for decades, she may be able to offer yet another perspective. I suggested she connect with you; if she does, you can blame me.

    BTW, I was married for ten years before my husband came to a saving and personal relationship with the Lord. Keep on keeping on! People like me need people like you!

    • Clarice, I’m so looking forward to hearing from her. We need more women like her to come along side those who are struggling in their mismatched marriages. Lynn and I minister to as many as we can through our sites and the 1Peter3Living Yahoo group. It’s such an honor to do so too.

      Would LOVE to hear more about how your husband came to faith. Please feel free to email me privately if you want to share (dineen@dineenmiller.com). Maybe even with our readers? Those are the stories that build hope!

  10. Let me just say, “I love, love, love this blog and its entire concept!” It has, by far, become one of my favorites. A big thanks to each of its contributors. You are helping us tremendously.

    Last night I participated in my first webinar, “Using Social Media to Build Your Online Platform” offered by the Christian Writers Guild, hosted by Suzie Eller. She said something that really struck a chord with me. Suzie was teaching us the importance of community and relationships, with regard to platform. She quoted Carol Davis, “Without community or relationship, a platform is only a board we stand on.” Isn’t that good? When we approach our platform as being a message God wants us to share with others, it takes on new life. Our platform has eternal purpose, rather than personal business purpose. Building relationships for the purpose and passion of “comforting others with the comfort we have received” fulfills the reason God called us to this message in the first place. Isn’t that awesome? I think it takes the mystique out of the concept of platform. I venture to say that most Christian writers do so to glorify God and the business side of this, which is important, is very intimidating because it is only a branch, not the tree trunk. The business side is not where we live, but it can become a huge distraction if we allow it to consume us. Build relationships, build community around God’s message. You will find yourself in the midst of a strong and purpose-filled platform that will do what it was intended to do: get your message out there. And then we’ll lean on folks like Dineen to hold our trembling hands as we hesitantly step into this thing called business.

    Sweet blessings to each of you, and Dineen, thanks again,
    Nan Jones

    • Nan, you said it beautifully! It’s the truth and definitely what we’ve experienced. Our Facebook presence took off in a way I never imagined it would. And it’s because our sole purpose there is to give to our readers and serve them. It’s more clear for us since this is a ministry and nonfiction is designed to have take away value from the start. But I believe these are principles that can carry over to our fiction as well. Christ came not to be served but to serve. We are called to serve as well. That’s when I’ve seen our ministry and efforts so blessed and multiplied. 🙂

      I don’t have it all figured out yet (LOL! as if I ever will), but I am delighted to share anything I know to help other authors on this path. I’m discovering we are so much stronger working together.

      • Suzie Eller said the same thing. She created a facebook group page (instead of fan page) called Moms Together. Its purpose was to create relationships and community with women struggling through motherhood. A bi-product is that people learn about her work, but its focus, message and purpose is to share what God has taught her. Just like what you are talking about. I love that! “Platform” is like this giant shadow looming over so many of us, but actually God will build it as we offer ourselves to Him to be used to help others. Thank you for your insight Dineen. You are a blessing.

  11. So great to see how your ministry has evolved, and how your platform is being built plank by plank. Dineen, thanks for showing us that with some patience and planning, this is a task that can be accomplished along with writing our books. Loved it!

  12. I’ve just started building my platform. It has taken me a few years to figure it out….sort of a “duh” moment when I got it. Creating a presence is about where I am. I’m working on the “brand” a bit with a graphic designer friend of mine, and boy is that a whole other field to learn about.
    I’m glad you mentioned patience….something I need to practice and remember. It is is meant to happen, then God will make it all come about. I just have to do my part in it. Thanks for the advice and encouragement in your post!

  13. Pingback: What is “Take Away” Value? | WordServe Water Cooler

Comments are closed.