10 Tips for Building Your Platform With Less Pain

Working on a book?

Yes, it’s true. You have to build your platform to catch the eye of a publisher. And, yes, most of us agree it can be a pain in the patootee, when what we really want to be doing is writing.

Here’s the one thing I know about effective platform-building:

When purposing to build a platform, do what works for you.

You’ll be most successful if you invest your energies in a way that’s live-giving for you.

Your platform-building efforts should align with who you are.

Pay attention to how you’re wired and situated…

  • Are you an introvert or extrovert?
  • Do you enjoy speaking or dread it?
  • Are you free to travel or chained to your home?
  • Do you have the freedom to post on your blog every day, or once a week?

To the extent that you’ll be driving this bus, building platform is about you. But to the extent that you’re inviting others into what you’re doing, it’s not about you! Is your writing and speaking meeting the real needs of the audience you’re building? Are you creating content that has value for them? Are you building relationships and promoting the work of others?

Build your audience by creating great content that has value for them.

…but back to you!

Here’s a list of 10 possibilities—among zillions—to stimulate your imagination for building your platform. Do one or two stand out? What has your name on it? What other ideas do these trigger?

1. Old School Article Writing
Create a list of 20 publications for which you’d like to write and begin pitching! If you have friends who’ve written for these mags, get a good contact name.

2. Easy Social Media Opps
The hard part was  getting the gig and writing the thoughtful article for the online publication.  The easy part will be posting the link on facebook and Twitter. Remember to capitalize on all that work you put into crafting the article. Tweet it 3 or 4 times over several weeks.

3. Go Live on Facebook
Got something to say? Start communicating with your audience. (Yeah…this isn’t for everyone.)

4. Ask For Help
Extend a personal invitation to friends to share something you’ve written. Don’t be all mass-email about. Ask personally.

5. Speak Locally
Volunteer to speak to your local MOPs group, or other gathering that regularly invites speakers. (The venues that don’t pay–like MOPs and many churches–are a great place to build your speaking resume!)

6. Engage Online Communities
Comment on good content you’re reading. Promote the work of others in your field (and make virtual friends!) by sharing valuable links…comment on relevant articles…become strategically involved!

7. Email Signature Line
Make every email count by linking to your site, blog or product at bottom.

8. Make Friends (aka “networking”)
When I read something I enjoy, I often do a quick search online for the writer’s email to send a note about why I liked their work & “friend” them as well. (Note: these are sincere.)

9. Piggyback
If I know I’ll be speaking someplace, I might get in touch with a local church or friend or school that might also need a speaker. (And save $ on travel, too!) Also fair game to have an assistant—or a friend who will do this for you!—make these contacts.

10. Vlogging
When I was blogging, I had a quickie question that I’d ask folks, and they’d answer for about 1 minute while I filmed with my pocket-size flipcam.  These got posted to social media and each one meant one more happy day I didn’t have to write a blog post.

These are jumping-off points. What feels life-giving? What feels death-dealing?

Remember why you’re building your platform.

You are building your platform for the privilege of continuing to be able to communicate with audiences.

That big-picture view is what keeps me tweeting. (Rarely…don’t count them.)

Remember, you don’t have to do everything. Just the next thing.

RESOURCES…
2 must-see resources if you’re a writer who’s serious about building platform…

  1. Michael Hyatt’s book, aptly named Platform.
  2. Rachelle Gardner’s fabulous blog for writers!

This post first appeared on Margot’s blog, wordmelon.com. 

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Building a Platform? Finding Helpful Resources

Photo/CCWC

“If you want to be a nonfiction author, you’ve GOT to work on building your platform?”

I perked up when I heard the word “platform” mentioned for the umpteenth time at my first writing conference.

Building my what? I didn’t expect this advice at a “Christian” writing conference. In fact, I didn’t even know what the workshop leader meant by “platform.”

Hands popped up all over the conference room, asking questions about “building a platform.”

“Can you give us more information?” Another frenzied writer whined.

A few seats down from me, an older lady with a wrinkled brow whispered to the person next to her, “What does she mean by ‘platform’?”

“I didn’t think ‘Christian’ writers should focus on building a platform,” someone mumbled. “Is that even scriptural?”

The murmurings continued…

I felt my blood pressure rise as I listened to all of the questions and observed the body language of the writers all around me.

I shook my head in disbelief as I considered all that I had done to prepare for this moment—particularly the last five years of academic writing. Is she saying that I need to study marketing now? Oh, great!

A few days later, I abandoned my first writing conference early due to a family crisis. So I didn’t get a chance to hear more about platform building.

Overwhelmed, my thoughts about building a platform and my mother’s untimely death left me dazed and confused. Should I even go forward with “writing for publication” now?

One workshop leader warned us against “quitting your day job.”

Great! I just quit my day job, I whispered under my breath. I had just turned down the offer to teach writing as an adjunct instructor again that semester. Why? I needed to help with our ongoing family needs, and I wanted to focus what time I did find on writing for publication.

After the conference, if someone even mentioned the word platform, I would voice my frustration with a favorite quote from Gone with the Wind, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

What’s a writer to do? Where can we go for information on building a platform? Back when I started, I had to dig deep for information. Now, you can find more resources than ever before now on that topic.

Michael Hyatt is one of the best resources I’ve found on platform building. I started following Hyatt’s blog on the advice of other writers several years ago. A few years later,  when he published his book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, I ordered my copy hoping to improve my own platform. I still recommend this book to other writers who ask me for help in that area. I’ve even led my own writing workshop on platform building based on what I’ve learned.

New Year’s plans. As I await my first book publication this spring, I’m still struggling with all the details of platform building—blogging, social networking, speaking, and writing. With all the advances in technology and social media, I’m always seeking new resources and ways to stay up-to-date with publishing info.

What are your plans for the New Year? What have been your strategies? What’s your secret? Did you quit your day job? Do you have any platform building tips that you would be willing to share with other writers?

I’m hoping this blog post will initiate a conversation about platform building. So, I hope to hear from you. Be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.

What resources have helped you build your platform?

All Blogged Out: A Rant (Fair Warning)

Scream--Annemarie BusschersThe other day a fellow writer from way in my past—semi-famous, author of many highly regarded books—friended me.

It was so exciting. To be remembered by someone I had admired long ago but hardly knew, someone whose books I have on my shelf.

As soon as I accepted her friendship I was invited to like her author page. Then read her blog. Which explained everything.

I don’t want to be a partypooper here about the self-promotion mandate. Really I don’t. I know that publishers these days demand that writers have author pages and blogs and followers and all that. I try to be, in fact, dutiful, in my way. But it must be said. Something about all this facebooking and author-paging and blogging just stinks.

It reminds me of how, at my university, some colleagues and I used to convene every year to plan women’s events. Multiple times, meeting upon meeting, to schedule and scheme and come up with funding and talk about decorations and cookies and such. Then, when the day came for whatever it was to happen—the reading group, the tea, the birdwatching we had so arduously planned—there we’d be again, the five of us, the only attendees.

How does one find time to write books when there’s forever a blog post due? Not to mention reading all the other writers’ blogs that I say I’m following—and that, if I were  truly friend-worthy, I would be commenting upon. Confession: the only blogs I willingly visit are the ones I land on after a Google Images search for a very specific recipe, one that looks like a dish I remember from my childhood, or some stew of lentils I’ve been fantasizing about, or some bizarrely complicated goodie I said I’d cook up for one of my ever ravenous daughters.

All this to say—am I the only one who feels this way?—that blogging, which appears to be de rigueur in the world of publishing these days, slurps up my writing time like an old dishrag, and sometimes I fear that the only ones who read what I write are fellow writers (more generous ones than I am) obliged, as I am, to squeeze it out when I should be working on my current writing project and between all the other things I do to actually support myself. (That sentence doesn’t work, I fear…) Those who follow me—I’m sure of this—do so for the same reason I follow that writer acquaintance of mine: because I was asked. I’m not going to buy any more books of hers than I’ve already bought. Having heard an interesting writer interviewed on Fresh Air, I’ve never gone to his author page or read her blog. If I’m interested enough, I ask for the book in Barnes & Noble. And when they don’t have it—they never do!—I order it for cheaper anyway on Amazon.

Here’s how it goes with buying books and me. In the ideal world that used to be, I heard about a book or picked it up from a bookstore table or shelf, I read a few pages, I bought it and brought it home, eventually it made its way to my bedside table and into the stack to wait its turn, and then, one happy day, I turned over and reached for it and started to read. In that perfect world, it is a perfect book, and I can’t stop reading till it’s finished. Then I tell my sister, off in Colorado, about the book on the phone. And in a few more days I lend my copy—though it has a swollen edge from my having accidentally let part of it sag into the bathwater—to one of my colleagues. Then I assign it in one of my classes. No blogs or author-pages or anything like that. Just hear about it, buy it, read it, lend it.

I’m not feeling very encouraging today, I’m afraid. Maybe this post will generate some useful discussion among us writer-blogger-authorpagers, though.

(Feel MUCH invited to chime in if you’re not a writer. It would cheer me immensely.)

Build a Social Media Platform: Your Facebook Page

Face book

As the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook is an essential plank in most authors’ platforms. However, its effectiveness depends on how it is used. Many writers try to use their profiles for business pages, a function they were never designed to support. Even if it were not against Facebook’s policies, using a profile for promotion is not effective anyway. There’s truth to the idea that friends aren’t geared to purchase from friends.

Converting a Profile to a Page

Fortunately, it is possible to convert a profile to a business page with a simple tool Facebook provides. Having recently migrated my Facebook profile to a business page, I offer a detailed perspective on this process in Convert Your Facebook Profile to a Page (A Step-By-Step Guide). Would I go back to a profile if I could? No. I’ve received more engagement and am taken more seriously. As a bonus, I no longer have to deal with unwanted game or event invitations.

Signing up for Facebook and Creating a Page

Signing up for Facebook is a straightforward matter. If you need help with this, go here: http://www.facebook.com/help/188157731232424/. Instructions for building a page are here: https://www.facebook.com/business/build. The category that Author or Writer is found under is Artist, Band or Public Figure, however if you do more than write on a professional level, you may want to choose a different category, like Public Figure (under the same category). If you create your page around your author name rather than one of your book titles, you won’t have start all over again building an audience for each new release. Also, leaving out an accompanying description (like author) keeps your options open should you want to add another professional activity (such as speaking) at a future date.

Your Facebook Page

Banner: To promote your brand, its best to post a cover image that resembles your website banner.

Profile Picture: Use a quality image for your profile picture, preferably a headshot.

Tabs: Wildfire, Tabsite and Iwipa are applications that let you install customized tabs to give you among other things a landing page, event manager, contest tab, blog feed, and even fan-gated content you post for subscribers only. To learn more visit http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/top-10-facebook-apps-for-building-custom-pages-tabs/. Mail Chimp integrations allows users to post a sign-up box for your email list right in a Facebook tab.

Content you post on your page should draw readers who will sign up for your email list. Post updates about your writing progress, appearances, author news, contests, giveaways, and book news. Depending on your brand, you may also want to post snippets from your research, recipes, book reviews, or videos. Whatever you decide, make sure it lines up with your brand and inspires some sort of action (such as entering a contest, signing up for your newsletter, liking a post, or visiting your website). Make the time you spend posting to Facebook count toward your goals.

Post Scheduler: It’s possible and desirable to schedule posts to publish at a time you specify. This can be a great time-saver. Just click the clock icon below the update window.

EdgeRank: That mysterious algorithm by which Facebook determines how many of your followers see a post is based largely on engagement. One good way to boost your engagment and boost an update’s edgerank is to post pictures or videos.

Wall: A page’s wall functions just like a profile wall. Like some other pages while posting as your page and those posts will show up in your wall feed, which you can find by clicking the Home tab in the upper right menu. 

Engagement: Commenting on other pages is an important way to gain followers for your own. A good strategy is to find other authors with similar readerships and comment on their posts. Provided you don’t self-promote and say something sufficiently interesting, some of their followers may become interested in you and follow you back to your page. Doing this actually helps the other author gain edgerank and engagement and its possible to share audiences to mutual advantage.

Another way to keep up the engagement on your page is to post consistently. Also, your followers will notice your absence and respond accordingly, so try to show up for at least a few minutes every day. You can set your notifications to alert you by email when someone comments on your page.

Analytics: In your page’s admin panel you’ll see a tab with a graph showing both your reach and audience engagement levels. Click See All to view the full analytics for your page. Pay attention to which posts have more virality and adjust your offerings accordingly, or else use the engage tips above to find people interested in what you offer. Adjusting your page’s reach to the ideal audience for you is a trial-by-error process.

Promoting from Your Page

While it is possible to promote from your page, you should do so cautiously. Spamming doesn’t work and will only cause you to lose followers. Be subtle and lure rather than pursue readers.

I received a bit of free advertising money from Facebook, so I decided to try out a couple of ads. My results indicate that the same easy-does-it guidelines apply to ads, too. The campaign I ran as an inline ad with a post of my book video did far better than the promoted posts ad with a cover of my book and a promotional blurb.

My observation is that people are on Facebook to socialize and have fun, not to be pitched to. Consider using this site as a primary outpost if you work well in that kind of environment and can promote in a subtle manner.

Please click to tweet this post.

Marketing Beyond Social Media and the Internet

We know how powerful social media and the internet can be in marketing and building our author platform. But have you been overlooking your own back yard?

Backyard

With the launch of my new book, Pioneering Today-Faith and Home the Old Fashioned WayI embarked on  traditional on-line marketing with guest posting, blog tour, and special bonus gifts for those who purchased the book.

But I’ve had the most sales from my home town. I asked our local pharmacy and grocery store to sell copies of my book. They agreed and I’ve sold out at both locations. I made sure to let the owners know I’d be announcing on my social media pages that copies would be available there. (It needs to be a win for both parties)

We have a local movie theatre that is in the homestretch of fundraising for a new digital projector so they can stay in business. The owner is running an ad for my book in the previews before every movie and selling copies with part of the proceeds going to their digital fund.

I’m teaching two classes for the community. The first was a bread class where I showed how to make the artisan bread and thin crust pizza dough. The second is a jelly making class (all from my book). I sold out of books at the first class with more ordered.

Social media is great, but don’t forget about local. Think of places in your home town where people go frequently.

Tips for making businesses say yes to your book:

1. Make an appointment ahead of time with the owner or manager to discuss putting your book in their store. Remember they’re busy and show up on time. Think of this like a job interview.

2. Think of ways their business will benefit from having your book.

3. Don’t expect them to just let you sell your book without giving it to them at a discount so they make money off the sale too. Be sure you know what your bottom line price per book is so you both make a profit.

4. Bring a large amount of copies with you, but ask them how many they’d prefer to start with on their store floor.

5. Keep a file at home noting how many books are at each place. Check in on a regular basis to see if they need to be re-stocked. Make sure they also have your contact info. One of the store’s employees called me to let me know they’d sold out and needed more books.

What ways have you marketed your book in your home town? Are there businesses you could tie the content and theme of your book to beyond bookstores?

The Best Resource to Build Your Author Platform

Are you so sick of the word platform you want to throw all wooden boxes into a huge bonfire?

Everywhere authors turn we hear about the importance of author platform. Many pre-published authors have no idea how to go about building a successful author platform. You just know that you need one.

Even seasoned authors know we need to keep adding planks to our platform, making it larger every day.

I was one of 100 people recently chosen to participate in the launch of Michael Hyatt’s new book, Platform: Get Noticed in A Noisy World.

This in itself was pure genius. Every one wants the invitation to the private party, we want the behind the scenes all access pass. To read the call out, here’s the link to Michael’s invite. Did you notice it’s not just about what you can do for him, but what it will do for you?

That is the number one lesson from this book. Everything you put in front of your readers, from blog posts to social media updates, must provide value to them!

Michael really knows how to take this to the next level. Here’s the link to his Platform book page. He breaks down the benefits his book provides to the reader. Many books, or book pages, fail to spell out what the purchaser will get from reading them.

This book doesn’t just tell you a few key points or things to do, it teaches you. Michael provides numerous links to extra info and also gives tons of examples. I’m a visual learner, so this is key for me.

God has been reminding me that it’s not about me. And the same is true in all aspects of our lives, as both authors and human beings. I ultimately write for God’s glory, and adding glory for Him is what’s all about. Remember to always add value, in everything we do.

What are ways you can add value to your book? How can you add value to the readers of your blog? How has an author added extra value for you?

Here’s an added value if you haven’t already read 7 Tips for Self-Editing Your Novel with Promotional USB Drives Before we can create a platform, our content must be amazing.

In the Wrong Place at the Right Time

This may not be the place to admit it, but I’m having an affair. We go on dates, doing things together that we love. Other times we pull down the shades, dim the lights, and cuddle up close. And–dare I admit–sometimes we whisper in agreement about our future.

Yes, I confess, I am having a torrid love affair with books. We were meant to be together. I believe in them; they believe in me. We’re inseparable.

The intimacy of this relationship explains the uncontrollable urge that surfaces each time I finish reading a great book, this impulse to write my own hope-filled book that leads women right to Jesus.

As a new writer, I used to scour the bookshelves coveting the author names on the spines. I traced my fingers across compelling covers and inhaled the new-book freshness as I dreamed of my very own name gracing the art. I envisioned countless days spent whittling my words and learning to be a master craftsman.

Later, as a career writer, I fell into a whole new world. Today’s publishing culture demanded I become an expert not only at writing, but marketing and social media as well. A bit disconcerting to a shy writer who simply wanted to write well.

How could I improve my craft if I had to concentrate on building my platform before I was ever published? How would I offer both a high-concept idea and a stop-you-in-your-tracks platform that agents and publishers couldn’t refuse?

It was time to reconsider. Instead of my name on a book spine, maybe, for now, my place was a magazine byline? While focused on writing books, I couldn’t discount that writing for magazines might help me reach my goal. I couldn’t ignore the platform-building opportunity that freelance writing offered.

While an average book may sell 5,000 copies, the readership of some magazines hits millions. Last month, I wrote a feature for Guideposts that offered me an audience of five million readers. My audience expanded as I cast my writing net a little deeper, a little wider. That article led to about 10,000 hits to my website within a very short period of time and connected me to some amazing new readers and relationships. Oh, and I sold books like crazy.

I didn’t start out with Guideposts, I started regionally. My first published print article was for a women’s magazine in my hometown—monthly circulation about 50,000. But from that article came a couple of joint ventures and writing assignments that led to later features in national and international magazines. Today, I have a healthy following of women with whom I am honored to share hope and inspiration on a regular basis.

Without taking time to go to where my readers were (to build my platform), I imagine my first royalty check would have come from a small base of hardcore fans (all relatives). Not only did writing for magazines allow me the chance to make new connections, but I also honed my craft while cushioning my bank account—not a bad deal overall.

Ready to get started? Here’s a helpful article I found online on how to break into the national magazines.

By the way, feed my curiosity. What book can you not live without?