Building Your Platform
What is a "platform" for writers? Many writers think about platform with a negative mindset; they think it's a way of "selling" or "promoting" themselves and their writing.
Think of your "platform" as a way of making yourself visible.
You need to stand out from the crowd, in other words. Take it from me, there are thousands and thousands of writers all over the world, writing their hearts out on every subject, fiction and nonfiction, that you can imagine. Yes, the quality of your writing matters, but even good writing is easily ignored if it can't be found.
A "platform" is another way of saying "writer visibility" or "online presence". It doesn't mean you have to have a million "likes" or followers, it means that there is a corner of the internet universe where you pile up your boxes, stand on top, and interact with the world of readers and writers. Interact is the key word there. It's not a one-way street.
So how do you build a "platform"? What is a "platform" made up of?
Your personal and professional network
The first priority, in my view, is to have a simple website. You can use Wix, Squarespace or Weebly (and others, I am sure) to set that up. This is an example of the Wix website of a client of mine, the wonderful Anne Royce. I set up the basics and Anne did the rest. Notice how simple her site is. It's a business card for the internet. One thing missing on the home page are the links to Anne's social media, but she is on that. Here is the home page for my website, and you can see a number of social media links. The idea is that they are all connected; they circle back to each other and ultimately, to your website. Make sure to get a premium subscription to your website, so you can access the various helpful apps (a mailing list, etc.) and Make SURE to work on the SEO/Google stuff on the backend of your blog, that's super important. The idea is that your website is Grand Central Station for YOU and your writing. It really is not that hard to set up; the platforms that I mentioned, above, are expressly for people who aren't computer geeks but who need a site. There are templates available and you should be able to set up a simple site in only a few hours. You can also use your site design to then order business cards, which you should always have with you for networking opportunities.
Without adding a huge amount of time to your already crazy days and weeks, you can write blog posts ahead of time and schedule them to "publish" once a week. When a blog post publishes, share it on your social media. Shoot for a blog post of about 500 words. Keep it brief. Stay on topic: Write about your journey as a writer, your thoughts on X Very Popular Book Similar to Your Writing, comment on an article of interest to you that has something to do with your writing, your books, your world, your interests, your experience and that of others like you. Remember - engage readers. Have links to click. Ask your readers questions. Ask them for comments. Make sure that anything you post on your site (and everywhere for that matter!) is brief, entertaining and engaging. You are engaging with the community and becoming visible. Which means you have to engage back. It's reciprocal.
Goodreads: “like” and “follow” other writers, chime in by asking and answering questions on the forums, start a blog there (which can come from your Wix blog) and add a new blog about once a week. You can write a slightly different iteration of something you've blogged about on your website and post it on Goodreads and elsewhere.
Twitter: You can share your blog posts here as well. Twitter is not for everyone, though. There are tons of people on twitter, in the book world, for sure, but it takes time to get followers and to get people to interact with you, especially if you don’t post a whole lot. Be patient. Follow people, publishers, organizations that you admire and that echo and even challenge your point of view when it comes to creativity and writing. Aim to have more followers than you follow. How do you get followers? By tweeting regular, brief, provocative tweets. Learn how to use hashtags.
Linked In: “like”, “follow”, as above. You can write a blog piece hosted on Linked In once a month or so, on top of sharing your website blog posts on Linked In. There are groups on Linked In that you can join and send the blog to those groups but - and it’s an important caveat: You need to also comment on other people’s blogs and various status updates - you have to engage people.
Facebook: Rather than create a FB page for your books, learn how to use “friend lists” on Facebook and post articles of interest about either your book, your blog or subjects related to them only to specific lists of friends/followers who are interested. Post something once or twice a day.
Medium: Post updates, new short stories, various writing of interest here once every couple of weeks. Repurpose other content from your website or Linked In as appropriate but be careful; people can tell if everything you do is a re-run. Link everything back to your main website.
You don't need ALL THE SOCIAL MEDIA platforms, ever. You just need a few and then to link them to one another, with the idea being that your website is the center of the You Universe. Use your social media consistently. Schedule it ahead of time. Hootsuite is a good platform to help automate all of this. Check in regularly, interact with others. Create an online community. Then, when you need a review of your book, or some advice, or something shared or retweeted, because you have done so yourself, people will want to help you out too.
Your Community and Personal or Professional Network
Do you belong to a writer's group online or in real life? If not, consider it. It takes a village. Is there a local bookstore or library that hosts talks once in awhile? Is there a community organization of any kind that does the same? Are you willing to mentor other writers? Do you go to writer's events or conferences? Go to the talks, volunteer to do a talk, bring your business card, pay it forward to other writers and to fans of what you are writing.
Use The Google
It has never been easier than it is today to find resources for all of the above. Google "resources for writers", "events for writers", "writing resources", "best platforms for writers", "literary agents", "writing classes", "writer's forums", "literary magazines". The list goes on and on.
There is No Substitute for Elbow Grease
I know it all sounds overwhelming and there is definitely a learning curve. Some platforms will not be your speed. That's okay. To repeat, you don't need ALL THE SOCIAL MEDIA ever, or ALL THE RESOURCES ever. Just experiment and find out what feels right to you and then do it consistently. Being a writer is sort of like a job. You have to put the time in, you have to pay those dues, and you have to do the work. Write, submit, network, reach out, educate yourself, engage with other writers and certainly with readers. Most importantly, think in incremental terms. Set yourself up to spend half an hour every day, or two hours each week, or whatever fits into your life and get out there and become visible.
If you are not already a member of The Fabulists, that's a good place to start.