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Writing Platforms Demystified December 31, 2009

Posted by techtigger in writing.
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How many times have you seen posts like this on blogs and twitter?  (or have posted them yourself!)

“ZOMG!  Everyone says I have to have a writing platform and I don’t know what a platform is and marketing SCARES me and I am never going to sell a single book and I my writing career is GOING To dieeeee…”

(pant-gasp-wheeze)

Right about now, the Muse is patting your hand and offering you a nice, tall drink complete with floofy umbrella.  It’s okay, you’re not the first writer she’s had to calm down when the dreaded word, platform, is bandied about.   How can she be so relaxed about it?  Simple, all platforms involve some sort of writing.  And she’s got that down pat.

Sooo…what is a platform?  The answer is simple, it’s a method to connect with readers.  That’s it.  It can be anything, from a blog, twitter account, facebook page, weekly chat… any sort of social media that lets you talk with your readers is a platform.  And it does not have to be a flashy, high-tech website.  It can be something as simple as moderating a weekly twitter chat. 

Where does a platform go wrong?  What can I do to make it a success?

1: Keep up with it.  The only way to have a successful platform is to commit to it.  You can’t just start of strong and then wander off.  That’s instant platform fail.  Remember, this is social media, so you actually need to interact with people to make it work.  You are building a relationship with your readers, and they will lose interest and not come back if you don’t say a word for weeks or months.

2: Choose your venues.   Let’s face it, we all are very busy.  You will need to take a close look at how much time you have to commit to maintaining your platform.   Before you start something, spend time out on the various social media sites.  See which ones you are comfortable with. Find out which ones already have the audience you are looking for.  Then choose one or two, depending on how much time you have.  One of the biggest mistakes people make is over-extending themselves.   See point number one, if you can’t keep up with it, you end up with platform fail.  Quality over quantity is the key. 

3: Interact.   I know, I’ve said this, but it needs saying again. Pushing ads out at readers is not interacting. This is a mistake even big-time marketing firms make.  Old school marketing involves controlling the message, and shoving info at people often enough that they can’t avoid it.  Would you like some green eggs with that SPAM?  Sam I am?  Okay, seriously, don’t talk -at- people.  Talk with them.  If your platform is nothing but an advertisement, it will fail.  The name of the game is communication, and that will bring in more readers than any shiny, splashy ad.

4: What do I talk about?  Well, what is the topic of your book?  What writing subjects interest you? What other subjects intrigue you?   Make sure that you pick something you are passionate about, it will make keeping up with the platform just that much easier.   But don’t forget #3 – you need to allow your readers to interact with you, don’t just talk at them.  For example, don’t slap a video book trailer on your blog and expect the world to come see it.  Talk about the process of making it, what worked, what didn’t.  Invite other people to talk about their experiences with making trailers.  Hold a contest to see who can make the best video for your book, put together some nice prizes for the winning entry.  Get readers involved! 

Okay, there’s the worst boo-boo’s covered.  But I can hear you wailing, faintly, in the distance…  I don’t have free time!!!   Well, here are some ideas for busy writers.

1: Safety in Numbers.  Join up with other writers, take turns hosting a chat, posting to a blog., etc.  Find other writers in your genre and collaborate on a platform.  Or join a writing community.

2: Be a good guest.  Show up regularly at chats, offer to guest blog, put out some submissions to journals.  Get your name out there simply by being out there.  It won’t give your readers a specific website to go to, but it will give you some name recognition.

3: Create a destination.   Don’t let that word scare you off, all you are doing is creating a space for people to interact with each other.  A web chat is a destination.  A discussion forum is a destination. Think, what are you passionate about?  Set up a community to support that topic, then welcome others in to run with it. Give them a space to play. This means it’s not really your platform, it’s just a platform.  But it’s better than nothing at all.

If you’re serious about becoming a full time writer, you’ll eventually need to devote time to a social media platform.  You may even want to hire someone to create that cool, graphic intensive website, if you are not so tech savvy (or just too busy) to do it yourself.  But you don’t have to start out that way.  Start small.  Grow as you have time. Don’t over-extend yourself.  And remember, all of these platforms involve writing.  You and your Muse can totally rock the house when it comes to that.

I think I’ve gabbed enough, time to open the floor – any questions? Comments?  I’ll be happy to answer specific questions about Marketing, Platforms, Web 2.0, or any other buzz words you’ve had thrown at you.  🙂

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Comments»

1. Diane Dawson Hearn - December 31, 2009

This is some really good advice! Thanks for taking the time to explain it.

techtigger - January 1, 2010

You’re welcome! It was no trouble at all, I do web promotions at my day job 🙂

2. Phyllis K Twombly - January 1, 2010

Thanks for this.

On your second point, a lot of comment forms also have a place to list your website URL which will automatically create a link for people who click on your name.

Comments on other blogs are almost of greater value to search engines since that makes it a discussion instead of something generated by just one person.

techtigger - January 1, 2010

Very good point!

I’m thinking I may need to do a primer on Search Engine Optimization for writers (SEO for short). Links from relevant sites, that cover topics related to your platform, can really boost your ranking in search engines like Google and help increase traffic to your pages. And we all know how publishers want to see high numbers of eyeballs viewing your platform!

thanks for the comment!

3. Cyntbhia Schuerr - January 1, 2010

How did you know how terrified I was to hear that word “platform”? 🙂
Thank you for this post. It has taken a bit of the anxiety away. And the permission to start small helped me to see that I am moving in the right direction.
You rock!

techtigger - January 1, 2010

Glad I could help! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by your platform, there are so many ways to promote it now. Taking the time to do a little research, and being choosey about which options you pick can save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Please feel free to ask me any questions, here or on twitter. I’ll be happy to answer them 🙂

4. sdavidrichardson - March 25, 2010

Excellent tips, Thank you! 🙂

5. Gracie - April 1, 2010

Hey, Techtigger. I’m pretty brand new to the whole put-yourself-out-in-the-world thing, and this is really good, sound, sane advice.

Just wanted to say thanks for the excellent info.

(Oh, and found you through Twitter. 🙂 )

techtigger - April 1, 2010

you’re welcome! Yep, twitter is an awesome networking tool. And perfect for writers, it’s what we do anyway! 🙂

6. meltdownfreedisney - April 1, 2010

I received similar advice from a friend who published a book about 2 years ago. Thanks for spelling out HOW to be effective in these areas. It is a great way to gauge what I’m doing, and where I’m wasting time.

techtigger - April 1, 2010

Yes, the best marketing campaigns are focused – scattershot never really works. Better to do a little homework in advance, and hit the right markets. Good for keeping your sanity intact too! Easy to drive yourself crazy trying to do too many things 🙂


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