When I started looking into the great, scary world of publishing, there was one piece of advice that kept popping up all around the place.
“Build an author platform.”
When I read that, my thoughts went something along the lines of “Well great, thanks for that amazing advice, folks. Try speaking Australian next time.” (I have a mild case of sarcasm at times. 😛 )
I had no idea what on earth an ‘author platform’ was even meant to be, let alone how to make one. Was a platform a blog? Was it a facebook page? A literal wood-and-screw raft upon which I could bravely sail the seven seas to publish-dom?
If there was a face for ‘confusion’ my face was it.
Today, I have the beginnings of an author platform, and I now know that it’s not a blog. Not a facebook page. Possibly a raft—I’m still building that though. xD
So if an author platform isn’t any of those things…what is it?
It’s all of them at once + so much more
I hopped over to trusty old google to see what it would define an author platform as. This is what came up as the definition:
A platform, simply put, is your visibility as an author. The definition of platform, broken down, is your personal ability to sell books … Any media outlets (including blogs and social networks) that you can utilize to sell books.
From that definition, a platform is a website and facebook and any other social media all put together. Newsletter mailing lists, blog/website, all the social media things. They’re all excellent places for a platform to start.
Excellent places for a platform to start? Yes. You read correctly. Even if you have the most gorgeous and professional website, even if you have an author facebook page and post on it five times a week, it doesn’t mean you have a good platform.
In that case, what is a platform by the Jane Maree definition?
An author platform starts with yourself and then your readers. Websites, newsletters, and facebook are nothing in themselves without those two important ingredients.
The YOU of your platform
There is nothing new under the sun. Everything has been said before. Everything has been written before. Readers long for unique and original content (in both books and blogs) and there’s only one way we can give that to them.
By giving them ourselves.
Tom, Dick, and Harry might’ve already done a blog post about author platforms, but no one has ever read one with my personal style and point of view and random inserted humour. It’s not a new topic, but it’s still unique.
The YOU of your platform is the most important part, because it’s the new and interesting thing that no one else has to offer.
The READERS of your platform
This is basically what a platform is for—putting yourself out there for readers to find. Yes, it’s marketing, but I prefer to think of it as friendship. If you think of your blog/newsletter/facebook followers as numbers or building blocks then you’re not going to treat them as real people and they’re not going to stick around.
Every one of the people who read my blog, who subscribe to my newsletters, who just randomly wander past and leave again…I love you guys. You’re all amazing and wonderful in different ways. To me, you’re not just a ladder that I step on to that fair land of publish-dom. You’re the people holding my hands and leading me onward.
The readers are what will make your platform flourish. You can give and give everything you have, but it’s nothing without those wonderful people who are basically the wind in your sails.
As an extrovert, I love making new friends and ‘building my platform,’ but that’s just my personality. Can just anyone make a good, strong platform? And how on earth can you start one?
Yes, anyone can make a good platform. And starting one is more simple than you might think.
It starts with patience. Your platform isn’t going to be huge and famous in the first week…or the first year…It doesn’t work like that. It takes time and effort and hard work.
Don’t go groaning and rolling your eyes. Hard work is good for you. 😉
You can start with a tiny little blog. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then slip on your stalker cape and hunt up all the like-minded writers and readers and comment on their posts. Don’t go around shouting about how good you are, just be present and people will see your name and at least 50% of them will be curious enough to check you out.
Some people will stick around, some won’t. If you’ve got ten followers, don’t frown upon that. Ten is a beginning. Ten is a blessing. Each of those ten people are sacrificing some of their time to read your posts and maybe even comment, they deserve some appreciation.
From there, platforms build with opportunity. Some people go up for the professional websites, some go for being facebook ninjas, some turn into birds and Twitter instead. Honestly there isn’t a strict do-and-don’t when it comes to author platforms.
Everyone does it differently, and that’s perfect. Every author is different, so every platform will be different.
I’m going to go back in time a little bit to show you what I mean. Nearly four years ago, I started a blog. It was a tiny corner of the internet where I did posts about life and books and about five hundred tags. After a while, I started commenting on a few more blogs around the place, and I also started up a serial blog story. Now, reading back on those posts, I wonder why on earth anyone followed me.
My writing was terrible. My humour wasn’t even funny.
But…people commented? People enjoyed reading it?? How on earth???
To this day, I don’t know why people put up with me (I’m indebted to you guys, thank you), but to that twelve year old Jane, every single comment and view was so amazing and so exciting. People liked reading my posts! They commented! NEW BEST FRIENDS!!!
I started building on that blog a few years after starting it. It slowly became a writing blog as I slid deeper into the realms of imagination. I stalked more writers’ blogs and commented and followed. A couple more people followed me back. And I kept on going.
I wasn’t entirely intending to grow my platform (this was when I had no clue what a platform was and why it would be needed 😉 ) but I wanted to meet new people.
I joined a few writer’s forums (Kingdom Pen and One Year Adventure Novel) and met new people there, I volunteered to beta read and alpha read. I wrote more writerly blog posts, shared snippets of my stories, participated in Camp NaNo and NaNoWriMo. And then last year I transferred to this website as a more professional platform, and started officially freelance editing.
That’s a quick skim over the past four years and how I somehow got from a tiny little blogger to now. I’m nowhere near perfect, but I’ve come a long way and I’m looking forward to the next four years.
As you can see from that, a) it’s hard work and takes time, and b) It’s about relationships and connecting with people. Right at the beginning, I didn’t realise that. I was just doing posts because I did posts, whereas really I should’ve been doing posts to share some of myself with you. Some of my personality. Some of my heart.
So what is an author platform? An author platform isn’t just online presence so people buy your books. It’s about friendship. About giving and blessing and loving. I know I’m still far, far off my vision of a ‘good’ author platform, but it’s about that hard work. It’s about making friends and making smiles and holding that banner of hope a little higher.
I’ve talked about me for way long enough. What do you think the most important part of an author platform is? What is the most daunting part? What’s some writing advice that you see popping up everywhere but never really understood? Hang out with me in the comments!