Monday, December 21, 2015

11 Tips for Building a Successful Writer's Platform


Recently, I’ve received several requests to write a post about how to build an writer's platform. Which makes sense, because this is probably one of the most difficult parts about being a writer. The act of writing is a very solitary task, but the act of selling that writing? You have to get out and interact. You have to impress. You have to sell. You have to talk. To people. Yeah. Those scary organisms many writers actively avoid.

I can just hear you groaning, “People. Why’d it have to be people?” Because we live in an era where everyone and their mother has the means to write and publish a book and market it on social media, that’s why. There’s a lot of competition, so getting out there and working to make friends and connections is the only way to get an edge.

But how do you get that edge? Well, I have good news for you. With the release of my debut story, I finally was able to put my platform to the test. And you know what? It didn’t collapse. So apparently I know what I’m doing. I guess. And I’d be more than happy to share with you some tips I’ve found helpful through my journey, as well as some points I wish people had told me before I started. Ready? Take a deep breath. Try not to get stressed. Let’s go:
  1. The sooner you start your platform, the better. There really isn’t any good reason for waiting. Your platform isn’t going to build itself, so you might as well get started now. You do not have to have a published work to start up a blog or jump into social media. In fact, it’s better to get into this before you publish, for reasons I’ll explain later.
  2. Start with social media, and start slowly. Do you hear me? Start slowly. Otherwise you’ll get stressed, have a panic attack, choke on your coffee, pass out, hit your head on your bookshelf, and get a concussion. And we wouldn’t want that, now would we? Try starting with one or two social medias. I recommend Pinterest and Twitter for starters. Pinterest because it will be helpful for generated blog views later on (I get 80% of my visitors from Pinterest), and Twitter because it’s a good way to make personal connections with other readers and writers. After a month or so with those, you can branch out to a few more. Once you know you have a hang of that and haven’t gone into shock, then you can try starting up a blog.
  3. Make people like you. Building an author’s platform is a lot like the Hunger Games: You need to make the masses love you, otherwise nobody will sponsor you and you’ll be among the first to die. This is why I recommend starting social media first, then a blog, then publishing. That way people can get a sense for you as a person via social media before you start trying to sell them whatever it is you’re peddling. So when you jump in to social media, be yourself. Interact with other people. Show them who you are. How? Try this:
  4. Establish your online personality. Chances are, you have a lot of interests and a very diverse personality. Unfortunately, that’s a bit hard to pull off on social media. So pick parts of your personality that you think will serve you and your followers well. Now, I am NOT saying that you need to fake it. That doesn’t work. Just hone in on specific parts of you that you can easily display. Me? I built myself up as a sarcastic, funny, nerdy writer on a mission to create stories with meaning. That’s how I am in real life, which is why it works. Of course there are other sides of me (like the fact that I’m majoring in Nutrition or fighting Lyme or have a thing for classic movies), but I don’t broadcasts those as much because it’s too much information and often irrelevant. Pinpoint what makes you interesting and unique, then flaunt it. However….
  5. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself. You may write gothic fiction now, but what if you decide to branch of into historical fiction? You don’t want to be stuck with a platform geared only towards readers of gothic literature. And just because you’re a writer building a platform doesn’t mean you have to only tweet/pin/post about writing. Basically, you platform has to be broad enough to attract all kinds of people, but not so broad that people stumble across you on the web and can’t figure out what the heck your gig is or how it’s relevant to them.
  6. Remember that it’s not about you. Your platform needs to somehow be helpful to other people, otherwise they’re not going to want to follow you. Nobody cares what you ate for lunch or how your Aunt Peggy just bought you the most hideous purple sweater on earth (unless you can make a funny joke about it. Then make a funny joke. Never pass those up). You need to keep the focus on your audience. Some examples of how to do this would be: cheering people on via twitter, leaving reviews for indie writers, writing posts about topics you know people need help with, making people smile, and causing people to stop and think.
  7. Be friendly and helpful. Read and comment on other people’s blogs. Say hi to people on social media. Ask them what they’re doing, how they are, look around and see what people need help with. Be a decent, supportive human being and people are going to want to hang around.
  8. Don't be shy. If you want something, just ask. Do you want people to share your posts on social media? Put a little request at the bottom of your article. Do you want people to review your book? Just send them a tweet. The worst thing that can happen will be them rejecting you. Just shake it off. They probably don't have very good taste anyway.
  9. Don’t be obnoxious. I touched on this above, but I’m going to repeat myself because it seems like a lot of knuckleheads are ignoring this advice: While it's okay to be tenacious, don’t be a pest. Don’t expect other people to hand things to you just because you ask. Maybe you are brilliant, but don’t attack people for disagreeing with you. Try not to always be shouting about you, and what you did, what you’re doing, what so and so said about you. Nobody cares. Sorry.
  10. Find a writer that you enjoy and take tips from them. Do you have a blog you constantly read? Figure out what that blogger is doing right and apply it to your own platform. Follow fun people on social media and take mental notes of what they do that makes them fun. Use this for ideas only. Don’t be a copycat and always try to put your own personal spin on it. And don’t stalk people. I don’t care how many people think Edward Cullens was cute. Stalking is not cute. It’s creepy. Don’t do it. Ever.
  11. Remember that you’re going to screw up. And that’s okay. People aren’t perfect and nobody expects you to be…except maybe you. So stop expecting that and just open yourself up to exploring and having fun.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it? That’s okay. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. In the words of Grandmother willow: “Sometimes the right path is not the easiest.” So take a step back. Breathe. Everything is going to be fine. You can do this.

Remember that you’ve got a friend in me. If you have any questions or requests for a follow up post, please leave a comment or send me an email. I’d be more than happy to walk you through areas that you’re struggling with. And for those of you who have a hang of this author’s platform deal, please share your wisdom in the comment section!  

Don't worry, I'll still be posting my usual Friday article. This is just a "special occasion" post. If you enjoyed it, take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

27 comments:

  1. I've only just started on the blogging phase of my platform. I have one post which got a gratifyingly positive responses, but I'm still really nervous so thank you for these tips. Number 10 made me smile because when I was designing my blog, I used this blog for inspiration. It is my favorite writing blog ever.

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    1. Hi Tamara! I just read your first post and it was brilliant. Keep up the awesome work! And you using my blog as inspiration is one of the nicest compliments I have ever received. =) Thank you for the great comment!

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  2. Great tips! These all seem to be very true, based on what I've seen personally and what I've heard from other writers. #2 is where I struggle... to be PATIENT and take it one step at a time! ^_^

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    1. I know. I didn't realize how darn patient writers have to be. It does't suit my personality, but I'll find a way to live with it. =) Glad you enjoyed the post!

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  3. These are really great tips. I struggle with social media because I'm so inconsistent about when I can post to it. It's a trap! Once I start I get sucked in and then I have to avoid it to get more important things done. Sigh. I'll find the balance eventually. Keep up the good work. You're a great inspiration. ;-)

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    1. Thanks Alina! Yes, social media can be a bit of a drain. Have you tried Hootsuite? It's helpful for scheduling social media posts for days when you'll be too busy. It's great. =)

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  4. Great advice. Thank you for the tips. I will definitely be using these.

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  5. Hi, Hannah!

    I love this post so much. It's so straightforward, non-stressful, easy-peasy, and you-can-do-this-thing helpful! Thanks so much!

    I really enjoy readying your post, so thanks for all your work!

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    1. Thanks for the sweet comment, Kayla! I'm happy to hear that you found this post helpful. =)

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  6. I do think you just wrote a notable post, Hannah. As direct as useful. Besides, sometimes it's the simplest things we need to be reminded of. Thanks and Happy New Year. =)

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    1. Thanks Peter! I'm glad you liked this post. You are so right: sometimes we overlook some of the most obvious pieces of advice. =) May your 2016 be filled with blessings.

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  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts/ideas. I see your blog is on blogger. I've been told by many people that blogger is not the best platform. However, I began a blog on blogger many years ago for my love of textiles and other things. I thought I would turn it into my writing platform since it already has followers and a good priority ranking...what are your thoughts on platforms?

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    1. Great question! Blogger does get a pretty bad rap, but I've only ever had good results with them. I have good SEO and no reason to complain. If you already have a blog on blogger with a following, then I would lean towards staying with blogger. They've been good to me so far, and to a lot of other writers as well, so I don't see any reason to go anywhere else. Just my thoughts, though. =)

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing your advice on a subject that I know most authors- myself definitely included- shrink from. I have struggled (and failed) to keep up with a blog I wasn't ready to start, and my Twitter account isn't much better, but after reading this I'm inspired to try again.

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    1. I'm glad to hear you're going to pick it back up, Megan! You can do this! *waves pom poms*

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  9. Great advice, Hannah. Thanks for sharing. :) --- Suzanne

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  10. Thanks for the excellent tips. Luckily I started posting on social media long before I finished and published my novel. I made my mistakes (mostly) before people knew I had a novel coming out.
    Still I didn't get my blog started til much later. And then wasn't posting on it. Mostly, I try to share stuff that I think others would enjoy, including, on occasion, a word or two from me!
    Sherrie Miranda's historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y
    Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P11Ch5chkAc

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    1. I shared this on https://www.facebook.com/A-Page-A-Day-Lets-all-write-just-one-page-a-day-103970129720405/?fref=nf
      Thanks again for your great tips!
      Peace,
      Sherrie

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    2. Thank you so much for sharing and commenting, Sherrie! I appreciate it.

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  11. Your post encourages me! I write, get rejected, put it in a drawer. Knew I needed to develop a social media presence, but put it off -- so this helps. (I also came late to using ATM machines!) Thanks.

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    1. I'm so happy to be of encouragement! Keep at the writing and social media-ing. It's hard and can be intimidating, but I'm sure you can get it. Conquer the media and the ATM machines! =D

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  12. Thanks for these tips -- social media, platform building, etc. doesn't come easily to me. But I'll keep working on it! Have a great day. (Love the nerd quotes, BTW!)

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    1. Keep at it! It gets much easier. =) Thanks for the comment! And I'm super happy to hear that you like the nerd quotes. I have a lot of fun putting them in. =D

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