July 2, 2019
How do you build a writing platform? What is a platform for writers anyway? This topic is both broad and deep, with tentacles that will drown even the most determined author in the sea of publishing. But you're in luck! This article breaks down platform for both new and experienced authors. First, let's start with the basic definition of platform.
Platform: one's visibility and the level of connection to an intended readership.
Over the next four weeks, we'll dig into the essential portions of author platform in these easy-to-read articles:
1: Defining Your Author Brand - Part 1 (This one!)
2: Defining Your Author Brand - Part 2
3: Finding Your Target Market (Coming July 16th)
4: Building Author Brand Engagement: It's Not About the Numbers (Coming July 23rd)
This is the first article in the platform series: Defining Your Author Brand - Part 1
Step Back and Dig In
The first thing I advise all my clients to do is to reflect on who they are. Make a list of things you believe in, your passions, and your core values. Also ask yourself why are you writing? Jot down thoughts that come to mind.
This is an essential step for new authors in order to get started on the right foot, as well as for more experienced authors who are feeling burned out or need a refresh on their brand. No matter where you are in your writing career, these answers impact everything when it comes to platform. (Just wait––you'll see how it all comes together.) Reflecting on who you are and what's important might take a few days to percolate, or even longer.
Three ideas to get started:
1. Reach out to childhood friends and ask them what comes to mind when they think about you. These friends know you inside and out, but you are not looking for self-help feedback here, peeps. You want nice or fun things about you! Keep an ear out for comments like, "I'm impressed with the things you've overcome," as this highlights inner strength. Positive things that you can boil down into a few words is great. (Simplicity is a good thing.)
2. Ask new author friends who might only know you from your work in the literary space (conferences, writer groups, etc.). Sometimes the people who've known you less time can actually be more helpful because they know you now as the person you've become. Not the teenager who had a fake ID and wore their bangs way too long … not that I did that ... *ahem*!
Ultimately, a list from any friend can shine a light on things you might not have considered. And it can also be a good jumping off point for creating a list that resonates with you.
3. For published authors, look at your book reviews to see if people comment on reoccurring themes or elements in your stories.
4. Authenticity isn't just a buzzword. Here's an ad I ran across that made me laugh. No one likes fake-fake. Besides, who has time and energy for pretending they care about something they don't? The list you're creating must resonate with you on some level.
Focus on Something Bigger Than Yourself
Musician Scott Page brilliantly explains how artists build a brand. As you are creating a list of things that are important to you, take a moment to listen to his YouTube interview (start at minute 12). The information Page shares on building your story and your mission is absolute gold! According to him, you are an author supporting a mission (not the other way around). This becomes your rallying cry–the movement you create!
Someone who does this very well is Emily R. King. Her books talk about sisterhood and empowerment. She reflects this in her social media, and even in her interviews.
Consider How You Make People Feel
Many marketers only focus on emotion because it is so important. A basic way to think about this, is when you see someone on a late-night television show and they walk on the stage, how do they make you feel? What is your emotional impression of them? Tom Hiddleson, who plays a villain in the Marvel franchise, is absolutely beloved by his many fans. He is known for his humility. In ego-centric Hollywood, many find him refreshing. The internet is filled with memes about Hiddleston's happy and generous attitude. (Seriously, just do a Pinterest search on "Hiddleston inspiration" and you'll see a million quotes from him as well as stories of kindness from those who've met him.)
Pulling in author Emily R. King again, she brings a feeling of empowerment. She makes her readers feel like they can light the world on fire, not unlike her elemental character who is a burner and can literally start her world on fire!
Platform vs. Marketing vs. Public Relations
Taking a step back, many people confuse platform with marketing and with public relations. These three elements are different, but they overlap. Basically, marketing and public relations are tools and resources that one can utilize to strengthen platform. Or one can use marketing to share information with their platform, like in this step-by-step book marketing plan.
Later in this platform series, we'll be talking about finding your target market, which will be essential in your marketing. No need to worry about this quite yet.
Preparing to Narrow Down Your Audience
So getting down to business, I've created five steps to help authors whittle down their core branding. Some authors immediately know what their core branding––their mission statement––is going to be, which is great. But many aren't sure, so read on!
Step 1: Consider your audience.
Review your list and note the elements that might be a touch-point for your audience. Are any of those elements things that are reflected in your writing? Highlight overlapping areas. Overlap with your writing is not essential, but you want to at least be aware of them.
Again, like with Emily R. King's example above, her platform is sisterhood and empowerment. This is reflected in her interviews, in her quotes on social media, and also through the characters in her novels. This is her rallying cry and her fans know when they read one of her books that those elements will be included. In her first series, The Hundredth Queen, sisterhood was a primary thread. In her most recent novel, the main protagonist is empowered and goes after what she wants, but is often alone. However, there are two side characters who are loyal friends to each other––so that sisterhood is still represented in the novel.
Finding your Core Value
In Part 2 of Defining Your Author Brand, you'll learn how to narrow down your choices, by continuing steps 2 - 4. And you'll also learn about "supportive branding" (step 5), for added flexibility. So, thoughtfully make your list and next week we'll move on to Part 2 of this author branding section!
Kristin J. Dawson lives on the edge of a forest in the Pacific Northwest. She's the author of THE LILAC PLAGUE, the HowDoesShe.com Literary Contributor, and a Deep Magic E-zine Board Member.
Are you ready to start writing your book? Let us help! Show the Institute for Writers a sample of your work here.