Building Your Writing Platform

By Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

Your platform as a writer could make or break your chances of selling a book proposal or manuscript to a publishing house or even to an agent. Celebrities, movie stars, politicians, billionaires, and top models have ready-made platforms: their own fame and visibility (and the public’s insatiable curiosity)! They’re practically guaranteed instant publicity.

Regular folk, however, aren’t always able to attract or hold the attention of the masses – nor do they really want to. Some writing and publishing experts say this is an automatic death sentence to a query or proposal. If you don’t have a platform, you won’t get published.

What a platform is and does:
Your platform is how you promote yourself.

To build your platform, you need to be an entrepreneur and marketing guru with established followers. It’s a tall order but take heart! In our modern technological age, it’s quite possible and perhaps not too difficult to do.

Your platform:

  • Drives book sales.
  • Proves your ability as a writer to promote and sell your book on a national or international level.
  • Provides a measure of security to the publisher.
  • Acts as a vehicle to promote your book and you, the writer.

According to Frishman and Spizman’s Author 101 Bestselling Book Proposals: The Insider’s Guide to Selling Your Work, platforms are not only necessary they’re essential. The authors of this book quote many agents and publishers who drive home the importance of platforms. Fortunately Frishman and Spizman also provide several suggestions for building your platform which you may already be doing.

10 ways to build your platform:
1. Build your own website with blogs, forums, newsletters, and photos.
2. Blog or write for an established website.
3. Figure out what your specialty or niche is.
4. Give talks about your specialty in schools, churches, libraries, local groups, etc.
5. Teach classes or offer workshops.
6. Offer products or services related to your niche.
7. Participate in online communities and forums.
8. Sell or donate articles or bits of book chapters to magazines, newspapers, or newsletters.
9. Conduct focus groups or use surveys to convince publishers that your idea has merit and will sell.
10. Ask an organization to commit to buying a hundred or so copies of your published book and include their letter of commitment with your book proposal.

The above 10 suggestions aren’t all from Author 101 Bestselling Book Proposals: The Insider’s Guide to Selling Your Work, but the following four alternative methods are.

4 different ways to build your platform:

1. Hire a book publicist.
2. Make readers (publishers, editors, agents) laugh. Learn to write humorously.
3. Secure an agent who believes in you.
4. Plug into an established series. For example, tailor your book idea to fit the Chicken Soup series, or the Dummies line.

Other ideas include teaming up with a professional or celebrity, or contacting a small press for your first book. Some writers self-publish their own books and are picked up by a publishing house What Color is Your Parachute began that way! (He may have had a platform, though). Other writers, such as Cancer Vixen author Marissa Acocella Marchetto, use completely different methods to tell their story – such as cartoons or graphic novels.

Stick to it!

Doris Lessing said, “What I had that others didn’t was a capacity for sticking to it.” Don’t give up hope even if you don’t have a platform and even if rejection seems to follow you everywhere. It can seem discouraging or depressing to face the task of establishing yourself publicly in this world, but remember that thousands of books are published every year and not every writer is firmly established on a platform!

Don’t just focus on your idea, your book proposal, and your manuscript — visualize them! Share what you love to do with the world, and your platform will build itself. (With a little luck)

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is pursuing professional bliss! In addition to Psychology at Suite101 , she writes for health and wellness magazines and the local paper….but her dream is to write non-fiction books that encourage and inspire people to Live Big.

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