” If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.” Abraham Lincoln
We’ve all heard how editors and agents favor authors who have an established “platform”. I am honored to have leading expert, Dan Blank, discuss the basics of building an author platform in this guest post. I have been a student of Dan since February 2011. He makes platform-building fun and I’m sure my fellow students (we call ourselves “DanClanners”) will agree. In fact, this week I’m also over at fellow DanClanner, Shelly Immel‘s site for an interview on her BigLifeProject. I hope you’ll stop by.This is what Dan helped to facilitate and what he means by” making meaningful connections.”
Why develop an author platform? To learn how to best communicate the vision and value of your writing, and build an audience based on trust. Too many writers think that an author platform is just about getting on Twitter. There is so much more to it than that - it is about honing the most elemental way that you share your work and connect with your readers. Today, I want to provide an overview of some first steps you should take to develop your author platform.
When I work with writers, there are three core things I start off with:
- Focusing their goals
- Defining their brand
- Targeting their audience
Let’s dig more deeply into each:
Understanding Your Goals
Do you have specific short, mid, and long-term goals? Your goals need to be more firmly developed than vague statements such as “I just want to be a published author.” Being published is an amazing milestone in one’s writing career, but it does not speak to the true effect you have on the world. Being read is the moment when your work truly shapes someone’s life – and you can’t assume that the act of printing a book equates to developing a sizable readership. Create milestones to achieve on your way to getting published, and beyond. Likewise, too many writers cannot see beyond the publication of their book. To have a true writing career, you need to have a sense of where you are going beyond the work in your hand.
Identifying Your Brand
When developing an author platform, writers often need to consider the “brand” they are developing. A brand is a story. And for many writers, it may be surprising to learn that your story matters.
You are a writer, a master at telling a story. Create your own. This will help you understand more about your own motivation, more about the depth of your work, and more about how to communicate both of those things to your audience. To connect those things inside you and your work, to the things that ALREADY EXIST inside your audience. You are not creating a need within them, you are fulfilling a need that already exists. You merely need to find that alignment.
I don’t have to tell you that story is a powerful way to do that. When I use the word “brand” in relation to an author and their platform, I mean it as a way to embody this story. That your brand represents something about your work, your purpose. That it makes connections that many writers may not even know is there.
You will have to craft this story. Connect dots from your life experience that even you never noticed before. Your passion as a writer; the experiences and issues infused in your writing; why you write.
As you develop your story – your brand – consider the following:
- How can you represent your authentic self. Not some glossy version of how you HOPE others perceive you, but you as you are. With your personality, your talent, your faults.
- How your personality makes you unique – that being different is a powerful way to stand out in a world where trends try to make us all the same. What differentiates you is what makes you powerful.
- Your brand can be visual, not just based in text. Don’t be shy about your author photo, about using images in your online presence, in trying out video. These things connect to your audience on levels that words cannot.
Understand Who Your Audience Is And What Motivates Them
I always ask writers who their audience is. This is not an easy question to answer, but I am surprised at how often I am confidently told vague answers such as: “Anyone who loves a good story,” or simple: “women.” If you haven’t defined your core audience to the degree that you know how to reach them, then you will have a hard time understanding how your work connects to the world.
Learning about your audience is not a single task, it is a process that likely never ends. Many writers can be sheepish about speaking to readers, about learning who they are or why they read what they do. You need to develop channels to learn about the most important people in your writing life: the readers.
For everything mentioned above, there is a process to help answer these question, each of which can be powerful in reshaping your writing career, and helping you reach your goals. The sooner you begin addressing these core areas, the more likely you will be prepared for a life of writing, and not just publishing a book.
How solid is your platform?
Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia.com, which provides writers and publishers the strategy and tactics they need to impact their communities and build their legacies. He has worked with more than 500 writers, a wide range of publishers, and regularly speaks at conferences about branding, content strategy, social media, and marketing. He teaches an 8-week online course for writers called Build Your Author Platform. You can follow him on Twitter at @DanBlank and read his blog at http://WeGrowMedia.com
We’d love to hear from you. Please leave any questions or comments for Dan below.
Next Week: Self-published memoirists Rebecca Bricker and Linda Austin will discuss their marketing strategies for their memoirs. While marketing is not synonymous with author platform, a solid platform will facilitate marketing as Jane Friedman points out in this post.