Having a writing platform means that you have built a following, and that you have created ways to reach those readers you want to sell books to. A writing platform is equally important to those published and soon to be published.
Did you know that before an agent or publisher considers signing you, he/she will do a Google search on your name to see how often it comes up? These days publishers can't afford to promotion for you like they did years ago. They want proof you are willing and able to help generate some excitement about your books. They need you to help sell your books.
Let’s face it – the more internet presence you have, the better your chances are of getting signed into a book deal. Let’s discuss how you can create a successful writing platform.
- Attend book signings and readings. Do you know the writers in your community? You should. Writers love to read and they buy books and support other writers in their effort to create a writing platform. Making connections will put you on mailing lists and will increase your chances of being invited to literary events and parties. Believe me - the connections you make at these events are invaluable. You have lists of contacts – right? So these authors you are making friends with also have their list of contacts. Offer to send information about your book to your contact lists if they will do the same for your books. You’ve both just increased your writing platform.
- Consider doing public readings of your work. When I wrote children’s stories – I would go to schools and do readings. The same principle holds true with writing any book. Find a place to do readings, books stores, libraries, and historical societies (depending on the book you are writing). Readings are encouraged in almost every town or city. If no reading series exists in your area, consider starting one. Readings are often publicized on the internet, through the library, or even written about in the newspaper. The attention you receive here may strengthen your writing platform.
- Blogging and having a writer website is a must. This is a great avenue to showcase your books and any services you provide. Brag – if you don’t say how great your stories are – who is going to?
- Keep your website fresh and new. Remember your goal is to encourage visitors return to your website often. Share useful information and services for readers or other writers. Promote your availability as a speaker. Don’t just tell visitors what books are available. Make the access to them easy with the push of a button. Also, don’t only list what books are published, but share what story or series you are working on – include a blurb . . . entice them to check back with you!
- Be willing to teach others. You didn’t get where you are as a writer without help. Now it’s your turn to be willing to teach others. Offer to be a guest speaker at schools, conferences, and even writer’s groups. Share your knowledge and your time and you will make friends and even develop followers to strengthen your writing platform. Always keep track of the people you meet to broaden your writing platform.
- Have you considered writing articles or blog at other websites? Be willing to do interviews. You won't be paid for these articles, but the exposure you receive as an author is payment enough. All this exposure helps build your writing platform. Be sure that your name and website address is at the bottom of every article. Consider insisting that the link is active for online sources. Make it easy for readers to only make a click to contact you or learn more about you. Keep you name visible wherever you can.
- Find ways to advertise on other websites. It’s worth spending $20 or $30 a month to be placed at high traffic websites that link to your website. Keep an eye on traffic increases when adding new advertising sites; be aware which ads are most effective in driving traffic to your site. I actually believe articles and blogs are more effective than ads.
- Offer a newsletter – steering people to your website. Providing visitors the opportunity to sign up for your newsletter allows you to stay in contact with your visitors and keep your email list current. Give it careful thought because it’s a lot of extra work. If you're certain you have the time and the imagination to keep a monthly newsletter current, it’s a good way to help build a strong writing platform.
- Give a business card to everyone you meet. Never miss an opportunity to hand out your business cards. I always have one or more of my current book covers on the card with my website and email address on the back, which encourages individuals to visit your website and opt in to your newsletter. Leave small stacks of cards in places of business and on bulletin boards to encourage strangers to take them and pass them on. I even add a business card in envelopes when I pay bills!
- Offer free teleconferences online. Offering a free one-hour PowerPoint presentation is a great way to increase your existing contact list. Before the call, provide participants with the telephone number, web address, and password. WebEx, ReadyTalk, and others offer convenient services for about $49 a month, with free trials.
- Offer short video presentations. Some computer have video capabilities to create video presentations. Consider having a friend videotape you as you read from your book or share partial information from your courses. Post these videos on social networking sites and on video sites such as YouTube, Viddler, MetaCafe, etc. Be sure to include a line of text that sends viewers to your website.
- Hire a publicist. We all know that small presses can't afford doing publicity for their authors, and larger publishers are spending less and less. It’s up to you. You want to keep your name and your books visible so you slowly build a following. This does not happen overnight; you build your platform one name at a time.
I’m the kind of writer that wants to be left alone to write …write…write. But we have to be smart. The days when a writer could write and leave promotional concerns to the publisher are gone. Let’s face it – we are expected to self-promote. Use the steps above to create a writing platform before you need one and especially once you're published. It’s hard work – but if you want your books to sell you need to create a successful writing platform.
Don't pad your list with people who never agreed to let you contact them. Be savvy and make your list "opt-in only," and build a following of at least 5000 fans or interested contacts. Your agent and publisher will love you for it and your success will shoot toward the stars.