Why Writers Need a Platform

Today we are going to talk about platform. Platform, next to the actual writing, is simply THE most valuable asset we possess. Platform and content are the two things we control, and they are the largest determining factors as to whether or not we will have a successful writing career. Platforms offer us career stability and a foundation for a future.

What exactly IS platform?

So what is a platform? There are two sides to platform. First is the definition of our platform. What is unique about us or our writing that can be a determining factor in our content?

In Hollywood, the mantra is, “Give me the same…but different.” This should be our mantra in defining our platform. We need SOMETHING that defines us as a writer…but at the same time makes us stand out from all the others. Same but different.

Our platform definition is basically our image, and affects the way we will approach others. Think of it like how we dress. Do we approach people as the three-piece suit Power Point guy? All business and professional? Are we the D&D T-shirt video game guy, and we quote Blazing Saddles far more than is socially acceptable? Are we the seductive yet snarky diva who teaches about bringing out the inner muse? Defining platform goes a lot to adding to voice.

Just go read Bob Mayer’s blog…then pop over the Chuck Wendig. Both have amazing blogs, but very different voices and presentation. Both authors use their strong suits, and their personalities come screaming off the screen (in a good way).

I liken myself to Erma Bombeck meets technology. I strive to add a heavy dose of humor and common sense to all of my social media endeavors. I am using something unique to me; the ability to be funny…honed over 18 schools and countless Mean Girls whose sole mission in life was to make my life hell. Years of always being the new target kid developed in me a strong defense mechanism. I learned to be funny. Kind of like peeing on yourself so no one eats you.

In my Blogging to Build Your Author Brand on-line classes, I run participants through a series of exercises to help them define their unique platform. We peel back the layers of fear and the defense mechanisms to reveal the best of what each writer has to offer. Why be a bad copy when you can be an awesome and original YOU?

Defining our platform is like putting together blueprints for a building. Are we a Frank Lloyd Wright writer? A Tuscan villa writer? A post-modern industrial writer? A ranch-style writer? We need to know what we are constructing first.

Anyway, once we have defined our platform, then we go about building our platform. This can be a simple presence in a blog or on FB…or, if you read my book WANA, it is a complex layering of all the major sites worked into an intricate lattice that is designed to grow with your career and withstand upsets in the industry or on social media. The WANA Method maximizes time on social media.

Good Platforms are Solid and Can Withstand Major Shifts in Technology and Trends

All platforms are comprised of content and exposure. How much content are you putting out there? What kind of materials (content) are you using? Are you cheaping out? Cutting corners? Or are you constructing something built to last? Are you showing up daily on the job site? Or, are you adding to your structure only when the mood strikes?

One blog every quarter and tweets about the weather is not a lot of useful content. Content makes up the beams to construct the platform. If we are putting out 2-5 quality blogs a week, that is like laying down solid beams of hardwood. If we don’t blog and only play with farm animals on FB, think of that like building our platform with leftover Popsicle sticks. Yeah, there is something “wooden-ish” there, but it sure as heck ain’t load-bearing.

This is the point of all that we are doing when on social media. We are creating a load-bearing structure using content and relationships. This is the platform that will hold our reputations, our public images and our futures. Do we want that made out of beams of African Teak or cheap particle board? The better a platform is constructed, the better chance it can withstand a major change.

Case in point…

MySpace is dead. It decided to commit digital suicide two weeks after WANA released (feel free to ignore all ten pages that talk about MySpace). But this illustrates a good point about how my approach to social media is different. WANA methods focus on people, not gizmos.

At the time We Are Not Alone came out, I already had a HUGE presence on MySpace. But, because I had built my platform the way I teach you guys, I was able to keep most of my followers as tastes changed in favor of FB and Twitter. How? My platform was solid and founded on people, not technology. Technology changes, but people are timeless.

When MySpace went crazy, my platform remained intact. Members of my MySpace platform could easily find me on FB as they abandoned ship transitioned. And, the even better part was that I made enough of an impression that they WANTED to find me. That is awesome no matter how you look at it😀.

I teach you guys how to do the same. There is no guarantee that Facebook will be here next year. Twitter could turn cannibalistic and devour itself one tweep at a time. We don’t know where the technology goes or how it will change, but we DO know that people are awesome and they long to connect and be part of a community. This is the key reason that platforms created on technology are so high-maintenance and vulnerable to change (implosion). They are founded on shifting sands of gizmos, not the timeless nature of humans.

So now that you agree that platforms need to be built on relationships, let’s look a little closer. Platform gives us a number of advantages.

The Six Degrees of Separation

As society advances, we have more and more choices and are inundated with information. People tend to pull in to what and who they know. Actively participating on social media is like rolling dice. The more times you roll, the greater chances you have for being successful and opening that ONE door that changes your career forever.

Platform Gives Us Options

Too many writers are out there betting on that ONE thing to come through…an agent will represent them then NY will offer them a deal. Nothing wrong with that, but it can make us crazy in the meantime. To be blunt, an author with no social media presence and only a manuscript has limited options.

Yet, if we have a large platform, our options improve. We can indie publish or self-publish other works until an agent bites. We can take an unconventional path to publication. Four years ago, no agent would rep me. There was no market for a social media book. So, because I had a platform, I could indie publish with WDW Publishing. WANA (and probably divine intervention) landed me one of the top agents in the world.

Platforms Make Us Desirable

A strong platform gives us the luxury of being picky. Platform makes us the pretty girl that every guy wants to marry. We can stay single and break all their hearts if we want to, or we can settle down. But the best news is that we don’t have to settle for the first offer that comes our way.

Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, and John Locke didn’t have to chase the first agent that smiled at them. They had a lot to offer any agent/publisher, so they were able to use their platforms (books and sales eventually are part of our platforms) to broker sweeter deals. Platforms can be viewed as a time suck, or they can be viewed as a way to improve our marketability. Writers have more power and control over their careers than ever before. Opportunity often comes wearing overalls; it’s why most people miss it.

What are some tactics you guys use to grow your platform? Any suggestions? Thoughts? What are your biggest challenges? Share!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of November I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

DeKloutifying by John Scalzi. HILARIOUS and YES!!!!

What NOT to Blog About by Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner

Learn to Fail Aggressively by Nationally Best-Selling Author James Scott Bell

Cool interview. Author Kait Nolan talks Werewolves

Enough Already! Self-Promotion Madness by Roni Loren

Why You Need Extra Eyes by Tawna Fenske

Make sure you check out Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether to keep up with the latest and greatest trends in publishing.

Also, Jane Friedman is an EXCELLENT resource for all writers, but especially the digital author.

Excellent article in the Wall Street Journal. Penguin Publishing launches a self-publishing division

In my “free time” I am running for Vice President of the Free World. Piper Bayard and I launch our blog tour over at More Cowbell because, seriously…the White House needs more cowbell.

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  1. #1 by Piper Bayard on November 16, 2011 - 12:13 pm

    Not only all of that, but the work we put into building a platform improves our work ethic and writing skills exponentially. Thank you for all of your guidance, Kristen. I would still be climbing Magic Mountain instead of Mt. Everest without it.

    And the White House totally needs More Cowbell!

    • #2 by Jenny Hansen on November 16, 2011 - 12:15 pm

      Yep, also “what she said!!” *waving hi to our next president*

  2. #3 by Jenny Hansen on November 16, 2011 - 12:14 pm

    You had me spitting beverages here this morning, Kristen. I’m in bed today, lady…this is NOT good. But at least I’ll laugh while I change the sheets.

    It all started with quoting “Blazing Saddles far more than is socially acceptable.” (Is that even possible?) Continuing on to because, seriously…the White House needs more cowbell.” (It most certainly does!)

    Thanks for the shout out and the great blog!

  3. #4 by LittleMissVix on November 16, 2011 - 12:17 pm

    Great advice!

  4. #5 by authorleannedyck on November 16, 2011 - 12:19 pm

    I love this post. It validates my daily activities, gives me hope for tomorrow and reminds me that I’m not alone with my author struggles. Thank you, Kristen.

  5. #6 by Leanne Shirtliffe on November 16, 2011 - 12:26 pm

    You are the Queen of Hilarious Analogies (maybe that makes you Queen HA?).

    Besides the humor, my favorite part of this post was this: “My platform was solid and founded on people, not technology. Technology changes, but people are timeless.” Yes. And that’s what makes the time worthwhile. People are worth it. Relationships are worth it.

    Well put.

  6. #7 by Tameri Etherton on November 16, 2011 - 12:31 pm

    I first heard about ‘platform’ about three years ago at a writer’s conference and no one could really say what it was I needed. Because I write fiction, they would stammer and mumble, but no clear idea of what my platform should be.

    Then along comes this spunky gal from Texas. The way you break everything down into manageable bites is awesome. Thank you for being there for us writers.

    I’m wishing right now I could come up with a clever quote from Blazzing Saddles, but I got nothing. I keep thinking, “I’ve got a fever and the only cure for my fever is More Cowbell!” I have no idea why.

    • #8 by Jenny Hansen on November 16, 2011 - 1:38 pm

      Thasssss right! Great quote, Tameri.🙂

  7. #9 by Patrick Thunstrom on November 16, 2011 - 12:37 pm

    Consistency is my big thing. The more I post (Whether it be about my own past, games, blogging, or even politics[I know, I know, rule breaker.]) my traffic grows the more I share information.

    • #10 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 16, 2011 - 12:50 pm

      Politics are okay, depending on approach. Hey, I am running for VP of the United States. Ranting is the big turn-off. Anything that will polarize people is something to avoid.

  8. #11 by Anne R. Allen on November 16, 2011 - 12:56 pm

    Great advice, as always. You make it so clear. And thanks so much for the DeKloutify link! Ever since Klout demoted everybody and started urging me to raise my number by getting my friends to join Klout (and provide their personal info for marketers, of course) I’ve avoided it.

  9. #12 by MaLinda Johnson on November 16, 2011 - 1:22 pm

    Yes Yes YES! You need to place people over technology, every time. Even as the popular web sites change, the rules that govern interactions on them do not. If you consistently share good content and interact with people, those actions will bring you more friends (career success) than you ever thought possible.

  10. #13 by amyskennedy on November 16, 2011 - 1:44 pm

    Always great stuff, thanks Kristen.

  11. #14 by Catherine Johnson on November 16, 2011 - 1:47 pm

    Great advice as usual. I love it that people win over technology. That is music to a technophobes ears. Practise makes perfect with social media, but technology may always stump us🙂

  12. #15 by rachelfunkheller on November 16, 2011 - 2:06 pm

    “The Sheriff is a Ni…” Wonderful advice Kristen, you nailed it when you made the distinction between people and technology. That it is the relationships we create using social media that are important, not the media tool of the times. Thank you so much for all of your great guidance during WANA 2011. Thanks to you I have 100 shiny new pals…. tossing a bunch of glitter your way… now you got it in your hair!

  13. #16 by Marianne Wheelaghan on November 16, 2011 - 2:26 pm

    Hi Kristen, All great stuff. Thanks:) My problem being a realtive newbie to blogging is knowing how much time to spend on developing my ‘social platform’! I could opend all day, every day, on it, but book numbner two won’t get finished if I do. How much time did you spend when you started, and do you still dedicate that amount of time to your ‘platform’? Cheers!

    • #17 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 16, 2011 - 2:40 pm

      If you build your platform the WANA way, it requires far less time and will be more stable long-term. I spend about 20 minutes a day on social media (not counting blogging). I teach how to work smarter, not harder. Platforms are don’t have to be high-maintenance if we enlist the help of a community.

  14. #18 by educlaytion on November 16, 2011 - 2:54 pm

    I know you’re not a guru, but I feel more centered now. Also, I’m going to remember to pee on myself if ever attacked.

  15. #19 by Team Oyeniyi on November 16, 2011 - 2:57 pm

    How is the final winner going to be at the end of October, if they are weekly November prizes? Do you put these in to see how well we read? I recall this on the last article I read! You are sneaky!😆

    • #20 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 16, 2011 - 3:16 pm

      Exactly. See you are paying attention😀. Oy, and just about the time I will get used to typing November it will be December, LOL.

  16. #21 by Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) on November 16, 2011 - 3:27 pm

    Agree with Anne Allen on the great advice, Kristen, and many thanks for the support of Writing on the Ether. I’ll be taking the weekly Vapors first thing Thursday morning, join us for the new edition.

  17. #22 by Sonia G Medeiros on November 16, 2011 - 4:06 pm

    Consistency is definitely key. That and being patient. Sometimes folks get to expecting a platform to be built overnight or freak out about mistakes. Sometimes we have to be flexible with our goals. If you stick with it, the platform does grow.

  18. #23 by Monica Frazier on November 16, 2011 - 4:41 pm

    You’re my SM go to guru (not that SM!). I first heard of platform 11 months ago, started blogging nine months ago. I feel I may be floundering a bit although stats numbers steadily rising. More important than numbers, right now, is that I enjoying blogging and it’s helped in my daily writing.

    I loved your book Are You There Blog and found it full of great advice and I want to learn more. Question: How many online hours are in your Blogging to Build Brand workshop for Jan/Feb.?

  19. #24 by clarbojahn on November 16, 2011 - 5:18 pm

    Thanks for this post. I posted something similar in my blog over at http://clarbojahn.wordpress.com/
    called “An author blog-can it help your book?” I have throughly enjoyed this post.

  20. #25 by timlobrien on November 16, 2011 - 5:34 pm

    Not only do you offer us great advice once again, but having been in your class for a month and a half I realize that if we follow your instruction this stuff really will work!

  21. #26 by Roni Loren on November 16, 2011 - 5:47 pm

    Damn, I can’t use popsicle sticks? But that’s what I build my plots on and that…yeah, that doesn’t work either.😉 Thanks for the shout out!

  22. #27 by Applied Behavioral Strategies on November 16, 2011 - 6:13 pm

    These are great points! I’m so glad that I found you BEFORE I started building my platform.

  23. #28 by Donnalee on November 16, 2011 - 7:17 pm

    You have a class on this? I need it. Working on a website and blog, but can’t get going because,
    platform? what platform!

  24. #29 by Rob Mahan Books on November 16, 2011 - 7:20 pm

    Hello Kristen!

    I’ve found (and followed) your blog just in the nick of time, thanks to Robin Martin at Two Songbirds Press! I’ve built a lot of furniture and even a few decks in my time, but now that Robin is helping me with my first novel, I’m tackling building a platform! “Why Writers Need a Platform” has already furthered my education . . . and I laughed out loud a few times, too!

    Thanks for being out there!
    Rob

  25. #30 by lynnkelleyauthor on November 16, 2011 - 7:29 pm

    That’s the perfect description of you, Kristen, Erma Bombeck meets technology. A wonderful combination, humor and technology!

  26. #31 by Rebecca Berto on November 16, 2011 - 8:26 pm

    Great advice!

    We need to show that we can be active in marketing our work (to prospective agents/publishers). I like the comparison to wanting a good mate to marry. If someone is putting themselves, or their business, ‘on the line’ for you, they want to see that you are up for the challenge.

    I’ve just started blogging and it’s been one of the best choices I made.

    Thanks for posting this.🙂

  27. #32 by Renee Schuls-Jacobson on November 16, 2011 - 10:16 pm

    Love this, as usual. And wouldn’t it be faboo if bloggers ruled the United States. I think I may have to consider writing-in Piper/Lamb as my two favorite candidates.😉

  28. #33 by oscarsparrow on November 17, 2011 - 3:00 am

    I have a copy of your book and being a good boy following the WANA philosphy step by step, or rather plank by plank and trusting that it will give me good strong foundations.

    I’m still adding bios/photos and setting up individual sites so early days … yesterday was MY SPACE and reading this blog is a relief today as it explains why I was having so much trouble – luckily I gave up with them in the end as it seemed a complete mess. Decided to add Google+ instead and found you on there too! I think I am getting the hang of it – as you say social media is in a constant flux.

    Thanks for your inspiration and advice.

    Oscar

  29. #34 by eric mosley on November 17, 2011 - 8:22 am

    In his current blog post Bob Mayer talks about getting the premise of a book down to one sentence. I love that you, Kristen, have boiled the concept of platform down to the one word I think is the cornerstone of everything human: relationships. That makes the whole concept of platform much clearer to me.

    My biggest challenge is that I enjoy deep relationships, and – to quote another writer – social media seems more like a cocktail party, which is an environment I don’t enjoy or do well in. I’m in the middle of WANA, and am rather stuck. I’m glad you wrote that MySpace is dead before I spent any more time on it. See, I’m so not into the party scene, I didn’t even know it was over.🙂

    • #35 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 17, 2011 - 8:35 am

      That is an awesome parallel and a WONDERFUL compliment. Bob is a great teacher, so I am humbled to enjoy a comparison. Yes, all you need os FB and Twitter and I strongly recommend a blog. But if you blog then all you really need is a blog and Twitter. Those basics will do just fine.

      • #36 by Team Oyeniyi on November 18, 2011 - 7:39 am

        “if you blog then all you really need is a blog and Twitter” – Hurray!!!!!

    • #37 by Jennifer Joseph on November 19, 2011 - 10:11 am

      I feel you on the cocktail party thing. I’m not much of a light gabber. I prefer deeper relationships/convos and I think that’s why I don’t get interaction from a lot of fellow writers. I get more interaction from potential readers because we have long conversations on Twitter about things that we both enjoy.

  30. #38 by Jan Morrill on November 17, 2011 - 11:26 am

    Building a platform via social media can feel overwhelming (and certainly distracting) at times. Thanks for another great blog. You’ve reinforced the importance of building a platform, as well as providing focus to a necessary (but fun) evil.

  31. #39 by gingerclub on November 17, 2011 - 12:20 pm

    Dear Kirstin,

    Thank you for this great article once again. I also feel (like Jan), that sticking to build up social platforms is time sucking and you sometimes wonder about the return or what kind of return there is. Additionally, I just lost all my contacts on FB to no-where land due to a virus on FB. Your article came at the right time to motivate me again and to point out the importance for doing all this.

    Sunny smiles

    Ginger
    http://bloodpressure.wordpress.com (just because you will be automatically linked to my German blog)

    • #40 by gingerclub on November 17, 2011 - 3:23 pm

      Dear Jan,

      I actually have the same problem. Thank God that we get nicely reminded that the pursuit is worthwhile.

  32. #41 by philsrogers on November 17, 2011 - 4:02 pm

    Hi Kristin – This is a great article – I wish I had found your blog earlier. I am building my platform but sometimes I wonder if the train has already left.

  33. #42 by Reetta Raitanen on November 17, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    Thank you Kristen for your We Are Not Alone book and the other blogging book with an awesome name. Thank you for the Twitter group you found (#MyWANA). If you my fellow commenters aren’t there yet, check it out🙂

    And thank you for the awesome blogging course. I no longer flounder in the darkness. I now have a direction and a fun way ahead of me because it’s all about being me. And at the same time blogging and Tweeting about things that interest others too.

  34. #43 by Jennifer M Eaton on November 17, 2011 - 10:19 pm

    Great post! Building a platform was tricky at first, but once I found my nitch, and started enjoying it rather than dreading it… it started to work. I am still far off from having a really huge-solid platform, but I an thrilled with the amount of followers I have after just four months. I feel like I am connecting with people. Hopefully, they are connecting too and not just blankly following. 🙂
    http://www.jennifermeaton.com

  35. #44 by nakedlobster on November 18, 2011 - 12:21 am

    Thanks for the great information. I am getting a lot out of all of your links and just started reading Are You There Blog? Right now it feels easier just to write for my blog than to read and sort through everyone’s advice on what to write, but at least your advice comes with laughs. I just read the section in your book about helping others and am completely blown away by that concept, even if I am not quite sure yet how to implement it. Thanks again, Ann

  36. #45 by Jess Witkins on November 18, 2011 - 4:40 pm

    Appreciate the in depth class you’re teaching on Author Branding. It’s a good review of what to work on and has helped me create an easier schedule, so blogging feels manageable. Everyone should take your course!

  37. #46 by Carol Silvis on November 19, 2011 - 10:38 am

    Thanks for the useful information. It’s always hard to balance blogging and tweeting and writing, but you help us to understand how to do it and why it is important.

  38. #47 by Kim on November 19, 2011 - 11:02 pm

    A friend linked me here and I’m not sure whether to thank her or block her from ever leaving a comment again🙂 I’m right on the tipping point between throwing myself into writing wholeheartedly and deleting Word off my computer only writing fiction when emailing my mom to explain why I didn’t return her call. You’re making me want to try again and I can’t decide if that’s good or bad.

  39. #48 by Meghan Ward on November 22, 2011 - 8:54 am

    Kristen, thanks for this great post. I found the deKloutifying link through one of Anne Allen’s tweets and was happy to read it after I wrote a similar post. I linked to you today, by the way. Happy early Thanksgiving!

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