Please read this excellent advice from Emily Raper on building your writer’s platform, a must for any writer whose goal is to publish a novel, short stories, articles etc.
via: Author’s Canvas
In nearly every blogging, writing, or publishing how-to list, advice post, or article, you will hear the words “writing platform.” For people who know exactly what this is and exactly how to build one, this is not something stressful. However, the mount of people who know absolutely everything about building a writing platform and are completely confident in themselves is very slim.
The good news is that a writing platform is not that difficult to explain. The concepts and building blocks, while they may take a significant amount of time to accomplish and complete, are not hard to understand and learn. Building a writing platform is essential, so keep reading to find out the basics and start working on yours today.
1. Define Your Purpose
Every writer needs a purpose behind their writing. Whether you want to eventually publish fiction novels, write advice articles, build tons of traffic for your blog, or go into journalism, you need to know WHY you are writing. Knowing the reason you write is essential for building your writer’s platform because it creates a mission and also lets those who will read your writing know that you are serious about what you’re doing. So take some time to actually think about why you write and form a mission statement. Setting a goal that you can work towards will help you to keep building your platform even on those days where you don’t feel like writing.
2. Inform and Introduce
This next basic step goes hand in hand with writing a mission statement. In order to build a platform about you and your writing, you need to let people know who you are, and what you write. Summarize yourself and your work into a paragraph or two and make sure that this is visible to your readers. Whether you’re starting a blog, a website, writing a book, or advertising on social media, your readers need to feel like they know you and that they know about you. Good things to include in this type of bio are your name, where you are originally from, what you are doing in your life with writing right now, what you do outside of write, and what your future plans are.
3. Find a way to publicize your writing
Unless you have already written a book that is sure to be a bestseller and you don’t feel the need to build a writing platform, you will need some way to advertise and share your writing. Since today’s world is largely centered around social media and online advertising, I would suggest you start with at least two forms of social media and go from there. As a blogger, I would automatically recommend starting a blog or a website just because it is an easy way to share your ideas, gain a following, and connect with other writers. In addition, almost all bloggers are writers in some way. Even if they write about makeup or food they are still writers and they will appreciate your writing more because of that.
However, I understand that not everyone wants to start a blog, and there are definitely other ways to gain a following for your platform. Social media provides several outlets for sharing just about everything, and this can be a great way to start showing your writing to people you know. If you choose this route, I highly recommend thinking through which forms of social media will be helpful for your topics before creating an account. While Instagram may be more popular among younger crowds than Facebook is, only being able to post pictures may not work when you’re writing a novel. The same thing goes for other forms of social media like Pinterest, Twitter, or other social platforms that only allow a specific type of post. Think carefully how you want to advertise to your readers, because an attractive presentation is crucial when trying to gain a following.
4. Bait your blog
I titled this tip “Bait your blog” because it sounded good, but this tip applies to any form of social media you choose. This concept is very similar to a tip jar, a signup sheet, or a forum. Once someone comments, tips, or participates in a certain activity, others are more inclined to as well. People are also attracted to things that are pleasantly presented, or that look professional. Do this with your chosen form of advertisement. Don’t ask people to follow your empty blog, but, instead, add a few high quality posts first. You will gain a larger following faster if, once people read your blog, they are impressed. Also encourage family and friends to comment or like your posts. If strangers see that your posts engage others, they will be more likely to give you a follow or like your posts.
5. Start making a “potential readers” list
Many aspiring writers like to start their writing careers by showing their writing to people they know first. If this is you, I encourage you to start by making a “potential readers” list. This list will include everyone you know, an everyone that you would feel comfortable showing your writing to. Then, add these people on social media, or invite them to like your writing posts. Encourage your closer friends and family to make your writing look good by commenting on it, because this will encourage others to do so as well. Telling people about your writing also opens the door for them to tell others, and this leads to more and more people seeing your writing.
6. Develop a voice
As a writer, finding your own personal voice is very important. However, as a writer that actually has people reading their writing, this is crucial. People will not take the time to read what you have to say if it’s something they don’t find it unique or interesting. When building your platform, you need to characterize your writing and develop a few unique things you do as a writer and stick with them. These things can be something as simple adding humor to your writing, always starting or ending a post with a certain phrase, consistently talking about a few select topics and then diving deeper into just a few of them, or defining yourself and your writing. You need to be recognizable to your readers, but your writing also needs to be something that they will remember and that they can only get from you.
7. Write interactive posts to begin with
Again, this may apply more to blogs than other types of social media, but the same concepts still apply. It is important to show your readers that you care about them and their input. Therefore, I would recommend writing posts that either ask for their opinion in the comments, or that give them advice about something or posts that they will find useful. No one likes a know-it-all or a over-confident and cocky personality. When trying to gain a following, your main goal is to write for your readers and not for yourself, so you should try to interact with them in posts. The bigger following you get, the more freedom you will have in your writing. However, to begin with, try to write more for your readers than for yourself.
8. Stick to a schedule
When you are first starting out and trying to build a platform, a schedule seems to be more work than it’s worth. In fact, the first few weeks of your “publicized writing” life may seem exciting enough that you don’t need a schedule to keep you on task or to encourage you to write. However, I know from experience that writing high quality posts for just a few select followers will lose its luster after a few weeks, and, at that point, if you don’t have a schedule you will probably just quite writing all together. Plan ahead with your posts and know exactly how much you will be posting each day (I recommend at least once a day for at least the first 3 months). Nothing is less impressive to your readers than watching your writing slowly disappear or seeing you give up, so make sure this doesn’t happen.
9. Research your target audience
This tip doesn’t show up until #9 because I think it takes awhile to know exactly who your target audience is and what that means. Obviously, you want anyone and everyone to read your writing, but no matter how you advertise your writing, you are eventually going to develop a target audience. Sometimes this is as simple as accepting to have followers if you Instagram, and older followers if you use Facebook, however, you need to find ways to appeal to each audience as much as possible. This requires research. You need to learn when specific types of people are most likely to be online, what kinds of posts they are most likely to read, and who they are most likely to follow. For example, if you plan to have mostly millennials or young adults read your writing, post in the evenings/nights or around meal times because they are almost always on their phone during these times. If your target audience is moms that lead a busy lifestyle, then write your posts in list format to give them a faster and more efficient read. The more your followers and readers can get out of your posts, the more they will read.
10. Engage, engage, engage
After a month or two of blogging, your posts can begin to feel a bit cliché or dull. Don’t let this happen. Keep writing posts that your readers will WANT to read, and that they will be interested in. This includes writing interesting titles, hooking readers with posts they want to read, and continuing to ask for feedback on their part. The more you know about your followers, the more you can do this.
After you have encouraged your followers to engage with you, it is time for you to interact with them and with others that will get you noticed. This step can be rather time consuming, but it is something that can help you out when you eventually try to publish. It is important to interact with you readers in return as well as to interact with authors that write within your genre or that are successful. This not only helps your readers know that you are interested in their work, but also that you have an interest in successful authors. Publishers will look for this key point in your platform, so make sure that you spend a significant amount of time either commenting on your readers work or on the work or social media pages of published authors. It also helps if you can join an aspiring author’s group because this allows you to get advice from others in your situation, and maybe find other aspiring authors that could be interested in your work.
12. Ask for guest posts in your topic
It is important to become or to be viewed as an expert in your field. No matter what you write about, you want others to see you as an informed, professional that knows that they are talking about. So what’s the best way so become an expert? Interact with experts and feature expert’s guest posts on your blog or social media platforms. Not only will this amp up your follower count (because whoever guest posts on your blog will bring some of their readers with them), but it will also show your readers that you are engaging with other experts and that you are on the same playing field as them. Always be professional and polite when asking for guest posts.
13. Monetize Your Blog
Once you acquire a decent amount of traffic to your site or social media, you can start to monetize your efforts. This includes things such as pay per click advertising, text link ads, advertising widgets, RSS adverts, affiliate marketing, and thousands of other advertising forms that can not only bring more traffic to your site, but can also allow you to begin making money from your blog or social media page. Why will this help build your writer’s platform? Not only will this help you to make some money, but it will also show your publisher that you know how to advertise and market. Even if you aren’t marketing your own products yet, the concepts of Google Ad Sense and other advertising widgets are important to show a clear and effective understanding of if you are to ever convince a publisher that you know how to promote.
Once you are confident in yourself, begin to offer your services to some of your readers (this especially helpful if you have chosen a specific writing genre). Whether you want to help others set up their blog, gain a following, write better, or anything else that you could be viewed as an expert on, volunteer your services to those that may find it useful. This can be done through a communication made to you through your social media or blog, and then can be followed through on by email, text, phone communication. Let your readers know that you will be offering this type of service by making an announcements on your page/blog/whatever and then give them direct instruction on how they can follow up with you. I would recommend starting this out as a volunteer service and cost-free, but if you feel confident right away, you could add a small fee onto it.
15. Note your fans
It is important to maintain a solid fan base as you continue to progress. I would make a list of your most loyal followers, and continually thank and interact with them. Offer them your best advice and your best interaction because this is what they are giving you, and, in addition, they will most likely be the first to say something to you if you stop providing the quality that they are used to. Although building a writer’s platform is a long-term goal that is going to eventually benefit you, it is crucial to benefit your readers as you go along. Once you start trying to promote an actual book or something else you have published, you top followers are going to be your best bet at getting some sales, so really make sure that they like you, that you interact with them, and that you care about their work as well.
16. Link to old content
Once you have been promoting your platform for a long time, your old work sometimes can fade into oblivion. Don’t let this happen. The point of building a writer’s platform is to show that you have experience and depth. Therefore, you want ALL of your work to be seen, and not just what you’ve posted in the last couple of months (unless it’s only been a few months…and that’s fine too (: ). Try to incorporate some of your older topics into your newer topics, and link to older posts. This will encourage newer readers to check out you entire platform instead of only you most current post.
17. Start to sell your work
This is the point where your blog can become really exciting. Eventually, when you have an excellent following, know how to promote and generate traffic, and understand the fundamentals of your platform and your work, I would recommend trying to sell your own products. Whether this is an ebook you have published, a travel guide, food, or whatever else you write about, now is the time to see if you can make this sales thing happen. Start, obviously by creating and finishing a final product for sale, and then announce the item on your blog. I encourage you not to get your hopes up because the first attempt at any sale is usually pretty difficult (this is also why I wouldn’t go full-flegded novel right away, and would maybe start with a self-published how-to book or short story). After announcing your sale, optimize your results by advertising on all social media platforms, promoting your work by talking about it, and encouraging readers by providing either excerpts or examples of your work. Always stay professional and hopeful, because whether or not this first sale goes well, this is the beginning of your actual writing career.
18. Allow failure, success, and everything in between
Building a writing platform is challenging, and it always will be. No stage of the process ever goes perfectly, and you will consistently have to motivate yourself in order to progress and get where you want to be. The important thing is to keep your mission in mind, strive for it, and get there when you get there. Don’t expect immediate success, and don’t compare yourself in a negative way to bloggers or authors that have been writing for years. This is a quick way to get discouraged and that is the opposite of what will make you a successful writer.
***That’s it! Thank you guys so much for reading, and I hope you found this useful for your writing experience. As always, I don’t know everything obviously, so I am going to post a few links below that I found really helpful in building my blog and in understanding what a writing platform is. Check them out, because they were super insightful. Also, feel free to share in the comments how you built your writing platform, what your writing goals are, or any advice! I want to hear from you guys and you input is always so appreciated!***