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Five Ways to Start Building a Platform (and a Bigger Bank Account)
by Jennifer Brown Banks

If you're like the typical freelance writer, you probably envision your articles, essays, clever commentary and poems as one day leading up to a book deal with a traditional publisher and a guest spot on the Oprah Show. Who wouldn't? There's certainly nothing wrong with wishful thinking, or lofty goals. But, in order to make those book publishing dreams a reality, building a platform is an absolute must.

I learned the hard way. In 2006, upon the convincing of one of my long-time editors, I submitted a self-help proposal on relationships, (based upon 10 years of writing about mating and dating), to a roster of New York agents. I eagerly awaited their green light for the entire manuscript.

Much to my surprise, I got a fair amount of positive feedback and initial interest. But at the end of the day, no one would sign me on as a client. The reason? I didn't have a strong enough platform. One agent actually wrote, “You have obvious talent as a writer, but your platform is not strong enough.”

Needless to say, I was a little shocked and disappointed. Up until that point, my only real reference of “platforms” were the high steppin', klunky shoes that surfaced on the scene with the Bee Gees and Saturday Night Fever. But as they say in law, “ignorance is no defense.” Since that day, I've been working diligently to raise my awareness and my visibility. And you should too.

A platform is simply a following or fan base for your works. Publishers look at it to assess potential sales and revenue. Their objective? R.O.I.—Return on investment.

It's almost as important as good writing. Which is why you see so many celebrities with no prior writing experience landing lucrative publishing contracts. Establishing a platform gives you leverage as a new-comer, not to mention, it allows you to make money through name association. Noted author Christina Katz defines it further as, “all the ways you are visible and appealing to your future, potential or actual readership.”

“If you build it they will come.”

Here are five ways to start building a platform and to elevate your writing career.

  1. Write well and often—Like any other industry, you have to pay your dues. The more you write the better you become. The better you become, the more readers you attract.

  2. Realize that all writing credits are not created equal—Though it's great to get a byline and a few bucks from lesser known publications that are easier to break into, know that a publishing credit from Associated Content is not viewed the same as one from Writers Digest. Come out of your comfort zone, and aim higher.

  3. Have an online presence through a website or BLOG—Even if it's something modest, having an on line presence can elevate visibility by the 10th power and maximize earning potential. Use your site to sell books, promote classes or events, and to expose the world to your unique writing style and voice.

  4. Join social networking sites like Facebook, Linkedin, and Myspace—Increase your popularity and your reach. There is strength in numbers.

  5. Teach classes and workshops—It's another way to establish your expertise and to cultivate a loyal following.

Start building your platform by following these five tips. You will show potential publishers that you have marketing savvy and are someone worthy of their interest and investment!

© Copyright 2009, Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com

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