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Is Your Platform High Enough?
by Carolyn B. Leonard

The first speaker I contacted for a writing seminar a couple years ago titled her talk, “How to Build your Platform.” Being a strong DIY (do it yourself) person, I misunderstood her title and thought she wanted to speak to the local carpenter's union.

Now I get it.

Many book publishers today require that writers take on most of the promotional and marketing duties necessary to sell their books. All publishers and agents hope for an author who can and will promote the product.

Want to publish a book in three years? The time to start building your readership for that book is now. All writers absolutely need to build their community of readers, and create name recognition. That is your platform and will help you attract the attention of an agent or publisher.

We built a wood deck at our cottage with hammer and nails and old barn wood. We supported it with cement blocks and a firm foundation. We needed to be sure it was strong enough for all my kids, grandkids and their friends to walk across, to support the weight of a bunch of people enjoying themselves.

If you want to be a freelance writer or published book author, you need to build a platform strong enough to stand on and high enough for name recognition. Your writing platform helps you promote yourself, sell your writing, and convince editors and publishers that you're publishable. It is a highly competitive world out there.
Your writing platform needs to:

  • Prove your ability to promote and sell your book.

  • Provide a measure of security to the publisher.

  • Act as a vehicle to promote your book and you, the writer.

  • Drive book sales.

Although most people already have a platform, many don't realize it. Focus on what you are doing to build your author and writing platform, so that when you are ready publishers and editors will snap up your manuscript.

Think of these steps as planks stacked up waiting for you to hammer them into place as you build your platform.

  • Create your own website that displays a variety of abilities, including samples of your writing, and features your book. Make it easy for the reader to contact you.

  • Write a really unique and outstanding book, but don’t stop there, keep writing – articles, blurbs, blogs, emails, tweets, facebook, anything. If people enjoy your writing they will check out your other work.

  • Find your niche in the writing world, know where your style fits best, then build your writing platform around that.

  • Collect some cue cards and memorable quotes so you have something important to say wherever and whenever someone asks you.

  • Offer to teach a workshop around your specialty, even if that is just at your child’s playschool.

  • Describe your past experience in your bio in a way to show you can successfully complete a project. Give people a reason to have confidence in your ability to carry through on all assignments.

  • Remember publishers are not in business to sell you. They expect to get a head start when they take you on. You need to convince a publisher you have a large following of readers who will want to buy your book.

  • You must care enough about your project to promote it. If you don’t believe in it, aren’t willing to promote it, how can you expect someone else to?

  • Learn to write press releases. Use press releases to attract website visitors and media appearances. Nothing is sadder than a great book that gathers dust on the shelf because no one knows about it and never heard of the author.

  • Document your efforts; keep track of media appearances, presentations, interviews, etc. Track all efforts at building your brand (your name) and show the numbers of people you have touched.

As you work on building your platform, value each plank that you put in place. You may be starting with a shoebox, but keep hammering in the nails as it grows into a soapbox and becomes a strong and sturdy platform for your message as a writer.

© Copyright 2009, Carolyn B. Leonard

Carolyn B. Leonard, author of the just-released book, Who’s Your Daddy? A Guide to Genealogy from Start to Finish, remains a commissioned writer for Persimmon Hill, the award-winning magazine of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. She has contributed to several books including the bestseller In Their Name, a state-endorsed book on the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City. She enjoys presenting programs to help people find their family’s place in history and can be reached through her website www.CarolynBLeonard.com 

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