To see the list of credits for this post, please click here
- What is a platform?
A good platform to a marketing plan is like what stitching is to your favorite sweater. The perfectly cut sections of fabric that make up your shirt (your marketing plan) are beautiful, but they would be useless without the stitching (your platform) that holds seams together. Sure you might be able to rig something up so you have a shirt to wear for a little while, but it won’t last, and it won’t do the job solid stitching can.
A platform is not your credentials, your potential as an author, your expertise, or even your background as it pertains to your book. These are all tools to be used to lay the groundwork for your platform. But don’t confuse it as your platform. A platform is what you currently do in addition to writing to connect with readers. It’s how you cultivate a readership.
- Finding your current platform
I’ve talked with a lot of writers who get the deer in the headlights look when you mention the word platform. We get nervous, our hands start to sweat, we’re thinking “But I don’t know that many people!” Don’t worry, many people are in the closet about the platform they’ve already established. There are a few questions that you can ask yourself to help find your platform potential. Don’t skip over these questions, and don’t exaggerate. Set realistic goals for yourself. We’ll start with a few simple questions.
1. Who are you known as in the world as a writer now?
2. How do others see you now?
3. Who would you like to be known as in one year from now?
Now that you’ve written those questions down, give yourself a few minutes to answer them. When you’re ready, come back and read the next section.
Ready? Here is another worksheet to help you figure out what your current platform is. The italics following the questions are some of my answers, with avenues I could use to help build on what I already have (just to get you started on how you might expand upon your current platform).
- My education – Home schooled for a few years, self-taught for the rest. Could reach out to home schooling parents as an example of how homeschooling kids won’t hinder their potential in the ‘real world’
- Classes or speaking engagements I give – None at the moment, aside from an invitation from daughters school to give a presentation on what its like to be an author. Note to self, stop procrastinating on that. Hesitancy toward public speaking, join toastmasters.
- Groups, clubs or organizations I belong to – Applications pending for two organizations, also a member of local, small business owners group. Using as self promotion, taking the avenue of success in trying, economical times.
- Published credits – One article, three poetry anthologies
- My website, blog or forum – blog, website coming soon and hosting one forum..
- Forums, e-newsletters, or blobs I participate in – too many to list
- Radio or TV spots I have – too many bad hair days, consult beautician.
- Any other activity that puts me in front of people
- People I know who can help me
- Who is my ideal customer?
- What are they like? (computer savvy, nature lovers, busy women?)
- What do they like to do? (go to clubs, blog, etc.)
- What do they desire most?
- What are they frustrated or angry about?
- What are they spending their money on?
- How could I make their life better?
- How have I helped other people like this before
- How to expand what you already do
The thing to remember about how to start building your platform is that it doesn’t matter what type of people you currently have in your circle. They don’t have to be writers, editors, media people or agents. Sure this might help, but it’s not necessary when starting to build your platform.
The key is to take your existing platform, your answers to the above questions, and see how you can stretch it to its fullest potential. How can you tie your book into a current need or want for the people in your current platform? Can you relate your book to an article or tidbit in your church newsletter? Can you write an article to tie your book into members needs? If your book is about, say for instance, living a healthy lifestyle in today’s fast paced world. Well, I bet there are a lot of women in the congregation who would read something like that. Try writing a small nonchalant flyer to be passed out at the weekly women’s bible study group.
This approach can be used for several things. Even the monthly company newsletter at your place of work is something you can use to your advantage to cultivate your readership. Speak to the manager or head person involved in the newsletter articles, see if you can submit an article about how your administrative, technical, etc., skills you learned while working for the company benefited you in writing your book. Or can you tie your book into a need/want from the last newsletter as a follow up article?
So you teach puppy training classes, incorporate an entertaining story to share in class how when writing your book your puppy peed on your manuscript, mistaking it for his potty pads. Casually announce that if interested, you have flyers available after class for anyone who is interested.
Perhaps you usually talk with Sally, a fellow PTA member while waiting for your kids after school. Like a lot of women, maybe you don’t ‘work’ outside the home (by which, I mean get paid, because it is work!). When she’s chatting about the price of groceries going up or sticking to a budget, mention how silly you felt spending money on business cards to promote your book. “Oh what book!” she says. “Gosh Sally, I didn’t tell you?” pull out one of your snazzy new cards, hand it to her and start talking about that book!
- What it really comes down to
To build your platform you don’t have to know a lot of people, know different types of people, you just have to think about how you can expand upon the things you already do. It’s putting a little more effort into what you’re already involved in, looking at those things from a different vantage point, that’s it. That’s how it starts, that’s how you get the ball rolling and build momentum to keep it growing.
The start of building your platform boils down to three simple questions:
1) Who do I already know?
2) What do they need?
3) How can I tie that need into my book?