This Business of Writing

Platforms—Why They’re Important and How to Develop One

In blogging, How-to's, Marketing Your Book on April 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

Why is building a platform important, even if you’re an unpublished writer? Besides the future promotional benefits, you also develop the discipline of writing (sometimes daily) for a responsive audience of readers. Writing interesting content daily is wonderful practice. And having an established online community that you’ll later be able to promote to is always a plus for a publisher.

Some things to consider when building your platform:

Do

Do use your blog as a way to practice writing regularly. Try to post on a regular schedule, even if it’s just twice a week. If you feel more comfortable having a buffer between you and the demands of your blog, consider building up several weeks’ worth of posts before you even launch your blog. But—continue writing posts as much as possible to keep that buffer up.

Do make blogging friends and network. You really only need one active blog to follow to get you started. This could be a blog in your genre or just a general writing blog. Active blogs usually have healthy blog rolls in their sidebar. Start clicking on blogs. Each of those blogs will also usually have a blog roll in their sidebar, too. In addition, when you add a blog’s RSS feed to your blog reader (e.g., Google Reader), when you click on “folder settings,” Google will recommend blogs that are similar in content to the one you’re adding to your reader (“More Like This”). That’s another great way to discover new blogs in your niche. The next step is commenting on blogs and developing a network, really more of a community. That step is extremely important to finding a readership for your blog.

Do consider Twitter and/or Facebook. Both are excellent ways to network online with other writers and industry professionals. You’ll learn a lot, discover resources that can help you with your writing, and network with other writers. Writing can be lonely and finding friends online is a tremendous help.

Do make sure your blog, Facebook, and Twitter presence is professional-looking. Professional doesn’t mean it has to be created by a web-designer—just that it’s carefully edited for typos or grammatical errors and that it has your contact information readily available. Plus…consider the content you’re putting on your blog and how it might look to an agent or editor.

Don’t

Publish manuscript excerpts on your blog. Many publishers and reviewers will consider your manuscript published if it’s appeared online.

Overpromote yourself. It’s much more effective to take a soft-sell approach when getting followers for your blog or (later) when promoting your book. Instead, look for ideas or resources that you can share with other writers. Try to contribute something of value to the community.

Hound agents or editors via social media about your query or submission. It’s not a good way to make friends.

With blogging, I’ve gotten ideas from other writers on plotting and character problems. I’ve developed friendships and readers—for my blog and my books. I’ve exchanged resources that help me with my writing. I’ve analyzed my approach to writing, which has helped me write other books. I’ve also known a couple of bloggers who found literary agents through their blogs—obviously a more tangible benefit to blogging.

Is platform building hard work? It is. But the rewards are worth it.

Elizabeth Spann Craig
http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com
http://elizabethspanncraig.com

Elizabeth Spann Craig writes the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and is writing the upcoming Memphis Barbeque series for Berkley Prime Crime as Riley Adams. Like her characters, her roots are in the South. As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as room mom and Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives car pools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips.

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  1. Dear Sir!

    I searched the web and found your blog on how to write sex scenes. The best I have seen. I have avoided sex scenes because they are difficult to write . Of course, adults have sex. I have returned after five years in Africa
    I have several novel projects that I have not had time to work on . I’ve given myself a deadline of 13000 hours the next 5 years .

    In Africa there is sex everywhere. It confuses the Europeans because it is a different form. An African friend visited Danmark. He did not like it. Why ? Women have too many clothes on.
    If you have not read it they should read Karen Blixen Out of Africa and Hemmingway of course. You should also read J. M. Coetzee . Best living writer . A South African of English descent . Even after 60 years of independence , there is virtually no black African writers of value , and sex thy can not write about , even if it is many years since the missionaries disappeared .
    It deals with that sexuality is strange . Could be because Africans have it the body and the Europeans have it between the ears . When I start working on those scenes , I will tell you what I find out .
    I take the liberty of writing to you because your blog probably is the best I have met and I want to have the freedom to return.

    Yours faithfully

    Peter D. Jakobsen

  2. Thanks for the great tips, Elizabeth. I especially liked, “The next step is commenting on blogs and developing a network, really more of a community. That step is extremely important to finding a readership for your blog.” I hadn’t really thought about creating blogging networks before. That’s a great way of sharing readers–like a group blog multiplied by ten.

    I love the covers of your books.

    Ann Charles

  3. Thanks so much, everybody! It really is, as Cleo said, a crazy digital world! I know that self-promo didn’t used to be something writers worried about, but nowadays…I’m doing my best to adjust to 21st century publishing!

    I appreciate everyone dropping by. 🙂

  4. An outstanding blog-starter primer. Thank you again, Elizabeth, for another sane, thoughtful post full of usable info for all of us (slightly insane) writers trying to navigate a crazy digital world!

    ~Cleo

  5. Excellent tips, Elizabeth!

  6. Wonderful advice and tips. I have always felt I shouldn’t put snippets of my writing “for sale” on my blog. You confirmed my feeling.

  7. Excellent post, Elizabeth! I use Google Reader and LOVE it. It helps keep the online world organized, and you’ve gotta love that, right?

  8. Carol–Thanks! They are, aren’t they?

    Janet–Thanks for your comment! 🙂 The folders are a great way to organize blog visiting so we *know* we’re hitting everyone at least on a regular basis. And it’s also a good way to find new blogs to read. 🙂 As far as Twitter…it’s not a “must,” by any means. It’s one of those applications that (while the learning curve is fairly steep, I think), you could use just once a week or so and still benefit from it.

    Helen–Hope it works out for you! Let me know if you have any questions about it. It’s pretty easy, though.

  9. This is a good and informative post. Platforms are becoming more and more important.

  10. Followed you over from your blog, Elizabeth, and coming out of lurkdom to comment! Great advice – I’m going to pass it on to some writer friends as we’ve just had a conversation about the importance of on-line presence.

    I do use Google Reader (streamlines my morning blogging routine), but didn’t know about Folder Settings. Will look into that. I’m slowly working on followers, but my main goal right now is to keep writing on the blog daily. So far, so good (160 days and counting). And I have a stat counter so I can keep track of hits and topics that garner the most interest.

    Still not signing up for Twitter – worried it will take up too much time and there is The Day Job to consider. There’s been a couple of posts lately about Twitter and I’m slowly thinking about joining the revolution.

    Great post, thanks for the information 🙂

  11. Thanks Elizabeth. Great advice. I’m going to look into Google Reader. I love Google, but have not heard about Google Reader.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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