In today’s world, a platform is crucial for anyone in business. This presence is partly who you are, partly what you do or have to say, but mostly reach. How many people in your target audience can you reach to involve in who you are and what you do?
There are so many ways to develop a platform that it can become overwhelming. I’ll focus on 3 things that may help strengthen your platform.
#1 A Website
Other than a computer and a terrific idea for your story or book, I believe an excellent website is the most important tool a writer can develop. I say develop because, just like growing in your writing skills, a website is ever growing and changing.
A website is your home on the internet, your imprint, the place people can find you. And it is in your hands and control.
Not many of us are fancy-schmancy and can afford to hire a web designer. We are fortunate there are several options (such as WordPress or Wix) for web pages for the non-techy. However, know that since your website reflects you, it will require your time to set up and maintain.
To blog or not to blog
My websites are all also blog sites because, hey, I’m a writer and I have something to say. A blog is a great place for an unpublished author to start because not only do you exercise your writing skills, you can become an influencer in your area of interest.
Okay, I see your wrinkled pre-published brow as you sputter, “Without a book, I have nothing to say in a blog. I wouldn’t know where to start.”
Phooey. Do you write? Do you live? Are you passionate about anything? Then you have plenty to write about. Readers want to know about you. They want to connect to that place in you that knows something in them.
And when you publish
Published authors use their websites to tell you about their books. Some, like Tina Radcliffe, and Becky Wade have terrific posts and articles that help writers. I head to Tina’s site when I want direction and to Becky’s whenever I want to give synopsis another shot.
What do readers want?
I can only speak for myself, but as a reader, when I find an author I love, I look for their webpage. (It’s more polite than tracking them down at their physical home) I want to know who they are, what else they have written, and if the book I have just read is part of a series. And I’d love to learn something from them, so I want to know if they’re speaking or teaching online or in my area. I go to the website before I look for them on social media. Visiting an author’s web page is more personal than visiting their Amazon page.
Here’s a secret that I’ll blame on my horse obsession. If an author writes a book with horses or cowboys, I go to their website to see if they’re a horse lover. If they are, they have likely gained a new follower in me.
Your newsletter is the hammer and nails in your platform tool kit. It’s the best place for you to develop an honest following because when people sign up, they give you their email address. Think about that. They trust you with their email address. You may have followers and friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but you don’t have emails. You can download your email list from your newsletter service. If you can’t, I suggest you find a new service.
What Should I put in a Newsletter
Again, I can only speak for myself, but I write the type of newsletters I like to read. I work on fresh ways to get my readers to click through to my website. This engagement, or click and open rate, shows whether I’m delivering content that appeals to my subscribers. My email service provider shows me these statistics.
What do I like?
Now remember, this is only my opinion. As a reader, the newsletters I subscribe to come from authors I admire, someone who will teach me something, someone encouraging, or someone I have a personal connection with.
In three of the categories, I want to learn more about the person sending me their newsletter, not their entire family. How are they handling our current lifestyle? Did they get a new dog or take a great vacation? If they’re an author, I want to know when their next book is coming out. I adore when an author recommends books they love or other authors who write like them. I appreciate their suggestions to fill the gap while I wait for their new book to arrive. When I’m looking for a new read, I anticipate my favorite authors’ newsletters.
I want a short, easy to read newsletter. There just isn’t time to wade through newsy pages. I dislike huge graphics. I can go to Pinterest for my recipes. And I don’t care what your cat is doing unless he’s recovering from an accident or has learned to knit. (If I have subscribed to your cat’s newsletter, I expect it to be about him.)
Please don’t try to hard sell me. Tell me when your book will be out and where I can buy it.
#3 Comment on Other People’s Blogs
Have you heard the rumor that writing is a lonely process? Sometimes writing a blog post seems like writing to the bears in the wilderness. You ask yourself, “Is anyone out there?” When someone makes even a simple comment on a blog post, the author receives an amazing lift. Your encouragement has value to them. And posting on blogs is one more place to get your name “out there.” In return, they might surprise you with a visit to your webpage and leave a comment. That’s a pretty good feeling.
Here’s a bonus tip. When someone leaves a comment on your blog, always reply. Even if the comment is not complimentary, acknowledge that someone reached out to you. They read you. They expressed their opinion. Always reply. This is not optional. Not only is replying the polite thing to do, it’s engagement. It encourages other people to comment. You may never know why they commented or who they are, but you also might gain a follower or a friend.
Now it’s Your Turn
Does platform worry you? What is your biggest concern? And if you have no worries, what is your favorite style of newsletter?
Here’s hoping we all get this platform thing lassoed like a cowboy!
Thanks for joining me and reading my post.
Barbara Ellin Fox