Saturday, February 12, 2011

When they said all writers need platforms, I thought they were talking about shoes!

Well, I really didn't think that, but I wasn't 100 percent sure what a platform is, either. Then I read articles in The Writer and Writer's Digest , and learned that the platform refers to all the things that writers can call upon to help promote our books. Not quite the same as a political platform, which reflects what you believe and stand for, but more like the sum-total of our experiences, accomplishments, expertise and connections.

Writers today are expected to be active participants in marketing and promoting our own books- something that many of us don't take to naturally. The idea of having a platform seems easier to understand when you deal in non-fiction. You hold workshops, speak to groups whenever possible and hold interviews, and BOOM! you're seen as an expert and you've got a platform. But if, like me, you write fiction, it's a little harder to envision what your platform looks like.

Last November, I attended the Hillerman Writer's Workshop here in Santa Fe, NM. One of the speakers was Bill O'Hanlon, who is an expert at this stuff. He gave examples of the kinds of things that can become part of your platform - possibly things you never thought of. Like, your high school and college alumni associations. Your former employers. Your friends and relatives who work at large companies. Your teacher and librarian friends. Your brother who works in PR. Your Facebook community. Your hometown newspaper editor. Anyone you ever wrote for. Your blog followers, and the bloggers you follow.

Here's an example of the power of word of mouth connections: Today I have about 125 Facebook friends. But collectively, my 125 Facebook friends have 30,000 Facebook friends! Some of the people I know work for organizations that might love to sponsor a book reading or talk when the book comes out - allowing me access to hundreds of people I have never met. And every time I discover and follow a new blog, I find other bloggers who share my interest in writing. When we support each other, we become a formidable communication force, exponentially increasing the power of Word of Mouth.

Here is the link to Bill O'Hanlon's website. He is a terrific speaker and lots of fun. And he is a master of self-promotion, which is - for better or worse - a real part of what it takes to be a successful author now. Me, I'd rather just put on a pair of platform shoes and smile a lot, but I know it won't be enough!

In a future post, I'll share information from an "Author's Questionnaire" that my agent gave me to fill out. It was adapted from one a publisher had given her for another client, and it essentially is asking, "What's Your Platform?"

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