Something I've heard ever since I became a published author is, "What is your platform?" At first I had no idea what people were talking about, and I'm still not sure, but I have a somewhat vague idea. I think it has something to do with the author's visibility and interaction with readers. I would appreciate any other authors who know better than I do to chime in here with some comments.
Anyway, the concept of platform seems to have changed over the years. When I first started seriously thinking about it, I considered my website, blog, speaking engagements, and book signings to be my platform, and publishing professionals accepted that. However, now I think much more is expected. With so many people electronically connected through the Internet and mobile devices, we have even more opportunities to be in front of readers. The key is to stand out in the very large, very loud crowd.
Social media has entered the scene, demanding almost as much time as actually writing the book. Most of us have Facebook accounts, Twitter handles, LinkedIn pages, and whatever else we stumble upon that has an audience. When I first started out on Facebook, I wasn't sure what I was doing, but over the years, I realized that most other authors were as clueless as I was. So I decided to relax and pretend I was at a party and just have a good time communicating whatever is on my mind. That's something I know a little bit about, plus it's a whole lot more fun than fretting over my "platform."
Now I think that a writer's platform is most effective when we give readers a peek into our lives, enabling them to relate to us as individuals rather than the elusive author. For example, many of my readers know that I have two granddaughters who have totally captured my heart. One reader has emailed me photos of her grandchildren because she knows I'll understand.
|My precious little granddaughters Sophia and Emma|
People who have read some of my Florida-set books know that they're authentic because that's where I live. One of my books, Sweet Baklava, has a bunch of Greek recipes in the back, and I hear from people who have tried them. Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida features a hero whose parents have age-related conditions, something my husband and I went through with his parents. I got a ton of email from readers who had gone through the same thing.
My Class Reunion series (Pretty Is as Pretty Does, Bless HerHeart, and Tickled Pink) is set in Mississippi where both of my parents were born and raised. The fictional town of Piney Point is next to the real city of Hattiesburg where I went to school at the University of Southern Mississippi. I've actually connected with some of my former college friends through those books.
Since no one can be everywhere all the time, I've narrowed down my focused promotion to what I can do in one to two hours per day – usually first thing in the morning. I do this to promote my books as well as some of my other writing, including my About.com Etiquette page. When I'm feeling extra social, I go back to Facebook and Twitter to share my life with "friends" and followers.
My fan bases for all of my writing overlap. I've received emails from my fiction fans, stating that they've learned a lot from reading what I write about etiquette, and I've heard from About.com readers letting me know that they've discovered my books. One reader even asked me to write a book about an etiquette expert. I just might do that in the future!
I think that the most important element of any author's platform is authenticity. Be yourself. If you try to do anything else, you'll wind up frustrated and exhausted.
Now I'd love to hear from other authors about their platforms. What do you consider most effective?
I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving!