Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Writer's Platform and Promotion

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 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 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!


Cherie Burbach said...

Not published yet (for fiction at least) but I feel like whatever will help you connect with readers is the thing you should do. Of course, you'll connect with different readers different ways. I love Twitter and blogging to really get in touch with people. Writing for high-profile sites, even for a guest blog or two, can really help as well.

This business is still about people and finding authors you can connect with. I write lots of different things, but my readers "know" what to expect regardless if it's fiction, poetry, or nonfiction. There is a tone, attitude, mission, personality... that exists in everything we do. If I like a certain author's fiction, I'll definitely check out their other works, and vice versa. I just bought a novel the other day of a nonfiction writer whose columns I enjoy. It wouldn't have normally been something I would have picked up, but I like her writing and what she has to say, so I'm curious about her novel.

Debby Mayne said...

Cherie, I totally agree. I've bought books by people I've liked online, and I can generally see their personalities come through in their fiction.

Darrel Nelson said...

Thanks for the insight, Debby. Sometimes my platform feels like an oil derrick somewhere on the expansive ocean--a mere dot in the middle of nowhere. The challenge is to keeping "drilling" and hope others discover and appreciate us.

Debby Mayne said...

I hear ya, Darrel. I often feel the same way, which is why I think we need to rethink what we're doing and focus on sharing what our readers want or need to know. If we interact in a natural way, our platform doesn't seem so pointless. Cherie nailed it when she said her readers know what to expect because they know her.