Your writer's platform is basically the group of activities you engage in that get your name and work noticed by the public. It's marketing, not of a specific work, but of you as the author. It's everything you do to build your brand.
Why Build One?
If you are currently unpublished, the fact that you are building a platform and marketing yourself looks great to publishers. Publishers love authors who are willing to get out there and market themselves. The fact that you're already doing so proves that you're the kind of writer they want to get behind.
If you're already published, your publisher undoubtedly expects that you will get moving on your platform as soon as possible. Since they may not offer much support it makes sense to learn all you can about platform building yourself - you might just be on your own to do the real work.
Aside from making publishers happy, there are a other side benefits to platform building. One is that you may generate some side-income from teaching and speaking. You can also build your brand as an expert in your writing niche, meet other similar writers, and create a community of fans. All great reasons to start building.
When to Start?
There are a couple of ways of looking at when to start. Some would argue that you need to have a carefully crafted image of yourself in mind that you want to show the public before starting. That a detailed plan must be crafted and that you should never deviate from this persona in any of your public interactions.
This makes sense if the image you are creating as you, the writer, is vastly different than you, the person. Some writer's personas are basically characters that they play in public and really aren't much like the actual writer. This needs to be carefully handled and can easily come off as cheesy and insincere.
The other option is to just be yourself as both writer and person and show your true face to the world. This is a much more modern take on marketing and for most writers the preferred way to go for a few reasons:
- Fans want to connect with a real person, not a marketing construct.
- Social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) play a major role in building your platform, and are based on genuine, personal interactions. Fake marketing ploys stand out in this arena and are shunned by the masses.
- It's easier and more fun to be yourself than to be acting all the time.
- You can start right now without a detailed plan.
Most writers should start building their platforms as soon as they can unless they have a compelling reason not to. Building a brand can be fun, rewarding work that fits in well with the writing life and gives a social balance to what can be a solitary occupation.
There are no rules to what is necessary to make up your platform, but there are a few staple activities that most writers use.
- Website/Blog: Starting a website or blog is an easy, inexpensive way to launch your platform. You can be set-up with a basic blog literally in minutes. Your writer's blog gives you a place to share your bio, announce new writing projects, connect with fans and share your opinions on writing and life in general.
- Social Media: Once you've got your blog up and running, the next step is to start using some social media tools to help drive traffic to the blog and get your name out there even faster. The two main tools for this at the moment are Twitter and Facebook. Start with these, and once you get comfortable you can evaluate other newer tools as they appear.
- Public Speaking: Speaking at writer's groups can help you build your brand, gain you some new fans, and meet other writers. Although public speaking isn't for everyone, it's never a bad idea to get out there and let people get to know the face behind the words.
- Teaching: Teaching writing craft is another great avenue for getting out in front of the public. It brands you as an expert, let's you meet new people, gives you something to blog about and makes you look like a pro. Plus, you can make some decent side-money by teaching either in-person, online, or through books and ebooks.
From there you can launch other branding initiatives as you see fit. The important thing is to get started and let people know you exist. You have loads of potential fans out there just waiting to find you - help them out!