Write like nobody’s watching…then make them watch!
As luminous writers, I always encourage you to write like nobody’s watching. But, if you’re writing to be published, sooner or later you need to find some readers.
How we deal with this contradiction is a BIG factor in our success as writers.
Think of it this way: our primary job as writers is to connect with readers. First, you need to find these readers and the way we do this is with a writing platform.
Without a platform, any writing you publish cannot reach its potential readership.
I can hear so many groans and see writers cringing at the thought of marketing themselves. But sooner or later you’ll have to start working on your self-promotion. Get comfortable with it now, before you absolutely have to do this work.
Even if you don’t plan to self-publish, most traditional publishers will take the quality of your platform into account—no matter how brilliant your manuscript is—when deciding whether to publish you. For self-publishing or small press, getting your platform-hustle on is the only way for you to sell books.
So, get ahead in the platform building. Start by knowing who you want to connect with and why you want to connect with them.
Three questions I ask writers when I help them prepare to build their platform are:
- Who does your message, genre, style most resonate with?
- What issues or challenges might your writing help them overcome? (This could be as simple as boredom and as complex as healing from trauma.)
- What are some characteristics of your potential readers? Are they curious? Do they have a hectic schedule? Are they aligned to a cause? Do they love cats?
If you don’t know the answer to these questions, it’s research time! Here is a research exercise that will help:
- Think about what keywords someone might use to search for your writing.
- Search with those keywords until you find titles that seem aligned with your own writing.
- Look at reviews of those books and do a little sleuthing for information about their readers.
- Then go back to those three questions above.
If this research seems daunting right now, or premature because you don’t know what your writing is about yet, start it anyway!
You don’t want to have to later race up a self-promotion mountain. Start today so you can make this a slow gradual climb, with lots of rest and reflection.
Make a habit of incrementally thinking of your publication audience and showing up for them wherever they are—for example on social media and at live events (when those happen again).
When you know the answers to those three questions, build your platform for them
Every decision you make about promotion should consider what would resonate with your unique audience, based on what you know about your readers and how your writing will help them.
The best part is that you can do this and stay really grounded and true to you. Work at the intersection of your interests and those of your potential audience.
I know building a platform can sometimes get out of hand and feel SO BIG. You don’t need to show up across all social media or make yourself uncomfortable and overexposed.
Of course, as you build a platform, it’s important not to burn yourself out or lose sight of the most important part of being a writer—writing.
You might not even need social media to build your platform. But, you’re not off the hook because you will still need to build a platform—just in other, creative ways. (Like volunteering at a lit mag or for a writing festival.)
Every platform—literal and metaphorical—starts with a simple foundation. What small steps can you take up that marketing mountain today?