MY ROAD TO MY WRITER’S PLATFORM
Much has been said about the need to have a Writer’s Platform. For those who have missed the buzz, gone are the good ole’ days when an agent found you a publisher and that publisher, convinced of your future success, did a full court press to get you and your book ‘out there’ and the writer simply showed up to a few interviews and industry parties and collected their royalty checks. Getting accepted in the publishing industry today means having a presence in the literary world before you are published. Often that presence, or platform, consists of a website or other exposure in the virtual land of cyberspace combined with the real life experiences of speaking engagements, professional awareness and physical networking. If you are famous in your field, are a household word or even a serial killer you can consider yourself known. For the rest of us it’s not so easy.
For many writers the first step they take in developing their writer’s platform is to establish a web presence. Building a website and launching it on the net is a good place to start. That’s what I did, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
As an author hoping to become a successful mystery writer the question I had to ask myself was how to become known as a writer when no one has read anything fictional I have written?
I have spent a lot of time reading the websites maintained by authors. The famous authors have great websites – I too could have a great website if I had a dozen books in the stores, a schedule of public appearances to send my readers to and shots of me with my fans, but alas I do not. Therefore, it was more realistic for me to look at the sites of newly published writers or those just getting started like myself.
What I found was many of the sites were about writing. They talked about proper grammar, how to transition from scene to scene and the ‘acts’ that a novel is broken into. Was it helpful information? Yes, however it was clear that their post were a compilation of several articles. I could do that too, but everything I have to say is second, third or fifty-eighth hand. The number of websites offering writing advice is too high to count, the number of websites by those with no expertise in the field is nearly as high. The last thing needed on the net is more information by me as I regurgitate something that may have been said by someone even less qualified than myself.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t write about writing, but they should write about their writing experience, tell the reader how they approach their work. Do they outline like crazy (as I do) or do they just sit down at the computer letting the words flow from their fingers and see what comes out? Do they plan their characters out in advance or are their characters formed as the story develops? Have they any idea how the story will end before they start or do they like to be surprised like the reader? I think a writer should get personal and tell their story.
When I say tell their story, I mean the story of how they write, being very careful in sharing the story they are writing. There are many writers who rush to build their platform before they have the necessary experience and knowledge of their craft. They haven’t taken the time to learn sentence structure, which homophone is which or how to be concise and not ramble. They place work of poor quality on the net only drawing attention to an inability to write well. This often occurs when a section of the novel or a short story is posted that is not ready for public display. Unfortunately, the website does not have the intended results. Instead of drawing in a loyal reader who will return to read them again, the chances are they will turn off their target, or worse, get many unwanted hits when the first reader refers their site to others for a good chuckle. It is one thing to write a post for their site that is far from perfect, many of the readers know that these things are often written quickly and will forgive the imperfections, but readers will not be as forgiving if they say here is a sample of what you will read in my book. My rule – before I post a portion of my manuscripts I make sure it has been edited and edited and edited to death.
It is often the case a writer takes the first step to developing their platform and never takes the second. Unfortunately so many of these websites are placed on the net by an author who never comes back to work on them again. They are just static pages taking up land in cyberspace waiting for the day the writer gets published and comes back and puts their book cover and links to purchase. This is a missed opportunity. A writer will never develop an audience if the reader stops returning because there is nothing new to read. A website must offer new information in order to keep the attention of the viewer. That does not mean that every page must change every day. What it does mean is that a writer must find something new to say on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be long, just a short blurb such as a review of a recent book that they read, their opinion on a classic or discussing a blog that caught their eye on a subject related to writing. For me that means publishing my newspaper every few weeks with new articles concerning my characters and their lives.
Whatever you choose to write, if you are a writer keep it on point. Remember your writer’s platform is a way to present yourself as a professional in the field. Unfortunately sometimes the author of a website forgets that the reason they developed it was to promote themselves as a writer and to showcase their written work. It is fine to have an “About the Author” page where you tell a little of your history, a bit about your significant other and display a picture of your four legged friends. It is not the website to blog about the obnoxious barista behind the counter, the mysterious water gathering in your basement or the constant battle between your cats Montague and Capulet. If you really feel the need to purge your mind of such non-related information then you should start a personal blog.
The next step for me is to find an audience for my newspaper. Where is my niche? If you have any ideas, please let me know.