12 Fundamental Principles of Platform, Part 1
Whether you’ve chosen to self-publish or publish traditionally, you’ll still be challenged to sell your book. Getting it listed on Amazon or BN.com only puts your work where readers can find it. It’s your job to make them want to look for it in the first place, then buy it.
How do you do that? Well, we’ve talked about creating a platform often enough that you likely know the answer. Your platform is made up of all the various channels you have to reach your audience and persuade them to check out your book. Do you have a blog related to your work? That’s part of your platform. An active Twitter account? That too. And if you regularly speak on the topic about which you’ve written, that’s also part of your platform.
Your platform may be totally different from any other author’s. However, there are some things that are common to all effective platforms (or at least they should be). In Chuck Sambuchino’s new book, Create Your Writer Platform, he details 12 “fundamental principles of platform.” Today we’ll look at the first six of those principles. Keep them in mind as you begin (or continue) to work on your platform:
1. It is in giving that we receive.
By this, Sambuchino means that people will only follow you if you are providing them with valuable information, guidance or assistance. For free. How you do so is up to you. You might simply provide entertainment or something purely instructive — perhaps even a short e-book or digital download — whatever it takes to help the audience for your book live an easier, more entertaining and enlightened life. If you can do that, then they’ll want to buy your book.
2. You don’t have to go it alone.
Building a platform from scratch is hard. Maintaining one isn’t easy either. It’s okay to use your network of like-minded writers to work on a platform together. Don’t have time to blog three times a week? Create a blog that’s contributed to by multiple writers. The goal is to build and maintain traffic.
Another idea that Sambuchino recommends is to allow other bloggers or online periodicals to reprint your blog content, thereby using them to spread your message. Everyone is looking for content and making your own available will get the work in front of more eyes and drive readers to seek out the source — your blog.
3. Platform is what you are able to do, not what you are willing to do.
This is a great point. When thinking about your platform, be realistic. Don’t waste time thinking about initiatives that you’ll do only when time and circumstances allow for it. Focus on things that will build your audience, and do those things consistently. It’s better to maintain one good, regularly updated blog than to create a blog, a Facebook page, a Goodreads account and a Twitter account that you pay little real attention to.
4. You can only learn so much about writer platform by instruction, which is why you should study what others do well and learn by example.
This is an interesting statement for someone who’s trying to convince you to buy his book. But it’s that kind of honesty that elevates the book. Actually watching what other writers are doing that’s working for them (or not) is one of the best ways of educating yourself. If there’s a self-published author you know who seems to be having success, a large blog following, etc., watch what they’re doing and try to determine why it’s so effective. And remember, platforms grow over time, so in many cases it’s simply a matter of hard work and consistency over any sort of magic formula for platform growth.
5. You must make yourself easy to contact.
This seems simple, but it’s surprising how often writers fail to do this. If you make it hard for interviewers, bloggers, reviewers, publishers or agents to contact you, then you’re going to miss out on a lot of opportunities to promote yourself and your work. Include a working (and regularly checked) email address in every blog post or newsletter that you write, as well as any social media account that’s viewable by the public.
6. The goal is to work incredibly hard at first, then let your platform run on autopilot.
What to make of this one? Do you eventually just stop working on your platform? No. But what you will do is get yourself into a place where your blog has enough content or your readers have enough critical mass and momentum that you don’t have to work as hard. That doesn’t mean you can slack on quality. It simply suggests that instead of posting a blog a day you can post three blogs a week, or host guest bloggers instead of always doing it yourself. Allow your followers to convert new readers on your behalf, and reward them for doing so with free giveaways, personalized attention or other rewards. Use your Twitter following to drive people to your blog and vice versa.
Next time we’ll look at the remaining six principles on Sambuchino’s list. Until then, keep writing!
Which principle are you most excited to put into action?