Decoding the Writer’s Platform

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

April 3, 2015

It’s no mystery that if you are going to be a writer who wants to be read you will need to establish a writer’s platform. In fact, a platform is a vital component to getting published. Literary agents, publishers and even indie or hybrid outlets will most likely expect you to have one established.

Craft is what you write whether you compose graphic novels, memoirs, poetry, genre fiction or academic literature. The end product in print or online is your creation. Platform stands in the balance between craft and creation:

Balance Between

Platform in the Balance by Charli Mills 2015

With my first manuscript up for sale, I’ve given much thought to my own writer’s platform. Because I have a background in marketing communications, I have an understanding about basic marketing principles.

A platform launches one’s writing the way a rocket platform launches a space shuttle.

Despite the abundance of media on the subject of platform, I still felt that some areas were nebulous. How can my platform be a shining star for my career if its obscured in space fog? I need to clarify just what my platform is and how it can be effective to my goals.

And let’s pause and consider career  and goals for a moment. The reason platforms are different is because different writers have different goals; different publishers have different expectations; thus different platform serve different roles. As you read, consider where you are at on the writing career spectrum:


Spectrum of Why We Write by Charli Mills 2015

There’s no right or wrong to why you write. It might satisfy your need to express and you enjoy creating word art among other word artists. You might have a compelling story to share. Maybe you’ve harbored a dream to be published one day. You might even decide that an income-generating career from written communication is one to pursue.

Be clear and know why you write. It matters to your platform.

March 28-29, 2015 I attended the LA BinderCon, “a symposium to empower women and gender non?conforming writers with tools, connections, and strategies to advance their careers.” I was a scholarship recipient and expressed my need to better understand where I was in my writing career. I built a social media platform, a literary community and have a publishable manuscript. What next?

My biggest light-bulb burning moment clicked when I recognized certain repeated themes, community being one. I also asked questions, listened and came home with gaps in my knowledge filled. I was inspired to return to my personal essay roots after believing that outlet was long dead. I better understand how the markets have shifted, not declined.

Richard Bach once said, “We teach best what we most need to learn.” With that thought in mind, the best way for me to assimilate all the knowledge and information I gained in LA at BinderCon is to break it down into a series of posts. After much consideration, I see that decoding the writer’s platform is essential to my success and most likely to yours.

In fact, many in my community are deliberating issues stemming from platform building. Some mention the workload and others question its effectiveness. Norah Colvin wrote recently about Making Choices. Yes, we do. And I hope I can share timely and practical insights so that you can feel confident and good about the choices you need to make regarding your writer’s platform.

Therefore, I’ll combine what I gained with what I know about marketing in a series, Decoding the Writer’s Platform. Here is what I’ve outlined:

  1. The 4 Building Blocks of a Writer’s Platform
  2. Building Block 1: Branding
  3. Building Block 2: Community
  4. Building Block 3: Credability
  5. Building Block 4: Audience
  6. What You Do with Your Platform
  7. Time Management & Effectiveness
  8. Keeping Craft Creative
  9. Why Community Matters
  10. Platform Tips From the Stars

As this develops, I welcome comments to foster discussion of this topic. Examples of what you’ve learned, stories of success and questions will help us all as we decode the foundation of our careers as writers, whether we write for fun, business or realms in between.

Note: all the graphics in this series are of my creation. You are welcome to use any as long as you maintain the credits.

You May Also Like…

Thoughts to Ponder

Thoughts to Ponder

I live with one foot in tradition—and keep it there—while the other foot steps out to allow me to grow with modern...


  1. jan

    I must admit complete ignorance of platform and branding when I started out on this journey – and therefore, it’s been a bumpy ride. I still haven’t blasted off! But I’m happy meeting other bloggers and writers for now. Nice graphics!

    • Charli Mills

      Even with my background in marketing, I have still felt puzzled about what is a platform exactly. You touch upon what I think is most enjoyable about building the platform — community. It was good to hear at the conference that community is also valid and vital to writers. Thanks, Jan!

  2. Sacha Black

    Yep, this is VERY pertinent to me right now, I will be following this series with great interest. I read, just before christmas, that any author who seriously wants to be published needs to have an online platform. That set of a series of rebranding my blog, a total cut off of the old personal blogging and a shift 100% towards writing. I brand every photo, every everything really. I started trying to meet other writers (because I knew none) and it has made the world of difference, I feel part of a community of writers, I feel like I know lots of people who have things in common and I feel like i am starting to build something of a platform. My only problem?? I have no idea what I am doing… I am young – so I get social media, and how to grow an audience, but other than that, I am blindly wandering down this path in the hope that when I finish my manuscript it, combined with whatever state of platform I have will be good enough…. so this series I am EAGERLY awaiting. It is a wonderful thing to so generously share your knowledge Charli, you are an angel. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Back in the day…meaning before social media…platform was still a thing. It still is, but social media has created gray areas. For example how to differentiate between community and audience. It sounds like you have taken your author branding seriously and that’s a smart move. I hope to clarify some of the gray areas.

      • Sacha Black

        Hmmm good point. I hadn’t thought about that difference, and it’s an important differentiation. I think I want a community. Because I love the relationships I’ve built and the friends im making, but at the same time I want to look professional on the website because it’s important to me and I enjoy perfecting it. Actually maybe it’s more a sort of ocd like perfectionism?

      • Charli Mills

        You definitely want a community, Sacha! It’s part of your platform. That was something publishers and writers alike were talking about…how to develop community. Bloggers totally get this. Bloggers are excellent at developing community, but can get overwhelmed as it grows and then confused at how it connects to audience. Those in your community might be in your audience, but your audience is not your community, unless you want to write to a small niche.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        I have a HUGE problem in that I’m not sure I can differentiate between my community and my audience. My writing “genre” or whatever the hell it is (I’m so lost) is such that the people who write it are also the people who read it. I am thinking that I am going to change my…everything. (Except Lemon Shark. I <3 Lemon Shark.) Other than that, I'm utterly lost.

      • Charli Mills

        You have the pieces! Stick with me on this series and you’ll understand where the pieces go! I’m setting it up so it’s a neat box to contain the mess within. Lemon Shark is brilliant and that can be your foundation. It’s OKAY if readers of your style of writing also write it. That’s good for you to know! Genre is a template and tries to define where your creation goes for sales. Let’s not worry about it now. Your craft, however, your style of writing, your voice — all that can enrich your brand. Your brand is far more important than your genre, although suffice to say that it’s easier to define target audience if your have a cookie cutter genre. You are a Lemon Shark! No one else is a Lemon Shark! That’s where you begin to build, so have fun with it and brainstorm what that means to you.

  3. Amy Morse (@TomCatDesigns)

    Thanks for sharing your insight, fascinating stuff – I’ll look out for your marketing series, anything that helps cut through the fog is warmly welcomed 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      My intention is to clear up those areas where what it is gets confused with what you do with it. Thanks for your interest!

  4. ChristineR

    Reblogged this on Christine R and commented:
    I’m keen to keep an eye on Charli’s series: Decoding the Writer’s Platform. It sounds interesting.
    She says…
    “As this develops, I welcome comments to foster discussion of this topic. Examples of what you’ve learned, stories of success and questions will help us all as we decode the foundation of our careers as writers, whether we write for fun, business or realms in between.”

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for reposting, Christine! This series is for all writers and will help individuals understand that a platform is something anyone can build and use.

  5. Let's CUT the Crap!

    Platform and branding are a puzzle to me as well. Blogging uses up too much of my time and I’m trying to find a balance between that and writing. I look forward to your upcoming posts.

    • Charli Mills

      You are not alone in feeling that way. I think some of the confusion stems from what a platform is versus how you use it. Branding is a component and blogging is a tactic. But I’ll explain these details and offer examples so you can make clear decisions regarding your own platform.

      • Let's CUT the Crap!

        Thanks so much, Charli. I shall be all ears (er, eyes 🙂 )

  6. Annecdotist

    I think this is going to be a popular series, Charli, with the potential to expand your platform – or would it be your brand? I look forward to the enlightenment – as well as the debates.

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve considered this topic for awhile, yet I struggled to understand a few key points myself. In LA a panelist said something that challenged my thinking. And once I looked at it differently, I had a platform epiphany. My inner marketing nerd got excited and I outlined all this coming home from the conference and then I created visuals, which is my own litmus to test if I understand something at the level of explaining it to someone else. Discussion will broaden the idea further. I think this will boost my own platform, yes!

  7. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I too am looking forward to your series. I have read a lot on platforms and see it as a see saw in which I am not certain at which end I sit. That is probably my gaps and perhaps you will fill those holes or at least generate wonderful discussion regarding this topic.

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve read a lot, too and I revisited some of the articles on platform after coming up with my insights. From my perspective, even the experts perpetuate confusion. Some understand the importance of platform, but don’t clearly understand basic marketing. Others confuse building community with building audience. And others don’t fully explain the role of credibility and how to develop it. I’m excited to see how this resonates with a variety of writers, and get other insights so we can all better understand how to build a platform and use it.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I’m sure we’ll all have lots to say after reading what you have gleaned. It will be good to share with you and I know we will all get a lot out of it.

  8. Ula

    I look forward to reading this series, Charli. You are so generous.

    • Charli Mills

      It helps me understand but sharing and then I get to learn other perspectives too. Benefits of a writing community! 🙂

  9. Christine J Randall

    I keep reading that nobody really knows what marketing truly works and what doesn’t. In the end, I think it must come down to writing a good book in the first place. One which promotes itself via word of mouth among readers.

    Looking forward to learning what other writers think in the discussions.

    • Charli Mills

      There’s much that clutters the book selling industry as a whole when it comes to marketing — different genres attracts different readers; traditional verses independent; an over-saturated and evolving market. You are absolutely right — the quality of a good book matters. But how does a good book rise above all that clutter? Good marketing can be effective and measurable, but first we all need to know what to do and why. We can adjust our efforts to fit our own desired outcomes. Thanks for adding to the discussion! I look forward to more shared ideas and insights as this series progresses!

  10. TanGental

    I reached a point, in my writing, where I realised I had to publish one book, by fair means or foul or I would not stop tinkering with what I had already written. I read about Indie publishing, having no expectation of trad publishers or agents liking my stuff and they all said, as you have, build a platform. I understood that to mean a community, a group who you had teased and tempted into enjoying you and your writing. This would be through social media – all the usual suspects. But whichever you used you needed to ‘engage’ with that community and ‘be generous’. Comment, RT, share. Sacha ha made an interesting point about her rebrand – if you look at her earlier posts they are personal, about her journey and now they are all focused on the writing process and that journey. You too, have the ranch focused on this community and the writing process with Elmira more personal. Me? I mix up everything which about sums up my platform – confused. Fun and frivolous but essentially I’m not taking my platform building seriously. Lori tried to inculcate in me some lessons about twitter – she has build a huge on like community there – but there too I can’t really stay focused. And I suppose that sums me up. I’m in this for fun.
    However… pauses – I would like to understand what it is I could do to make it a more serious operation. How would I find a platform that suits me? Anne reviews books, Norah focuses on educational links, Sherri and Irene are memoire writers so test their story telling on their blogs. But I log like they do yet I’m a fiction writer – muddled? That isn’t the half of it. So, yes, you thoughts will be fascinating. I suspect that I don’t want to change. I will write my books and publish them myself and sell a few dozen copies and move on. But perhaps, as we go, you’ll show me the different path that I might just have to try. Just to see… So I wait with interest for this series.
    And that’s the other thing… I’m blocking your comments with my streams of consciousness… Soz

    • Charli Mills

      Like you, I suspect most writers who blog get the community component of a platform. Yes — engaging, generous and I’d add authentic and consistent to the mix. And the writers you mention, some of those aspects are their credibility or brand. Some brands are focused (Anne, Norah); some brands are aligned with genre (Sherri, Irene); and some brands are evolving (Carrot Ranch, Sacha). We use our brands to build credibility, community and audience. Your blog isn’t confusing. It’s a direct reflection of a creative writer with varied interests. I think of you as a modern Shakespeare — you’re sharp but playful, you have depth to your well of words, your humor writing encompasses all levels from intelligent to base, and you can pull sonnets out of your left ear. Why you got started as a writer, your interests, what you write and your voice are all reflected in your platform. That’s the brand of “Geoff Le Pard.” Having published your first novel, taking workshops, submitting (and winning) contests, applying your skills and knowledge to what you write — that’s your credibility. The writers who gleefully clog your comment page in return, the Rough Writers, the writers who swap haiku with you, blogs you mutually follow, people you interact with on social media — that’s your community. The people who view your blog posts but never comment, the ones who buy your books or consider it, the ones who read your contest submissions, people who like to read humorous commercial fiction but don’t know your writing yet — that’s your audience. Audience is the toughest thing to build. I think bloggers are so good at building community that they believe audience will evolve from that. Truth is, our community is not our audience. Even our followers on social media are not our audience (nor are they our community). High volume of followers like Lori has is her credibility. So you see how easy it is for us to get confused by what our platform is? It’s dynamic and complex. In a laboratory setting, branding leads to community, which leads to credibility, which leads to audience and once you have an audience you had better have a quality book to offer or you will lose your credibility thus you will lose audience and tarnish your brand. Good news is, your community will console you if that happens. 🙂 In reality, we are juggling all those components to gain visibility for the books we write. And, each writer needs to answer, “why do I write?” If you write for fun, why do you have to get serious? Keep it fun! In fact, I think fun is part of your branding!

      • TanGental

        Charli that is amazing; are you sitting inside my head analysing me and my thinking? Well I had decided writing for fun is y way so that’s good. But the dichotomy between community and audience I now see. Bring on your posts…

      • Charli Mills

        I’ve held back on this topic because I had gaps in my thinking and was confused by the lack of distinction between community and audience. I had gaps filled in LA and my brain clicked on! I like it when it turns on. 🙂

      • TanGental

        Ah to contol that on switch.. Looking forward to seeing you glowing…

  11. lorilschafer

    Something to consider as you’re writing this series – you’ll probably want to publish it as an eBook when it’s done. Good how-to/marketing books tend to sell fairly well (and help you build that precious platform!) and you may save yourself some time at the end if you keep that in mind.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! I’m thinking along those lines. This series is a good place for me to test the waters and understand where the gaps are in understanding platform and how to use it. Thanks, Lori!

  12. Sherri

    Hi at last Charli! Your post has been buzzing around my head ever since I read it. What Geoff said about the fun side of writing and blogging and your response has struck me too, and also this business of ‘brand’. You may remember when I thought of taking some time off blogging back in November so that I could focus on writing my first draft, but in the end I didn’t do that.
    I haven’t made my Easter deadline for the first draft either, yet I discovered that I needed to keep blogging, as you well know. The diversion of it and the ‘fun’ of the challenges (flash fiction and photo) as well as my ‘random’ posts, sometimes about the writing process, sometimes not, help keep me writing and creating and focusing but also gives me the wonderful interaction with community which I would be lost without. I worry about losing that community if I stop blogging for any length of time yet I also worry that if I don’t take more time off, I’ll take so much longer to write my first draft.
    I’m getting there but with so many other things to do in the day (today, for instance, after a long weekend off with hubby for Easter and taking care of a lot of things around the place, which is all good stuff, I was so looking forward to today, a day to write and blog, and I am doing that to a point, but I have to break off for two appointments, one which will take up the entire afternoon…so it goes).
    But I’m going off point…what I mean to say is that you point out here the vital difference between community and audience and how we proceed with marketing in mind. How to reach the wider audience and get our writing out there, to be read by those who will give us the word of mouth we need?
    Knowing why we write and what we want to achieve is key, definitely, I’m seeing that now.
    I love how, by writing all this down in your post and your series to come, you are helping yourself see your way more clearly as all you learnt in LA unfolds and helps give you the answers you seek, yet all the while, sharing the revelation of your knowledge and how to apply it with all of us here!
    You are incredibly generous Charli and it’s plain that so many of us are hungry and thirsty for this kind of advice. So bring it on and thank you so much 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I think we’ve all been mulling over the soft edges of our platforms. Going to LA sharpened the edges enough for me that I could marry it happily to my marketing experience. Where I’ve been confused, I now understand that most writers are, too! LA gave me a clear picture and by sharing it, I learn more right alongside this wonderful community. And, yes, I hope it adds to my platform!

      What I think you are experiencing, is a capacity or near capacity of community. We can only be engage so many people in our community, yet we want a readership audience that is as wide as the universe! When we engage readers the way we do community, we will burn out. If we burn out and take time off, we might diminish our platform. I want to reinvigorate the efforts of writers so we don’t get burned out or intimidated by the activities of building platform. So first, we’ll look at what the platform is and how each component differs yet interacts. Then we’ll study each component so it is clear enough that we can confidently make decision to grow or manage each component. The awesome thing is, there is no “one” platform. Some are heavy on one component or another. And each writer has different goals. Thus the importance of knowing why you write and what success looks like to you. Then we’ll get into how to use our platform to achieve our goal of success.

      And, whew! That doesn’t include our craft or creation! Set aside platform building for a moment. I blog so that I am practicing the communicative art of writing (which is different from writing straight up fiction). I blog (on Elmira Pond) to practice my voice through observation, nature writing and personal essay. I blog to practice literary craft (flash fiction and and other challenges). I consider much of my blogging to be craft improvement. Then there is creation. I blog to build awareness of my writing outcomes — short stories, essays and books. I post some of my WIPs. I blog about process. I’m experimenting with hosting a book store to better learn how to build a readership for my books and those of my community. Now we’ve returned to platform. Do you see how interconnected it all is? That’s why I say that platform is in the balance between craft and creation. No wonder writers reach a point where they want to run from their platform and hide!

      And sometimes we do need to re-focus our energies. In a perfect world, writers write first. I get hyper-focused on my writing, sucked into research and drafting. I need my blog to anchor me to day and time. My blog has specific days that require my attention and this keeps me routine. However, I manage my platform and I manage my writing time in an imperfect world (those appointments, unexpected guests or client requests, an opportunity to publish, or those times I fall behind on reading within my community and I pull a two-day friends-blogathon). 🙂 We each need to find our anchors and understand how to manage the the three-ring circus that is our “writing life.” I hope this series can help each of us (including me!) in that effort.

      Remember, there are two kinds of deadlines: drop-dead and targets. A drop-dead deadline is one you can’t miss. Prioritize accordingly. However, many of our deadlines are targets. If we miss, we simply aim better next time. Adjust accordingly, and without guilt. 🙂

      • Sherri

        Wow Charli, getting help to manage this three-ring circus is nothing short of miraculous! But you are right, finding our anchors is key. I can definitely see the unfolding of all you are going to be showing us and it’s exciting! Preventing blogging burn out is vital, definitely, so all of this will be so beneficial in a variety of ways. I wouldn’t have done any of the writing I’m doing now if it weren’t for all the practice I’ve had by writing on my blog – not least of all flash fiction! – and I can see how it has helped me vastly as I write my memoir and the way my writing has grown. So much too is what we soak up from other bloggers and articles we read and information we share with one another. Just as you are doing here! I wait with bated breath…and yes, always so good to remember not to be weighed down by guilt…that takes way too much energy! Thanks again Charli, have a great day, it’s bedtime here, so see you back at the Ranch again soon 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        You got it! Once you see the purpose of each and the interconnectedness, it doesn’t feel as sprawling. Then you can decide your activities based on what you need to do –maintain, create or grow. We soak up so much from other bloggers, tips for craft, insights for platform, or plain ol’ inspiration. See you back at the ranch!


  1. Decoding the Writer’s Platform: Part 1 « Carrot Ranch Communications - […] You will find a surplus of media discussing the writer’s platform. It’s a writer’s visibility and what a writer…
  2. January 23: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch Communications - […] since I began decoding the writer’s platform, I had been trying to figure out how to visually show others…
  3. 4 Things You Need To Know To Master Your Author Brand | Sacha Black - […] series had on me. If you haven’t read them, you really, REALLY should. Find her posts here: Decoding the…
  4. #LinkYourLife Roundup Challenge « Carrot Ranch Communications - […] with other writers online in meaningful ways offers personal satisfaction and broadens your writing platform’s community […]
  5. Why Self-Publishing Hits a Snag: Branding Your Booty, and by Booty I mean “Treasured Gifts”. – Bound By Rosie - […] Check out this author and learn from their advice. They are realistic, knowledgeable, and have exper… […]
  6. Platform: Branding Yourself as a Writer « Carrot Ranch Communications - […] Platform is a series that discusses the balance between craft and creation. It’s a writer’s sum total of visibility…
  7. Platform: Authenticity Builds Credibility « Carrot Ranch Communications - […] Platform is a series that discusses the balance between craft and creation. It’s a writer’s sum total of visibility…

Discover more from Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading