“The 4 Building Blocks of a Writer’s Platform”
You will find a surplus of media discussing the writer’s platform. It’s a writer’s visibility and what a writer uses to sell books. It stands in the balance between craft and creation.
Mostly, articles on the topic agree, but each article offers different examples of building blocks. It can seem overwhelming. You might look at all the gathered lists and think, “I have to do all that?”
First, understand two points of differentiation:
- You build a writer’s platform.
- You use your platform to sell books.
Often articles about platforms mesh these two points, combining building with application. Yet, if you were to build a boat, you wouldn’t include steps in your blueprint that described how to sail it. Sailing the boat is different.
What can get confusing with platform building is that we continue to build after we’ve set sail. Think of these two aspects (building and application) as separate systems that work together in harmony with our writing craft.
As you can see in the graphic, a platform is a two-cog accompaniment to the big gear of writing. This series will examine what a writer’s platform is and define it’s components clearly before getting to the system of application.
A writer’s platform is characterized by four building blocks:
All those ways to build platform listed in most articles can be placed in one of these four categories. It might bring relief to know that you have four blocks with which to build. It also might encourage you to know that different writers can focus successfully on different block configurations or thickness.
Writers don’t need to conform to one platform fits all.
A tactic is a means to an end. In marketing, a tactic is the action to accomplish a goal. When you read articles that list ways to build platform, you can categorize the tactics before deciding if it is one for you. Use the ones that fit your goals.
Not all writers write for the same reasons or expect the same outcomes.
For example, the following is from a Writer’s Digest blog article about building a writer’s platform:
- A website and/or blog with a large readership
- An e-newsletter and/or mailing list with a large number of subscribers/recipients
- Article/column writing (or correspondent involvement) for the media—preferably for larger outlets and outlets within the writer’s specialty
- Guest contributions to successful websites, blogs, and periodical
- A track record of strong past book sales
- Individuals of influence that you know—personal contacts (organizational, media, celebrity, relatives) who can help you market at no cost to yourself, whether through blurbs, promotion, or other means
- Public speaking appearances—the bigger, the better
- An impressive social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, and the like)
- Membership in organizations that support the successes of their own
- Recurring media appearances and interviews—in print, on the radio, on TV, or online
All ten tactics are valid and from an expert, Chuck Sambuchino, who wrote an entire book on the topic. However, I don’t know about you, but when I read this I feel doomed to fail already. Public speaking appearances? A track record? Impressive?
Let me break down the list for you and then you’ll understand why it’s intimidating. Numbers 1 and 2 are audience. Numbers 3-10 are credibility. No one starts out an expert, yet this list reflects that level of expertise.
If you are an aspiring, new or emerging author it can be discouraging to believe this is what you have to do to build a platform. You start with what materials you have and you build up.
You don’t get to the master level without a platform.
This is why it’s important to understand that all those articles list tactics that you can categorize. Some articles confuse audience with community or brand with credibility. It’s important to recognize the difference and be able to pick and choose tactics according to your purpose.
From a marketing perspective, a successful writer’s platform is like a staircase building up from the bottom:
First you establish your brand because the platform is about who you are as a writer. This is your platform, not your cat’s. You build community, credibility and eventually that ever-so-important audience. This would be a strategy for building your platform.
In truth, our efforts probably look more like a game of Tetris:
And, we might focus more on building with one block category over the other. That’s fine as long as you understand that different tactics achieve different results. Once you get building, you’ll also notice that certain tactics overlap others.
Be sure to give thought to each building block in your platform.
Over the next four weeks, I will focus on each category. I am also looking for volunteers to use as case studies. The benefit to you is that I will help you understand your own platform building efforts. If you are interested, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.