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Platform: Authenticity Builds Credibility

Essay by Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch and has developed the idea that a writer’s platform is built on branding, credibility, community and target audience.

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Either way, I made a mistake. Either I’ve insulted an individual I do not know, or I could have risked exposing my community to something inauthentic. It’s never easy to be in an a position of public skepticism, but I went with my intuition because I noticed clues of authenticity, or rather, a lack of them.

When it comes to building a writer’s platform, authenticity is key.

As an author, you are your own brand. Some writers choose a pen name and develop a persona around it. This is fine, as long as you remain authentic to that persona. Others use their genre or the topics they like to write to build a brand. Take for instance, my buckaroo brand. At its core is a culture I was born to but left to pursue a career in writing, not riding. I can have fun with my roots and they are authentic. Yet, I also know writers who never sat in a saddle, but pen brilliant historic westerns and wear Stetsons. They could build a buckaroo brand, too. It has to mean something to you, so it can become meaningful to others.

Credibility has many touch points in your writing. The most credible touch point is easily observed by readers — can you write? You won’t make a credible writer if your sentences have nothing to convey. Craft is something every writer has to work on, even the masters. Yet, if you have nothing to say and write in circles, you might be committing a fraud, such as the student in school who didn’t read the book but is trying to give convoluted answers to mask the fact. Topic credibility is important too, and we’ve had discussions before about how authentic our characters should be in their settings or professions or circumstances.

Community trust is paramount to any platform that builds community. Community might be other writers you interact with or they might be part of a platform, such as those who gather at Carrot Ranch. Just like your work community or neighborhood, it’s important to take time to get to know one another and create a space space that honors diversity, exploration and growth. Different communities could be build around shared interests, activities or goals. Whatever the driver, the community trust is also governed by authenticity.

A writer’s target audience is different from the community (although some readers may decide to interact at the community level). Readers want to know their authors are real people (or personas) and observing community interaction, knowing the author’s brand and credibility are all important factors. The writer also needs to understand who is most likely to read, and create a platform that attracts or seeks a target audience. For example, if an author builds a brand around cute kittens but wants to publish political thrillers, chances are the platform won’t support the product. That’s why readers need to be considered even if they are not yet part of the mix.

I thought about the authenticity of these platform components as I prepared to post a submitted article. Someone responded to my ranch email, offering to write an article like the brilliant Writing is Water essay by Kerry E. B. Black. It was a curiosity when the actual article arrived and was not about Raw Literature but was an interesting piece on the importance of niche. I skimmed it quickly to see it was better suited as a platform guest post. I didn’t give it a deep read, something I should have done before saying. “Yep!”

I couldn’t say what, but the whole thing seemed off kilter.

As I prepared to set up the piece, and link to the author’s bio, I went over to his website to discover it wasn’t a blog but a writing business. It was a professional looking site with high quality graphics and a call center. Whoa. Wait. A call center? I began to read through it carefully. It was fairly well written, marketing to students and professionals to write essays and articles, and the first sentence I tripped over was the one proclaiming the writers were native English speakers except it was constructed in a way that was clearly not written by a native English writer. Don’t proclaim to be one thing and expose yourself as the opposite.

If you are an expert, great! But as The Hub says, if not, don’t dress up in a suit and tie and get on YouTube and make a donkey of yourself. If you are not a writer don’t be selling writing services. And if you are a student or a professional, don’t be paying a service to write your school essays or reports you are paid to write. Inauthentic! And it doesn’t sit well with me that I almost posted an article to my community by someone who abuses authenticity to profit. I could be wrong, but when I did a deeper read, the article was about a great topic but actually said nothing compelling and had several questionable errors from a writing service expert.

So! Here I am, guesting today on my own blog instead of posing the article intended. My apologies if I’ve offended the submitter who will remain anonymous (and I doubt the person is known to anyone here). And not to scare off any future guest posters, but hey — submit something authentic! That means, be you, write in your own voice and select a topic that is meaningful to share. We post wide ranges of writing and topics, so unless you are scamming the system, submit away!

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Platform is a series that discusses the balance between craft and creation. It’s a writer’s sum total of visibility comprised of branding, community, credibility and target audience. An author markets product (books, blog, podcasts, workshops) from a platform. This series offers tips from experienced authors, publishers and marketers specific to all writers interested in building a platform and selling books and related products. If you have an article to share with the community of writers at Carrot Ranch, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at


  1. C. Jai Ferry says:

    Standing ovation from over here on the plains.

  2. LOL! Don’t dress up in a suit and tie, get on YouTube, and make an ass of yourself. No, don’t do that. 😀 Well said. These guest posts have been great!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha… Yes, that’s exactly how how said it! I tried to give it a gentle donkey. They have been great and while I do want to bring in more writers, I also want to protect our authentic community.

  3. julespaige says:


    Thank you. Authenticity is one of the reasons I had to take the ‘Like’ button away from my blogs. I am a writer who wants to attract other writers and readers – not someone selling snake oil or how to get rich quick without working. And I will not chance someone going to another blog icon that is even remotely fraudulent.

    When someone ‘new’ comes visiting (me) – before I accept their comment – I investigate where they are coming from. Sometimes they are selling their own product which has nothing to do with writing. Mind you I am all for other creative avenues. But I am not interested in what nail polish to wear with what designer dress from my own much less another country.

    We all enjoy being followed. Though not all followers comment at all so one can only wonder why they visit or follow you? Especially if their blog focuses on pet photos without any captions. Or folks that have an interesting photography or travel blog but don’t have the comments open.

    I have a page explaining how I run my blog and what I will and won’t tolerate. I guess that is ignored by most folks. But I tried to be clear. I don’t automatically follow everyone. But I do attempt to respectfully visit those who have visited and especially left a nice comment – no matter what (if any) their home blog is about.

    I have made it very clear what my blogs are about. I write because I enjoy writing. And most of the readers who are also writers seem to appreciate that.
    I write about what happens in my life. Or when prompted fun flash fiction 😉
    And I always leave links so folks can educated themselves (if they choose).

    Again, thank you for many things, especially being the Lead Buckaroo!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Jules, you do a great job of providing clarity at your sites. There’s a lot of clutter out there and misdirection in order to manipulate ad dollars and click thrus. I’ve seen those cute pet blogs and think they are simply playing on the common emotional reaction to cute animals. I make sure new comments get filtered and it’s astounding how much junk turns up in my spam folder. We work to shape our sites and need to honor what we have.

  4. Phew. Close one.

  5. A. E. Robson says:

    I liked the Hub’s comment . . . reminded me of one used in our part of the world – A lot of hat and no cows!

    Thanks for guesting this good reminder Charli, to all writers, for the need to check deeper for credible information if we want to be credible ourselves.

    • Charli Mills says:

      That’s a great saying! I’ll still the Hub as I’m sure he’ll like it. Kind of like clean boots. Yes, we have to protect our own credibility, and often in unexpected ways.

  6. a 99 word reply; habit I guess:

    “Tell it agin, Shorty.”
    “Yeah, tell it agin. Were they rustlers?”
    “No, way I heard it, it weren’t rustlers, it was a dude, thinkin’ this was a dude ranch. But Shorty, she ain’t no greenhorn, she saw through, ran ‘em off the ranch.”
    “Yeah, Shorty she recognized mechanical bull. Pulled the plug on it.”
    “Yee ha! ‘Cause what’s next, astro-turf on the range? That ain’t welcoming.”
    “Well, now if ya’ll would pipe down, maybe Shorty could tell it again.
    “Yeah. Shorty?”
    “I told enough already. Be authentic. Be yourselves. And when you wrangle, don’t get tangled in your rope.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha! You will find that 99 words becomes habit. When I lost my big brown dog, I grieved by writing stories of him in 99 words. When Trump got elected, I started exploring stories from different sides of the poll box by putting them in 99 words. I hope your brain continues to think in that framework. And I’m enjoying your Shorty stories! I’m laughing — this ain’t no dude ranch!

    • LOL but well said in 99 words.

    • julespaige says:

      Thanks D. Avery I was inspired to be true to who I am… so in poetic form:
      About Being True
      (Elfje series)

      In authenticity
      Is a must
      No opaque little white

      Though it
      Is an art
      Isn’t welcomed in these

      And pasty
      Just isn’t tasty
      When soul food is


  7. Good catch, Lead Buckaroo! So hard to know sometimes who’s being real and who isn’t. But on the webs, as well as in life, all we can do is be mindful and hope for the best. I love the Raw Lit guests posts!

    • Charli Mills says:

      It can be subtle sometimes, but incongruencies show up. I think instinct is often early detection, but sometimes I worry that I’m wrong, and give a person the benefit of the doubt. This just didn’t add up in the end! I’m glad you like the series! I enjoy learning creative insights from individual writers.

  8. I think authenticity is the key. If you are something at least be honest about it. Well spotted Charli.

  9. I thought this was an excellent post, Charli. I published Mike and my first book last year in August and started blogging in September last year so I am still quite new at all of this. I love articles like this one that offer advice. I have learned so much from the “blogily” and I think it has improved my written offerings.

  10. Annecdotist says:

    Marvellous musings on authenticity from something that very nearly wasn’t. It can be hard to maintain the line between openness to difference and exploitation, especially when you’re busy, so glad you found it in time. I’ve had some rather strange comments on blog posts and followed the links to some peculiar places, but some I’ve left in because they’re funny. But a guest post is on another level – while you don’t have to agree with their content, you do need some level of trust in shared values and objectives.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sometimes the line is hard to judge, especially when wanting to be welcoming. I haven’t read spam comments for a while, but there are some gems. I used to think this kind of slyness to gain clicks to a bogus site was the act of marketers gone bad, but now I wonder what the Russians are up too. Some writer of political thrillers needs to hop on that topic for a future best seller! 🙂 A guest post is different; that’s inviting someone into the ranch house.

  11. […] With thanks to D.Avery for the idea to write in ‘form’ about this topic 😉 I’m even using this piece for my ‘daily’. Please see the inspirational post here: Platform: Authenticity Builds Credibility […]

    • D.Avery of ? She’s just looking for traffic. (audience?)
      Seriously, thanks to all of us who are picking up what is being laid down. I’m new and wary to all of this schtuff so this is a timely reminder and drill.
      Show ’em Shorty!

      • Charli Mills says:

        There’s good folks here, you included. We bring, share and generate audience through our interactions. Usually spam is easy to spot (look at the About page of any new followers you have, if it reads “This is an About page… it’s likely a sham blog). Spam filters pick up tons of junk, but can also filter out legit, established followers, too. Check it periodically. It’s less typical that someone actually sends an email in response to a guest post opportunity, but the link it generates can be abused to legitimize something not right. Best way to know the intersecting communities here is to follow a rancher or two or three home. Get to know some of their community members you connect with and follow one or two home. Kind of like shampooing — lather, rinse, repeat. Be mindful of how big of a community you want to build and keep getting your writing out there for your readers to find (which takes reach beyond your fellows). You are off to a splendid start! You got this schtuff!

  12. Your authenticity is my favorite thing about you, Charli! Thank you so much for keeping this as a space where we are free to be ourselves 😀

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