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 firstname.lastname@example.org.