"Do you need to build a platform?" asks Kelly James-Enger in an article in the August edition of The Writer.
A platform is about what you bring to the publisher, and Enger says it's as essential as writing ability when it comes to writing for a living. A platform is your ability to reach your book buying audience, your influence as an expert and all the connections you bring to a book project. Publishers want to know that you can write a book and more importantly that you can sell product, a fact that many authors gloss over or don't really think about.
The problem with building a platform is it's as much work as building a house and it doesn't stop after your book is published. Find your crowd and be an expert, but don't come off as preachy or have a money-grubbing buy this book approach. Join communities, help others by providing useful content that pays dividends and can increase over time.
If you don't like selling products, even your own, you must read 5 Steps to Building a Platform when you hate selling yourself.
The ideas is to become a well-liked expert. Here are 5 tips to the road to success:
1. Pick a venue like Facebook or twitter and start sharing information and making thoughtful comments. It's not about your or your book but contributing to the community.
2. Set yourself apart from other people with similar platforms without being competitive. Copyblogger recently had a great post about beating online-obscurity. I liked his idea of promoting other people to promote yourself and following
3. Start commenting, but leave the "that's fabulous" or "sounds delicious" comments to a minimum. It's a waste of time to leave trite comments and who really cares that you're going to make that recipe right away? Instead why not actually read through the post and make a relevant comment. And when someone comments on your blog, remember not many comments are random, most come from bloggers who also want their blog read. It's common courtesy to look at the link and check out the commenter's blog. At the very least acknowledge and answer questions raised.
4. Practice content marketing and share news items and information your readers can actually use. Food bloggers share recipes. Interior Design blogs like this one and this one do it with cool photos, enticing people with dream homes, rooms and furniture. Who doesn't want to live like that? Everyone has their content antennas on high alert with their WIIFM (what's in it for me) factor.
5. Remember the lost art of saying "Thank you." Cultivating relationships, adding value to other people's lives--that's what internet marketing is all about according to Gary Vaynerchuk in the Thank You Economy. Retweeting, saying thank you on FaceBook walls and generally personalizing the way you do business. In other words, do unto others. Social networking is a cooperative framework for building a platform, sharing information and online book selling.
Now all you have to do is put in farmer's hours to get the results you want. Now where did I put my hoe . . .