When working on an author platform, writers can feel overwhelmed with all the things they have to do or think about. How to tackle the universe of platform without going a little insane?
Part of it depends on personality, so I’ll address this for:
1. People who use goal setting
2. People who don’t use goal setting
(That said, you will find something useful in both sections if you are developing a writing career.)
Author Platform For Goal Setters
Goal setters almost always have a definite path they’re on, so before deciding on your plan of action, identify your primary goal(s) for the next six to twelve months. These are the ones I see most often:
1. Developing as a writer or figuring out who you are and what you write
2. Creating, making, producing (which may spin you over to #1 on occasion)
3. Publishing and building formal recognition of you and your work
4. Reader engagement, platform development, and/or audience development—which can be difficult to pursue until you have a body of work and/or some level of recognition in the community.
If you feel like #1 or #2 is most closely aligned with your 6–12 month goals, then you should spend about 10% of your writing time on platform-building priorities.
If #3 or #4 are most closely aligned with your 6–12 month goals, then you may want to spend up to 50% of your time (or whatever percentage seems right to you—how deeply you want to dive, or if you have a book release coming) on publishing and platform, or the business end of your career, until you’ve gained some momentum or you realize it’s time to get back to producing. Many writers operate in this on-cycle/off-cycle because it’s helpful for focus and productivity.
If you’re not sure what your platform-building priorities should be, think about your long-term goals, or where you want to be in 1-5 years. This can quickly become a paralyzing task, so keep it simple. For instance, if you envision having several books published in five years, but you don’t yet have a website, then a platform priority would be establishing one. If you want to grow your reach online, becoming involved in social media or writing online articles (or a blog) is a common step.
Here’s what I use as a general rule of thumb for platform-building priorities, specifically for new and mid-career writers:
1. Establishing or improving your website and/or blog. Sometimes this means investing a little money in design or development.
2. Identifying new publishing opportunities or partnerships to get your work spread to the right target audience or to a bigger target audience than the one you currently reach.
3. Improving your overall brand cohesiveness. This might be as simple as having a business card that matches your website, or having a Facebook cover photo that reflects your brand. It may involve hiring design help.
4. Adding an e-mail newsletter to your overall efforts if you don’t have one.
5. Identifying the social media outlet(s) you want to be strategic about and focus on for growth, as well as those where you might want to simply experiment and play.
6. Looking at how you can diversify the mediums in which you present your content or stories. If you’ve focused solely on written work, is there an opportunity to also try audio, video, or images?
Author Platform For Non-Goal Setters
In full disclosure, I’m someone who rarely sets goals for herself. I mainly work based on “signals.” I pay close attention to how people are responding to my activity (and sometimes I measure it, using a tool like Google Analytics), and what themes are showing up in my classes/conferences, then I adjust. I also pay attention to people whom I admire, and sometimes I imitate them if I see a better way to do things.
I do read trend articles and stay current on how the industry is unfolding, but such things don’t influence me on a day-to-day basis; it’s more about understanding how best practices evolve and intuiting when it’s time to make a change in how I direct my efforts.
Mostly, I favor experimentation and letting my enjoyment drive the platform building. And whether you’re a goal setter or not, it’s important to pay attention to what’s giving you energy, and what’s taking it away. Avoid pursuing a platform-building activity if it doesn’t feel like a good match for the rest of what you’re doing. Or, put another way: don’t make your life difficult by trying to force something that’s not really you. There are so many ways to develop a strong platform that you have the freedom to focus only on the activities you like, which in turn will lead to the satisfaction and growth you want.
Author Platform: The Bottom Line
Set some goals. Or don’t. But do get started on the process of building. It takes time, and you won’t get too far if you keep waiting for some kind of magical moment. The magic happens as you make a writing life—piece by unforced piece.
Looking to develop your career into a long-term, potentially money-making endeavor? Consider working with Jane through our Poets and Writers Career Package.