The Writer and the Platform: Guest post by Chris Mentzer

Writer platformOn the heels of my post about the importance of a strong author bio in your book proposal, author Chris Mentzer offered to further discuss that elusive author platform we hear so much about. (Chris’s book Nexus of the Worlds will be published by Tiger Dynasty Publishing in December, so he’s lived this firsthand.) Chris and I connected through social media, and we are both proponents of building those personal relationships  every author needs to create a strong platform. I know you’ll enjoy reading his thoughts, and don’t forget to visit Chris’s blog at Tales from the Fifth Tower when you’re finished here. Take it away, Chris:

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One of the hot topics of discussion in the world of writing concerns the writer’s platform. Some ask, “Should I have one, even though I don’t have a book?” or “I’m fiction author, so is it necessary for me to have one?” Let’s look at both these questions and some related ones.

What Is a Platform?

In simple terms, and speaking from a material standpoint, a platform is a series of planks connected together to make a raised surface for an individual to stand on. In politics, a platform is a candidate’s basis for being elected; each plank is a promise that he makes to be elected. In writing, the platform is your place in cyberspace for people to find you and know who you are among other writers. Each plank is an outlet where you can be noticed and heard.

A writer platform is your place in cyberspace for people to find you and know who you are...… Click To Tweet

The Planks of the Writer’s Platform

I read articles that say a writer’s blog or website is the platform, as that is the hub of his or her activity. In theory, I agree with this. However, looking at the definition of platform, the blog is only one part of the entire structure. It may be the main section, but it is not the whole platform. When you add your presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other social media outlets, those the additional planks strengthen the entire platform. Author interviews, books blurbs, author bios, and book trailers are additional planks.

But I Don’t Have a Published Book

There are a lot of writers out there who claim they don’t need a platform since they don’t have a book to sell. I can understand this, but in the busy world of cyberspace, even with a book you may not be heard; it might take months—even years—to develop a fan base for you and your books.

Let’s look at this through the lens of a historical landmark event. Everyone is familiar with the moon landing in 1969. We are introduced to the astronauts, we follow them to the rocket, we cheer the liftoff, and then we rejoice as it lands and the astronauts walk on the surface. The significance of this (besides the event itself) is that we know a great deal about it before long before the rocket leaves the launch pad. In a speech on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy promised we would put a man on the moon before the decade was over. That was eight years before it happened.

Now, let’s suppose that you, the author, are an astronaut, and your book is the moon landing. NASA is your publisher (traditional or self-publishing). Your platform then is the announcement to the country that you are heading to the moon writing a book. The news travels around from one person to the next, interviews are posted in papers and on television, and this leads up to your departure into space book being released. If you release the book first and then develop a platform, it’s the same as landing on the moon first and then telling everyone about it. Imagine the disappointed astronaut on the moon’s surface jumping up and down and waving his arms at the people on earth—and nobody is paying attention.

Selling Yourself

Your platform sells you and your brand and allows people to get to know you and your style of writing, and from there you build a fan base of followers. That way, when the book is released, you already have the attention of a number of people who will buy your book and/or tell others about it, and you hope they will get on board and buy as well.

How do you sell yourself? That’s where the blog comes into play. Talk about yourself, the genre you write, the books you have read, and other basic things about who you are and what makes you tick. Have someone interview you asking these questions. There are bloggers out there who specialize in helping people get discovered even before a book is available. On Twitter, follow fellow authors of the same genre and pick their brains. Find out how they got to where they are right now. They may soon follow you, and from there you can develop a following of your own.

But I’m a Fiction Writer

I read an article that argued that only nonfiction writers need a platform. If this were true, I wouldn’t have met all the fiction writers I’ve met in the last three months. I truly believe all writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction, should build a platform. Fiction writers have it a bit easier, though, as they can base their platforms on their stories, whereas nonfiction writers have to establish themselves as a type of expert to show why their particular book should be read instead of others on the same subject.

It’s Never Too Late

Even if you already have books published, it’s never too late to begin building a platform and getting people to take notice of you and your work. There are a number of people out there who are ready, willing, and able to help you get started. Just don’t expect followers and sales increases in a week’s time. You need to develop patience, as it can be a long process.

How Do I Begin?

If you look at your writing as a business, you’ll want to advertise yourself in every corner of cyberspace that you can. Without it, you’ll be the lone astronaut wondering why no one knows you’re on the moon.

One of the first things you can do is get both a Facebook and a Twitter account. Create a Facebook fan page that talks strictly about you as an author and/or your upcoming book. Provide links on your Facebook page, Twitter page, and other social media sites places that always draw people to one central location (usually your blog or website). Talk a little about yourself and provide links to your book (if already published.) If you’re still waiting to be published, talk a little about the book and the creative process behind it.

There are many articles and books available on this subject, but you don’t have to do anything exactly the way others prescribe. Your main goal is to market yourself and your writing, whether or not you have publisher (who may not be able to give you the support you want). If you want to get ahead in this industry, you need to be willing to step forward and make yourself heard.

What about you? What is your opinion of the Writer’s Platform? Share your thoughts and comments here, and let us know what you think.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris Mentzer

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After numerous attempts over the years to write the Great American Novel , Chris entered his first writing challenge, held by the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) website, in 2005. That attempt was the foundation of Nexus of the Worlds, Book 1 of The Askinar Towers Trilogy, which will published by Tiger Dynasty Publishing on December 3, 2013.

Chris lives in Mesa, AZ, with his wife and two daughters. He is currently employed in the retail industry working in the produce department. In his spare time, when not writing or stalking the social media streams, Chris loves to hike out in the Lost Dutchman area and Saguaro Lake. Learn more in this interview and connect with him on his blog, Facebook fan page, Twitter, or email him at fifth.tower@gmail.com.

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And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.

14 thoughts on “The Writer and the Platform: Guest post by Chris Mentzer”

  1. I have to admit I don’t know a lot about building a platform and how it’s done effectively, but I actually enjoy blogging, so I figured I will learn along the way, and so far, I haven’t done too bad I feel, making new acquaintances is always a bonus, the blog is actually helping me with my writing process. I shall head over to Chris Mentzer’s blog now 🙂

    1. Hello again Laurae!
      Thanks for your comments here and on my blog! I too am learning along the way and that’s the easiest way to do it. We can sit and read everything about any subject but until we start applying what we’ve learned it’s just information in our head.

      My next step is to connect Google+ to my blog and create a newsletter with Mailchimp.

      Chris

      1. Mailchimp? I have to look into that for future purposes, and Google+, but that’s down the line. I like the name, for some reason I have developed an affection for monkeys and chimps. A colleague of mine was laughing at me at work for having a tiny little plastic chimp on my desk, and a bag with a picture of a monkey on it as I stepped back from lunch with a banana in my hand.

  2. “If you release the book first and then develop a platform, it’s the same as landing on the moon first and then telling everyone about it. Imagine the disappointed astronaut on the moon’s surface jumping up and down and waving his arms at the people on earth—and nobody is paying attention.” Love this! That statement alone is a strong argument for having a platform in place.

    Thanks for introducing us to Chris, Candace. I’m anxious to check out his blog.

    1. Hi again Jill!
      The moon landing idea just came to me the other day and I thought it was the perfect example for why people should build their platforms first.

      I was a self-published author between 2006-2012 but you wouldn’t have known that as I didn’t know anything about a platform or how to get people to my site to buy my books. I did a lot of word-of-mouth where I worked and got some sales but it wasn’t enough to make anything worthwhile.

      When I signed up with Tiger Dynasty Publishing, it gave me the push to investigate what publishing was about and what I need to do. The mention of a platform sound intriguing to me and I researched it until I had a pretty good handle on the idea.

      Thanks for the comments here and on my blog!

      Chris

  3. Very helpful thoughts, Chris. The whole idea of building a platform can be overwhelming for new writers. I know it was for me. I’ve worked to build my online presence one small step at a time. I still don’t have the Twitter thing nailed yet… would love to see either you or Candace post about that sometime!

    1. Hi Maria, thanks for the comment! In all reality when I first joined Twitter a couple years ago, I despised it. I was on for two weeks and couldn’t understand what it was about and how to contact anyone. I was so used to Facebook that I was hoping it would be similar.

      Anyhoo, that was then this is now. I am a big fan of Twitter as it helps keeping in touch with fellow authors. A lot of the times whatever you put in your profile at the top of the page will be the people that you attract. I have listed both writer and parent so I get follows from both writers and parenting coaches.

      I’ll follow you and Twitter and try to help you sort through things. Stop by my blog sometime. I wrote a post about writing a story one tweet at a time!

      Chris

  4. Wonderful thoughts. It felt very silly at first to promote a novel I’ve not published yet, but it’s been inspiring and great fun meeting new people through social media and platform building. Thanks, Chis & Candace, I will share with my writer’s group 🙂

    1. You’re quite welcome! I agree that it seems silly however, as you’ve already noticed that by meeting people now, you are not only building a fanbase but also have future readers for books when they come out. That way regardless of what you write as far as genre, if it’s written by you, they know it will be worth buying.

      Chris.

  5. Chris – I appreciate the wonderful points you made in this guest post.

    I’ve worked very hard at not only BUILDING my writer’s platform, but MAINTAINING it.

    Periodically the social-media aspects are labor-intensive — Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Google+, Pinterest, Scoopit, Reddit, Learnist, StumbleUpon, and Digg — but I’ve found it to be worth the investment of my time.

    1. Hi Laurie, Thanks for the comment! I can be very stressful to try and maintain all of those aspects of your platform. You have quite a few more than I do! One suggestion though would be not to update all of them everyday. You can also link pages together so that one post will show up on another social media page. I have Twitter linked to my Facebook page.

      But it sounds like you’re enjoying yourself, so keep up the good work!

      Chris

  6. Brilliant analogy – I love it! When I’ve finished my first novel, I’ll definitely feel over the moon. I don’t want to have to come down again and convince people I did it and it’s worth reading – I want them there watching as I make my way up, cheering me on!

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