As I anticipate the release of Prayers for Parents of Prodigals (my seventh book), I’m keenly aware of the need for a growing readership. Platform is a word that scares many writers, but it really boils down to who you know.
Writing Tip for Today: What are some ways to increase your
readership and grow your platform?
What’s Your Thing?
A lot of platform-building in the past twenty or so years
has involved branding—carving out a kind of writing or topic that is associated
with your name. Stephen King—horror novels. Jane Kirkpatrick—historical. Anne
Lamott—humorous takes on faith. Yet most of us write across genres.
I’ve written fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Maybe you haven’t quite decided where you should land. Unless you’re this genre twenty-four seven, chances are that you write a bit of everything. What’s your platform going to be?
In my case, I ferreted out some issues that always inform my writing. Things I care deeply about include wounded people and healing hearts, disability, adoption and substance use disorder. Make a list of common ideas that seem to pop up over and over in your writing. Is it girl meets boy? Boy conquers evil? Perhaps it’s a sliver of your work—you always include a beloved pet dog or cat or ferret in your stories. Whatever commonality you find, use it to grow your platform.
Where’s the Roadmap?
But how, you ask? I’ve written before about fiction writers
joining online groups or organizations that reflect your stories. You have a
recurring character who is a basset hound? Join a dog lovers or basset hound
circle. But don’t join just to say, “Buy my book!” Rather, get to know people.
Be genuinely interested in their lives before you mention that you have a story
or book with a basset hound.
Books, podcasts and instructions galore exist to help you map out a platform strategy. Thomas Umstattd’s weekly podcast features interviews on timely topics such as platform, marketing and so on. These ideas can be overwhelming for shy writers who just want to write and be left alone. Start small and grow your confidence.
Maybe you begin by announcing your writing passion on social
media (you DO have at least one or two social media accounts, right?) or even to
the grocery clerk at the checkout. Get used to thinking and
When You’re Published
Whether you self-pub or go traditional, you will promote
your book. Unless you’re an A-lister, you do your own promoting much of the
time. A good place to start is by winning influencers.
An influencer is someone with a bigger following (brand, name) than yours who will agree to help you by announcing on social media, writing reviews, endorsing or writing a foreword or inviting you to appear on a podcast, radio or TV show. Start by compiling a list of authors/celebs who are in the same brand category as your book. Approach each one by researching email or snail addresses. Write a pitch to submit to podcasts, radio or TV. You can find articles on pitching here.
Write a heartfelt note individually (you could make a sort of template and then adapt it each time) asking for the person’s help. Use professional etiquette and don’t harass people. I’ve found that if I tell a bit of my story first (for this book, I have three sons who struggle with mental illness and substance use), I have a better chance of connecting with the author or person I’m trying to reach.
Yes, all this takes time. A lot of time. But consider it all a part of your writing life, a vital part that will hopefully result in more readers. After all, a writer’s platform is simply a reflection of the readers you hope to gain.