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Platform Resolutions for Writers 2010

Before writers establish an author platform, they typically establish a writer platform. Over the past decade, thousands of writers have parlayed established influence into traditional book deals. Landing a traditional book deal is still an effective way to exponentially increase your credibility and visibility.

Your “platform” refers to what you do in the world with your professional expertise that makes you visible and influential in the world. Having friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter is not your platform, unless the majority of those people know who you are, what you do, and are enthusiastic about your work.

I thought I would offer some advice about how to slowly and steadily establish a lasting platform. You may note the lack of fanaticism in this advice and the emphasis on enduring success instead. I’m a mother and a wife, a freelancer, a speaker, a teacher, and a blogger, so aiming for balance is the only way I can afford to work if I plan on sticking around for the long haul.

This advice has worked consistently for my students over the past several years. I think you will find that a grounded, step-by-step approach works just as well for you if you choose to follow it:

  1. Develop a platform topic that you love and can work on tirelessly for the next few years. Your passion of the moment should come in second to the topic you could delve into deeply for a good, long time. Prior professional education and a depth of personal experience are going to be a boon to your platform if you have an eye on a future book deal.
  2. Hang back from establishing a blog on your topic until you have cultivated a wealth of content and experience working with others on specialty-related activities that lend credibility and trust to your name. Others will tell you to start blogging immediately, but don’t, if you want to be efficient with your time and money.
  3. Instead, gain authority by seeking publication in established, highly visible publications both in print and online that serve your target audience. Avoid the kind of publishing that anyone can accomplish, like posting on article sites, and work on your professional communication skills instead. By all means, avoid the content mills offering writers slave wages with the promise of future earnings.
  4. Don’t begin any kind of marketing campaign for any product or service offerings until you have established yourself as a go-to person on your topic, again saving you time and money. Before you look at ways to serve others directly, channel your expertise into the best service methods possible based on your strengths and weaknesses. This is a meaty topic that is covered in-depth in my book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books 2008).
  5. Then, develop a product or service that can become one of several multiple income streams over time that will support your goal of becoming a published author. For example, teaching classes over the years has allowed me to re-invest more of the money I earn from writing books back into book marketing. Make sure any offerings you produce are released conscientiously and are integrated into the professional writing you already do. Otherwise, you will seem like you are all over the place and just trying to score a buck.
  6. Don’t expect your platform to support you financially for at least one or two years, as you micro-invest in it, re-invest in it as it grows, and expand your visibility.
  7. Once you have a professional publication track record in your niche topic, then it’s time to hang your online shingle. I’ve seen this accomplished in as little as six months by exceptionally focused students. Take a portion of the money you’ve earned writing and invest it in a professional quality online presence.
  8. A low-cost way to do this is to purchase your name as a URL and use a hosting site like GoDaddy.com to host a WordPress.org blog. I use the Thesis Theme, which you can see in action at my blog. In this way, a blog can also serve as your website where you post your published clips, offerings and bio. If you don’t have a ton of money to invest in the look of your site, you can always pay a designer later.
  9. Delay partnering with others on joint ventures until you have a clear idea of your own strengths and weaknesses in and around your topic. And when you do partner with others be extremely discriminating. Make sure the partnership is going to be win-win-win for everyone involved.
  10. Start an e-mail newsletter or e-zine with those who are most interested in your topic. Build your list by invitation and then grow it into a permission-based following over time. Create an expected, ongoing dialogue that is mutually beneficial to everyone involved and your list will grow.
  11. Now you are ready to start blogging. And yes, I mean while you continue to do all the things we’ve already discussed. Be sure to zoom-focus your blog on what you have to add to the conversation that is already going on about your topic. Don’t just share information; make an impact. Make your blog a go-to, up-to-date resource for your audience.
  12. Partner selectively with others who serve the same general audience that you do with integrity and humility. Spend time getting to know folks before you decide to partner with them. You can’t afford to taint the reputation you have worked so hard to establish by partnering with just anyone.
  13. Now that you have an established niche and audience, definitely participate in social networking. I like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn because they all offer something unique. The best way to learn is to jump in, spend an hour online each week until you are up and running. Follow the instructions for getting started provided by social media expert Meryl K. Evans.

This start-up plan for a writer platform will eventually blossom into an author platform. From start to finish, implementing a solid platform following this advice should take you about a year. By the end of that year, you will have established yourself as a serious contender in both professional and online circles, without killing yourself for some huckster’s promise of overnight success.

Have a plan. Leave a legacy in words, connections and professional influence. If you are consistent, by the time the year is done, you will have made effective use of your time and money in 2010.

I wish you the best of luck in your platform-building efforts!

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  • Serge Lescouarnec January 4, 2010, 3:05 pm

    Should I start all over?
    I did not follow your script of writing for others first.
    'Serge the Concierge' was born originally (in March 2005) as an offshot of my concierge business.
    I was already well versed in the topics of food and wine since I spent 15 plus years in the restaurant field.
    Hopefully, I've become a better writer after almost 5 years of practice.
    At least I had the discipline to keep at it.
    One point I do agree with you wholeheartedly is about not joining one of the blogging mills.
    Why would anyone write for $10, $20 per story (or less)?
    I think I can improve in 2010 by asking for constructive criticism from good minds like yours.
    Have a great day

  • christinakatz January 4, 2010, 5:23 pm

    Well, thanks for agreeing with me on one point, then, Serge. Happy 2010! I hope it is a prosperous year for you.

  • Laura Cross January 4, 2010, 6:38 pm

    Hi Chistine – great advice as always. I just wanted to leave a comment to let you know how much I like your new prosperity direction . All the best with your endeavors for 2010!

  • christinakatz January 4, 2010, 7:59 pm

    Thanks so much, Laura! A prosperous 2010 to us all!

  • Serge Lescouarnec January 4, 2010, 10:21 pm

    I agree with you on more than one point (avoiding the blogging mill),
    amongst them, building slowly and steadily, not believing in overnight success and effortless riches.
    Even though my blog 'Serge the Concierge' is almost 5 years old it might not be too late for me to try Number 3 (writing for other publications).
    My approach might be slightly different than yours because I do not have the burning ambition of becoming a book writer.
    I would have to write the book first anyway which requires a different set of skills than blogging, more like running a marathon versus 100 meters.
    If there is one thing I want to add to my blog palette, my anchors, it would be a weekly or bi-weekly interview.
    I've been thinking about my word for 2010.
    I like 'authentic' even though it often gets misused.
    Staying authentic is not a bad thing to aim for
    A bientot
    'The French Guy from New Jersey'

  • christinakatz January 6, 2010, 3:03 pm

    Thanks, Serge! 😉

  • maryjocampbell January 11, 2010, 3:50 am

    Hi Christina,
    Oops! Looks like I jumped to #11 first! : ) Though, in the past 2 yrs of writing my blog, I'm now using less of my own time and energy by posting author interviews and hosting guest bloggers. All in the name of inspiration for writers…until I can transform the blog to fit my growing niche of supporting young writers.

  • christinakatz January 11, 2010, 1:01 pm

    I think blogging can help writers meet their goals when they tie in tightly with those goals. You might want to reconsider the role your blog plays in the big picture of your writing career and invest your time and energy accordingly.

  • Kathleen McDade January 12, 2010, 8:36 pm

    Hm. Feeling discouraged now, because it sounds like I'm doing it all wrong. And I'm not sure how to turn things around.

  • christinakatz January 12, 2010, 8:44 pm

    Which part? Are you following most of the advice or none of it? Feel free to e-mail me if you don't want to share publicly. 🙂

  • Kathleen McDade January 13, 2010, 2:49 am

    Well, I have a blog. But I haven't been very successful in getting content published elsewhere. And I haven't been feeling very enthusiastic about trying. But, I also haven't been trying in fields I really care about. So maybe I need to refocus there.