This is how I think of a writer's platform:
A writer's platform is a way, a vehicle, for reaching out to, and building, community.Jane Friedman, editor and former publisher of Writer's Digest, tells us that editors and agents are "looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience" (Jane Friedman, A Definition of Author Platform).
So I guess the 64 thousand dollar question is: How does one develop visibility, authority, and the ability to reach out to a target audience?
Here are a mix of online and local activities you could use to improve your visibility, build your authority and improve your ability to affect your community/tribe.
Connecting Online: Social MediaThere are many ways to connect online so I'm only going to discuss the main ones. For a full list see the wikipedia page on Social Media.
Website and/or Blog
I think having a digital home on the web, a place your readers can go to connect with you and discover your work is the single most important aspect of social media for a writer. Most writers that I know of have both a website and a blog--I recommend this--but some just have a blog and it works out fine for them. I do think it is a must for you to have your own domain name. That gives you control of your virtual home.
For why you probably want both a website and a blog see my article: How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website.
For more information on setting up a blog see: How To Start A Blog.
Facebook & Twitter
If you want to build a platform I recommend you actively use either Facebook or Twitter. If you have the time, you can be actively engaged with both--and I do think it's a good idea to have both a Facebook and Twitter account--but writers are busy people. It's okay to pick just one to spend a majority of your social networking time with.
Which should you choose, Facebook or Twitter? It depends on you. If you're already engaged with your readership on Facebook then go with Facebook. If you prefer Twitter and have built up a list of followers, then use Twitter. I only actively use Twitter. I have a Facebook account but I rarely visit it unless I'm notified someone left a comment on my wall. (For tips on how to increase the number of followers you have on Twitter see: 19 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Following.)
Video presentation (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo)
I think Video is a vastly underused area. I first discovered Joanna Penn through her YouTube videos and, through them, found her blog. Here is an excellent article on how to get started: On Becoming A Multimedia Creative Producer. Joanna Penn Interviewed By Greg McQueen.
Write articles for popular websites
You probably won't be paid for this, but it's a nice way to build a resume and, if you provide a link back to your weebsite, an excellent way to get new readers. For more on this read: The Secret To Making A Living As A Writer: Work For Free.
Connecting to your local community
Go to book launches and signings
This is a great way to connect with the writing community in your area. While online contacts are wonderful, nothing can replace meeting with other writers on a regular basis.
Also, it can be advantageous to be included on mailing lists. Writers can be a generous bunch so you could get advance notice of which publishers are looking for what kind of books, upcoming contests, and so on.
Do public readings
Check with your public library. Sometimes they're open to writers, self-published or otherwise, giving readings of their work.
This can be a great way to get publicity, but I wouldn't want to take this step myself unless I had already developed a following a local following, however small, or I had made connections with local writers whose readings I had attended.
Teach a course
In my city, individuals can submit course proposals to community centers. If you've written for a number of years, or are a publisher, editor, scriptwriter, or if you know something about blogging, or website design, and so on, why not create a course around what you know and offer it to the public?
I'm sure it wouldn't pay well, but it would be great for your writing resume and it would increase your exposure to your local community.
Be prepared when you meet potential contacts
Print out business cards. This is especially helpful at writers' conventions, anywhere you'll want to give out the address of your website or yoru email adress. For instance, I attend SiWC every year and have found it's been a great way to make contacts within the writing community, local and otherwise. Nearly everyone there has been friendly and eager to talk about their latest project and--amazingly!--eager to hear what others are doing.
Often pleasnt chit-chat ends in the exchange of email addresses and it is much more professional to offer your new acquaintance of buisness card than a scrawled address on the back of a napkin. (Been there, done that!)
Also, the back of a business card is a great place to put a bar code that encodes a URL and can take someone right to either your website or the launch page of your latest book.
Other articles you might like:
- Jane Friedman: How To Build An Awesome Twitter Bio
- How To Become A Full Time Indie Author
- Penelope Trunk Discusses Time Management
Photo credit: Aleeir