Showing posts with label Writing platform. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing platform. Show all posts

Friday, October 12

Building A Platform That Meets Your Needs

Building A Writer's Platform That Meets Your Needs

A while ago I wrote an article entitled: How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website, in which I argued that just having a blog wasn't good enough, you need a website too.

These days, I'm not so sure. I think having a blog, even a blog on, might be good enough. Here's the thing: What you need depends on what your goals are.

What is the main thing folks are going to come to your website/blog for? And who are these folks going to be? You might be staring at these words shaking your head, thinking, "And how the heck would I know who's going to come and visit my site?"

That's a fair question. Often in the beginning we don't know who these folks, our visitors and, ultimately, our readers, are going to be.

Come one, come all

Whether you decide to go with a static site, a blog or a full-blown website (I talk more about this later) you'll need to keep at it. The key phrase here is: be consistent.

Naturally if all you're going to be putting up is a static site--a webpage with information about who you are, where you can be reached (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)--then being consistent is fairly easy. You just need to update the page every six months or so, or when something changes (you put out a new book, become active in new forms of social media, and so on). Otherwise, there isn't much to do!

If you don't know who your visitors are going to be you can still design a website. I'll go into more detail later, but there are roughly three broad kinds of sites you can put up. I call them the starter package, the starter package plus blog and the full-featured site.

As the name implies, the most basic of these is "the starter package". This is a static website that simply tells visitors how to reach you, where you are on the web (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), what you've written and how to contact you. If this is all you want, or would likely meet your needs. Make sure, though, that the service you choose allows you to use your own domain name ( does and does but you need to pay a fee). That's a must. Why? If you ever decide to move your site from, say,, to another hosting site, your readers will be able to find you at you new home through your domain name.

By the way, I know it might seem like a contradiction in terms to recommend blogging sites for a static site! As it happens, you can set up as a static site (I should probably write a blog post about how to do that) and I imagine the same is true for as well. The great thing about starting off with a site like is that it does all the search engine optimization (SEO) for you and can list your site with all the major search engines.

If you want to be slightly more ambitious, you could go with a "starter package plus blog" and blog regularly (keep in mind that if you blog once a month you're blogging regularly!). You can blog even if you don't know what sort of audience you're reaching out to, just talk about whatever interests you. Over time you'll see themes emerge. Also, after looking at your viewer statistics, you'll notice your readers are more interested in certain articles, certain themes, than others. After a few months you'll get a feel for what you like to blog about and also what your readers are interested in.

If, in the beginning, you don't have an idea who your audience will be then I wouldn't advise you starting off with what I'm calling a full-featured site. The way I think of it, a full-featured website one that is dynamic and easily customizable, you likely would have a blog and could even have forums or open an online store! (For example,

But with a full-featured site you'll also have additional concerns. This kind of site can do a lot but, as with everything, there are tradeoffs. For instance, the more cool features you add (e.g., link tracking), the slower the site will run. A few bells and whistles may not make a difference but at some point you'll wonder why your pages are loading slowly. Also, this sort of site is complex and complex things tend to break. If you can fix it yourself, great! Otherwise maintenance can be expensive. Either way, maintaining this kind of a site is time consuming.

You have an idea who your visitors will be

We've just discussed how to go about building a site if you don't know who your target audience is. Now let's talk about how to build a site when you have some idea what kind of a community you want to build.

Shared interest
How do you build community? You reach out to those who share an interest of yours. It could be anything. What are you interested in? Steampunk? Scifi movies of the 80s? Doctor Who? Skiboarding? Cooking? Hiking? Whatever it is, there are people, lots of people, just as passionate about it as you are. The trick is letting them know your site exists.

By the way, when I said you could build your site around any theme/idea that was a bit of an exaggeration. What you write about has to have some connection to the shared interest you've built your community around. For instance, if you write science fiction, by all means, talk about scifi movies, conventions, trivia. Talk about collectibles. Even talk about other scifi writers! Eventually, if you keep at it, a community will form.

Cookbooks are popular. They sell well. Why? The tie-in between a writer's community and how to reach that community is obvious. You write books about food and it is very easy to blog about food, post pictures of food, conventions, good places to eat in your local community and across the country, and so on.

I mean, who doesn't like beautiful close-up pictures of desserts? Especially chocolate ones. (Oh my gosh, if I wrote cookbooks I would gain SO much weight. Anyway, moving on.)

Making the connection between your area of interest and your community
How do you make the connection between what you are interested in--for instance, mystery stories with sleuths who cook--and building a community? 

If I could I would have that word, "interaction", blink red and blue and have big yellow dancing arrows pointing to it. But that's not a surprise, is it? That's how me make friends. Interaction forms the basis for any social endeavor. And that really is the other key word: social. I'm talking about building a community, not a list. For that to happen, for a community to form, there has to be interaction.

And that means you need to find a way to interact with the people who you would like in your community.

I think I'm going to leave it there for today. I covered more material than I thought I would. In the next segment I'll talk about interaction and social media but I want to say here that I don't think social media is necessary for you to form and interact with a community.

Good writing!

Other articles in this series:
- What Is A Writer's Platform?
- Does Every Writer Need A Platform?

Other articles you might like:
- Jim Butcher On Writing
- NaNoWriMo: 5 Tips On How To Get Ready
- On The Art Of Creating Believable Characters: No Mr. Nice Guy
- Perfection Is The Death Of Creativity

Photo credit: "KIUKO"

Wednesday, October 10

Does Every Writer Need A Platform?

Does Every Writer Need A Platform?

In the first blog post of this series (What Is A Writer's Platform?) I discussed what a writer's platform is (a way, a vehicle, for reaching out to, and building, community). It is a way to reach out to your community, your audience, to those who want to read your work and will pay for the privilege.

Today I want to talk about who needs to build a platform.

Does every writer need a platform?
A writer can produce the most riveting prose imaginable but if you don't have readers you're not going to be able to pay the rent. And paying rent is important. I have no desire to end up under a bridge trying to wrestle the good cardboard box from Big Martha. Of course, one doesn't have to make a living through writing, but if you want to then you'll need readers to buy your work. It doesn't get more basic than that.

How does a writer get readers? By building a platform.

Simple, right? Yes, but don't let that make you too comfortable. Building a platform is one of those things that's simple but not easy. For instance, losing weight is simple: eat less; it's sure not easy though.

It's simple to build up a large Twitter following (I'll have more to say on this later), it's simple to blog regularly. You're a writer after all, producing a regular blog post is something you can do. But it's not easy. It's not easy to find the time to blog, it's not easy to think of topics to blog about. You have a busy life and other responsibilities gobble up your time like a teenager at an eating contest. But, in the end, either you're working your way toward becoming a professional writer or your not, and professional writers write.

Are you sure every writer needs a platform? 
Let me play devil's advocate for a moment. You might be thinking: No one had a Twitter account until six years ago or a Facebook account until eight years ago. This social media thing could be a fad. And as for writing blog posts, wouldn't it ultimately be more productive if I spent my time writing my next book? And, when I'm published, if my readers want to know what I've written I don't need to give them a website, they can go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or Kobo, or any one of the gazillion other online bookstores that are popping up like mushrooms after a rain, and do a search on my name.

You're right.

It is possible for a previously unpublished writer, one with no platform, to become famous overnight. This happened to Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus. Of course she wrote for years and made sacrifices and toiled over her manuscript. AND she believed in it enough to submit it, to have it rejected, and to submit it again. Still, Erin's success was a bit like winning millions of dollars in a lottery. In fact, I think there are more big lottery winners than there are writers who have had this kind of luck!

So, do you need to go through the time-consuming task of building a platform? Honestly, I can't say. You could be the next Erin Morgenstern!

What I believe is this: The more people who know about you, who you are, what you write, the more people who read your work and recommend it to their friends, the more likely it is you'll be able to make enough money (and possibly more!) to do this writing thing full time.

How much time should I spend building a platform?
The devil's advocate is right about something: building a platform can gobble up your precious writing time. You certainly don't want to spend more time building your platform than you do writing! That said, even if you only have a half hour a day to write you might be able to find a way to engage in social media for short bursts during the day (while you're waiting in line for coffee, walking to the corner store, etc.).

If you don't have any time to spend on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) it takes only a few minutes to put up a static page on the web. It's important to have an online 'home', something that tells people who you are, what you write and how they can reach you. After all, even if you don't want to hear from the general public, it would be a good idea to give agents, editors and publishers a way of contacting you.

In the next section I'm going to discuss the nuts and bolts of how to go about building a platform, starting with your online home: your website.

Other articles you might like:
- Building A Platform, Part One: What Is A Writer's Platform?
- NaNoWriMo: 5 Tips On How To Get Ready
- Jim Butcher On Writing
- Perfection Is The Death Of Creativity

Photo credit: BIGDOG3c