Building Your Author Platform

People often talk about building a platform as a writer, but what does that really mean. It’s about three things:

  • Establishing and maintaining your authority over your subject matter
  • Finding and growing an audience for your work
  • Making a big enough splash that editors and agents come knocking

Building awareness beyond the people you already know starts online, and includes:

Your Website/Blog
In the 21st century, every person who is in business needs an online home base—a place on the web over which you have basic control. Expect to spend $100 a year for Internet hosting. (I use ICDSoft, but any high-quality company such as Bluehost or Dreamhost will do). Use WordPress (free) to easily build a website for your freelance business.

Twitter can be tremendous fun. But if you’re one of the folks who doesn’t get the appeal of the little blue bird, you’re probably looking at it with the wrong lens. Twitter is a gigantic cocktail party with millions of people all talking at the same time. Some engage in conversation. Some are promoting something. (Don’t be one of those). Still others seek to explain what’s going on in front of them. Your job is to (a) Find interesting people interested in things you’re interested in; (b) Share content and engage conversation.

My co-author built a community of writers on the Build Your Author Platform Facebook page, with more folks hitting the Like button pretty much every day. There are a startling number of writers and people interested in writing on Facebook. The search tool helps us find them. We share content and invite people to our page. It works!

If your target audience is professionals, business folk, or other career-focused people, LinkedIn could be an important source of readers. You have a unique resource available to help you do your job better: the LinkedIn for Journalists group. You can take a one-hour workshop on the LinkedIn Search tool that helps you find interview sources. After this training, if you’ve got clips and send them in an email to a staff person, you get a free, one-year Premium membership. This affords you advanced search features, and unlimited email privileges.

Google+ has gone through some ups and downs in the 3 years since its beta launch. It was a victim of the tech-press hype cycle early on, and some media people still swear it’s a “ghost town.” While it never became a Facebook killer either, based on my feed, you couldn’t tell that G+ was anything but a busy, informative and entertaining place. What more could you ask from a social network? Today, G+ is still an important component to your platform. Participating in communities, and in G+ generally, still gives you a slight bounce in your search results, which in turn helps your audience find you.

Mike McCallister (at-large Milwaukee) wrote Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules (BenBella Books, 2014) with his agent, Carole Jelen. He’s also written books on WordPress and Linux. Find him on social media (usually) as workingwriter or at