The Author Platform or “What Is It You Do, Again?”

It takes more than just writing a great book to get published nowadays.

If you’ve ever explored what else goes into it, you’ve probably heard of the dreaded “author platform.” It’s really just a way of answering the questions, “What is it that you do?” or “Why I should care about anything you say?” Your platform is how you get yourself out there and try to cultivate an audience well before your book hits the shelves. And there’s a lot of contradictory advice on how to do it.

“Talk about your expertise.”

“Be human – show people you have a life.”

“People don’t care about your personal life.”

Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m following a crazy director whose next command/advice will be, “Show me spirit fingers!” (Please tell me you’ve seen Bring It On.)

There are as many ways to build a platform as there are writers, but in this digital age, chances are social media will play a big part in it. I’m by no means an expert, but I am slowly learning as I continue to blog and tweet as a writer. Here are a few conclusions I’ve come to about building a platform/brand/name for yourself:

Not everyone is going to like you. Shocking, I know. For a perfectionist like me, this is tough to swallow. Sometimes when I notice my Twitter number is down or I don’t have as many blog hits as I’d like, I wonder what I said to make people leave or why they aren’t visiting. Then I realize that one tweet or blog post may have made them think they were getting one thing, when reality is really another. Or maybe their timeline was just getting too full. I’m learning to not take it personally. And there will always be people who either flat out don’t like you or are contrary just because they can be.

Being yourself is important. I’m not a writing machine and neither are you. I think it’s important to show that you have a life outside of your writing. I don’t know about you, but I love it when a writer I follow gives me a little glimpse into their real life. I don’t do it much here (other than by recommending books and the occasional manifesto), but I do tweet about my favorite TV shows and bands, in addition to writerly stuff. If you don’t like it, you can always scroll through it, but for me it’s a way to be relatable.

Speaking tours aren’t the only way to show off your expertise. Right now I don’t have a schedule that allows for teaching online courses or going on speaking tours (I hate public speaking anyway), so I’m using my blog to share what I’ve learned while researching. Hence, you get to learn all about the Celts and Arthurian legend. I’m also hoping that will help me find other people who love this stuff and might want to read my books. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see I try to retweet blog posts and other articles on writing that I find valuable. Pay it forward, as the saying goes.

Write about your passion and it will show. For me, that’s Arthurian legend (thank God, or I’d really be in trouble), writing, reading and history. That’s why you also see “non-educational” posts from me: book reviews/recommendations, essays, etc. I also love my cats and to cook, but I don’t think anyone would care about that. But then again, I am trying to expand my blogging horizons. Anyone have any suggestions about other things you think I should write about?

Readers, do you think I’m on the right track? What else would you like to see in this blog? Writers, what’s made your platform successful? What advice helps you? What common “words of wisdom” do you disagree with? I’d like to learn from your experiences, so please let me know in the comments.