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Building Your Platform

by Laura McClellan

As an as-yet-unpublished writer, most of my time and attention is focused on actually writing-trying to finish my first manuscript. I read with interest, though, the many blog posts and articles about marketing, and understand the need to build a platform that will help persuade publishers to take a chance on me as a debut novelist. Like most aspiring authors, I dream of the day when I’ll have an actual book to promote. In the meantime, I’m trying to absorb and learn everything I can in anticipation of that day.

Toward that end I recently attended the two-day Platform Conference, an event sponsored and led by Michael Hyatt and his business partner Ken Davis. (Those of you who attended the 2012 ACFW Conference will remember Michael’s fabulous keynote talks.) By their own description, the Platform Conference is “an intensive workshop designed to give you an unfair advantage in elevating your platform.” Hyatt and Davis gathered a stellar cast of speakers to educate and inspire the conference participants. I came away with a list of ideas to put into practice toward building my own platform so I’ll be ready for that happy day when I actually need it! I thought I’d share with my ACFW friends three themes I brought home from the conference:

1. It’s better to give than receive. Each speaker stressed the importance of focusing on your audience, your tribe, and on what they need. Michael Hyatt said that the point of building a platform is to give you direct access to the people who are passionate about what you’re passionate about. Those people are your “tribe”; they are the ones you should be serving by what you write. Writer Jeff Goins in particular talked about this, reminding us that building your platform is not about who you know, but who you help. Having a servant’s heart will endear you to those who can promote your books. (But that servant’s heart has to be authentic, not just a means to an end!)

2. Offer value. This is an extension of the first theme. In today’s media-rich, oversaturated world, the way to create interest in your products (i.e., your books) is to find out what your audience needs, and then offer it to them in a way that adds value to their lives. NYT bestselling author (and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries) Lysa TerKeurst told us that “smart marketers strategically make their product something that comes up in conversations people are already having.” Who are your readers? What is on their minds? Can you offer them solutions to the struggles their facing? Yes, I know we write fiction, and it should first and foremost entertain. But if your platform-building efforts include a blog, can you build devoted fans by offering value in your blog posts, so that when you have a book to sell, they will want to buy it because they trust and like you?

3. Just ship. Michael Hyatt warned us that perfectionism is the mother of procrastination. We can get so obsessed with making our manuscript or our blog post or whatever perfect that we never get it out the door. Every one of the speakers encouraged us to stop tinkering and get our products out there. They assured us that the world needs to hear what we have to say.

Investing in conferences is a great way to develop the skills we need as writers, including marketing skills. The Platform Conference was a truly worthwhile investment for me, since marketing is very much not a strong suit for me. If you’re interesting in learning new techniques for building your platform and marketing your books, check out the Platform Conference at http://platformconference.tv/.

In the meantime, I’m going to get back to writing!

Laura McClellanLaura McClellan has been married over 30 years to the same man (she says she was a child bride). She’s mom to five, grandmother to five, and a partner in a large Dallas law firm. During her “spare time” Laura is polishing her first novel, a winner in several fiction contests.

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4 Responses to Building Your Platform

  1. Thanks for sharing, Laura. I particularly like the just get it out the door tip. I have a friend who’s been rewriting her ms for 3 years…she just won’t let it go.

  2. Becky Wade says:

    Thank you for the post, Laura! I’m in Dallas, also. Have you yet attended any of the DFW Ready Writer’s meetings? If not, I recommend the group. :)

  3. Thanks, Pat. I have the same issue. Hard for me to finish and let go, so the “just ship it” advice at the conference was much needed.

    Becky, I haven’t yet, because I actually live out in Greenville, so it’s a LONG drive for me on a Saturday (and I drive back and forth between Greenville and Dallas every weekday for my day job. But I do want to make it to a meeting one day soon.

  4. Thank you, Laura. I had someone once tell me that we finally have to let our work go … like a college student. Stop the perfection, and just let it go.