Techniques and Strategies for Building a Writer's Platform
by Jon Case Copyright ©2013
This article is an overview for building a writer's platform. You should know each of the techniques and strategies presented require more detailed information and instruction to be completely implemented. So once you've reviewed the information offered here and chosen which suggestions you wish to peruse, I recommend using the abundant resources of the Internet to study more. A simple "how to...search brings up much more help in completing your chosen tasks than I could possibly offer here.
Do a Google search for writers forums and you'll find hundreds of online writing forums with a treasure of information, help, and advice on writing and opportunities to participate in discussions and ask questions. Narrow your searches to forums specific to the type of writing you do, and you'll find many more relevant to your interests. There are forums on science fiction writing, romance writing, technical writing, short story writing, and more. Visit these forums and spend an hour or so reviewing posts and comments. Learn and identify the tone and expertise level of the members. Before joining any, make sure the forum allows their members to create a signature block. This signature, that should contain an active link to your website, FaceBook page, or blog, will enable forum readers to click on it and access your "web presence" and will boost your rankings in the search engines.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites that are eager to publish your articles or short stories. They vary greatly in how they accept, publish, charge, and compensate you for your writing efforts. ArticleBase.com, Contributor.Yahoo.com, and EzineArticles.com, are just a few. Some article sites accept pieces on just about any subject, others only in their particular niche. Before signing up, determine if they charge for submissions, offer backlinks to your website or blog, require exclusive rights, or compensate you for your articles. Also, do a web search for that particular site and add the word review in your search term. For instance, search for articlebase.com review. You will find other people's experiences and opinions of that site to help in your evaluation.
Once you've published your article or short story on such a site, be sure to link to it from your website, blog, FaceBook page, or Twitter account.
Linking It All Together
Linking is where the power of the Internet comes into play. Search engines use links on one website going to another website to determine where that second site will rank on their results pages. A link from site A to site B is considered a vote of confidence for site B. So a link in your forum signature to your blog or website will be seen by search engines and credit that link (vote) to your blog. On your own blog, you can create links in your posts that go to a page on your website or an article you've published on another website. You can create a link on your FaceBook page, sending people to a post on your blog or a page on your website. If you do tweet, you can send your followers to a comment you've posted on a writers' forum.
You and fellow writers can exchange links between your two sites. One doesn't always need to link to a website's home page. If there is an internal page on another writer's site that is of particular interest, link to that specific page. When you place a link on your website to another writer's site, arrange for them to create a backlink to your site from theirs.
Not all your link building need be done by you alone. If your website or blog is interesting enough, other sites will link to it, which leads to more visitors and the chance that even more sites will find your site worth linking to. Members of FaceBook will also share your FaceBook page and posts with their friends. By these means, links to your website will continually propagate over the web.
Search engines give two types of links the most power: relevance and geolocation. As a writer, exchanging links with a used car sales website in Thailand is of no use; the search engines will ignore it for lack of relevance and geolocation. However links on your site to other writers anywhere in the world (relevance) or your favorite café near you (geolocation) will be viewed with value to the search engines.
Don't create a page on your website simply listing URLs to other sites. Surround the links with text, or include a text description of the site being linked to.
How to Grow Your Platform
How do you get the visitors to your website, blog, or FaceBook page to follow you-become that reliable, known, and loyal audience-which is your ultimate goal in creating a writer's platform? Ask people to become a friend or fan on FaceBook. Once they do, ask them to "Like" your posts. The same on Twitter, they can become a follower. And on LinkedIn, ask that people include you in their contacts.
On your website, offer an "opt-in" in exchange for their name and email address. An opt-in is something you give away in exchange for someone's contact information. You may offer a free email newsletter or that t-shirt I mentioned earlier. You may also offer them a free short story or article you've written. Compile these names and email address into an email mailing list for broadcasting your news and announcements. These people have opted in, so you can contact them again, though you should give them the opportunity to opt-out at any time. And, of course, don't bombard them with emails.
On your website, or blog, add buttons (similar to those at the right) to encourage visitors to join you on LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or FaceBook. Clicking on them will link visitors to your LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or FaceBook pages where they can become contacts, followers or fans. Linkedin, FaceBook and Twitter will keep track of them for you.
Your online platform will grow by gaining email addresses, FaceBook fans, LinkedIn contacts, and Twitter followers. Add these people to the mailing list you have amassed through your offline efforts and you will have a readymade audience for your new article, short story, or novel; in essence, your writer's platform.
- A hyperlink (clickable link) from a website to your website. Also called an inbound link.
- Microsoft's online search engine.
- An online journal. (Derived from the term weblog.)
- Blog Post:
- An entry made on a blog, similar to an entry in a journal or diary.
- Domain Name:
- Simplified, a unique address for building or locating a website on the Internet.
- E-Commerce Website:
- A website that offers merchandise or information for sale online.
- A social networking website with nearly a billion members.
- Forum Member Signature:
- A block of text and or website links identifying a forum member and his or hers credentials and associations.
- The world's largest online search engine.
- A company that offers server space and perhaps templates for building you site.
- A business oriented social networking website.
- Online Brochure:
- A simple website comparable to a printed brochure.
- An offer of a free item on a website in exchange for a person's name and email address.
- Top Level Domain:
- The domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet. The most common are: .com, .net, .org, .gov, .edu.
- The act of sending a message on Twitter, or the actual message itself.
- A social networking website that uses technology similar to instant messaging.
- URL (Uniform Resource Locator):
- A website address. For instance: www.google.com.
- Web Presence:
- The website, blog or other presence of an individual, business, or organization on the Internet.
- Web Site:
- A series of interconnected electronic pages under one domain name offering information on the Internet.
- Web Site/Page Title:
- The text that appears in the very top bar of browsers.
- A search engine, and Internet portal.
Definition and Purpose
A writer's platform is a reliable, accessible, and loyal audience to whom you can promote and sell your writing. It's a tool for spreading, exposing, propagating, and enhancing awareness of your writings and/or writing services. Let's be clear, it's a daunting task.
For writers seeking to be represented by an agent or publisher, having a writer's platform is often a requirement. Lack of an effective and robust platform may be the crucial factor in their decision to accept or reject your query or submission. For self-publishing writers, a platform is doubly important. Those writers who have no publisher to promote their book or article must do it themselves. Not all the suggestions below are suitable or even possible for all writers, but they deserve to be mentioned and considered.
Offline Portion of a Writer's Platform
Building your offline platform may include:
- Arranging to read your work to groups in bookstores.
- Offering writing classes.
- Organizing public talks or discussion groups about writing in schools, libraries, churches, and clubs.
- Publishing articles, op-eds, or stories in magazines, newspapers, or other print publications.
These activities and more may be applied for increasing your audience and public profile as a writer in the world outside the Internet. It should be understood that each of these techniques is to be used to acquire contact information (names, mailing addresses, and email addresses) in order to promote future offline events and the online portion of your platform.
Online Portion of a Writer's Platform
Some technical knowledge and experience will be helpful, if not necessary, to implement the tasks and techniques discussed here. You will have to decide which of the tasks you are capable of and willing to take on. The more eager may decide to teach themselves how to perform many of the options below.
You should judiciously decide how much time you will dedicate to your online platform based on the rate of return. In other words, how much time do you have, what are you trying to accomplish, will you be receiving worth equal to the time spent? Of course, you'll also need a computer and access to the Internet.
Building your online platform will first require an "online home base," also called a "web presence." This "location" on the web is where you want your audience and followers to ultimately go. It's also where you want to be found through search engines, like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Your home base can be a blog, a website, or a social media page that will identify who you are, what you do, and how people can contact you. Not all the options below will apply to every writer. Your needs will differ depending on your field/topics, goals, technical savvy, and time constraints.
A Writer's Website
A website of your own is perhaps the strongest web presence, but it can be the most expensive route in online promotion. You most likely will have to hire a website designer to get the most attractive, functional, and effective site. But if feel you have the knowledge, you can build your own site by signing up for a website with a hosting company that offers website templates where you basically fill in the blanks. A personal website is versatile, completely formattable to your tastes, and can be strongly branded with your name and identity. It can be a simple "online brochure" you update only occasionally; a heftier site, you update constantly by adding content, photos, and announcements; or a complex e-commerce site where you sell your articles, books, and perhaps promotional merchandise. (Yes, some writers sell self-branded t-shirts and caps on their sites.)
For branding purposes, use your pen name, if it is available, as your domain name. (For instance, my website is joncase.com. The home page title, which appears in the browser's top bar, is Jon Case - Fiction Writer - Short Stories) Using your name as your domain name and including it in your website title will result in your website showing near the top of search results for your name. If your name is already taken, try registering your name plus "writer" or "author." Example: yourname-writer.com or yourname-author.com. This will be equally effective with the search engines. Always opt for the domain name designation of .com. Do not use the top level domain designations .net, edu, or .org for your writer's website domain name.
A Writer's Blog
Blogging sites like www.WordPress.org, www.Blogger.com, www.Blogspot.com, www.Blog.com, and others are free for the asking. An email address is all that is required. I won't recommend any one blog service here, they are all very similar, but I suggest you visit a few and decide yourself. Most blogging websites offer an array of templates, so website design/layout experience is not essential. Most offer added features such as calendars, search, and custom categories.
Before deciding on a blog, consider the following. It's best to add new blog posts two or three times a week, or weekly at least. If not, visitors to your blog may view it as stale or perhaps abandoned. You can create blog posts about your newest project and its progress, or comment on something you're presently reading. In essence, you are a columnist who writes about writing, yours or anyone else's.
Remember: captivate your reader with the first line or first paragraph on your homepage. When creating your website, blog, or any online presence, the first block of text the visitor sees must engage them, give them reason to stay. Which of these two paragraphs would hold your attention and push you to read on?
My name is Frank Smith. I am a writer and father of two wonderful boys. I graduated from Rutgers University in 1988 with a BFA. I've lived in Asheville, NC with my wife and two children for ten years.
Writing is my passion and adventure stories my obsession. I pour my heart and guts into each scene and episode; so much so that my readers sometimes have to put my book down to catch their breath. I hope that happens to you too with my latest novel, Dragons of Time.
Who hasn't heard of FaceBook? How about LinkedIn or Twitter? These are more free services available online, each having its own rules and regulations on how you can promote yourself and your writing. Presently, FaceBook is the strongest for general purposes; it has nearly a billion members worldwide; there are endless possibilities to interconnect with people from all around the world. It should not be over looked as a mainstay of your online platform, but it can consume many hours. I recommend joining and spending time learning all the features available for self-promotion. Once you've overcome the learning curve, utilize the features you've determined will offer the greatest return on your time.
LinkedIn is "facebook for the professional." The freelance writer will find it a valuable asset for networking with other professional writers and people hiring them.
Twitter is the "instant alert system" of the Internet. If you are not creating news every day, or at least once a week, this medium will not help your platform grow by much. However, you may choose to sign up and follow other writers. It's always interesting to hear what other writers are doing and saying. For instance, you can find Deepak Chopra on Twitter: @Deepak_Chopra.