SJI Holiday- Do you really need a writers’ platform?
What is a Writers’ Platform? If you search online, you’ll find several definitions, some more complicated than others. But in basic terms, it is a group of things that you do to get your name noticed and raise your profile.
I started by writing short stories, and very short stories (flash fiction) at an evening class, and the tutor mentioned that there were lots of online competitions that ran every week. Where could I find them? Twitter.
In 2011, with the help of my husband, I set up a blog and opened a Twitter account. I started searching for anyone and anything to do with writing, and soon I found I was taking part in loads of little competitions. I also found I was starting to make lots of friends who were writers, as well as others who were readers, and then pretty much anyone connected to publishing. As my Twitter followers grew, so did my desire to write something longer, but that’s another story.
I posted all of my flash fiction stories on my blog, plus any other little things I could think of, then I decided to start adding a few book reviews. I only wanted to add reviews of books that I enjoyed and that I would personally recommend, and I still do that. This led me to be asked to review for other websites too. The more I wrote my own stories, the less time I seemed to have to think up things to add to the blog – so I asked for guest posts from other writers. This meant I could keep posting interesting content, but I didn’t have to do all the hard work myself. I return the favour too, writing things for other people. Doing this means that you both get a chance at a wider readership.
The platform builds, and it keeps on building.
Then of course there are the writing conferences – Harrogate, Crimefest, Bloody Scotland being the main three for me. Each time I go, I meet more people – some of them who already ‘know’ me online, and some who don’t. Every time I return from an event, I add more followers, and I follow more people. I haven’t even mentioned Facebook. Author pages, book groups. The list goes on. There are loads of other sites out there too, but if I got involved in all of them, I would never have a minute to write. Pick which ones work for you, and focus on them. There’s no point making a half-hearted attempt on a site that you don’t like, as it’s unlikely to work for you. If you don’t enjoy being there, it’ll show.
My first novel came out in March, and I already have quite a following – most of it came from pre-launch ‘activities’, but it hasn’t slowed down. Because of that, I’ve sold some books. Not because I’ve been selling it non-stop, but because I’ve been chatting to people and they’ve been sharing my news, and I’ve been sharing theirs. Of course, around the actual publication date, there was a bit of self-promo, but even then, I hope it was indirect – sharing of excitement rather than sales plugs. Now people are asking about my second book – many are eagerly awaiting it. Some are intrigued as to what I’ll write next, as I haven’t really shared any information on it… yet. But because of my ‘platform’ there are lots of people interested in what I’ve got to say.
What’s the moral of this story? Start building a name for yourself before you even think about publishing, whether that means looking for an agent, a publisher directly, or doing it yourself. It’s very hard to sell your books if no one knows who you are. One of the nicest comments I received recently was after Crimefest in Bristol, where someone who had read my book told me it was all the more special now that he’d met me and heard me talk about it on a panel. He then gave me a lovely review… and that, my friends, is why you need a platform.
Read more about SJI Holliday on her CRA profile.