A few years ago I was still in a blissful state of ignorance about that dirty little word, “platform.” Silly me, I thought building a writing career was about writing well. Turns out it’s just as much about making connections, building relationships, and gathering a loyal “tribe” of enthusiastic followers.
If you’re new to this topic, “platform” is your ability to influence people, preferably (from a publisher’s standpoint) through book sales. There seems to be no end to the platform-building “opportunities” writers are instructed to embrace. Blogging, social media, and speaking are just a few.
The pressure to partake in so many non-writing activities leaves many writers overwhelmed and out of time to do the one thing they set out to do in the first place: write.
As much as I’d love to pat you on the arm and tell you to just forget about it, the inconvenient truth is that platform does matter. If you want your writing to have an impact beyond family and friends, you need a place to stand above the bustling, noisy crowd in order to be heard.
But that doesn’t mean you need to do All The Things. If you’re curled up in a fetal ball mumbling about hashtags and Facebook algorithms and blog subscribers, stop. Take a deep breath, make yourself a cup of tea, and give yourself a heaping dose of grace. If you need to come back to this after a nice long bath, feel free.
Okay, here’s where I’ve landed with my own platform-building efforts. After burning myself out trying to take all the experts’ advice, I sort of stopped doing anything. I shut down, withdrew, and reevaluated what I was doing, and why. And that’s when it hit me.
A writing career is a business.
I resisted this at first, because I don’t want writing to feel like a business. It’s art, it’s personal. And business is so…not.
However, I also have a bit of experience with business. My husband and I began a remodeling contracting business 13 years ago, and we’ve weathered a variety of entrepreneurial seasons. The one hard fact we’ve continually fallen back on is that any business will only be healthy when it has a plan.
If your writing is a business, you need a business plan for your writing.
As I began to evaluate my writing career through this lens, the idea of platform stopped being so intimidating. My writing/business plan became the litmus test for determining which activities would be beneficial, or merely distracting. So in answer to the question posed in this post’s title, I offer a few more questions:
- What are your strengths? What fills you up and motivates you?
- What are your weaknesses? What makes you feel depleted?
- Why do you write? Why are you writing your current project?
- Who is your target audience? What are their felt needs, and how can you, as a writer, help meet those needs?
- What are your long-term goals (dreams) for your writing? What are your short-term goals? What are some practical steps you can take to get there?
- What is happening in your market? What trends are influencing your target audience?
Answer these questions, and you’ll be well on your way to building a plan for your writing. You’ll be equipped to answer the question, “Which platform-building activities are the best fit for me?” In turn, you’ll have greater clarity when choosing where to engage on social media, what to do with your gifts, and how to spend your precious writing hours.