Developing A Writer’s Platform
by Tamara Hart Heiner
What is a writer’s platform? It seems to be a hot topic. All the agents and authors are talking about how important it is to have a platform. How it’s critical for getting published, and after that, for getting an audience. But whaat is it?
Basically, it’s your special angle that sells you. Not necessarily your book (because you’re an author and you write lots of different kinds of books), but you. And in selling you, the book will naturally follow.
It’s the special angle that will get you into schools, libraries, luncheons, firesides, anywhere where you can go and talk to people. But remember: you’re not going to plug your book. You’re going to plug you.
For the longest time after I wrote my first book, I wracked my brain to figure out what my platform was. It’s not a non-fiction book, and I’m not a highly qualified expert with years of experience to extol. It’s not a novel about Girl Scout adventures, so I can’t pull out all of my GS paraphernalia and relive the glory Brownie days. It’s not about religion. It’s not about high school. It’s not about teenage pregnancy or abuse.
But it does have bits and pieces of many of these things. It’s a book about overcoming adversity. That’s not really a platform, though. It’s a suspense novel, a thriller. I suppose I could’ve learned to dance like Michael Jackson…no, bad idea. Should my platform be about writing the book? Believing in yourself? Should it be about who I am? A young mom who carves time to write while sitting on the couch and the kids are sleeping? Should it touch upon the religious aspect of the book? About believing Christ even when it seems like God’s abandoned you? Should I focus on the teenage aspects? The fears, the fights, the crushes, the self-doubt?
It worried me not to have a solid platform. I saw these questions on many publisher sites: “What makes you qualified to write this book?” Um…I’m the one who has the story in my head? What was Stephanie Meyers’ platform? “How to Survive a Vampire Bite”? When I walk into a high school and ask if I can speak to the student body about my book, what am I going to say? “I was a kid once. So I want to talk about this book I wrote.”
Surprisingly enough, that ended up being my platform. Being a (former) teenage writer was my special angle.
How do you find your special angle? Sometimes it’s easy and obvious. Answer these questions:
What kinds of books do you write?
Who is your audience?
Why do you write what you do?
Who do you hope to impact?
What is your long-term goal?
In answering those questions, you’ve started to come up with something to talk about. But now you need a one-sentence ‘mission’ that kind of encompasses you as a writer the way a query hook encompasses your book.
If you’re like me, you can’t think of anything because you keep thinking about your book. That’s the thing: LEAVE YOUR BOOK OUT OF THIS. Of course it’s going to be a part of it. But only because it’s a part of you.
Look up a list of adjectives. Just Google them, you’ll find lots. Now look at the good ones (hopefully you won’t have anything negative to put as your special angle) and pick 3-4 that mean something to you. Here are the ones I chose: Reach, Empower, Elevate. These three words describe what I would like to have happen to people.
Now you’ve got your adjectives. Think about something in this world that you are passionate about and would like to do something about. This can be anything, though if you write non-fiction, it will very often be your book topic. Think now. Is it political? Financial? Educational? Be specific. “I want to change the way our president is voted into office.” “I want to make the public education system safer for inner-school kids.” Mine was: “I want to create stronger families and more confident teenagers.”
Okay. You’ve got your issue(s) and your adjectives. Now you are going to combine them. Attach those adjectives in however way you can, and you’ve got a strong, passionate mission. Here is mine: “Reaching teens, empowering women, and elevating families through writing.”
My platform doesn’t have anything to do with the subject matter in my YA books. But it does have everything to do with WHY I write about what I do. And it has everything to do with how validated I feel as a woman, doing something like writing. And I can’t think of a better way to help families than by helping the wives and children that are creating future generations. (The husbands just kind of get included in there.)
Now when I answer all of those questions above, I can think of my platform while doing so. I can target each group, depending on who my audience is.
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Genre – YA
Rating – PG
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