Platforms are basically a compiled fan base for a writer's work. A long time ago (before Internet! 0_0) agents and publishers were solely responsible for promoting a book, but now that we (the fans!) have the Internet we don't want to hear things from the publishers or agents, we want to hear them from the authors! Authors have, in a sense, become public figures and are expected by publishers and agents alike to attract and build their own fan bases, aka, build their own platform.
But platforms aren't just for a published author, unpublished authors can also build platforms for their work!
Now, I'm no expert in building platforms--I'm still a newbie in many areas--but I'd like to share with you a few things that I have learned through my study!
Building a platform is actually really fun. This is where you get to promote your book and create a whole new way to 'sell' it to the audience! This means getting the word out and letting people know what you are doing!
Part One: Getting the Word Out
As we all know, there are lots of different places to connect with people, but I will only list a few of the more prominent ones.
Twitter is like a Facebook, but it is a little bit better suited for authors and their books. On Twitter you can solely post about your book as well as connect with other authors and link to helpful websites or events you will be at. Twitter is a great way to tell the world how things are going, but remember, don't just post about the book! Post about other things, articles, interviews, anything interesting about writing. Do not go personal though. If you want a personal account then make one, but other wise don't intermingle the two. Having a 'work' Twitter and keeping your posts fun yet professional will give you the appearance of a confident personality who knows what they are doing.
Blogs are a great way to give in depth info about what's going on with the book and you! You can connect with others as well as share pieces of your work and articles that you found helpful! Blogger is also YOUR turf, unlike with Facebook where you are just out there with no real neutral ground. On blogger you can be a little more opinionated and can talk about what you want, which is exactly what authors need! In depth accounts of what's happening with the book or publication process can not only help people become interested in your work, but can also help others who are wading into the fierce waters of the publication world! Trust me, having a friend or two really helps!
Okay, as for getting the word out, the only thing I can really see valuable in Facebook is the pages. As an author you CAN make your own fan page for your book and list yourself as a pubic figure (yes authors must do this too sometimes.) You represent yourself and therefore have the right to do so, no one else does. However, from what I have seen, this step is pretty big; making fan page or a personal page is usually done with authors whose books are already published, or at least accepted by an agent. You can still do it before, but it'd probably look and sound a lot more official if you at least had a book on the market at the time. My advice: stay out of this until publication.
4) Personal Websites
Personal websites are great ways to promote your work! You don't have to be published to do this, in fact, lots of authors have personal websites for books that aren't published yet, just to let people know that they are out there and to maybe get some future readers! I use Weebly for my website, but there are many other places to start! Do not however start off with one you have to pay to use. Start small with the personal website, keep it on topic and update it regularly, when it's time to move up do so, but not before it's time!
For these Internet methods to work, however, you must update your feeds regularly (uhhhh....no comment!).
Try to use Twitter and Facebook (if you're at that stage) everyday or at least every other day if you can, and update your blog and website two to three times a week. Having a platform is not easy, it's work and takes a lot of time. However, having these resources and the discipline to manage them shows an agent/publisher that you are in the business for the long haul (which is what they want) and are willing to work hard to get fans.
But these are just a few of the ways to get the word out about your book, there are other ways besides the Internet, such as doing an interview or a podcast/comcast where you discuss your book. However, timing of all of these events and methods is key!
Part Two: Timing
1) Don't start a platform before you've gotten to query letter stage!
A lot of the things I've read say that you should leave the platform stage until you've finished your manuscript and are ready to start sending out query letters. Making one before could serve as embarrassing if you didn't, or decided not to, finish the book. Also, making one at the very beginning--such as the day you got the initial idea--could be counter intuitive because by the time your readers could actually purchase the book, your fan base would be at least two years old and your fans wouldn't have gotten too much satisfaction out of it. Basically, it'd be old hat.
2) Don't do everything at once!
Pace yourself, allowing your readers time to digest everything you've done so far and mull over it is essential, but don't give them too much time, after all--they could get bored!
3) Don't make all of your websites at once!
Learn to manage the ones you've got before making more (a lesson I learned the hard way many times over).
Keep your sites updated regularly (again, no comment) and write about things that not only interest you, but also your audience. Providing a link to something helpful is a good way to fill up your post timeline if you are too busy to post. However, don't overdo on the links because then people will begin to believe that you are always trying to sell them something. Readers usually want actual posts, not links, so keep that in mind as you navigate through your feeds.
Platforms aren't hard to begin, but they are very hard to keep and maintain. After all, you are trying to get people to read something that you wrote and like it. It's a big order to fill, but it is doable! My advice is make a time table of what you want to do and when, then stick to it as much as you possibly can! Remember that the road ahead of you is going to be hard, but the rewards far outweigh any struggle!
Thanks for listening! Again, I'm no expert, I'm just sharing what I've learned--and sincerely hoping that someone out there finds it helpful!