"How many platforms are you on?"
"Do you have a platform?"
Those words asked by agents or online publishing houses strike panic and confusion into the hearts of new writers and groans and throwing-myself-off-the-cliff actions from semi-seasoned authors.
What does that word mean!? What is a platform!? Why do agents care about this? Should I care about this?
WHY ARE SO MANY WRITERS SUDDENLY RUNNING AWAY? WAIT!
When an agent or online publishing house is interested in you, they're going to ask you these questions at some point. You might not know what that word means. Let me enlighten you.
Platform is a fancy way of saying "oh hey, are you on IG, twitter, snapchat, Facebook, blogs, and/or (but hopefully and) YouTube?"
What they're really asking is this: Are you popular? Do you have a bajeezus ton of followers? Do you have thousands of people who worship the words you write and will willingly fork over 7 to 24 dollars on your book without us having to do too much of the promoting ourselves? Have you done 90% of the ground work for us?
ARE YOU A BRAND?
Oh god. The other italicized words that strike fear (or confusion for you new comers) into a writer's heart.
Are you a brand? ARE YOU?
How does one even become a brand?
You do it by being you. Or a very hyped-up-on-sugar-and-caffeine-and-on-point-eyeliner version of you. The you that is authentic (but not too authentic) and shares everything (but maybe not everything, y'know?) about their lives to make them lovable/relatable to at least 8/10 th's of the world's population. But don't try to be fake. That shit will get you unloved and un-followed soooo fast. You can smell fake people--and so can others.
Now, I'm going to do you a solid, writer fam, and explain Author/Writer Branding to you. YOU, as a human living on this planet, are a BRAND. That's right. You need to become a household name like Oprah, Martha Stewart (pre-prison era), or Channing Tatum. Or The Rock. Or Neil Gaiman. That's what the publishing houses and agents are looking for.
How do you make yourself a brand though? You're not some cereal in a shopping isle!
Um.... actually...you....kinda are?
|THAT'S RIGHT. YOU'RE BASICALLY A TYPE OF CEREAL. LET'S MOVE ON|
So now I want you to think about yourself (omg I know I'm making you do something narcissistic!). What do you want people to think/feel when they hear your name or see your lovely on-point-eyeliner face?
That's what you're marketing. That's what your 'brand' is.
Now, agents and publishing houses care that you have this online presence before hand--and the more the better! If you have virtually none...that gives them a headache. That makes them worry (they'll still do the work if you don't though, but you might not like the image they want to cultivate you into). Because if you aren't online talking with the reading or writing community (on any platform), how on earth is anyone going to know who you are when your book comes out? Where/who are they going to shout out the news to?
They're really hoping you have a platform, because they don't want people seeing your name and doing this:
Branding. It's a thing. Platforms. It's another thing.
And combined it's the thing you're supposed to be so that publishing houses can sell you easier to hungry children. Er, I mean readers.
Writer's don't like talking about the fact that they're (we're) selling their personalities. That's right. You're not selling your book friend--oh no. You're selling YOU. Whoever that version of 'you' is.
If you find yourself unsure of what platform to use or do, let me give you a couple quick tips (that I didn't follow and that's why i'm constantly behind on all of them but also I can't quit them.) to help you on creating/making/being on platforms and making yourself a brand.
- Sometimes your brand comes naturally--you didn't try to make it, it just happened. Evan Edinger from youtube for instance, is now synonymous with 'cactus' and 'puns'. That's his brand. That's what people thing of when they hear his name--and he didn't even try. They just naturally evolved as he vlogged. (Or me, with tea. Shhh, I didn't slip myself in here at all, it's fine.)
-Sometimes you know your strengths in your personality and can use them as your brand. Lucky. Freaking. You.
- You don't HAVE to be on every platform ever (says the girl who is and is regretting a couple of them every day.). Pick one or two and THAT'S IT. Don't be me. Don't put yourself through this. You like taking pictures but also reviewing books? You can do it all on Instagram, a blog, or both. But you don't ALSO have to have a youtube channel and a FB page and a Twitter page, etc etc. Pick one or two of the poisons and master them.
- BIG IMPORTANT REMINDER: Contrary to popular belief, you don't promote your books. "Um, yes you do?" I hear you say. No. You, don't. You promote YOU on social media platforms. You promote your book SOMETIMES. If you're on twitter I'm sure you've seen the twitter users who do nothing but have their feed filled with their promotions over and over and never say anything about themselves, what they're working on, or the newest cat (making it the 100th!) that they've adopted into their lives. You don't follow them, because who wants an advertisement as a person? Your personality and interests are the brand first, your books become a part of YOUR image (not the other way around. At least not at first)
We good? Did I help you? DID. I. HELP. YOU?! I really hope I did because it's taken me a good 2 years to figure this out and if I can help even one person it'll be worth it.
So tell me, what's your brand? What do you define as branding and platforms? Are you on a lot of platforms or only one? What's been the most fun for you? Do you do it easily/successfully? If you do, please tell me your secrets because dear god I suck at this time management thing.