Monday, 1 February 2016

Starting with Platform

by Jeanette O'Hagan

In a spirit of cooperation between Christian Writers Downunder and Australasian Christian Writers will be doing a series of cross-posts (posted on both blogs) on the first Monday of each month during 2015 and beyond.  The posts will be teasing out different aspects of marketing and promotion, looking at author platforms, social media, blogging, launches, and other ways to bring a book to the attention of our readers.

Why Marketing?

For many, marketing is a dirty word. After all, didn’t Paul say the love money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:10)? Shouldn’t we leave it up to God to decide who our audience will be? Isn’t it selfish and prideful to want a large audience? Isn’t it enough that our writing touches the hearts of a few individuals, especially if we see our writing as ministry? (Of course, writing may be our career rather than as a calling (or as both). Christians in business, trade or professions have no problem with advertising their services).

As more and more books are published, it is hard to be noticed in the ocean of offerings. I agree that the size of our audience isn’t the most important thing. While Peter had the opportunity to preach to thousands, the Israelite slave girl, as far as we know, had an audience of two (Naaman and his wife). Yet God used her courage and willingness to speak.

So why marketing? Trusting God with the success and impact of our writing doesn’t exclude promoting our work. To use another Biblical reference, let’s not bury our ‘talent’ out of fear (Matthew 25). In today’s world, writing the book and getting it to publishable standard is only part (though a vital part) of what it means to be a writer. Whether a book is traditionally published or indie published, you will be need to be involved in promotion of your book. If the readers who would be moved by your book don’t know about it, how can they read it? To paraphrase Paul again, ‘How can they know if they do not hear?’ (cf Rom 10:14)

Most publishers, agents and pundits suggest that the sooner you begin building connections with people who would be interested in what you write (your platform) the better. And that this is a ongoing process that should start months or years before your book is first launched.

What is an author’s platform?

A platform is the sum total of the connections you have, your social imprint and reputation. A platform makes you visible to your future readers. This could consist of:
  • Family, friends, colleagues, etc
  • Special interest groups you are involved in that are connected to your topic or genre (e.g. clubs, societies etc)
  • Public profile – as a speaker or on mass media or because of your position or credentials (politician, elite sportsperson, celebrity etc).
  • Being considered an expert in a field (through media or blogging or youtube etc).

 If you write non-fiction, blogging on your subject area, being a media expert or being a prominent speaker all help build a platform.

However, having a platform is also important for fiction writers, thought the nature of the platform is different.

How can you connect with readers (especially if you’re not published yet)?

Think about who you are (primarily) writing for - children, teens or adults; men or women, as well as your genre or area of interest? Consider ways of connecting with these future readers and ways you can make yourself visible/findable.
  • Think about your (pen)name – is it unique or common. Have an intriguing tagline or identifiable look.
  • Consider having a website as a home base
  • Maybe you could write short stories, poems or reviews, and share them with your audience – on your blog, on social media or in magazines and journals. Enter competitions.
  • Blog or write on areas of interest to you and your audience that are connected to your books – on your own blog, guest blogs, or media.
  • Interact and support other writers, go to conferences and workshops
  • Be active on at least one or two forms of social media – eg Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Youtube etc
  • Start building an Email subscription list
  • Join groups – writers groups but also groups that connect to your books and future readers.
  • Pray for guidance about connections or the best use of your time.

Traps to avoid

  • Don’t be in a rush, building a genuine platform takes time. Quality is better than quantity.
  • Don’t be a pest, don’t make about you all the time. Many pundits suggest limiting direct promotion to 10% of your output (though there maybe be an increase around certain events – like book launches)
  • Give your followers something of interest and value to them and encourage interaction
  • Be honest and genuine – but avoid venting or bashing - and think carefully about you and your family’s privacy (you don’t need to reveal everything)
  • Don’t try to do everything or you will be overwhelmed. Maybe take up one new avenue (e.g. website or Facebook) at a time and make sure you feel comfortable before moving on to the next one.
  • Find what works best for you – not everything is going to be a good fit. It’s better to enjoy your involvement and make genuine connections with people.
  • Don't just take, support other writers
  • Don't be inpatient or discouraged, remember, it takes time.

What things have worked for you in building an audience or platform? What things didn’t work so well? If the idea of having a platform is new to you, do you have any questions you would loved answered?

Here are some links if you want to learn a bit more about platforms:

Jane Friedman ‘A Definition of Author Platform’
Dan Blank ‘The Dirty Secret of Author Platform’
Joel Friedlander ‘Author Platform: What are you waiting for?’

On March 7, Iola Goulton will be talking to about author websites. Hoping you enjoy and join in the discussion.

This post was also published on Australasian Christian Writers 1 February 2016

Images: copyright Jeanette O'Hagan 2016

 Jeanette O’Hagan enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of LightAnother Time Another Place and Like a Girl.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .


  1. Great post Jenny. Thank you. I remember God needing to take me kicking and screaming (4 years ago), before I yielded to His nudges to have my own website and blog. After a publisher friend gently explained why it was important, I finally plunged in and then never looked back. I'd thought then that there was too much to read out there anyway - why add to it? Now I look back and am so glad I did. For me, apart from building a platform it has been a ministry in itself and I have been deeply blessed to be able to touch others each week through my blogs. So building my platform turned out to be even more meaningful that I'd anticipated. Loved your picture of the waiting room. And thank you for sharing those traps to avoid. Some much needed things in there to think about. Many thanks Jenny.

    1. Hi Anusha. Glad you loved the photo - taken at the Art Gallery at Pomona (a converted train station).

      And that's a fantastic point about how our platform in itself can be a ministry. I've had that experience too and feel touched when something I've shared is just the right word in season for someone else.

    2. Anusha, It's lovely how you've created an author platform as a ministry :)

    3. Thanks Narelle. I started my blog writing only because God asked me to do it. I didn't do it happily either. But then of course - He turned it into a ministry and I have been deeply blessed. Because often, the words He asked me to write each week often were also words He spoke to me and I was 'forced' to practice what I preached! :) A learning experience and a needed one, even if sometimes painful.

    4. Your blog never fails to touch and to teach me, Anusha. xxx

  2. Hi Anusha. I also felt as you did and, although I don't blog and add to my web page as often as I should, I do see the value in keeping our presence out there.Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Kay

      Glad your website and blogging is working for you :) I'm often not as regular as I should be with my blogs but I think being in there for the long haul is as important as blogging regularly and often.

    2. Thanks Kaye. That's great to hear your experience has been similar to mine. Yes, you too!

  3. Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for the great tips and links. In these times when it's so easy to create a blog or website for free or next to nothing, and with virtually no technical skills, I'd encourage everyone to add these to their platforms too.

    I also like your advice to take it slowly, carefully tackling one thing at a time, rather than being in a rush to get many, many things happening on your platform all at once.

    And as always, it's great to have the support from others travelling similar paths.

    1. Thanks Paula

      Three are just so many opportunities out there and sometimes there can be a bit of learning curve. Knowing what works for us and our audience - and not trying to do everything - really helps towards sustainability and sanity.

      I appreciated the help and wisdom of others - including your own.Thanks :)

    2. Hi Paula, I agree, it's free and relatively easy for anyone to create a blog or website. If you don't take it slowly with social media, you risk burning out and not getting any actual writing done. Social media can be a time drain.

  4. Sometimes it might feel like preaching to the choir. But we all need reminding of these important issues. Oh yes, there's such a lot to writing nowadays. We authors need to do so much more just to make folk aware of our books. Thanks Jeanette!

    1. Thanks Rita

      Agreed, we often hear this over and over again - though there are always people just starting out who can benefit from thinking about such things.

  5. Great post Jenny. Those traps to avoid are especially good. I get turned off pretty quickly if someone just appears to be promoting themselves all the time without actually contributing to a group, but time is also an issue. Social media can be a great instrument to build platform but can also suck a lot of hours, so it's important to think about the best investment of time. Lots of food for thought. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. Thanks Nola.

      Both very good points. I'm like you - I stop looking at certain people's posts if all they do is promote their own stuff (often the same links over and over again). Repetitively saying 'Like me' 'click on my link' can seem like begging. I want to know why I should 'click' or 'like'. That said, I often will support or 'like' those are willing to support others.

      And, there is no doubt social media can be a huge time waster (though it is fun to be able to use Facebook as part of my 'job'). Balance is very important.

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  7. Thanks Jeanette for your post. It was posts such as this that prompted me to create my own Blog 18 months ago. The question of why should a writer with virtually nil publications have a website caught my attention until I finally 'got' the concept and took the plunge. Not particularly technical, or connected to a significant number of networks, the journey was slow going. I am blessed with the opportunity of releasing my first novel in less than 2 weeks. Am I glad I have a Blog and Facebook Page up and running? Am I super glad I feel connected to numerous writers who share my interest? Absolutely! Articles such as the one today were among the most valuable gems of wisdom writers chose to share.

    1. Hi Susanne - thanks for sharing your experience; strong encouragement to start building those connections today - preparing for the future. And congrats on the release of your first novel. It looks intriguing :)

  8. Jeanette, excellent post! Thanks for sharing your tips on author platforms with us :)

  9. Thanks, Jeanette, for an excellent start to our ACW/CWD series. It's a great platform (!) for me to build on next month.

    1. Thanks Iola. Looking forward to you post next month :)

  10. This is just what I needed to hear right now, Jeanette ... and, as always, I'm a day or two behind with reading and commenting. That seems to be the way it is for me at the moment. :) I need to implement a number of your suggestions ... and am also very much looking forward to hearing from Iola Goulton in March.