Have you ever heard any of these … or said them yourself?
I need to build my author platform before I write a book.
I'm waiting to write my book until I've reached at least 1,000 social media followers.
I need big-name fans if I expect to sell any books.
Do you know what these statements really are? Justifications for procrastinating. You should write instead. Because if you don't write the book, you'll never reach your dream of becoming a published author. It's physically impossible. And you'll regret it someday. You know you will.
So stop comparing your situation to other writers. Create the book you were meant to write. The world needs your voice. Once you get that book written, then you can think about your author platform. And you can build it while you're writing your second book. Because your platform should never take the prime spot in your daily hierarchy of must-do's. Only writing should.
Especially for those of us who have a day job, kids, pets, and myriad other responsibilities clamoring for our time. Who has time to write multiple blog posts, spend hours creating smart social media posts, and find ways to promote your books on TV and radio? This isn't to say those things aren't important at some point, but using it as an excuse to not write is detrimental. Because having an author platform will not get you anything without having an actual book to promote.
Why this counterintuitive advice when so many peddle the need for an author platform?
Because if you're waiting until your author platform is big enough or you have enough followers to publish, you'll be waiting the rest of your life. Building an author platform and extending your reach is a never-ending job.
Did you know Oprah Winfrey is still building her platform and working to extend her reach? Think about that for a moment. If Oprah is still working to grow her platform, what makes you think you can reach the pinnacle before she does? You can't.
So what can you do?
You can do both, actually. Write your book AND work a little on your platform. Here are some easy ways to build your platform that won't be a time suck like the rabbit hole that is social media.
Practice Your Writing With Short Exercises
Writers don't just know how to write a novel. It takes time, discipline and practice. Instead of focussing your time and energy on social media, spend time honing your writing skills. Writing short stories or blog posts about something that interests you can help you practice the act of sitting down to write. You'll get to know your go-to words and phrases and which subjects excite you. All of this will inform your novel writing. Whatever you write, make sure you're writing it for yourself first and foremost.
You can use these shorter writing exercises to really get to know your own writing.
Using a tool like ProWritingAid helps you visualize your writing style. The Summary Report will let you know if there are words you overuse, if your sentence lengths need more variation, or if your dialogue tags are looking a little unruly. You'll get suggestions tailored to you and your writing, and you'll be able to see your improvements as you go.
This screenshot is from our new Summary Report which we're currently rolling out to users, but whichever report you see in your version of ProWritingAid, you'll find loads of tips and tricks to make the most improvement to your writing in the shortest amount of time.
Once you've got a few pieces you're happy with, you can use them to start building your author platform. You could send out a short story as a free ebook to your mailing list, or use your blog posts to get your name out there by borrowing others' platforms.
Borrow someone else's platform.
How does that work? Guest blog on other websites and platforms. Get on some podcasts that already have a great following. See if you can't get on your local radio station. They usually have some sort of programming on the weekends that allow for local stories.
You do have two other options: buy a platform or build a platform. One takes a lot of money and the other takes a lot of time. Try your hand at borrowing first. Get your feet wet and figure out what works best. It won't cost you anything, but a little of your precious time.
So what's the key?
Never spend more time on platform building than you do writing.
I read a story on Medium this week that really stuck with me. A guy had written about the times when his friends tried to persuade him to go out with them after work. He always responded, "I already have plans." They would beg him to join them at a fabulous party or an amazing concert they were attending, and he always said, "I already have plans."
What was he doing? He spent his spare time writing. At the end of the year, he told his friends, "I published my book." They were astounded. They didn't even know he was writing one. They said, "This is huge news! Let's go out and celebrate!" And what did the man say? "I already have plans. I'm starting my second book."