A following, or platform, is built by people who support a person or a person’s work. Building a platform is beneficial to all independent contractors, perhaps especially writers, yet some people are unaware of the issues. Arguably, writers determined to become not only published but also successful authors need a platform the most. They often first hit up friends and family for support because that’s what friends and family do best. Without this support structure, writers face an even more treacherous uphill climb.
So, what are the issues surrounding platform establishment? I originally started this post with the premise that some of my close friends and family weren’t Liking my Facebook page or Following my blog because they just didn’t support what I’m doing. However, it dawned on me that this probably isn’t true. Some of my close friends and family don’t own or use a computer, and those that do may not have Facebook. Some that do have Facebook don’t know how to Follow or Like or Share, and those that do simply don’t want to be bothered with these things. I’m a logical person; I think those positions are reasonable. What I’m struggling with is the school of thought that I should have a manuscript published before folks can Follow me or Like my page. I expected that from acquaintances, but not from close friends and family.
Before I had a vested interest in building a platform, I felt that way too. However, I know now that whether writers build a platform online or by word of mouth, they face a double-edged sword. The problem is, in today’s marketplace and by most traditional publishers’ standards, the query letter needs to convey a platform. To establish clout and carve a spot in the world of publishing, building a platform must rank very high on a writer’s to-do list, right up there with finishing the manuscript. (I’m still working on mine.) Becoming a published author–the goal of most writers–is, sadly, already littered with frustrations and grievances created by those in the industry (take self-pub vs. trad pub). Top it off with the general consensus that to build a platform a writer must first be a published author, and one heck of a struggles ensues. Writers need community and support (as author Kristen Lamb advocates in her blog and her books, We Are Not Alone and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer), just like anyone else, to succeed in this business. Establishing a platform is essential, whether traditional or indie, because your people become your pack when you start running with the big dogs.
I plan on publishing my manuscript through traditional methods, so while I complete it, I am working to build my platform. I rely on my family and friends to support me in other areas of my life and, therefore, want them to share in my successes and failures as a writer. I need them as my support structure while I navigate uncharted territory. If they aren’t there, then I’m on my own. And that, to me, is terrifying.
Aside from fear, I’d like to look at some other ways platform establishment affects my well-being through examining the effects of Likes and Follows. When people–mighty fine folks such as yourself–Like my Facebook page or Follow my blog posts, it makes me feel as though I’ve written something worthwhile, as if I’m doing something meaningful for myself and for humanity. When close friends and family don’t Like or Follow, I feel as though what I’m doing is inconsequential. My writings may be but a small contribution, but doesn’t it count for something? Even something as trivial as a Like? Aren’t these the folks who should support me? Don’t they care what I have to say? Don’t I matter to them? If they don’t feel as though I’m “worth it,” then will anyone else? (I realize this makes me sound needy, but I’ve already covered that, and I continue to mature as a writer.)
Obviously, others do feel as though I’m “worth it”–and not just other family and friends. I mean people from all over the world and from different walks of life have Liked and Followed me. If someone I’ve never met and who doesn’t care about me–the person, not the writer–can enjoy what I’ve written and feel compelled to support me, then why shouldn’t my friends and family?
Suppose friends or family members don’t like what I have to say, what I’m doing, or that I’m doing something. I’m completely fine with that because I know that my writings are not for everyone, that even close friends and family have values and beliefs different from my own, and that maybe they just don’t give a rat’s patootie if I’m successful or not, because they love me anyway. But, from where I sit, some of these same folks Like or Follow or Share other somethings they feel are “worth it.” While they’re throwing Likes and Follows and Shares around, why not throw one my way, just for shits and giggles, just because they care?
Ultimately, writing makes me a better person, lifts me up when I’m feeling down, says to the world, “Hey! I’m here!” And it’s not hurting anyone, unless the occasional typo or usage mishap makes you feel like gouging your eyes out. (If this means you, I would rather you try your hand at feedback than see or hear about you gouging your eyes out.) I’m not trying to change the world. I’m trying to add a little more beauty to it. But you all know about Rome and how it was not built, people. Writing takes a continuous effort. Improvement takes time. Criticism from people I care about and respect doesn’t sting as much.
Platforming is essential to a writer working toward publication, and it naturally starts with friends and family. I cherish the support of each one of you–my readers, my champions, my critics, my voices of reason. You are my ticket to publication, whether you realize it or not. Without you, I’m doomed. Finally, and most importantly, I’m humbled and encouraged and motivated by you–yes, you. I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you.
- How Self-Publishing has Helped All Writers – Welcome to the Revolution (warriorwriters.wordpress.com)
- Why Do You Write? (radaronelson.wordpress.com)