“The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.”
In an era of immediate gratification and information overload, patience is something few people have time for. They want “it” right now, whether “it” is an email response, a well-paying career, or the proverbial house with a white picket fence. For writers, the social web whispers promises of instant success and overnight fame if only they had a big enough following on Twitter, but the reality is, as Godin notes, very different.
I’ve realized over the past several months that there’s a tendency to oversimplify things, to assume everyone has a certain level of web and marketing savvy (not to mention free time), starting discussions about writers’ platforms, curating communities and “free vs. freemium” way too far ahead of the curve. For a lot of writers. something as seemingly simple as setting up a blog can become a huge, time-consuming effort for which the long-term value isn’t always quite clear or worthwhile.
It most certainly is worthwhile, though, so what follows is a simple 3-step model for building the foundation of your writer’s platform, no matter where you are on Godin’s theoretical timeline:
Platform 101: The Foundation
1) Get around. It is often said that writing is a solitary art, but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on what type of writer you are, there’s at least one relevant community of people like you (writers and non-writers), online or in your hometown. Use Google, Meetup, your favorite online and local publications, bookstores and cafés to find them.
2) Get connected. Online forums and social networks are a great place to make connections, as are the comments sections of relevant websites and blogs; start with your favorite writers and publications related to things you’re most passionate about and participate in the conversations. Use Meetup to find real-life gatherings and attend a few that look interesting. Go to writing conferences, or check out local readings and open mics to share your own work while listening to others. If you’re really ambitious, start a Meetup or reading series of your own!
3) Get online. Establish a simple online platform for yourself, starting with a blog, Twitter, Google Reader and FriendFeed:
Blog: This is your home base. WordPress, Blogger,LiveJournal or Tumblr? Depending on your specific community, you’ll notice one of them is more dominant than the others — go with that one. Keep it simple; choose a clean template that allows you to add your own links and don’t get too caught up in SEO, widgets, or any other confusing terms. Write about whatever you find interesting on at least a weekly basis. (2-3 times/week is solid for the average writer.) Don’t overthink things and don’t compare yourself to others; be yourself and follow your own passions.
Twitter: Follow relevant people of interest and don’t worry about how many followers you or anyone else has; it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Don’t just promote yourself and your blog; share information and links of interest to you from other sources, too, and interact with other people. Remember, it’s about connecting with people.
Google Reader: Monitor your favorite blogs and websites, and track search terms on topics relevant to you, including your own name. Use the “Share with note” option to comment on interesting posts, and also share the best ones via Twitter.
FriendFeed: It’s the new shiny and of questionable value at this point, but it’s a great tool to aggregate all of your online activities in one place. Add all of the above to it and let it ride for the time being.
Get around, get connected, get online.
These are the three fundamental steps to building yourself an author platform, no matter what kind of writing you’re doing, and precede any discussions of SEO, Freemiums, URLs, etc. Once these are in place, you can move on to Platform 201: 1,000 True Fans, which I’ll cover next week.
NOTE: I purposefully left Facebook out of this first step because I think its value beyond your personal network is limited in the early stages of a three-year timeline, but if you’re already using it personally, I’d recommend using the Networked Blogs app to feed your blog into your profile to keep your family and friends in the loop, too. I would NOT recommend pushing your Twitter feed to Facebook, though; it’s like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters and could potentially do more harm than good to your most personal connections!
How are you developing your platform, and which of the above steps do you think has the most value?