Fiction writers tend to be a little more stymied on platform, and not without reason. The world of what I refer to as the “Almighty Author Platform” in my book is much easier to navigate for nonfiction writers. Prescriptive writers have the easiest road: Stay on your topic and you’re golden. Memoirists, too, have a more straightforward task: Identify the primary themes, issues, and takeaways of your memoir and build your platform around being an expert from having lived through what you’ve experienced.
The novelist or genre writer, on the other hand, can find themselves up against a wall. They often don’t see the ways in which the nonfiction platform translates into what they’re doing, and I’ve worked with more than a few who feel downright resentful that they have to tend to their platform when there’s so much other more important stuff to do—like writing!
So, here are some thoughts for the novelists among you to get you going:
1. Website. Believe it or not, having a good website is the foundation of a good platform. You MUST have an email marketing system (like iContact or MailChimp), where you capture people’s information and then have the capacity to build campaigns and send people offers or free stuff. Offer your readers something free for signing up, like a short story or a chapter of your book-in-progress.
2. Social media. Yes, it’s a beast, and it can be overwhelming, BUT—it doesn’t have to be. Identify the primary issues and ideas that you write about in your novel. Or hobbies or habits of your central characters. If your protagonist is an herbalist, as is the case in Shanghai Love (She Writes Press, 2013), then you can post interesting tidbits about herbal remedies and cures. Make it fun. Educate your audience about the things you are already researching for your novel.
3. Video/images. Experiment with this. You can do little shorts and get fun and creative and post them to YouTube. Use your iPhone. Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be complex. You can video yourself talking about your writing process—what works and doesn’t. You can also use Pinterest to create boards up about your novel—about elements of the story, character sketches, and even locations your characters visit.
4. Audio. Novels lend themselves to storytelling. Do a podcast and make it free online, or upload it to iTunes and charge 99 cents. You can enlist friends, or your kids, to read different character parts to keep it interesting. Think of it like an engaging book reading, and put a new one out once a month. (Then make use of the list you’re creating in #1 and blast your list whenever a new audio comes out.)
5. Group blogging. Lots of novelists don’t like to blog and/or struggle to figure out what to blog about. First of all, set up Google Alerts so that you are tracking certain issues. If your protagonist is a child psychologist, for instance, you can get Google Alerts set up to notify you about what’s going on in the world of child psychology and do an issue-driven post about it. If you join up with a team of writers who are all writing in the same genre, you can either share a website where you all blog or you can guest blog on one another’s sites, creating a system whereby you are not responsible for blogging quite so often but also not falling too far behind on the expectation that you be prolific.
Lastly, I want to make a plug for publishing as a way to build platform. There is no question that this is the wave of the future. This post on Book Baby pretty much sums up the rationale for doing so. If you don't have a platform at all, you can use your first book to build one. At She Writes Press our tagline is "A Platform for Women Writers" for a reason. It's a tested way to get your foot in the door and to build a fan base that has something tangible to react to.
I'd love to hear other ways the novelists and genre writers among you have been building your platforms. Please share your knowledge and what's worked (or just been fun!).