For the Artists Who Like to Remain Strictly Out of the Box
While I was busy cranking out copy, my author platform became stale. It was a decent platform and I was not ashamed of it, but like old coffee cake, it was unappealing. I have been working on revisions for a week and am still not done. Some revisions require detective work. You may be thinking about revising your author platform and my experience may be helpful.
A writer’s platform is the result of planning and hard work. In her book, “Making the Perfect Pitch,” New York literary agent Katharine Sands tells how to build a platform. “For writers, a platform sets the stage for reaching readers through marketing and publicity,” she explains. So keep marketing in mind when you are revising your platform.
According to Sands, you build this platform by answering questions. Her starting questions: Do you have access to mailing lists? What might work for publicity purposes? Where might your book be promoted? What are your current speaking venues? I thought I had answered these questions, but when I read my platform, I realized I had not.
I started the revision process by checking for typos. Thankfully, there were none. Next, I checked the headings and, though they were okay, they were not good. To me, headings are like the opening scene of a movie, and grab the reader’s attention. My platform begins with a book title and overview, followed by 10 headings: * Audience * Competing Works * Authority (magazine columnist, memberships, writing track record) * Endorsements (which could be back cover copy) * Promotion Plan (actions I will take to publicize and promote the book) * Database Access (increasingly important in this economy) * Internet Citations * Radio and Television Experience * Newspaper and Magazine Coverage (photopies included with proposal) * Reviews
These headings are for a nonfiction platform. If you write fiction, or science fiction, or romance, or children’s books, or poetry, your headings may be different. Jandy Nelson, a contributing writer for “Making the Perfect Pitch,” offers tips for pitching nonfiction. She thinks nonfiction book proposals should contain four elements. One is the concept of the book. Two is your target audience. Three is why you are an expert on the topic. Four, what makes your book different.
An author’s platform must answer these questions in a logical and sequential way. To do this, I rearranged the points beneath the headings in descending order, with the most recent at the top and the less recent at the bottom. I will check the order again after I have finished the revision. Revising your platform can lead to surprises.
The Internet Citations section has turned into a scavenger hunt and I have seen my name in odd places. My name is being used to sell jewelry, purses, building supplies, vitamins, Viagra, CDs, pornography, and more. This is disturbing, to say the least, and the insertion of foul language into my articles is equally disturbing. I would not know these things if I was not revising my platform.
The last thing I will do is check my platform for tone. Is it a grabber? Do I sound competent? Can I sell books? Revising your platform takes time, yet it is worth the time you give it. Your author platform is part of the writing life.
Copyright 2010 by Harriet Hodgson
Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for decades. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of Health Care Journalists, and Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.
Centering Corporation has published her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life” and a companion journal with 100 writing prompts. Hodgson is a monthly columnist for the new “Caregiving in America” magazine. Please visit her website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.