Platform ideas for aspiring novelists

[This blog post appeared on the Learn How To Write A Novel web site in August.]

In a previous blog post, I’ve talked about feeding the beast. What was the beast? An author’s platform.

A platform is one of the biggest time sponges for authors, but also one of the most necessary of activities. In a connected world, we need to be connected – to readers, to buyers, to industry. To other authors. To each other.

So once you recognize the importance of feeding the beast, you need to explore the deeper, more important question: what do you feed it?

Here in Australia, I work in the online space. My business – Landmark Media – works with clients across a range of industries to develop online content for web sites, eNewsletter campaigns and social media.

It doesn’t matter which industry you’re talking about, coming up with ideas is the hardest part of any online program. Any organization – and writers fall into this as well – that suffers with idea constipation isn’t suffering from a lack of creativity. It’s more likely that they’re focusing on the wrong things.

They focus on output, instead of outcome.

Here’s the issue: if you focus on output, you’ll be looking at a blinking cursor asking you what’s on your mind (if you’re on Facebook), what’s happening? (if you’re tweeting) or staring at the simple [+] of Instagram. And you’ll post something aimed at a platform rather than a person. You’ll be responding to the drive to publish, instead of the drive to connect. You’ll be responding to the drive to be in the space, instead of the drive to be in people’s thoughts.

You might post something on Facebook that says “hey, I’ve got an author page.” And people will respond with … “so?” You’ll upload a pic to Instagram that says “this is my latest work-in-progress”. And you’ll get little to no engagement, as people see your post and think “great, I’ve got one too.”

So what do you focus on instead? Instead of focusing on output, you need to focus on outcome.

So what does that look like? Here’s a few examples – and a few ideas for your platform.

The outcome I’d like #1 – please visit my page

So you’ve got an author page or site. Great! Now, to bring people there, focus on the outcome. What do you want people to do? You want them to visit. Once you start thinking like this, you’re now moving away from “I’ve got an author page” to starting to ask WHY people will visit. And then you’ll post along those lines:

  • Have a look at my author page to go in the running for a competition
  • Visit my author page to download my short story
  • Drop me a like on my author page and I’ll like your page as well!
  • Visit my new author site and let me know what you’d like to see next!
  • I’ve redesigned my site (or added a new page), drop by and tell me what you think!

You’re now a better chance of getting an outcome, as you’ve given people the reason WHY they should do what you ask.

The outcome I’d like #2 – please sign up for my newsletter

In order to get someone to give the opportunity to connect with them via email, you need to ask WHY they’d say yes. Think about your own situation. Why do you subscribe? Often it’s because of something we value that we will receive on a regular basis. So what is it about your newsletter that will help them?

  • Subscribe to win <insert whatever you’re offering here> (People love a freebie!)
  • Subscribe to follow my journey to being published!
  • Subscribe to keep in touch with my debut novel as it’s finding its way onto the country’s bookshelves!
  • Subscribe to get a regular flow of great marketing/writing/craft ideas straight to your inbox.
  • Or whatever you’ve got that has value for people.

By showing people what they’ll get when they subscribe, you increase your chance of them actually doing it.

The outcome I’d like #3 – be aware of my points of difference

This is what I’ve done: among my points of difference is my Australian heritage. I’m an Aussie, writing for a primary market in the USA. It’s a natural thing to play on.  So every now and then in my Instagram feed I post something like this:

LearnHowToWriteANovel 1 - Koala

I took the photo (the koala lives in the trees in the park across the street. Yes, really. And it’s cute. But overall, it’s AUSTRALIAN. (And note: it’s not about me. Don’t fall for the myth of thinking your platform has to be all about you all the time, with your smiling face plastered all over the screen. It should be about your reader, and what they equate with you, or want to see about you).

Or this:

LearnHowToWriteANovel 2 - Tomorrow

I play on the time difference, because if you’re American, it’s always tomorrow in Australia.  You see, I’m not posting to impress people. I’m posting to engage with people. This is early days for this post, but it’s working.

So there are a few starters for you. The one thing I’d like for you to take away is not necessarily the new idea, but the new focus. Turn your attention to outcome rather than output and you will find the idea generation process for your platform to be so much easier.

Until next time!

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