Platform Development 101
By Christina Katz
If you’ve been reading this column, you will not be surprised when I say that developing your platform can be a labor of love. In fact, developing your platform can almost feel like play. As ice cream entrepreneurs Ben and Jerry said, “If it’s not fun, why do it?”
I definitely second that emotion. Why? Because your audience can feel where you are coming from, so why not come from somewhere positive that adds more good to the world? If you choose a sustainable passion and act with gradually increasing momentum, your audience will feel like they are participating in something special and unique. But if you just “get a platform” because you intellectually know that you should, you may as well not even bother.
Did you know that before they were world-famous, Ben & Jerry started off selling ice cream cones in a converted gas station in Vermont, of all places? If they can build the kind of brand recognition and feel-good reputation they did, then I’m thinking that you and I should have a decent shot at identifying and delivering our expertise in a similarly serious yet lighthearted manner. No matter what your topic is, as long as there is a demand for it (even if your “demand” is as fleeting as a hot summer day in Vermont, and there aren’t too many of these every year), you can carve out a niche that will support your platform and help you reach potential readers.
So how can you test-drive this platform fun? Just rev your sustainable passion engines, identify the needs of your audience and begin filling those needs with what you already have. That’s an easy way to start. And then you can let your efforts evolve from there.
I’m going to list some platform-builders here. Don’t take any of them too seriously. Put a check beside every endeavor that sounds fun:
__ Public speaking
__ Manuscript evaluation
Here are a few examples from Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writers Digest Books, 2007):
Kelly James-Enger gives presentations on writing and fitness topics at colleges, libraries, and conferences. In addition to a successful writing career that has resulted in four non-fiction books and two fiction books, Kelly is a certified personal trainer and has been published in over fifty national magazines. (www.becomebodywise.com)
Manuscript evaluation: Elizabeth Lyon offers editing services and manuscript evaluation as part of her platform. She runs Editing International, which offers ser-vices including editing, coaching, group instruction, outsourcing, and writing, pro-vided by herself and her associate editors. Elizabeth has written five non-fiction books and presents at writers conferences around the country. (www.4-edit.com)
Teaching workshops or classes: You can teach classes independently, through an institution or organization or online. I teach e-mail classes through my Web site Writers on the Rise. I’ve taught adults live at a community college and indepen-dently via e-mail, each for three years. Last year, I branched out into conference presentations and speaking. This is my first book. (www.writersontherise.com)
Editing (freelance, contract basis, or as employee): Wendy Burt offers freelance editing to custom magazines along with her writing. The two services complement each other, so clients can hire Wendy to both generate content and manage it as well. Wendy’s experience as an author of two books has led her to edit books for other authors and to counsel authors on everything from book proposals to agents and foreign rights. Since she is used to soliciting work as a freelancer, she doesn’t maintain a Web site. She pitches her editing/writing services instead.
Consulting in your area of expertise: Jennifer Louden, the comfort expert, offers consulting services to companies like Proctor & Gamble, Johnny Rockets, and Spandex Fiber. She has also worked with associations like the National Council of the State Boards of Nursing. She has appeared on the Oprah Show, CNN, and CNBC and is the author of six books. (www.jenniferlouden.com)
Copywriting for businesses: In addition to writing for national magazines and teaching a writing class via e-mail, Linda Formichelli offers copywriting services to corporations. She’s penned brochures, newsletters, press releases, ad copy, radio scripts, and slogans for companies around the country. (www.lindaformichelli.com)
Co-authoring/Ghostwriting: Jenna Glatzer offers ghostwriting (writing for another person) and co-writing (working with another author) services. She’s written three non-fiction books for writers and one children’s book of her own. She has ghostwritten/co-authored five additional books (which sometimes carry “With Jenna Glatzer” and sometimes don’t carry her name at all). (www.jennaglatzer.com)
Self-Publishing (newsletters, e-books, and self-published books): C. Hope Clark publishes four newsletters for writers (paid and free). She has also published eleven e-books to help writers find funds and a self-published book, The Shy Writer. She also offers online chat sessions and writing contests for writers. (www.fundsforwriters.com)
But how are you going to get started? By starting small, that’s how. If you want to teach, write up a class synopsis and contact your local community college. If you want to consult, take a working consultant out for coffee and do an informational interview. Not sure if you’d like copywriting? Visit someone’s business writing site and check out the samples. Think you could have fun doing any of these things? Then why not try?
Once you’ve determined the direction or directions you would like to move in, simply take one step a day until you’re doing it. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can go from conception to manifestation when you have the energy of enthusiasm behind your intention. And once you get started, remind yourself to have fun, have fun, have fun!
Because if it’s not fun, why do it?
Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids teaches, speaks, coaches, and inspires writers to new career heights. She is publisher and editor of two e-mail newsletters, Writers on the Rise and The Writer Mama. Christina strives to balance her roles as a wife, mother, and multiple pet-owner with her calling as a writer and writing career synergizer. She cherishes the reflective moments cultivated in the corners of an otherwise busy life, preferably with a cup of tea, pen and pad of paper handy.