Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't Wait for X to Do Y: Platform-Building Traps for Writers to Avoid

When I cook jambalaya, I have a process for getting it done quickly and still having it taste great. It involves a little prep in the beginning, but then, I perform several other prep steps while the food simmers at different stages. If I do all the prep before getting started, it can nearly double my cooking time. If I don't do the prep while it's simmering, then the jambalya won't taste as good (and it would probably more than double my cooking time).

The same holds true for writers who are building their platforms, because a platform is kind of like this big dish with a ton of ingredients that all blend together. And like preparing jambalaya, there are two traps in which writers often find themselves caught.

Too Much Preparation
I'm sure anyone who's read my blog long enough suspects that I believe in the power of preparation. However, some writers seem to be in a constant state of preparation. They spend 99% of their time preparing to be a famous writer. Then, they devote 1% of their time to the actual writing. That's just not sound math.

Or there are writers that spend all their time writing a great manuscript. Then, they spend all their time building a platform. Then, they spend all their time submitting their manuscripts. Then...well, they seem to only be able to do one thing at a time, which can really make the process of finding success a looooooonnnnnnggggg process (as if it's not long enough already).

I believe in following the appropriate steps to accomplish things (like building a table or cooking Mac & Cheese). However, finding success as a writer is a little more sophisticated.

Waiting for X to Do Y
Many writers tell me that they are ready to start building their platform...once their books are published. Or once their books are accepted. But both of those approaches are starting the process too late--even with a long book production cycle. If writers know they want to build a platform eventually, the best time to start testing the waters is now.

The main focus should still be on the writing, of course, but there are small steps a writer can take now to start building a platform (and connections) needed to support a book. In fact, if you want a quick overview of how to get started, click here.

Whatever you do, don't procrastinate about starting your platform efforts. I encourage you to start small and build over time. But if you haven't yet, get started now.


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Erin Reel said...

Great post, Robert. We need a little reminding that building a platform is part of a larger process - not THE process.

Building a solid platform from scratch can take years. Approaching an agent or publisher without one (especially if one is writing nonfiction), is like approaching a loan officer without a track record of financial success.

The best writers who are really serious about their writing careers, know this. They live platform building - they've built a life around their writing. To them, it's second nature to submit their shorts, pitches for articles, blog, etc. They understand all this takes time and they're in it for the long haul.

On the nonfiction side, the true experts come to an agent or publisher AFTER they've built a successful practice, or have experienced major successes as an "expert," "advocate," or "guru." The book becomes an extension of an already solid brand.

Just because it's easier to publish today does not mean it's easier to sell a book.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thanks for chiming in, Erin! There are a lot of great points in your comment, including the idea that serious writers realize platform building is a component of their writing life--it's not just some kind of extra appendage that you strap onto your book or project when needed.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post. I have swung from one extreme to the other: trying to follow a sequence and trying to do everything at once without pacing myself. Settling in to the process is important, but as Erin mentioned, it is part of writing life. Platform building should come as a natural occurrence, an outgrowth of the writing experience

Pam Hogeweide said...

I just want to pop by and say I enjoy your blog posts so much. As a writer who's first book is about to come out, your guidance and advice is encouraging and practical.

Thanks for putting it out there for folks like me!

Heathter said...

Thanks so much, Not Bob! This was just the kick in the pants I needed. I even cited this blog post in my own: as I am--thanks to you--joining NaNoWriMo in hopes of getting the push I need to WRITE.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

It should totally be a natural part of what you're doing, Maxie.

Thanks, Pam, for letting me know! It means a lot.

Good luck on NaNo, Heather!

Pennie said...

I needed this. I'm not a math person, LOL!