Blogger: Mary Keeley
I am traveling from the Books & Such bi-annual retreat for clients today and won’t be able to respond to your comments. Today’s blog was originally posted over a year ago and ignited a great conversation. I hope you have a great time brainstorming together again today.
Agents frequently receive editor feedback similar to this: “I must tell you that I think [client] is a fabulous writer . . . [but] without a platform, we unfortunately will not be able to pursue this project.” Ugh! If you have been writing for a while, you know that a modest platform isn’t enough anymore, especially for nonfiction authors. I know many skilled writers who are stalled from getting a publishing contract for this reason alone.
Is there anything more writers can do to overcome the platform hurdle in addition to the usual social media, newsletter, and blog activity? The answer is yes, when you put your entrepreneurial hat on and think creatively. Here is one idea.
Adopt a cause.
Lately, much of the editor feedback we receive from Christian publishers sounds like that rejection I received. These responses aren’t only for debut authors but also mid-list authors who have disappointing sales numbers. Recently, a client told me a potential publicist she interviewed recommended she take up a cause to grow her platform, so I did some research.
It all begins with knowing what your passion is. I’ve talked in the past about how important it is to focus on what you are most passionate about because that’s where your best writing will happen. That focus is also important for your brand and your platform growth. Double your effort to gain as much knowledge and experience as you can about the people, topic, time period—whatever it is that will be the constant thread in the books you write. Become an expert in your special area.
The cause you choose must connect with what you write. For example, bestselling author Steve Berry is passionate about preserving history. All of his books involve some historical location. Read his bio here to learn how he connected his passion and his books with his cause. You might not be able to start your own foundation like he did, but you can partner with an established cause after you’ve researched and are confident of its integrity. Offer to do speaking for the group. If you can connect your cause to a current cultural or newsworthy topic, doors may open for additional speaking opportunities.
Here are six tips for adopting a cause to grow your platform:
- Think strategically when choosing a cause. Some will attract people who aren’t necessarily readers of your genre—or readers at all. One client is writing a fiction series in which water shortage is one of the common threads. It would be a mistake to choose water issues as a cause because it is likely to attract scientists more than fiction readers.
- Be prepared with talking points. You never know what impromptu opportunities you might have to talk about your cause and your books with someone who will want you to speak to their group when they see your enthusiasm and passion.
- Don’t wait for media to come to you. Local radio and TV shows are always looking for interesting interviews. Contact the producers and share some of your expertise about what you write and the cause you are supporting. Your knowledge and the fact that you are a writer reflect your authority and credibility.
- Dedicate an area on your website to the cause you support. Update it frequently with news and your speaking engagements for the cause.
- Talk about your cause on social media and your blog. It offers a subtle segue to talk about your books in an appealing way that doesn’t sound like a sales pitch.
- Seek out others who blog about your cause and suggest you guest post for each other. Agree ahead of time that you can also talk about the books you write. You and your books will reach a new group of readers who might not otherwise have known about or purchased your books.
Platform has been a major hurdle for nonfiction writers for a long time. It has become an obstacle for novelists as well in the few years. Today, authors have to be creative and strategic about expanding your platform. Adopting up a cause is one idea, and you don’t have to wait until you have a book releasing to begin. In fact, you’ll have increased authenticity if you are associated with the cause before your first, or next, book is published.
Now brainstorm together. What is your initial reaction to adopting a cause? Offer two or three possible causes you could adopt that align with what you write, and then talk about which one has the greatest potential for gaining readers of your books.
Writers must be creative about platform growth. Here is one idea and six tips to make it work. Click to Tweet.
Authors, you can accelerate your platform growth when you adopt a cause. Click to Tweet.
I’ve been pondering / praying over this very issue, Mary. Not so much “what will build my platform?” as “what will build your kingdom, Lord?”
This is an interesting post, even second time around. 🙂
*One cause I’ve been thinking about is helping women in poverty-stricken places to be able to become self-providing by making things that they can sell. I love seeing some of the jewelry that has come out of countries in South America and Africa. *I’m not sure how to incorporate this into my writing, but you’ve got me thinking, Mary. Thank you for that.
*It looks like you all had a wonderful time at your retreat!
Had to think on this for awhile.
* Before my blog segued into caregiving for the terminally ill (over 220 posts thus far…must be useful as God keeps bringing me back from the Edge) I did have something of a cause, though I didn’t realize it at the time –
* “Being OK With An OK Marriage”. Wow. Sounds exciting, eh? Kind of like “Bling Up Your Yugo!”
* But really, a lot of harm is done when couples lose sight of the fact that an adequate relationship is nothing to be disdained. “Go Fo The Gold!” is a nice slogan, but it can throw some pretty good moments, moments that ARE worthy of cherish, under the bus.
* I guess we all want a soulmate, but it’s wrong to disregard the man or woman that wakes up next to you every morning, and you can be sure that they’ll be there tomorrow. Not because of fireworks or deep connexions or Divine anointing, but because being with you is better than being without you. For life.
Amen, Andrew. Growing old together is more about steady than breathlessly thrilling.
I think adopting a cause is a sweet idea, not for what it can do for you, but for what maybe you can do for it. It’s all about the heart. But I do love that the heart follows the feet. I love this–“In fact, you’ll have increased authenticity if you are associated with the cause before your first, or next, book is published.” And I love that when I step out kicking and screaming, I’m always glad I did … God seems to turn everything around when we’re obedient to Him. I think I’d like to adopt a mission cause, since I write for a missions magazine. But I’m not sure if I should support an organization I love, like the one I write for or … maybe one particular cause/mission, like one that touches my heart. It would probably be one for children. And maybe linked to adoption somehow.
Excellent points, Shelli.
Sylvia A. Nash
I’ve shifted platform/audience attempts over the years, partly as a result of focus but mostly as an attempt to do just this: grow my audience, build an audience. I’ve failed miserably at every attempt. Part of it had to do with skips in time, but it’s hard to be faithful when you few if no readers. The other part of it had nothing to do with me, well, sort of nothing.
~~I started out thinking that my English background (which includes teaching and graduate level work) would be an excellent venue for me. Then I realized (1) only writers would be interested, (2) there were already a gazillion author sites focusing on writing and editing, and (3) academic writing and writing fiction for a buying public are two entirely different things. I knew academic writing. I knew how to write fiction. I had barely scratched the surface of learning how to write fiction for publication.
~~Then I thought I would do the genealogy/family history thing. I’m a longtime amateur genealogist who has put a lot of time into learning that field not just doing it. AND the main character in one of my series is a 60-something director of the genealogy section at the local library. Bombed!
~~My most recent attempt was addressing medical issues. THIS is a CAUSE for me in a major way. PLUS my latest release focuses on a major medical issue–negligence and malpractice. BUT a previous post suggested we didn’t need to negative. However, talking about issues/causes, supporting them, promoting them has to deal with the negatives else they wouldn’t be issues/causes. And guess what! Bombed again!
~~So lately I’ve been writing about whatever struck me at the time. Just as successful as anything else! As in…nothing!
~~I’ve tried being informative, humorous, humorously sarcastic, life-sharing…. I’m wondering if I’m doing myself more harm than good by trying to blog. I deleted several years worth of blogs and started over with my last release. I’m thinking of deleting the blog altogether. I actually think I got more interest years ago (before I started pursuing my writing in earnest) when I posted my family history discoveries, as in who begat whom and where they lived when the kid was born! Maybe I should resurrect my grandpa/grandma lists. Hmm! 🙂 Have a good weekend everyone!
Sometimes I think we need to create a cause when a felt need is found. I noticed that my readers were all stuck when it comes to dealing with challenging life situations or handling subtle and overt fears, so I started the “Choose Brave” cause. I’m about to launch a quiz and a free course on practicing courage to gather emails and grow a community of followers who are also passionate about choosing to live bravely through difficult circumstances.
As a non-writer I’ve observed writers struggle with building their own platform. What I suggest, especially for non-fiction, is one remember you need a platform to stand on but it doesn’t have to be your own. Mary is suggesting that by joining a cause you are standing on a larger, broader platform than just your own writing or ideas. So, whose platform can you stand on?
I’m always holding back from frustration whenever I see the topic, Platform. Not that I am incognizant of its essence, I just do not know how to go about it. Or perhaps, the resources aren’t within reach yet. Or maybe I haven’t figured out a cause.
So many things.
I’d just stick with finishing the editing work for now.
And then, we’d see…