The Writing Platform – Finding Your Niche by Dawn Frederick

Since we are discussing the writer’s community this month, we knew that we HAD to discuss the Writer’s Platform, a relatively new term with some serious buzz. To kick off our discussion on Writer Platforms, we are delighted to welcome guest blogger and agent extraordinaire Dawn Frederick!

Dawn Frederick, Senior Agent, Red Sofa Literary

Dawn Frederick, Senior Agent, Red Sofa Literary

Dawn Frederick is the owner and literary agent of Red Sofa Literary, based in the Twin Cities.  Previously an agent with Sebastian Literary Agency, Dawn brings a broad knowledge of the book business to the table, with multiple years of experience as a bookseller in the independent, chain, and specialty stores. Red Sofa Literary was listed as one the 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2012 and 2013. Additionally, Dawn is also a co-founder of the MN Publishing Tweet Up, a networking group composed of writers and publishers, now completing its second year of bringing publishers and writers together over happy hours and at special bookstore events.

The Writing Platform – Finding Your Niche

Platform.  It’s a term often used in publishing that can come across as intimidating or confusing, many times for those writers who haven’t developed one yet.  When in actuality building a platform will open many doors for any writer, in addition to building a strong network before, during, and after the publishing process.  Growing a platform should be welcomed with open arms.

What IS platform?  The brief definition would be the audience a writer brings to the table, along with the potential readers not yet reached.  Being able to provide a window into one’s readership (grown already), along with a clear vision of additional audiences is a positive step in winning over editors and agents.  Writers who are able to clarify the commercial reading public for a book are already on good footing during the query process.  This confirms that each of them have a tangible business plan for their books and potential successes.

Of course one must always remember the most important aspect of one’s writing career, i.e. the ability to write – and to do it well.

Yet with today’s market, it’s equally important that we remember the bottom line; that any publisher or agent should be able to see the commercial profitability of a new book idea. In the bigger picture, platform + good writing = better odds of getting published.

 

Step #1

Define the book’s audience. 

Take a moment and consider why the book needs to be written.  Are you the person to write it? Is this a book just for you? Or is it a book that will appeal to readers of many backgrounds, on many levels?  Determining the initial readership should be accomplished well before writing the book.

Next step back and consider the specific audiences.  Does the book have cross-over appeal ?  What types of readers and groups will be interested in reading it? Is there a special hook that can be timed with the book’s release?  When considering the audience of any book, the necessary research needs to be thoroughly completed, especially for those hoping to find an agent and/or editor along the way.

Step #2

How does one gain the attention of these readers?

Without getting too pushy, it’s time to build a social media presence.  Join Twitter, start a webpage or blog, join established online groups within the book’s genre, participate in online forums and more.  It’s to your advantage to gauge the best tools for your book.

Ex: Is your book highly visual? Then it’s probably a good idea to implement Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumbler to your social media plan.

Ex: Did you write a children’s or YA book?  There are numerous forums and groups worth participating in that focus on these categories, where your book can be critiqued and a writing presence can be established internally.  Additionally there are Twitter chats for children’s and YA books that will grow one’s network, while educational too.  These include:  #kidlit, #mgkidlit, #YALit, #teenlit, #SCBWI & #pblit

Ex: Are you hoping to break out in the Sci Fi/Fantasy or Romance genres?  Then join online forums that specialize in the book’s genre.  One that I’d highly recommend is Book Country. 

It’s to one’s benefit to be strategic, to choose the most effective methods of interacting with readers.   With so many social tools available, choose the best applications that will help grow your presence as a writer.  Approaching social media a la carte style is the way to go, as there’s not enough time in the day to use all the available tools (at least from my perspective).

There’s also a book I highly recommend, titled GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina Katz.  It’s the perfect book for any person hoping to grow a strong writing platform.  Katz’s book should be required reading for all writers, as she provides sage advice that will apply for anyone going traditional or self-publishing route.

Step #3

Building an effective writing platform takes time. 

As we all know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  There are only a handful of writers who didn’t have to worry about the necessary time investment before getting published.  As for the rest of the writing world, everyone else will need to be prepared for the time commitment.

For anyone writing nonfiction, assume it will require a minimum of 1-3 years in growing a platform, possibly longer.  For fiction, this is less of an issue, but to any writer’s benefit when publishers consider a new book idea.

If one needs proof, look to Dan Brown. Five of his books were published before THE DAVINCI CODE hit the book shelves.  It wasn’t book #1, #2, #3, #4 or #5 that resulted in him becoming a recognized name in most households; it was book #6.  Yes, Dan Brown had many books under his publishing belt before he gained international notoriety.  What about the books he wrote that readers don’t know about?  How many revisions did Dan go through for each book, how many book ideas did he put aside, and how long did it take Dan to find his niche, audiences and agent? From book #1 to #6, eight years passed, which doesn’t include the years before book #1 was published.  i.e. Dan Brown’s success didn’t happen overnight, it took many years to reach.

An essential thing to remember are the specific parties (during the publishing process) who will appreciate a strong platform – this includes agents, editors, sales & marketing departments, publicists, bookstores, book distributors, and bookstores.

Ultimately any writer who takes the time to get to know the market and its readers will have a bird’s eye view of new, fresh ideas for future books.  Remember to write from your heart, avoid writing to trends, and choose the best social media tools that will grow a strong network and improve your writing skills.

My final words of advice:   Be yourself, keep it personal.  Be engaging with your chosen social media tools. Never speak at people, instead converse with them.  Building communication, sharing common experiences, and building a strong network will take a writer very far, both personally and professionally.

What has worked for you?  Are there other resources that have been helpful?

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