Building an Author Platform: Concepts
I wanted to present to you a radical way of looking at what you might be trying to do as an author, by means of an image which will attempt to incorporate all of the key elements of what ‘being an author’ is all about, including what we call an ‘author platform’. But doing so may challenge some preconceptions that you might have about the whole activity of writing, both on an intimate level and in the way in which you ‘go to market’ and try to get readers to read your work.
Let’s see how far you are willing to track with me on this.
I’d like you to imagine a series of six concentric circles, in orbit around a core.
The centre, the core, the ‘sun’ around which everything else revolves, if you like, is composed of the things which are most deep and meaningful to you. It doesn’t particularly matter what these values are - what’s important is that you have worked them out clearly and feel them profoundly.
You may have a deep concern about politics, a passion for individual freedoms, a heartfelt desire for love, a spiritual belief in the holiness of life, an earnest resentment towards living, a burning memory of past relationships, or simply a powerful yearning to entertain - you might have a whole range of things beating in your heart. Whatever you most deeply feel, believe or are convinced about, the more you clarify it, the stronger and more potent your ‘sun’ will be.
The first layer in orbit around this sun is your work. This may be a novel or series of novels, an accumulation of short stories, a collection of poetry, a play, a film screenplay, a compilation of notes for any of these things - whatever you have written creatively. The more this work reflects, refracts and magnifies the light from the sun at its core, the more powerful and brilliant it will be, even when it might have technical failings. Your work is or should be close to your heart, as it is in this image.
Outward from that comes a surprise. This might be a layer which some of you don’t have and haven’t even contemplated having. This layer is composed of writings about your writings. These can take the form of articles, written by you or possibly even by others, about you and your work. Many authors have blogs, and this is where they fit in; but many don’t and don’t see the need for them. This layer also includes interviews you have done, letters you have written about your books, introductions you may have put together, blurbs, artwork, query letters - basically anything which acts as a bridge from the reader to the deeper meanings of your work.
‘What deeper meanings?’ you may ask. Well, if your central core is shining like a sun, and your book or books have managed to capture that light in any sort of comprehensible way, your work will have deeper meanings of one kind or another. Great literature could be defined as that fiction which taps into the values accessible by its author to the degree that meaning opens up like an ocean to a sailor. If an author has managed to draw upon his or her wellsprings of significance to any marked degree, those waters will permit readers to sail upon them to new as-yet-unfathomed places. Mixed metaphors, I know. But true.
Exploring those places is what authors can do through blogs, articles, interviews, letters and all the rest. These form a non-fiction transparent ‘casing’ or shell around the work itself, permitting it to be picked up and viewed in new ways.
‘That’s all very well,’ you might say, ‘but it’s all rather abstract - where do readers come into all this?’
Through the next layer, is the answer to that. The third layer (much like the theatrical ‘fourth wall’) is the dimension through which people gain access to your work. This is, in practical terms, your website or shopfront. Here, visitors should find something of interest about your book even before they buy the book itself: they should find a free gift or two, along with other items of interest including perhaps blog articles from the sphere above. And of course they should find your book, easily downloadable or able to be ordered.
Moving outward from that, the next circle is the group of followers you have managed to glean from social media, as discussed in earlier articles. These people are usually gathered for broader reasons than to look at or purchase your materials - they are there for social reasons, and because they are interested in you, but they are often not there at all, as they obviously have other concerns and lives to lead.
The fifth layer is the wider society as represented through social media. This forms into groups of its own, has divergent interests which often overlap, and is in general hopping in and out of the huge worldwide conversation which is the world of social media.
And the final layer is the Big Wide World, outside social media perhaps altogether - the society at large, in all its wonder, beauty and misery. To continue our solar system analogy, this layer would be outer space, wide, empty, largely unknown to you.
As a writer, then, you could be said to occupy outer space like a solar system, floating in the great empty darkness of the ‘void’, a lonely star amid millions of other distant shining specks, but orbited by these layers.
What is it about this image, this model, that is useful to you today, as a writer?
Well, we can perhaps best see that by tracking the approach of a reader towards you. Readers in this analogy are like comets, beginning their journey in the depths of space. Their first step is to be gently gripped, not necessarily by you, but by the ‘gravitational pull’ of social media as a whole. In they drift, engaging in conversations, posting, sharing, and generally behaving as human beings do on the outer fringes of social media giants like Facebook.
Within that layer, as they pursue things of interest to them, they might come across the next layer in - your own social media group. Though they will drift off quite frequently, if they are broadly interested in you and what you have to offer they will at times linger and participate. They have come within your orbit.
As their interest becomes more focused - something that you can directly influence now, as they are paying more and more attention to what you have to say - they may find themselves on your website, taking advantage of your free gifts of other materials there. A few may well be drawn to your blog, your personal story about your work and its features, which is the next layer in; some will be pulled further in by blurbs and the cover and so on to purchase your book.
Their journey shouldn’t end there, of course. Reading your book should have opened their eyes to your core message or theme, and that can and should be just the beginning.
You can look this over and scan these layers back and forth. On a conceptual level, this is how things work, even if some of the pieces may be occasionally missing or appear in other guises along the way. You may want to look over what you are doing and see if anything needs installing, repairing or otherwise adjusting so that you become more successful, not so much commercially (though that is part of it) but profoundly, as a writer.
I can help. Drop me a line if you want to know more about my consultancy services: