Weapons in my Armoury – Platform and Branding

This is week two in a seven-week series on Weapons in my Armoury: writing tools in the pursuit of publication. I was supposed to post it yesterday but found myself out of the house most of the day, so here it is a day late. I wish I could blame the time change last night, but I can’t. Here goes…

Within a year of making the decision to get serious about my writing, I attended my first writer’s conference, The Surrey International Writers’ Conference. I was gung-ho to learn as much as I could. In addition to all the workshops, I had an appointment with an agent to pitch my story.

Of course, I knew nothing about how to go about pitching to an agent, so the first workshop I attended was How to Pitch. In this workshop, the instructor told us that 50% of our pitch was the actual story/book idea, and it had to be ready to go, as ready for publication as you could get it. The other 50% was you, who you were and what your platform was. Well, I was hooped. I had no platform. No online presence, such as a website or social media presence.

I raised my hand, “Um, what if your project isn’t finished and none of the platform is in place and you have an appointment for a pitch session with an agent in two days?”

“Be upfront and honest and use it as a practice session.”

Well, I gave up that appointment to someone who was ready to go. It was too early for me even to practice.

That was two years ago. Now I have a website, Facebook author page, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Yes, I’ve been busy.

What is Branding? I have listened to many explanations, but the best is this, my brand is my commitment to my audience. It basically, means I am consistent in what I produce, its tone and content, what my audience can expect from me and my writing. It is unique to me. It is how I project myself and how others look at me and my work.

How does one create their brand? It comes from me, and what I share with you through my work as an author, and also what I choose to share with you on a personal basis. By getting to know me, you get a sense of who I am as a person and what you can expect from my writing.  My job is to be consistent in the message I choose to share and the method and manner in which I choose to share it. It all makes up my brand.

Think of certain authors, such as John Grisham or Scott Turow. From these authors, you expect a legal thriller. If they were to deviate from their particular niche, some of their readers/audience might get upset. Readers can be very particular. They tend to stick with a genre they like, and if they like a particular author in that genre, well, heaven help that author if they don’t deliver what the reader expects.

Next, what is a platform?

My platform, from what I understand two years in, is how I deliver my brand’s message. It is my online and social media presence. It is how I communicate who I am and what I do to you, my audience.

My platform is my website. There are three levels of sharing with my audience through my website. First, by visiting my website, a reader will get a general sense of who I am and what I do. My HOME and ABOUT pages explain the basics. Second, if you take the time to read my blog, you will get a sense of my writing style, and the kinds of things I write about. The third level is by subscribing to my Newsletter. This is where I get a bit more personal and attempt to be more engaged with those who will be my readers.

My platform is also my social media presence; Twitter, Instagram, and my Facebook Author page. All further means of engagement with my audience. Social media is also a means to further express who I am as a writer, helping to establish my brand.

Branding and platform should be tools in every writer’s toolbox. If we have a story to tell, who are the readers going to learn about in that story? Traditional publishing is laying much more of the marketing responsibility at the feet of authors in the modern publishing world. And, If a writer chooses to self-publish, without branding and platform, they will have a very limited avenue of release and exposure. The more people who know about you and understand what they can expect from you as a writer, the greater the opportunities for the word to spread from reader to reader.

Word of mouth is a powerful highway of communication. Remember that old advertisement for Herbal Essence hair products: If you tell two people and they tell to people, so on, and so on.

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