Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Finding A Platform (And Other Arguments With Myself)

I recently read an article about the importance of having a platform and branding to attract a publisher and sell books. It had a lot of good things to say but this topic has always left me with a big question mark. I'm a fiction writer. I'm more of a jack-of-all trades than an expert at any one thing. This applies more to nonfiction authors, right? Someone who writes a book about finances has a built-in platform of financial expertise and can travel the country teaching people valuable lessons about managing money. But fiction authors write about all sorts of topics/themes and may not be an expert at any of them. In my first novel, Snow Angel, the theme is the classic redemption story of God's love. Duchess and the Dragon is finding your own faith and growing in that, Wind Dancer - spiritual warfare, Love's First Light - forgiveness and my latest book, Angel's Den, domestic violence. While writing and researching these books I learned a lot, but I don't feel qualified to get behind a microphone and claim to be an expert at any of these themes. (Never mind that pesky fear of public speaking). When it comes to branding myself and platforms I've always felt clueless. What am I an expert at? What knowledge or ability do I have that other people would like to learn?

It's at this point that many authors become writing coaches. I think this is great, and I try to help out aspiring authors as much as I can, but I don't think "teaching" is my gift. I function too much on gut instinct and don't know how to convey that as a teacher. What, if anything, do all my books have in common? Romance and history. I could build a platform around historical research and target history lovers. I've seen some pretty impressive websites that dive into world of the Regency period or have a Jane Austen look and feel but my books are set in different locations and time periods which would mean a separate website for each book. Not very practical and that narrows my playing field to history lovers. I've noticed that people either love history or couldn't care less.

Okay, what about romance? Love? Hook-ups? Hmmm. Now there is a huge topic and I am a big fan. When I look at the kinds of books/movies/TV shows I read and watch, I definitely find a lot of romance. And if I ask myself what my dream career would be second to writing, I think I would say matchmaker - that would be seriously fun! I love it when two people fall in love. Do I have a passion for romance and helping people find their mate? Yes! Yes, I do!

In asking myself a few questions, I have discovered a possible platform that I am really excited about. I'm not sure what it will look like yet, but my immediate response to articles on branding has gone from shoulder shrugging to an eagerness to start writing blog entries about finding love. That's a start and who knows where it might go from there? Sometimes we box ourselves in because we lack the faith and vision that God sees for us. In this area of finding my platform, that is exactly what I have been doing.

How about you? Are there any areas in your writing career that you've felt clueless about? Do you think fiction authors need a platform, branding, taglines, etc? I'm excited to hear your thoughts!
Jamie Carie


  1. Hi, Jamie. I know what a platform is, but could you please explain what "branding" is and give me some examples? Is one's genre a brand--e.g., historical romance, or Regency? I'm guessing not. *scratching head* Thanks. Steph

  2. For Steph and anyone else who doesn't know, branding is keying in on what makes you unique and giving it a name or a phrase. For example, Virginia Smith writes "stories with humor and heart," Linore Rose Burkard writes "Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austin Soul," and Brandilyn Collins writes "seatbelt suspense." (That's my favorite.) Actually, I'm having the same issue as Jamie, and this week's post on my blog is a cry for branding help. You can read the post at http://kathrynpagecamp.blogspot.com.

  3. Wow - this is a common theme. This week on my blog (www.therehastobeabeginning.blogpsot.com) I'm trying to figure out how to expand my platform.

    At this point in my career (freelance writer; pre-pubblished novelist) I can't wait to "get branded" - I'd love to be able to sum up my writing style in a few concise words.

    And considering I don't have any books published yet, I think it's vital. There are so many books out there that it's hard for readers to know what to choose, but if I have a brand (and can therefore be categorized with other well-known writers) then people know what to expect.

    I don't think branding/platform is going to be easy, but I'm looking forward to building it.

  4. Thanks for explaining that so well, Kathryn. I like Brandilyn Collins brand and her tag line "seatbelt suspense" too! Here is an excellent post on branding by Chip MacGregor http://chipmacgregor.typepad.com/main/2008/11/talking-about-branding.html

  5. I like your idea of love/romance as your brand, Jamie! I think you could have lots of fun with that.

  6. Jamie, I think you have hit upon something you can use for branding.

    I have no clue what I am, but one agent told me I am "mostly homespun, thoroughly Hoosier" which I don't know what that means and haven't translated it into fiction! Ha

  7. I'll echo the crowd and say that I'm also trying to figure out how to brand my writing for modern markets. Problem is, I have published all across the spectrum: historical WW II novel, fantasy novel, sci-fi series of short stories, contemporary fiction.... In a way, part of me resists branding, because I don't want to block out inspiring ideas for stories that would exist outside of my personal brand. I look at C.S. Lewis (who also wrote all over the spectrum) and wonder if it could have been possible to "brand" him? Meanwhile, I'm still writing and still pondering...

  8. Concerning your "pesky fear of public speaking", let me know when you change your mind. You are a natural. I'll stand beside you if you want!

  9. This is something that troubles me, too, and I'm not published yet. (Not in my own book, that is.)

    I am a pastor's wife who rides a motorcycle and my current work in progress is about that (fiction). So I suppose that's my platform. I feel a bit like Corrie Ten Boom when her father assured her that when it was time, God would give her the ticket to be able to do what He would have her do. So, I wait for God to show me.
    Karla Akins