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!