Craft: I was recently asked by a writer if she should sign up for my beginning level platform class. She hadn’t established herself as a published writer yet, so I suggested that she focus on this goal first. You can’t really establish a platform if you don’t know what your specialty is. And there is only one way to improve your writing craft — and that is repetition.
So, it won’t matter if you read books and take classes if you don’t apply what you learned and repeat it over and over again to develop the muscle memory. You’ll need that muscle memory to write a longer work, like a book. Former students I’ve taught, who have books coming out, have primarily focused on progressing their craft. Improving the quality of your writing through execution and repetition is the foundation of a solid career for any writer.
Pitching: I think the word “pitching” is intimidating. Let’s call it “sharing” instead because when it comes right down to it, selling is simply sharing what you have to offer with others. Sharing can happen verbally or in writing (aka a “query”). Now, here’s the key. When you have worked long and hard on your craft, you want to share your skills with others. Pitching is how this sharing happens.
But, contrary to popular belief, pitching is not usually innate; it’s learned. So if you think only natural salespeople can share their work effectively, think again. I can teach anybody how to query effectively, though, it’s more complicated than most writers think. When I reflect on my former students with books or book deals in the works, I can see that they worked consistently to develop pitching skills and then used them.
Platform Building: At the point where you are writing, pitching, and selling your work-congratulations! You are building your platform. Of course, there’s a lot more you need to do. I’ve outlined the process in a checklist of forms you can write to describe your writing career in Get Known Before the Book Deal. It’s your job to be your own publicist and report on your steady progress or else nobody else is going to ever hear about it.
This is just the beginning of platform development but if you start here and come back and revisit this exercise often, you will always know intuitively what the best platform directions are for you. Some great examples from my among my former students are Cindy Hudson (http://motherdaughterbookclub.wordpress.com/) and Jenny Kales (http://www.nut-freemom.blogspot.com/).
Remember, writers, there’s truly nothing to be gained from daydreaming about overnight success. Lasting success happens slowly and steadily and builds over time in a way that amplifies the integrity you’ve established. When integrity is the focus, success in inevitable.
Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.