It’s time to submit your story! If you haven’t already, click here to upload your work and send it to the judges.

Best of luck, everyone!

What Fiction Authors Really Need to Know About Their Platform

This post is brought to you by The Story Cartel Course, an online class that will show you how to build a fiction platform, grow your audience, and sell more books. You can get a free Platform guide and learn more here.

Several times a month, writers  ask me, “How can I balance blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, Goodreading, and all the other stuff I’m supposed to do to build my platform, while also focusing on my writing? I have a full time job, a family, and a cat. I just don’t have time for all that other stuff.”

Writers today are overwhelmed, frustrated, and let’s be honest, a little pissed off. Why do we have to build a platform anyway? Can’t we just focus on writing? 

your platform, your stage

Photo by Dualdflipflop

It all came to a head for me when I read Michael Hyatt’s bestselling book Platform: How to Get Noticed in a Noisy WorldThe book was interesting enough, but when I looked for information that related to fiction writers, I found the only advice specifically focused on helping fiction writers was tossed into an appendix in the back of the book.

An appendix! 

That’s when I realized most of the so-called “experts” who said every author needs a platform were really just speaking to non-fiction authors. They didn’t have a clue what a fiction platform would even look like.

Meanwhile, thousands of fiction writers followed their advice, creating blogs they resented, Twitter accounts that overwhelmed them, and Facebook pages with thirty-seven likes. For most creative writers, this whole platform experiment has been a waste of time.

That’s when I decided I needed to learn everything I could about how to build a platform specifically designed for fiction writers.

How NOT to Create a Fiction Platform

I started my search for the best way to create a platform for fiction authors by talking to popular writing bloggers like Joanna PennHolly Lisle, and K.M. Weiland. These authors had built large audiences by blogging about the writing and publishing process. I wanted to know if their audience, mainly of other writers, also read their fiction.

In other words, is writing about writing a good way to build a platform for fiction authors? Should all fiction authors create writing how-to blogs?

Their answers surprised me. Here’s what veteran novelist Holly Lisle said when I asked her whether her blog’s audience overlapped her fiction audience:

Not so much…. The difference between readers and writers is the difference between people looking to buy houses, and those looking to buy hammers with which to build houses…. I ended up creating two almost completely separate audiences.  There’s a bit of crossover, but I wouldn’t put it above 10%.

Ten percent?! That means most of the authors who started a blog to give writing advice, weren’t just postponing their own fiction writing to build their “platform,” they weren’t even building very good platforms in the first place.

Take Back Your Platform

To really understand how to create a useful platform for fiction writers, I think it’s important to talk about what a platform really is.

Many default to saying that your platform is your blog. A few, savvy experts, say that while having a blog is important, to build a successful platform you also need to have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and a Pinterest account for good measure.

And yet, J.K. Rowling didn’t have a blog when she wrote Harry Potter. Does she have a platform? Stephen King doesn’t have a Twitter account. Does he have a platform? Agatha Christie, the bestselling novelist of all time, wasn’t alive when Facebook was invented. Did she have a platform?

It’s time to take back our platforms:

  • My blog is not my platform. (Share that and take back your platform)
  • My Twitter account is not my platform. (Share that)
  • My Facebook page is not my platform. (Share that)
  • My Goodreads profile is not my platform.  (Share that)

Your blog, social media accounts, the Internet itself, they are just tools. Your platform is bigger and more important than any of them. Platforms existed before these tools, and they’ll continue to exist after they’re replaced by newer, shinier tools.

What Is Your Platform, Then?

In The Story Cartel Course, we spend two full sessions talking about platform, and I share what I’ve learned from more than a year of studying how platforms work for fiction writers. Here is the definition of platform I give my students:

Your platform is the authority, trust, and attention given to you from a group of people.

Your platform isn’t your blog. It’s the trust you have with your audience.

Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling sold less than 1,500 copies when it was first published. When the media discovered Robert Galbraith was actually the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, the book instantly became a bestseller. Why? Because we love Harry Potter and even though The Cuckoo’s Calling is a (very) adult detective novel rather than a middle-grade series about a secret community of wizards, we trust J.K. Rowling to tell a good story.

We trust her, just as readers trust Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, and William Shakespeare. What does this mean? You don’t build your platform by blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking about your writing process. That’s not how Jane Austen built her platform. You build your platform by sharing your stories.

“My stories are my platform.”

Share that and take back your platform.

The Secret to Building Your Platform

After a year of searching for the perfect platform for fiction authors, here’s what I discovered.

This isn’t much of a secret. It’s the same thing writers have been doing for thousands of years. Authors built their platforms using this secret method before the Internet was invented, before the first printing press was built, before even the alphabet was written on stone tablets. Writers built their platforms through their stories.

The most important thing you can do to build your writing platform is to share your next story. (Share that?)

You can and  should use tools like a blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads to share your stories. After all, a book is  a tool, too. It’s a wonderful tool that we love, but it’s just a tool.

Don’t confuse story sharing tools with your platform. Your platform is too important for that.

5 Tools To Share Your Story Further

The Story Cartel CourseI think it’s possible to build an online platform without taking time away from your creative writing. To help you do this, I’ve created a brief guide called  5 Tools to Share Your Story Further, specifically designed for creative writers who don’t want to be owned by their blog or their social media accounts anymore, but instead want to use those tools to grow their audience and create deep connections with their readers.

The guide is completely free for writers who sign up for the Story Cartel Course waiting list. There’s no commitment, just helpful information. You can get the free guide, 5 Tools to Share Your Story Further, here.

In a few weeks, we’re going to be opening enrollment for the Story Cartel Course. If you’d like to build a better platform, grow your audience, and sell more books. You can sign up for more information about the course and get free lessons here.

What do you think? What is the best thing you’ve done to build your writing platform?

PRACTICE

For today’s practice, share your story. You can choose to share your story on your blog, as a Facebook post, with sequential tweets, or even simply in the comments section of this post. After you share, leave a comment with a link to your story so we can read it!

Have fun!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • debra elramey

    Joe, this makes PERFECT SENSE. Excellent advice here.

    My platform is magazine publishing. Serious writers need more than the blogosphere (that being so competitive and overwhelming that you
    can drown in that ocean fast).

    What I enjoy most about the print magazine venue is that you get to share, minus the reciprocal factor (which is ever so time consuming). And I’m sure that’s how Stephen King (who did get his start in magazines) moved on up in this world.

    It’s just easier for me to write an essay or article or poem or story, figure out the audience for the intended publication, and send my stuff along without having to worry about feedback! (Unless it’s from the editor).

    Thank you again for this awesome reminder of how I need to keep my head in the game without going under, and for being the blessing that you are to the world, Joe.

  • If I wasn’t in my car I’d stand up and cheer! I started reading about platforms a couple years ago and thought for a fiction writer it was the equivalent of busywork. I have a blog for the blog’s sake, a place to practice and connect but not really to build a platform. I didn’t like the attitude building a platform created in me toward people and toward writing either. Thanks for telling it straight!

    • Impressive that you’re commenting from your car. I hope you’re not driving!

  • Katie Cross

    VERY interest perspective. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve every heard anyone approach a ‘platform’ from this perspective. I’ve always assumed that platform=people, not blogs. I just used my blog as a way to reach out to people. I like the way you’re going with this, and look forward to hearing more.

  • Nancy DeMarco

    Yesssss! I always ignore my blog, but now I feel empowered to ignore my bog. 🙂

    • Ha! I don’t think ignoring your blog is necessarily the right answer (although, it might be the right answer for your platform), but I do think you should blog the wrong way.

  • LetiDelMar

    Wonderfull and informative post.

    I started up my blog/Twitter/Facebook when I self-published over a year ago because, like everyone, I was told I needed a platform. Since then, the purpose of my blog has become more focussed on helping other Indies out with writing and publishing tips and I have started taking my reviews of other books more seriously with a site just for my book reviews.

    Has it translated into book sales? Sort of.. My book reviews drive traffic to my books and I have just published a book on How To Self-Publish. I also get to read a whole lot of books for free 😉 The bigest benefit of my “platform” has been the network of other blogers and writers I have developed that has made me a better and more sucessful writer.

    So I’m not sure how many of my blog/Twitter/Facebook followers buy my books, but I’m sell a whole lot more books than I was 6 months ago.

    http://wordswithletidelmar.blogspot.com/

    http://bookswithletidelmar.blogspot.com/

  • This is a great reminder, Joe! 🙂 Thanks! I am going through my edits and hope to put my short story up on Story Cartel sometime soon!

    • Do it. 🙂

      • Helene

        Me too, am doing the same thing. Working on my editing, and then putting those stories on Story Cartel.

  • Diana Shallard

    Thank you for writing this, Joe! I hope fiction writers take note. Just yesterday I read a tweet from an author lamenting the fact that twitter had only authors following other authors, and book sales were possible only when the book was given away. Funny how we’ve become our own worst enemies! Your point about creating trust (and, I would add, showing our unique personalities) was spot on. And now, back to writing (my novel, short stories) since that’s what writers do – and should be doing.

    • Thanks Diana. Yes, good point about showing your personality. To me, that’s the best way to earn trust and attention.

  • Helene

    I shared a story tonight on my blog.
    Helene Moore shared a link.
    The Last Dance/Writing Practice helenemoore.com
    The
    Last Dance Diana knew this would be an extraordinary night. She took a
    leisurely bath, filling the tub with scented oils. Vanilla and sweet
    almond oil mixed with lavender surrounded her with la…

    • Gosh. That was well-written, Helene, but so sad!

      • Helene

        Thanks for saying it was well written. I think because Howard’s diagnosis was a secret 20 years ago, I was thinking sad thoughts, and waiting for the second shoe to drop.
        Thank goodness it didn’t.

        This time around it’s not a secret, so all is well.

  • Joe, I needed to be reminded of this. I’ve spend a good deal of the summer months not writing. And my struggle was blogging vs. other writing, fiction vs. non-fiction, etc. Although I plan to continue blogging, I desire to focus upon fiction. Therefore, I need to leave the guilt behind for those times when I don’t blog, when I don’t engage in social media, when I don’t follow the “standard” rules to build a platform. Great post!

    • Right, Joan. It doesn’t have to be either or. You can share pieces of your story on your blog. That way it’s fiction vs. fiction. No conflict.

  • Joe, you are right on the money. Just talked to a new author who’d been told all the things he was “supposed” to do. His focus should be on finishing his story first and then taking it to readers.

    As a fiction writer I’ve also seen the same thing you mention about lack of crossover. My self-publishing audience is completely different than my fiction audience.

    Thanks for the great insight.

    • We have so many “supposed to’s” these days, don’t we?

  • Yvette Carol

    Absolutely fascinating, Joe, and this is such a topical subject too, because we writers everywhere are struggling with the concept of platform. As an isolated writer, it’s difficult for me to know if I’m doing enough or the right things for that matter. This is actually the first time I’ve heard it said that it’s your stories that comprise platform rather than your efforts with social media.

    • Totally, Yvette. All that other stuff might support or maintain your platform, but it rarely builds your platform. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tweet your stories!

      • Yvette Carol

        ‘The best thing a writer can do for their career is: write. The best promotion is a good book, better promotion is more good books. Everything else is secondary.’
        This morning, from Bob Mayer’s blog post.

  • Shelina Valmond

    You have just validated in one article what I’ve been feeling for the past six months. I have a blog that I’ve been putting time into for almost a year. I even took a TribeWriters course to help me redefine my platform and voice but deep down, something didn’t feel right and I couldn’t figure out what it was.

    “That means most of the authors who started a blog to give writing advice, weren’t just postponing their own fiction writing to build their “platform,” they weren’t even building very good platforms in the first place.”

    This is exactly where I’ve been spending my valuable writing and editing time. I don’t want that, I want a real audience of readers. I believe I know what’s missing from my platform now: my stories.

    I just think you saved me from another year of aimless “writing advice” blogging. I think I’m going to do a blog post on this myself and link to you. Too many of us are still struggling with this one. Time to get back to basics and introduce the world to my stories.

    I owe you one, Joe.

  • I prefer a balance, build a good foundation is a good job

  • valsala menon

    here’s a short story i penned down recently. Please give feedback

  • valsala menon

    hi, not able to send you the story… or have you received it?

  • I wanted to write articles. Magazines, ezines, etc. Maybe one day a nonfiction book. I have very little time for that. I’m too busy writing and promoting the blog. Keeping it fed with three posts a week, then pointing to it on Twitter, Google plus and Facebook, designing pinnable pics for pinterest and locating free graphics, top keywords, and redesigning my sidebar yet again. Some days I love my blog. Some days I hate it. Some days I wish I had more time to write better content. Other days I want to just sit down and write the book and worry about platform some other day. But then I contemplated starting all over….

  • Pingback: Are You A Fiction Author Building A Non-Fiction Platform? | A Writer Inspired()

  • Write the book. A good blog can’t make up for a lack of stories or some good and some bad stories. If blogging is not your way of sharing your story, you can always go door-to-door like a Jehovah’s witness.

    Honestly, I’ve been using my blog to find critique partners, because they will make my books better. Building an audience would come as a bonus and I refuse to spend hours and hours chasing rabbits on the internet.

    If you want your book to spread like wildfire, write a book that they can’t forget, that they can’t help but talk about. The medium is still the same: word of mouth. It just travels a hellovalot faster these days.

  • Pingback: To Blog or To Write | My First Fantasy Novel()

  • Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [08/26/13] - YESENIA VARGAS()

  • Pingback: Should Fiction Writers Bother with Blogs and Websites? | change it up editing()

  • M.C. Muhlenkamp

    I totally agree with Katie Cross, platform=people, not blogs. I started a blog to write about writing while taking the story cartel course and realized, rather quickly, that it was the wrong way to approach my platform. More recently I’ve been using my blog to reach out to people who have read my stories and give them inside peeks to my writing world, not to explain how I write, why I write, or how to write better, but using it as an extension of the world I created in my stories. Social media is a great way to connect with people, but it can become such a chaotic pool of advertising and promotions. I was drowning in it, until I realized I don’t have to do it that way. I’ve met great people through Twitter and Goodreads because I’ve used them as a medium to connect with my true platform, which is of course my readers.

  • Annecdotist

    Totally agree! Have retweeted my stories are my platform. Here’s my latest publication, about a young woman who wakes up on the morning of her wedding to find her neck has grown as long as her arm:

    http://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk/2013/08/the-neck-by-anne-goodwin.html

    I also have an active website where all my publications can be accessed:

    http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/

  • Jay Warner

    This makes so much sense to me. I have felt relatively comfortable building my non-fiction platform, but not so much my fiction platform. I’d much rather write stories than blog, unless I’m blogging about my stories. Thank you for posting this information.

  • Ian

    Hallejuah Joe. Thank you for writing this post and for your support of the fiction writing community. Having read a lot about platform, I then observed how many successful fiction authors were selling lots of novels but didn’t really use social media nor blogging to do it. What they had was a catalogue of stories.

    Having looked at Story Cartel when you first launched it, I’ll definitely give it greater consideration now as I believe you’ve captured the essence of the difference between what underpins the essence of fiction & non-fiction platforms.

    Joe, I also really enjoyed your interview with Chip Ingram in the latest Bible Study Mag. Well done.

  • Jane Endacott

    An important thing to remember is to use social media that’s right for you. To say that writer’s “should” use Facebook, Twitter, Pintarest, Tumblr, or whatever else is a huge misconception and epic waste of time.

    I use Twitter frequently to share blog posts and articles that give great writing advice or say something interesting about literature/publishing. At first I started doing it just for the hell of it. But then it helped me connect with other writers who appreciate that I’ve promoted their writing. In a few cases I’ve developed more lasting connections with writers and consistent readers of my blog. Twitter is quick and easy, and ever since I started using Hoot Suite I’ve been much more efficient at posting tweets.

    I do not use Facebook for my blog (but I have a personal account) nor do I use Pintarest, because there is absolutely no good reason whatsoever for me to use those. To build a following, I’d have to put more work into it than I would get out of it. Maybe down the road things will change, but for now it just doesn’t make sense.

    The important thing is to do what makes sense for you.

  • Rebekah Gregory

    This is very interesting. My focus has been entirely on building the platform for a technology writer so our strategy is similar but different. While you emphasize “sharing your story” a technology writer “shares information and expertise.”

    As his Business & Social Media Manager I use every means possible to share his information and expertise, and to build him into a brand. Together we’ve managed to go from writing 5 books in 10 years, to over 25 books in 7 years.

    Some of the keys to our success are:

    1) To never stop learning
    2) Not being afraid to make mistakes
    3) Persevering even when it feels like it’s a waste of time
    4) Not seeking glory for ourselves but focusing on the needs of others

  • Pingback: JONATHAN FRANZEN’S PLATFORM THAT WRITERS DON’T NEED PLATFORMS | Word Savant()

  • Holli Moncrieff

    Great post. I’ve often wondered if having a strong blog following corresponds to book sales. It’s interesting to see this perspective. I started a series where I serially blog one of my books on Fridays, chapter by chapter. I’d love your opinion on this approach. My launch was very strong, but readership response has declined with each chapter…I’m assured people still are engaged in the story but I’m wondering if I can sustain their interest by publishing this way. In any case, I’m committed now! http://thekickboxingwriter.blogspot.ca/search/label/Fiction%20Fridays

    • I think serialization is the future, Holli. But for the time being, blogs have a hard time as carriers of fiction for some reason. It might be the context, blogs are generally journals and dispensers of advice, not places we go for fictional stories. But good for you for experimenting and putting your work out there.

      • Holli Moncrieff

        Thanks, Joe! I had one bad week, but other than that, the momentum seems to be building nicely.

  • Pingback: Calling All Fiction Authors — Platform Up! | Editing Addict()

  • Angela Dusenberry

    Love your article. Here’s my story: Twelve year old Kayla Anderson is devastated when she loses her father during a school shooting. Dealing with a move, frenemies, boy troubles, and a life threatening event at the Oregon Caves are just some of the obstacles in her life. Read my stories for middle school girls to find out how she not only overcomes these trials, but ends up being a hero in the process. Visit http://www.angeladusenberry.com for details. Book titles: “UNDERCOVER ANGELS: Kayla’s Big Move,” and “UNDERCOVER ANGELS: The Oregon Caves Trip.” http://www.amazon.com/UNDERCOVER-ANGELS-Kaylas-Move-ebook/dp/B00632QWK6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1365699347&sr=1-1&keywords=undercover+angels+kayla%27s+big+move

  • Lara and Jason Collinsworth

    We (Jason and Lara Collinsworth) wrote a cannabis superhero adventure novel called The Unrevealed and are working on our platform to get an agent. Here’s Jason’s personal story of how medical marijuana saved Jason’s life.
    https://www.facebook.com/theunrevealedseries

  • Pingback: How Long Should Your Blog Post Be? A Writer’s Guide()

  • Pingback: The First 90 Days to Your Writing Success()

  • Kimberly McNeeley

    I am exceptionally cheerful to come here and suit the understudies by sending quality and sensible substance on the web premier paper writing service. We likewise have need for instruction.

  • Pingback: Readers, I Need Your Two-cents | Creative Pathways()

  • Pingback: Platform Shmatform, I Said More Ham: Mysteries of the Traditional Publishing Path Revealed | litgrit()

  • Cathy Smith

    I’ll definitely give it greater consideration now as I believe you’ve captured the essence of the difference between what underpins the essence of fiction & non-fiction platforms. Seahawks Beanie

  • Pingback: Deciding the Length – Cutaway Cafe()

  • Pingback: Blogging for Authors: Must We? |()

  • Pingback: How Long Should Your Blog Post Be?()

  • Pingback: On Being A Writer and Platform Building - Leia Writing()