Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Platform Helped Grow My Writing Business by Cherie Burbach

Platform. There, I said it. Are you covering your ears? It’s become a word no writer wants to hear these days. I run a writing site and network with lots of writers and hear this from them: “My publisher wants me to blog, so….” Or “My agent told me I should start writing about this subject, so can I post here?”

I hear lots of complaints about how busy writers are and how they don’t have time for social media. I get it. I was the same way once upon a time. A decade ago I published a little book of poetry just for me. I hadn’t planned on selling it. I’d never sent my poetry anywhere for consideration, so publishing the indie way was a new frontier.

But still, I marketed that book. And then a year later I took the profits from my sales of 1,000 books that first year (which I was totally amazed by – I mean, this was poetry after all) and published two more books the next year, another poetry book and a nonfiction book about relationships. And for the nonfiction book, I went all out with content marketing, although I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time.

Slowly, by doing promotion and writing articles I was building a platform. It’s been a decade, and in looking back I can say that I built my writing career somewhat backward from everyone else. It started to promote a book and then the book helped bolster the career. But I do a lot of things backwards, so that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Early on, I got involved with sites like Facebook and Twitter mainly to promote my books and freelance articles, which is the worst possible reason to get on them. But I quickly found that the social part of social media was just about the coolest thing ever. It wasn’t a chore or something I needed to do to get work. It became a way to connect with readers, answer questions, be helpful, and learn about the world.

Once I started doing social media because I wanted to, the effectiveness of my efforts took off. (click to tweet) I wasn’t just tweeting lamely one or two tweets a day because I had to, I was finding conversations and interacting with people. I get upwards of a million hits a month to my various blogs in part because of social media.

Here’s some cool stuff that’s happened because of my platform:
  • I’ve been contacted several times for TV and radio appearances because someone stumbled across one of my social media profiles
  • I have one of the top essays on NPR’s This I Believe program and it has stayed that way for nine years
  • I’ve sold thousands of my indie books
  • I have regular readers and people that email me weekly
  • I’ve been contacted for amazing jobs like hosting a TV show (I turned it down – too much of an introvert for that – but still it was cool!), consulting for a dating site, and writing a regular column for a major publication
  • Now, people find me rather than me doing all the hunting work to find readers and jobs. Now, a decade later, social media helps me show people who I really am and allows my personal blogs and projects to thrive in surprising ways. My platform came slowly, piece by piece, and has helped me live out my purpose.

Are you still covering your ears when someone talks about platform? Don’t! Embrace it and be real. The rest will come.

Cherie Burbach is a poet, mixed media artist, and freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and relationships. She's written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. Her latest book is: Emotional Affairs: How to Stop, Prevent, and Move On from an Emotional Affair. Visit her website for more info, cherieburbach.com.

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