Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writing Platform: What Is It and How to Establish One

Today's guest blogger is children's author & freelance writer  Linda Osmundson. Linda and I have been in the same critique group for over 15 years so I consider her not only a wonderful writer, but a great friend as well. She has published many articles and her first children's book, How The West Was Drawn, was released in February and she has already signed a contract for another book.
I attended a presentation by author and radio personality  Dom Testa at Author U in Denver. The title related to an author being a “black hole.” Yes, like in the universe – gravity pulls toward a black hole. The talk was actually about platform.

 I thought platform was the experience necessary to build yourself up as a speaker/expert on a writing subject - what makes you able to write what you write. In my case  - teaching writing classes, docent experience, a former teacher, knowledgeable on my subject of Charles Russell, all contribute to my writing How the West Was Drawn: Cowboy Charlie’s Art.
He described platform as the "black hole" that pulls in people interested in your passion. They gravitate to you! A one sentence that creates interest in your passion - like his is teaching kids that "Smart is Cool". He then talks about what makes "Smart is Cool" and much later says, "By the way I have a book……" 

He feels the platform is aside from your book. The book is just the plus of your passion. LeAnn Thieman talks about balancing one’s life then sells her book on that subject at the back of the room. Other authors do the same. He named several people present who’s speaking/writing/selling of books created six figure incomes. Create enough interest in the speech that people definitely want your book. Don't give it all away, just tantalize them.

Let me try to explain it better. There are five points to a platform. Yes, he worked in schools for years before writing his YA novels that stress without saying “Smart is Cool”. He saw the kids dumb down in order to be accepted as cool. That experience is like mine many years of teaching techniques for looking at art and giving docent tours in art museums. But, platform is the message you want to get out there. Mine could be "Looking isn't Seeing" as a slogan with the passion being to interest children in art and how to look at art and appreciate it. And, a sideline might be to teach other subjects by using art or books.
His five steps are:

1. Create value
- give something tangible in return.

2. Provide something that is interesting to many people - how many people are interested in your product and can use it? He gave examples of author's wanting to appear on his show who are very passionate about subjects that don’t have broad appeal. They will have a hard time with their platform. He used his Big Brain Club as an example of something that did have broad appeal. It has nothing to do with his book except that the books teach "Smart is Cool" and kids don't realize he teaches them that as they read. I guess I give something tangible in that they learn how to look at art and take away those tools for future viewing.

3. After the Presentation - the presentation stays with them as something they grew from and want to use. Or, want to hear him speak again as I did. It drew me in enough to travel to Denver to hear him again. Make someone want to follow you.

4. Connection to writing - best with non-fiction but can be with fiction also. His books are fiction, I believe. His books help kids become the best they can be.

5. Passion - be passionate about something – Children's author, Ellen Javernick is passionate about teaching spelling and reading techniques and teaching period. I'm passionate about art and getting people to look. LeAnn is passionate about spirituality.

Your platform is the spark that creates an interest in your passion, not an interest in your book. It is a hook, just like in writing. Give take-aways like in a Chicken Soup story or other writing. In our writer’s group, we always ask “What is the take-away?” Tantalize just enough that they want more. He gave an example of TED, and their global conferences. I have to look them up. They gave free advice on their website. Someone said if they give it away, no one will want to come to their very expensive conferences ($6000). The conferences sell out every time because people want more.

He suggests putting video on your website. Told how inexpensive you could do it. He suggested using iTunes downloads of your presentations. Imbed a video in YouTube. Post a video on Facebook or other social media. Use professional brochures. Design a business card with information on website, blog, etc, and the book info on the back. Pass out well designed flyers and posters. Sometimes the publisher is willing to create and print them.

When you have a school visit, always send a book order form. He wants people to work the same amount they are on promoting, but get twice the results. He listed about 12 opportunities for presentations he received in a month. He didn’t solicit them; they came to him by word-of-mouth. Create that word-of-mouth - the ability to draw gravity to your "black hole". He kept saying, "And by the way, I wrote a book….." but it was after his platform drew in interested people. He says his radio personality is not known across the country, only in Colorado, so that doesn't bring in requests for presentations. It is his platform that draws people.

Check out Get people to review your book on blogs. Expect some bad reviews. Get friends to review your book on

You must have a website and he suggested one for every platform you have. Perhaps, I should have a website on me, on teaching writing, and on art appreciation.

I hope this summary helps you create a platform for your writing.




Faith E. Hough said...

This is very interesting; thanks for sharing it with us!

Judith Briles said...

Thanks Linda--the more we let people in on Colorado's better their writing, their books and success! We are going to take the Author's Platform to the next level at the June 16th meeting. I'm going, along with 2 or 3 other others--deliver what we exactly did to mushroom our success.

I'm going to post your Blog on Facebook/AuthorU Judith Briles

Dom Testa said...

Linda, thanks very much for posting this. It was a pleasure to see you again, and I wish you continued success with How The West Was Drawn!

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