Platform Building Workshop, Part 3 by Cassiel Knight

Last Wednesday, I shared with you 12 key points from Chuck Sambuchino’s book on Platform building. This is a bit out of order but based on the comments I hear from authors all over the web, it’s good to remind everyone.

NicheYour Niche

One of the things I consistently hear, especially in branding, is about defining your brand, or in the case of platform, your niche. As we discussed, platform and branding is about being known for something and while it’s easier to determine this in non-fiction, it can be done in fiction.  Mr. Sambuchino offers another definition of niche – what do you want people to think of when they think of you? (page 74).

Either using yourself or a blog/site you frequently visit for a specific purpose, how about sharing, in the comments, examples of what people, businesses and/or sites are known for? I know you have a few at the tip of your tongue.

This is one of those things I think is cool about platform. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. You just need to figure out:

  • What you do best
  • What you know most
  • What you are passionate about and want to be known for

For example, I’m working hard at being known as an expert in taking body language concepts and incorporating them into writing – showing authors how they can make their stories and characters come alive with body language. I’m, by no means, the only one teaching body language but I’m the only one really diving into the science of body language and expanding it. I have a newsletter I’m starting, a website and I teach a class a year at Savvy Authors on this.

You might say, that’s all well and good for non-fiction but how to you intend to leverage that for your fiction? Well, my tag line is Romance with Kick-Assitude and what is body language but attitude?

Now, if you are shaking your head and thinking this is complicated, yes, it is. But this is my path and it’s taken years to find it but bottom line, I started out with Romance with Kick-Assitude. A small piece and that’s just where you need to start.

A topic in Mr. Sambuchino’s book asks how specific is specific enough? I think is worth sharing. One thing you do is take a broader topic, like writing which we are all familiar with, and figure out how you can narrow that even more. Here are a couple of examples from the book:

  • Instead of writing, how about the niche “writing about cats or for cat publications/websites.”
  • Instead of health, try the niche “how to build brain power and have a better memory.”
  • Instead of travel, try the niche “the best family friendly places to visit in the Northwest.”

Got some examples to share?

Also remember, that just because you start out with a narrow niche, doesn’t mean you can’t expand later.

Once you’ve narrowed your niche, found out what you want people to think about when they think about you, then do some research about books, websites, blogs, etc. that are similar. See what they are doing well and what they might be missing that you can fill the gap. That’s what I did in deciding my focus on body language. There’s a lot out there but nothing, other than workshops and those generally, show an author how to take the science of body language into writing.

So, what constitutes a fiction niche? Mr. Sambuchino says there are three platforms we get to choose from to create our niche:

  • Loose subject connection – chose a major theme in your books and make that your focus – ie your books feature a small town. Your niche can them be about small town life.
  • Altogether different – something that has little to no connection to your books. I think mine is a blend between this one and loose subject. This is where you build your platform about what you love. What this one can do is give you a different pool to connect with and when they do, you are the brand and can sell your books that way.
  • Writing focus – your writing journey, personal successes and challenges. These are great to connect with new writers. The good news is there are a lot of newer writers. The bad news? There are a lot of blogs targeting new writers so you need to brainstorm some kind of specific focus. The blog I share with three others, See Jane Publish, was supposed to be a journey blog – about our journeys as writers into publication. As we got published via different routes, it morphed into our journeys but more than that. I focus on industry and marketing, Susan focuses on motivation and she’s our cheerleader and Nancy is our craft and common sense goddess. We may derail a bit but we try to stay true to that.

Let’s end this post with a reminder about why this is so important for fiction writers.

We are told and told and told that our job is to write great books. I don’t disagree. It used to be that writing great books is all you really had to do but those days are done. REALLY, REALLY DONE. I don’t care how much you kick and scream, get over it. The digital and self-published revolution changed it for everyone. There is so much competition for our writing that the author sitting back and only writing, even great books, is going to be ONLY writing, not selling.

If that’s all you want, that’s fabulous. And sure, you can sit back and do nothing and get some sales. That maybe your line in the sand – a few sales here and there and that’s okay. Nothing wrong with that.

However, I suspect 90% publishing in any format, want to sell and sell well. That’s not going to happen by just writing great books. And if you throw out the superstars as examples, I can’t stop you but those are the exception, not the rule.

The reality is that publishers, Big 6 or otherwise, need books that sell and if you aren’t one of them, you will be released or not contracted on your next book. If you are self-published, no sales and no potential New York contract.

Building a platform and determining your brand can only HELP you. Here’s a perfect perspective offered by Mr. Sambuchino and I couldn’t say it better so here it is word for word:

“Think of it from the perspective of a publishing executive. Sales are a bit down, so she’s acquiring fewer books and being careful about what gets published. Then an employee appears in her office holding two manuscripts to consider, but notes they can only say yes to one. The executive reads both books, and neither disappoints…The executive can’t decide which one to choose. Then she asks the employee about both writers’ platforms. It turns out Writer #1 is an enthusiastic guest blogger for some big sites and has 7,500 followers on Twitter, among other accomplishments. Writer #2 actually “hates social media sites” and is “not a fan of being interviewed.””

Who would you choose?

And finally, I know I’ve said to become good at one thing versus trying to do it all. I’d like to add that make sure the one thing you pick is actually useful in getting you to READERS, not fellow writers. For example, there is this great blog that is targeted to writers, not readers. I’ve heard authors argue that they post there so they don’t need to do anything else. Wrong–if they want to reach readers.

If they only care about reaching other writers, then it’s a great place for them. But if they are trying to sell, to reach readers who will buy, it shouldn’t be the only place they are. This is one of those times that focusing on one thing is a problem.

Next time, we’ll talk about how to choose the right platform venue.


Posted on March 6, 2013, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Gee whiz, have you given me tons to consider, Cassiel – like guest blogging some. There is definitely more to writing than just writing, that’s for sure!


  2. Maggie Jaimeson

    I’m sure I’m not alone when I want to shrink from this whole branding concept. I have a non-fiction platform, distance education, with textbooks published. But that doesn’t help my fiction branding one bit. I never even have my characters studying by distance education in my novels. (big sigh)

    My tag line is “writing between the lines.” I initially chose that because I’ve always written cross-genre, even when traditional publishing was still the only place to go. I wanted readers to understand this isn’t traditional romance (where all there is a romance) and it’s not traditional science fiction (where no romance occurs). All my books have AT LEAST to genres associated with them.

    Later, I realized I could capitalize on that because I write scenes and characters that are thinking, feeling, acting “between the lines.” In other words, the reader realizes that there is more than what’s on the page. It’s like getting a letter from your frenemy. What the letter says and what it means are always two different things. The dialog with my characters is frequently contradicted by the body language. The reader gets it and, I hope, appreciates it.

    In just this past year, I thought more about the tag line and how to embody it in my blogs. I don’t have a good answer except to be me. Who I am is someone who tries to think deeply and to “read between the lines” all the time. Whether I’m doing a book review or analyzing a book contract or discussing an article about new e-reader technology, I’m always trying to decipher what is really being said–what is the underlying meaning or agenda. I do the same thing when I comment on other blogs too (thus my long-winded comments). 🙂

    I don’t know if it’s an easy brand. I sincerely doubt when someone thinks of Maggie Jaimeson they immediately thing “writing between the lines” or “reading/thinking between the lines.” For me, though, it feels comfortable. It’s me. I don’t have to fake anything. Now, how to salt minds with the tagline? Hmmm…sounds like a good blog topic for the future.


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