Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fearlessly putting yourself out there

One of the things that writers are told over and over again in writers’ groups and at writers’ conferences is that you need to build an author’s platform. By that, I mean you have to develop a following so that the agents you query will look at you more favorably; they judge your commitment to your project by how hard you’re willing to work to develop your author’s platform. The understandable assumption is that the more extensive your following, the more apt your book will sell when it is finally published. Building your platform is even more important—no, essential—if you intend to self-publish.

So how do you build an author’s platform? By getting yourself out there. I jump at every chance to speak in front of people, whether it’s to teach a mini-workshop for my writers’ group, moderate a panel discussion at the library, or perform stand-up comedy. You have to make yourself known—you can create a website or start a blog site and then actively participate on other blog sites and online forums. Google “author’s platform”—and you’ll see there are a million other things you can do to build awareness of yourself and your project.

For some people, maybe even most, “putting yourself out there” is easier said than done. They question their credibility and sense of self-worth by wondering, “Who am I to be speaking to anyone? What do I know? What if someone doesn't like me or thinks I’m stupid?” Some people are just plain uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion because they were brought up to value modesty. How many times have you heard, “Don’t brag”?

But the fact is, if you want to sell books you need to build your author’s platform, and building your platform requires you to put yourself out there. Sorry, there’s no way around it. And another fact is, the more you put yourself out there, the more you open yourself up to criticism and to people who for one reason or another will put you down.

So what?

Really. So what?

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