Writers Platform: Know Your Plan

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This week’s guest post is brought to you by Charli Mills, which she discusses various plans for your writing career. Thanks, Charli!

A writer’s platform is a presence you create around your name as a writer and what you produce as a writer. It includes your name, what you write, how you write and who reads your work. Think of your platform as both a billboard and a launching pad. It advertises who you are and promotes what you do.

Why Bother with a Plan?

If a writer’s platform focuses on your name and writing, for what purpose do you want that publicity? Because that’s what it is – your platform brings media attention to what you do or who you are. It’s promotion for what you write or sell. Before you build, plan.

We all know that a goal is something we want to attain. Typically a plan maps out the journey with our goal as the destination. However, ask a writer, “Why do you write?” and you will likely hear responses beyond an observable and measurable goal.

I write because I have a story to tell.

I have a book in me.

I’ve always wanted to write.

I can’t not write.

I want to be the Hemingway of my era.

I love words. I really, really love words. And cats. But especially words.

For these kinds of reasons, writers believe they don’t need a plan. They simply need to write. Plans are for the writers who want to earn a living, sell books and develop a career. Yet, often even these writers don’t plan because it seems simple – write, revise, publish, sell, repeat.

However, any writer who builds a writer’s platform needs a plan in order for that platform to work. It’s like having all the components in a box that make up a bike. If you don’t follow a plan, you’ll have metal bars, screws, tires and handles that take you nowhere. Why do you have a writer’s platform? What is your plan?

Different Plans for Different Reasons

Writers need to know three plans: a business plan is for a product or service; a marketing plan is for promoting a product or service; and a strategic plan is for clarifying purpose or establishing priorities. These plans can help you build a writer’s platform to fit your needs, and you can have one or all three.

First, know the differences.

If you think of your writing as a profession, then think of it as a business. Your books will be the products. If you freelance, your writing contracts become your services. A business plan quantifies what you have to sell and how you will earn money. It’s what a bank would ask for if you took out a business loan. They’d want to know how you would pay it back.

Marketing is more than flying the “buy me” flag over your book or writing services. A marketing plan shows how the business plan will work (make money). If the business plan is based on you earning a specified amount of money per book sold or contract gained, then the marketing plan shows how you will be profitable.

The classic marketing plan is based on an ongoing cycle:

  1. Define your market (who will read your writing or hire you to write?)
  2. Query your market (ask what readers want or what companies need from a freelancer)
  3. Innovate (improve upon what exists in your market based on your queries)
  4. Set your price (what do readers or companies typically pay for what you write?)
  5. Distribute and promote (understand the marketing channels and promote within them)
  6. Evaluate (evaluate your writing, your books, your plans and understand market changes)

Your overall strategy, and your reason for having a writer’s platform, can be defined in a strategic plan. This is your map to the stars. A strategic plan requires a vision. Think of your vision as your northern star and use it to guide your planning over time. Businesses will often use a strategic plan to predict and adjust to a changing market. A writer can use it to give purpose to writing, to flesh out what that answer to “why write” means to you.

Take Time to Imagine Your Plan

While many businesses start with the business plan, I suggest writers begin with a strategy. Just like you need to daydream about what you write, you need to imagine your northern star – your vision. You’re a writer, so you can imagine with flourish. Go ahead. Think big.

Write about what success looks like to you in your vision. 100 different writers will each have different visions. Some see success as a packed book-signing. Others see it as satisfaction with a byline on a cover. Many picture a series. What else might your vision include? Teaching workshops? Living in a remote cabin? Traveling? Never having to leave home? Be detailed in your vision. Have fun with it.

Whatever you do, hold it up to this vision. Walk backwards from the dream outcome to find the path that becomes reality – the steps you need to take. Your strategic plan includes building a writer’s platform  that will connect you to your vision. If you see yourself successful with a published book and teaching classes, then start volunteering to tutor, or lead a local writers group. Build up experience that will take you to your north star. Make decisions based on how it fits your long-term strategy.

If you want to sell books, you need at least a marketing plan. If you are interested in crowd-sourcing or seeking a literary grant you need a business plan.

You can find templates online or through your local Small Business Administration. Now that you know what these plans are and why they are important to you, you can also alter any templates to fit what you are doing as a writer. Start with your vision. Hold onto that dream. Always.

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