ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2Our guest bloggers for the final ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series are Sylvia Lui and Elaine Kiely Kearns. I’m proud to call these two smart, talented, and lovely women my friends and critique partners. In this post, they share what they learned from planting a seed of an idea and nurturing it into a successful platform. Thanks Sylvia and Elaine for sharing your experience and wisdom.

 Top Ten Signs That You’re Building a Successful Platform

By Sylvia Liu & Elaine Kiely Kearns

A year and a half ago, we created a kid lit resource website, www.Kidlit411.com. The idea was simple – a website where children’s writers and illustrators can learn about the world of kid lit – from writing and illustration tips, to finding an agent, to listings of conferences, classes, contests, and more. kidlit 411

We soon added weekly interviews with authors, illustrators, agents, and editors, a weekly update email, a Facebook page to connect with our community, and a manuscript swap group. Earlier this year, we were named by Writer’s Digest as one of The 101 Best Websites for Writers, as well as one of The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2015 (The Write Life) and The Top 50 Writing Blogs for 2015 (Positive Writer).

A side effect of Kidlit411 was that we created a nice platform for ourselves as children’s authors and illustrators. (What exactly is a platform? Jane Friedman defines platform as having visibility, authority, and a proven reach to a given audience). We didn’t set out to do so, but we learned the following about building a successful platform:

  1. You grow naturally and organically.

No, we are not talking about free-range chickens. We have found that platform building is an organic and slow process. When you do something you love and share your passion, like-minded people will find and join you. Instead of having a grand plan, you let things evolve over time.

  1. You’re filling a need.

A great way to build a platform is to identify a need for something (a service, a community, a challenge) and meet it. For Kidlit411, I (Elaine) found myself gathering links to good articles and resources on writing for children. I (Sylvia) joined her, designing a site and adding my illustration perspective. We now have a convenient, organized, and curated site for all things kid lit. Other excellent resources are available, but many require a membership fee, such as the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

  1. You’re building a community.

Our Facebook page is a great way to connect with old and new online friends in the kid lit community. Through the group, we are able to keep people up to date on our new postings. Better yet, our group has become a place for people to ask questions, share tips, and connect with one another.

  1. You’re not doing it alone.

Having two of us work on the site, with the help of many others who send us links, makes the task easier. We can back each other up when other life and work obligations come up and two minds are generally better than one.

  1. You’re thinking outside the box.

You do something new that excites people, or you do something that’s been done, but with a new twist.

About seven years ago, the kid lit world was a lot less connected. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) had piboidmo2014started in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2008 when Tara Lazar created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) and Paula Yoo started NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) that the picture book community found a way to connect and encourage each other to develop ideas and write picture books. What a great idea – spur people to create stories, while providing prizes and expert advice.

Other successful platforms also harness individuals’ creative impulses while creating a community. Tania McCarthy’s 52-week illustration challenge (an illustration a week) and Jake Parker’s Inktober challenge (31 drawings in 31 days) are illustration challenges that have grown tremendously.

Other kid lit people also thought outside of the box to create great platforms. Katie Davis has been the mastermind of over 200 Brain Burps podcasts over the past five and a half years. 12-x-12-new-bannerJulie Hedlund leads the enormously successful 12×12 picture book challenge (write 12 picture book manuscripts in a year).

When we started Kidlit411, we didn’t re-invent the wheel. But we like to think we provide a visually appealing and user-friendly wheel.

  1. You are building on your areas of strength and expertise.

Part of building a platform is knowing yourself. Are you a people person who loves to socialize? Do you love information and technology? Are you an artist at heart? All of these characteristics will steer you naturally to the platform that best suits you. We figured out that we both enjoy seeking, organizing, and sharing information. We are curious about the career paths of other creative people, which led us to our weekly interviews of authors and illustrators.

  1. Your project is self-sustaining without enormous amounts of work.

If you find yourself spending more time working on your platform than doing your creative work then you are not using your time wisely. For Kidlit411, we read and keep up with kid lit, so adding the links to our website does not take much additional time. Our weekly interviews involve finding people, asking questions, and formatting their answers, also not time consuming.

If you do find that your platform has grown beyond your individual capabilities, you hire or outsource your work. For example, NaNoWriMo is now a professionally run nonprofit organization. 

  1. Your project has grown beyond your initial expectations.

The great thing about many successful platforms is that most times, the creator didn’t expect or imagine what it would turn out to be. For example, an artist begins a personal creative challenge and invites a few friends, and before he or she knows it, it becomes a widespread challenge. 

  1. You’re not in it for yourself.

You didn’t build the platform just to sell your wares. You provide meaningful content, or a meaningful experience that attracts others to fill a need. We found that providing easy access to good information is an idea that sold itself. 

  1. You are having FUN.

Life is short. Don’t start or continue a platform-building project because someone said you had to. Only work on things that you enjoy and are having fun doing. If the side effect is that you are bringing other like-minded people along, all the better.

Sylvia New

SYLVIA LIU is a former environmental attorney turned writer-illustrator. Her debut picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee & Low Books) is scheduled for publication Spring 2016. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and two daughters. She is inspired by aliens, cephalopods, bunnies, and pigs who want to fly.  Her portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com and blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

ELAINE KIELY KEARNS is currently chasing the dream as a published author. Armed with a master’s degree in Education Elaineand working from her home office, she spends her time creating picture book and middle grade stories. She lives in New York with her husband, two beautiful daughters and three furry babies. When she isn’t writing, she can be found doing yoga and eating chocolate but not usually at the same time. She is represented by Linda Epstein of the Jennifer Di Chiara Literary Agency in New York.

Following are the links to the other guest posts in the ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series:

THE PUSH AND PULL OF PLATFORM by Heather Ayris Burnell

A CASE OF THE WHY NOTS: How I Built (and am still building) My Platform by Marcie Flinchum Atkins



BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL: My Platform-Building Strategy by Miranda Paul



This month’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING guest blogger is author, librarian, and children’s writing community friend, Heather Ayris Burnell. Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story with us.

The Push and Pull of Platform

by Heather Ayris Burnell


“You need a platform.” Those words can make a writer freeze. If they make you even a bit nervous, relax and take a deep breath. Honestly, what you need first is a good manuscript. Excellent even. But, when the time comes that you’re ready to start sending your work out on submission, having some sort of platform is a good idea.

It’s Okay to Start Small – You may feel pushed to have a huge platform but the truth is, it’s best to start with something manageable. You’ll be learning and growing along the way. Way back when I first started considering submitting manuscripts, the thought of anyone even knowing that I was a writer terrified me. With the nudging of my critique partners I managed to get myself online. Despite my natural instinct to pull back, I created a blog under the guise that it would help the writers in my critique group get to know me better. And guess what? It worked. Having some support at the beginning really pushed me to give platform a try. There are so many great writer’s communities you’re sure to find support if you need it. Having a blog not only gave me practice in putting myself “out there”, it gave me a place to be found if someone was interested in finding out about me. It made me Google-able!

Push Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone. You don’t have to create your platform all at once. Little by little is just fine. After I got the hang of blogging, and didn’t feel like I was going to die of embarrassment every time I put something online, I decided to push myself. If I could do a blog I could do Facebook, right? The truth that I’ve found is that although things may feel uncomfortable, scary, and confusing at first, the more you do something the more comfortable you get with it. I now have two blogs, blab away on Twitter way too often, and moderate a group of over 1,000 people on Facebook. The thing I never would have guessed back when I was pushing myself just to start a blog? I love doing it.


Pull back if you need to. Don’t make yourself do things you don’t enjoy. Of course, feeling things out and giving different platform tools a try might take you out of your comfort zone but that’s the only real way you’re going to learn what you like doing. If you give something an honest try and really don’t like it, it’s okay to give it up. There are plenty of other platforms.

Give Yourself a Good Chance. Consider how you like to interact with others. What might you enjoy talking about or showing your readers? Maybe you simply want to have the chance to take part in conversations. These factors can help you choose the platform pieces that may work best for you. There are many different avenues you can try:

Social Media – Picking one or two you like and being good at them is better than trying to be on them all and doing a spotty job. Me? I use Twitter and Facebook a lot. I’ve tried Pinterest and Instagram but they just don’t seem to be my thing.

Forums – Chat boards where you can share information give you an opportunity to interact with a multitude of different writers. The SCBWI Blueboards and Absolute Write are two popular writer’s forums. There are many Facebook groups as well that are basically used as forums such as Alayne’s Sub Six, Kidlit411, and Sub It Club.

SubItClub Badge (175x88)kidlit 411Join Sub Six and Submit Six Picture Book Manuscripts in 2013

Newsletters and Online Newspapers – These might work well for you if you enjoy the gathering and sharing of information. Just do your best to define your angle. Sure it may evolve over time but having a good idea will make it easier for you to figure out what information to share and help you define and build an audience.

Video – Formats like YouTube make it possible for everyone to share themselves via video. It can be a fun way to get yourself out there.

Offline Life – Are you a librarian? (I am!) A teacher? Work at a bookstore? Knowing people in any part of the book business is a big plus. If you enjoy doing presentations, teaching, doing readings, and interacting with others who love books; participate in the plethora of ways there are to share literature and build the community of book lovers you know.

What Should You Choose?  You don’t want to have yourself pulled in too many directions!

A website or blog will give you a place to be found. It’s a good idea to have a page where an agent or editor can look you up and learn basic information about you if they are interested. Every writer sending their work out on submission should at the very least have a static bio page that includes contact information. I have a bio page on my blog.

You can interact on many platforms. Twitter is an especially helpful place for writers to be. So many agents, editors, and writers tweet. If you hop on Twitter and tweet as well, it’s a good way for you to get to know others and for others to get to know you.

If you choose to do something such as a newsletter, online newspaper or video, using social media channels such as Twitter can be an effective way to let others know about what you have. Some social media can be supplemental to your main platform. Just be sure to not be all promo all the time.

If you are more comfortable participating in a forum, that’s great too. Many forums offer the opportunity to put your information in your signature. Be sure to take advantage of this and link it to your online bio page. You have one of those, right?

Make it real. Creating and maintaining a platform takes time and energy. You want the time you spend on it to be enjoyable. You want your platform to be something you like. You want it to fit you!

Monster List Logo 2 by Dana Carey

Logo by Dana Carey

After I started my personal blog to push myself into the online world, I was able to push myself even more and talk about things I really like to talk about. I now give picture book writing advice and curate the Monster List of Picture Book Agents to pull readers in.

Because I pushed myself, I learned that I love to talk to writers and was dying to talk to others about submissions. So, I went on to start Sub It Club as a place for writers and illustrators to talk about submitting their work. Of course, managing Sub It Club’s forums and pages, blog, and Twitter feed in addition to my personal social media and offline work does take time. It’s a good thing I love doing it. And voila! I have a platform that has grown organically over time, one that I am comfortable with and enjoy immensely. If I didn’t love talking about submissions and picture books I think that might be a different story.

There are lots of ways to build a platform. There is no one size fits all formula. There will be push and pull but as long as you stick with it, you’ll figure out what works for you. Be brave. Be unique. Be you. And have fun!

Heather Ayris Burnell


Heather Ayris Burnell loves writing query letters and she loves helping others with them, that’s why she created Sub It Club where they talk about all things subbing and share cover BedtimeMonsterand query letter critiques in their private Facebook group. She also does query and picture book critiques, as well as private consulting with writers to help them figure out the ins and outs of publishing, submitting in particular. She is the author of BEDTIME MONSTER published by Raven Tree Press and is represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.


This month’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING guest blogger is author, teacher, and mentor text maven, Marcie Flinchum Atkins. Thank you, Marcie, for sharing your story with us.

A Case of the Why Nots

How I Built (and am still building) My Platform

By Marcie Flinchum Atkins

The buzz about platform always intrigued me. What is a platform? What would/could my platform be? I read lots of books on platform before even attempting it. You see, many years ago, when blogging was newish, I had a blog where I reviewed children’s books. But it ate away at my writing time because I had to read all of those books and then review them. I loved it, but I knew my new platform couldn’t be that. People were already doing that. I had nothing new to add to the conversation.

I knew I didn’t want to start a new blog until I knew how I was going to focus it. But I also knew that I wanted to develop a blog and a website BEFORE I had a book deal because I knew that once I did, I’d be too busy to learn all of these skills.

I’m an obsessive list maker.

I made a list of things I was passionate about:

  • Using mentor texts to teach kids how to write
  • Making time to write
  • Organizing

Unfortunately, they weren’t really related and they were for two different audiences—teachers and writers. While I knew there would be some overlap (people like ME were both teachers AND writers), I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I knew I could blog about those things.

I wanted to put things on my blog that I was already using in some other capacity. In other words, I didn’t want to create MORE work for myself. I wanted to share things I was already doing.

I was writing mentor text lessons for my favorite books. Why not share them for other teachers to use?

I was doing tons of crazy organizing stuff for my writing life. Why not share them with other writers?

I was using many spare moments between my full-time job and being a mom to write, nearly everyday. Why not share my tips with other mom writers? Making Time to Write  and Mom’s Write  were born.

Later, I started adding one more thing. Mentor texts for writers. For years, I’ve been using the techniques I did with students in my own writing life. Some writers I knew had never even heard of the term “mentor texts.” Why not share my tips with other writers?

All of those WHY NOT’s became my platform.

I made a list of things I knew I needed to learn more about:

  • Metadata and SEO
  • Using WordPress and particular plug-ins
  • Mailchimp and newsletter writing
  • Creating an e-book
  • Setting up sales on my website
  • Making video
  • Twitter

Each month, I spent time learning a new skill. I felt overwhelmed, but I did learn new skills.

Over that learning time, I did several things with my platform:

Word Choice Cover Screenshot

Mentor Text Ebook Cover Screenshot

Mentor Texts for Writers Book 1 Cover


This all sounds like I spent all of my time on platform. I promise I spent very little. I chipped away at all of these things over a few years. Eventually they added up. They are still adding up.

Have I figured out this whole platform thing? Nope.

I am still VERY passionate about organizing and making time to write, but I have very little NEW wisdom to pass along. If I come across something interesting or a new tip, I will do an occasional post about it. But all of my tips are archived on my blog. I imagine, just like my career, my website and blog will evolve along with me.

But the good news is that I’m not bored with my website yet. There are times when I simply do not have enough time to blog, but I have yet to run out of ideas. I followed my passions—things I was interested in and knew a little something about. Then I thought about how I could make those things available to my audience. Why not share those passions with others?

Marcie Pic Nov 2013About Marcie

Marcie Flinchum Atkins teaches fourth grade by day and writes in the wee hours of the morning. Her book-nerdiness shows through because she is a certified school librarian and also holds an MA and MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University. She blogs about making time to write and how to use books as mentor texts at: www.marcieatkins.com.


This month’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING guest blogger is award-winning author, writing teacher, and the sweetest person ever, Susanna Leonard Hill. Thank you Susanna for sharing your story with us.



by Susanna Leonard Hill

Once upon a time, there was a writer (that was me) who wrote stories for children.  Although she dreamed from girlhood of picture books with her name on the cover (and not because she wrote it there with a crayon), she was pretty sure she wasn’t good enough to get published.  (Due to word count limitations we’re going to skip a bit…)  Blah, blah, blah, some other stuff happened and one day in 2002 her dream came true and life was good.

“Now then,” said the Powers-That-Be, “go forth and build a platform!”


“Uh…,” I said.  “Have you seen me with tools?  This is not a good idea.”

Apparently they weren’t talking about that kind of platform.

“Uh…,” I said.  “Have you seen me with technology?  This is not a good idea.”

Apparently they did not care.

BUILD was the directive, so by golly I had to try.

Let’s just be clear on one thing: I had NO idea what I was doing or how to do it!

To save you from landing in the same predicament, I will share with you Susanna’s Rules for Practically Painless Platform Building.

Rule #1: Eat Something Chocolate 


Really.  It’s good for you :)  Construction is hard work.  You must be properly fueled :)

Rule #2: Know what platform is.

It is helpful before you begin construction to have some idea of what it is you are hoping to build.  Otherwise your go-cart might turn out to be a lawn mower… or in our case, your platform might turn out to be a mineshaft. :)

So what is platform, anyway?

Basically, it’s your visibility as an author:

  1. Who you are –

Well, that’s obvious.  You’re you! :) Whether you’re a stay-at-home dad of 7 who loves to bake Lebkuchen and play the tambourine, or a NASA engineer who is consumed by competitive crochet in your down time, it’s you as an individual that people want to know.

  1. Your personal and professional connections –

Friends and family, coworkers, critique partners, your dentist, your son’s trombone teacher, etc.  You might also include people you know through the Internet, but that overlaps into the third category a bit.

  1. Finally, the part people tend to think of more as “platform” – the work you do specifically related to being an author, and your online presence –

Any form of media where your writing is available or where readers can get to know you, including bookstores, newspaper articles, radio interviews, school/library visits, book signings, online booksellers, and anywhere you are active in social media – your website, blog, newsletter, FB, Twitter, etc…

Do not feel that #3 is the only part that matters.  All three of these elements are equally important, and #1 is arguably most important because it colors everything else.  But you likely feel pretty comfortable with #1 and #2, whereas #3 might be the place you feel a little out of your depth. So that’s the focus of the other rules.

Rule #3: Find Your Comfort Zone

Some love to travel.  Some love to stay home.  Some love to dress to the nines.  Some love to loaf in pajamas.  Some like it hot… well, you get the idea.

You’ve got to be comfortable with what you’re building, and not all social media options are created equal.  Scout around.  Sample the choices.  Hold it up and see how it looks before you nail it in place :) Do you love the brevity and variety of Twitter?  Or would you prefer the option to discourse at greater length on a blog?  Or do you like the happy medium of Face Book?  Do you see the world through a camera lens? Then how about Instagram? Pinterest? YouTube?

There are lots of options out there.  Don’t make yourself miserable forcing yourself to participate in something that doesn’t suit your personality and style.

Rule #4:  Don’t Wear Yourself Out!

We are all busy.  We have spouses, and kids, jobs and homes and cars and pets and aging parents and yoga/running/swimming/watching basketball on TV – you know, exercise :), and some of us have to bake Lebkuchen and practice the tambourine…  There are only so many hours in the day!


Choose 2 or 3 at most of the social media options and limit time spent on them each day.  That way you can give your best to the options you choose, avoid burnout, and still have time to write, which is, after all, the whole point of all of this!

Rule #5: Figure Out What You Have To Offer (and yes! you have something to offer!) Preferably Before You Start Blogging :)

Okay.  So now we get down to the nitty-gritty.  What’s going to be the focus of your tweets, your FB posts, your blog?  What are you going to put out there for the world?

I tried everything.  I think literally actually everything.

Trial and Error, thy alias is Susanna!

Try to avoid that :)

Platform, platform, platform… We’re supposed to reach our audience of readers.  Well, obviously that’s impossible in the case of picture book writers – our readers are pre-reading listeners.  They tend not to frequent FB, twitter, or phyllis coverblogs of any kind :) The actual readers of our books – the mouthpiece through which our audience hears our stories – are parents, teachers, grandparents, librarians etc.  Those are also the people who buy our books, since most 3-8 year olds are hampered in the cash flow and transportation departments :) So really, our platform efforts should be directed toward these adults.

I tried writing posts on dogs, gift-wrapping, song-writing, Mondays, book drives, how useless I’d be as a pioneer… all topics that should appeal to parents, teachers and librarians, don’t you think?

Alas, they apparently appealed to no one!  Just go back and look at my early posts… and how there are no comments on almost all of them!

So I stumbled along, trying this and that, until one day I hit on the idea of Would You Read It Wednesday (primarily for writers, but with hopes of attracting teacher and librarian feedback), and then Perfect Picture Book Friday (intended as a resource for parents, teachers and homeschoolers…but which seems to appeal to writers seeking mentor texts), then contests for writers (an opportunity for writers (of all ages) to write stories for kids that could be read by parents, kids, teachers, etc.), Short & Sweets (for writers but hopefully also for teachers and kids), Oh, Susanna! (intended for writers, teachers and parents… but writers were the only ones who ever seemed to have questions), with a few author and illustrator interviews and a mini-series on self-publishing thrown in for good measure.

And by gum! 4 years down the road it appears I’ve got a nice little platform of people I adore, who make my blog a wonderful community where I’m grateful to spend time. Can't Sleep

And yeah… if you noticed that the platform I intended to build for parents, teachers, librarians and such turned out to be a platform for writers, well, maybe that’s because I am a writer and that’s the way I think.

I choose to believe that many of the writers who make my blog and FB page and twitter…area…whatever you call it :) … such a great place to hang out are also parents, teachers and librarians.

As Gilda Radnor said on Saturday Night Live, it’s a dessert topping AND a floor wax :)

Happy Platform Building! :)

Thank you so much for having me, Alayne.

Note from Alayne: Pardon my intrusion. Because I am interrupting, I want to say make sure you scroll to the bottom of this post for Susanna’s bio and links to her website, blog and more. Now for my reason for the intrusion. . . .

I had no idea what Lebkuchen is, so I looked it up. For those of you who also don’t know, Lebkuchen is a centuries-old German gingerbread specialty that is traditionally baked during the winter holiday season.

Also for those of you who don’t know Susanna and all the wonderful things she does for the writing community, I want to give a basic description of some of the things she mentioned in this post.

Oh Susanna is the children’s literature world’s version of Dear Abby, except not about relationships (well, not yours – character relationships would be OK). It is an advice column/question forum for those of us in the children’s book world, as it were :) People can ask Susanna questions about writing, reading, teaching writing and so on.

Short & Sweets was started as a way for writers to keep their writing oars in during the happy, busy, outdoor fun summer months. Susanna offered fun exercises that writers could do together.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Is a group effort. Using a set format, bloggers share picture books they want to recommend to others. Susanna then shares that link on her blog in her extensive list of picture books, categorized by theme.

Would You Read It Wednesday? This is a weekly feature that offers a chance for writers to try out pitches for their Picture Books, Early Readers, Middle Grade, or Young Adult Works-In-Progress.

Contests and Picture Book Writing Course Susanna also has Holiday writing contests with excellent prizes. And then there is her Making Picture Book Magic writing course, which, as a graduate of the course, I can personally recommend. You can find more information on all of the above on her website – links follow Susanna’s bio.

slh wyomingAbout Susanna

Susanna is the award winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner.)  Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one hopefully forthcoming in Korean.  Her newest book, Alphabedtime!, is forthcoming from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, in Summer 2016.  She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.


Website: http://www.susannahill.com/HOME.html

Blog: http://susannahill.blogspot.com

Face Book Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SusannaLeonardHill

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusannaLHill

Making Picture Book Magic (online picture book writing course): http://www.susannahill.com/MAKING_PICTURE_BOOK_MAGIC.html

ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2This month’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING guest blogger is the one and only Julie Hedlund. Thank you, Julie, for taking the time to share your thoughts on platform building.

Before I move on, I want to mention that registration for Julie’s 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge begins next month. If you don’t know about this wonderful writing community and challenge, it would be worthwhile to give the 12 x 12 page a look.


Now, here’s Julie. . . .


BY Julie Hedlund

Thanks Alayne for hosting me today! I’m a big fan of your blog, so it’s an honor.

Never has a word inspired so much fear and angst into the heart of an author. Part of that fear, IMHO, is based on myths about platform that I want to bust for you today. My goal is that by the end of this post, you’ll feel a LOT better about what author platform is (and isn’t) so you can embrace it as part of your journey as a writer.

The first big myth about author platform is that it is primarily about online activities, particularly social media and, to a lesser extent, websites and blogging.

But since we are writers, let’s take a look at a couple of definitions in the dictionary for the word platform:

“A place, means, or opportunity for public expression of opinion.”

Another definition: “A formal declaration of the principles on which a group
makes its appeal to the public.” We could change that to say: “A formal declaration
of the principles on which a writer makes his or her appeal to the audience/readers.”

Under these definitions, platform is not a set of tasks or tactics. Platform is an opportunity for you to establish your identity as an author and communicate that identity, that worldview, to your audience.

As Tara Lazar aptly explained in her post, everything you do that you intend your potential readers and audience to see is part of your platform. Everything. School visits, presentations, book signings, mailings and newsletters, promotional materials such as business cards and book swag – even conversations at conferences.

And yes, your website and/or blog and social media presence is a part of your platform, but only one part. Choose which aspects of online platform you enjoy and leave the rest behind. It’s okay. Really. Because if being on Twitter is anathema to who you are, that will come out in your participation anyway. Luckily, there are many options for online platforms, but we don’t have to be tied to them all.

The second platform myth I’d like to bust is that it’s all about promotion, and you establish it for the primary purpose of being able to sell your books.


Your platform should not be used to blast your message out to a bunch of people in one direction but rather, to create a conversation and a two-way dialog that will help you build relationships and make connections with people (as Miranda Paul pointed out in her post).

Your platform should be a means by which you help others. Sometimes that takes the form of a helpful blog post, sharing a resource on social media, or giving a workshop on writing. Sometimes it takes the form of making people aware of a book you’ve written that you think they will enjoy and/or will enrich their lives. You wrote the book for people to enjoy, so promoting it in that way is a just another way of helping others.

Helping people is not only rewarding all by itself, but it also builds awareness of you and your work in an organic way. Like Tara is well known for her picture book idea month challenge, I am best known as the founder of the 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge. I embrace that role because I LOVE helping other writers, and it’s a huge part of who I am. I get a great deal of support (and yes, some book sales) through that community because they already know me and are therefore likely to enjoy my books.

The last myth I am going to bust today is that platform is a drain on time and creativity. That it “takes away” from your writing. If you approach your platform in the right way, holistically and as an extension of yourself, it can actually be a huge part of your creative journey AND fun!

Connecting with readers and fellow writers is a big part of why we write, is it not? Platform provides the means to make those connections and reap those rewards by giving of yourself and receiving from others. How great is that?

Julie Hedlund - Headshot


Julie Hedlund is an award-winning children’s book author, founder of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, monthly contributor to Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books Podcast, and a frequent speaker at industry events such as SCBWI conferences.

Her picture book, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, Little Bahalia Publishing, 2013, first published as an interactive storybook app, was the recipient of the 2014 Independent Book Publisher’s Association Benjamin Franklin Digital Gold Award. TROOP-Cover-300x283Her storybook app, A SHIVER OF SHARKS, Little Bahalia Publishing, 2013, was a 2014 Digital Book Award winner. MLFY_coverHer latest book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, released in September 2014 from Little Bahalia.

Julie is passionate about helping fellow writers achieve success. With her friend and colleague Emma Walton Hamilton, she created The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions – a soup-to-nuts resource for crafting a winning query and landing an agent or book deal. As a single mother of two young children who earns a complete living as an author-entrepreneur, Julie also created a course called How to Make Money as a Writer to help other authors build their careers and support themselves financially.
Julie lives in beautiful Boulder with her two children, ages 12 and 9, and a large and terribly misbehaved hound dog. When she is not writing or entrepreneuring, she loves reading (duh!), hiking, skiing, cooking, movie and game nights with the kids, and sipping red wine at sunset in the company of good friends and family.

Other guest posts on platform building:

Breaking the Fourth Wall: My Platform-Building Strategy by Miranda Paul

You are your Platform by Tara Lazar


Today’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING guest blogger is the lovely and talented children’s book author Miranda Paul. Thank you for sharing your platform-building strategy with us, Miranda. You have definitely given us something to think about. Before I move on, I want to mention that the Rate Your Story membership registration is now open, and they are offering discounts and bonuses until December 15, 2015.

button trademarkAlso, the We Need Diverse Books fund drive ends December 10, so if you haven’t had a chance to visit the page, there’s still time.


Now, here’s Miranda. . . .


Breaking the Fourth Wall: My Platform-Building Strategy

By Miranda Paul

Confession: Platform building is rarely intentional for me. I don’t sit in my office brainstorming ways to get more Facebook followers or YouTube subscribers. Never have, probably never will.

Back in high school, I was an avid concert-goer. My favorite moments were when the lead singers reached their hands down to touch the crowd or when the guitarists stepped down from stage to play among the audience. A few times, I got to hang out with band members after their show. Those memories are vivid nearly two decades later.

Speaking directly to or otherwise acknowledging the audience is referred to in theatre terms as breaking the fourth wall. The effect of turning spectators into participants, or bringing the performance closer to the audience, is engaging and powerful.

Instead of speaking to people, why not speak among them?


I’ve seen social media advisers try to formulate equations—for example, “make four posts about someone/something else for every one self-promotional post.” I’m admittedly no expert when it comes to social media, but those kind of guidelines sound fake or prescribed to me. And that’s not what I mean by “breaking the fourth wall.”

If I had to put my platform-building strategy into stage directions, it would be this:

1. Begin your platform building with a foundation that matters

I’m very passionate and invested in the books and projects I’ve taken on—from writing about grassroots activists in the Gambia to the life-giving element of water to all the career possibilities that a child can explore. Whether its diversity in literature or stewardship for the earth, the roots of my outreach efforts are strong and genuine.

Don’t build a platform so you can sell more books. Build a platform so you can share your love of XYZ or make an impact that goes way beyond a $15 story.

2. Invite others to come up on stage with you, or bring the show down to audience level

Giving others a voice has an emotional component to it. The We Need Diverse Books campaign built its initial platform by inviting others to participate with signs stating why they felt we needed diverse books. For oneplasticbag.com, a new website dedicated to my debut title, there are several ways in which kids and teachers can share their recycling efforts with me and be highlighted on the site.


Since I write for young children, I recognize that my platform building must extend beyond social media. Kids and teachers aren’t hanging out online all day, people! School visits and community involvement are musts, and what better way to mingle with the audience is there than to crowd surf? (Figuratively, of course.)

3. Allow your personality and opportune moments to control the choreography

Sticking to a scheduled plan 100% of the time isn’t real for me. My routines change daily. I’m not wandering aimlessly in my career, but I try and look up from my script every now and then to see who’s out there, listening. I’m a casual person, an approachable person, a generous person. I allow these parts of my personality to guide how I market myself and my books. I can’t tell you how many casual interactions I’ve made online or after a live presentation that later on turned into new opportunities.

Releases February 2015.

Releases February 2015.

Author Meg Medina’s presentation on author marketing is one of the best I’ve ever attended. Rather than focus on “Do I need to be Tweeting?” she encourages authors to craft a vision statement and focus on their own legacy and impact instead of numbers, accolades, or which social media are the best avenues for driving sales. A shining example of how she melds blog content with her personal vision of being active in the Latina community was recently posted after her workshop for kids with Duncan Tonatuih. The fourth graders created a poem far more powerful than any Tweet Meg might have put out there about the visit. (Click here to watch the multi-voice poem reading at Meg’s blog and decide for yourself.)

Releases May 2015.

Releases May 2015.

If you’re in the early stages of compiling your career’s set list, focus on the big picture theme of your soundtrack. If the music is meaningful and catchy and DISTINCTLY YOURS, the fans will come out to hear you play. Just make sure to turn the microphone toward the audience every now and then and let them sing the words.

Now go out and break a leg—and the fourth wall.



Miranda Paul is a children’s writer who is passionate about creating stories for young readers that inspire, entertain, and broaden horizons. In addition to more than 50 short stories for magazines and digital markets, Miranda is the author of four forthcoming picture book titles from imprints of Lerner, Macmillan, and Random House. She is an Executive Vice President of Outreach for We Need Diverse Books™ (www.diversebooks.org) and the administrator of RateYourStory.org, a site for aspiring writers. Miranda believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more at www.mirandapaul.com.

ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2This month’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING SERIES guest blogger is the sensational and talented Tara Lazar. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us, Tara. Just a quick note about Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). PiBoIdMo is a free November writing challenge for picture book writers and illustrators. The object is to jot down one picture book concept daily. By the end of the month you’ll have at least 30 bright & shiny new ideas! You can then refer to these ideas throughout the year to jumpstart your creativity and write new manuscripts. Registration begins October 25 and ends November 4.


by Tara Lazar

An author platform cannot live by social media alone.

You already know this, right? While it’s great to have a popular blog, witty Facebook page or oft-followed Twitter feed, social media does not equal your author platform.

Author Brook Warner outlined this so well for SheWrites.com last month—reminding those of us who remain slave to our blog that we need not be so post-obsessed. Your social media presence, while increasingly important, especially to sales and marketing professionals at publishers, is not your entire author platform. It’s only a small piece of it.

Remember, YOU are your platform. Your books. Your personality. Your message. For what do you want to be known? It should be shared through a variety of outlets, not just via an animated-gif Tumblr.

That being said, I suppose you’re wondering how I built my blog to reach over 4,000 followers?

It was all a lucky accident. I founded a writing event that touched a nerve with those passionate about picture books. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s PiBoIdMo—or Picture Book Idea Month.


The popularity of this 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge has grown steadily from 100 participants in 2009 to nearly 1200 in 2013. This year? It’s anybody’s guess, but I’m planning on welcoming 1500 folks to the fun.

But it’s not like I planned all this carefully. When I founded PiBoIdMo, I wasn’t thinking about throngs of people clicking on my blog. There was no plan for writing-world dominance. I was just jealous of NaNoWriMo participants and wanted something to do in November! I thought maybe a dozen people would join me! I had no idea it would become what it has. Listen, it’s not my fault. I was just being ME.

And that’s really what your platform is all about. As an author, you’re a personality. Why should people read your books? Why should they invite you to speak? What do you stand for? (The band Fun. asks this question repeatedly on my radio.) You should have a message and certain je-ne-sais-qua that engages an audience.

So I’ve built an event for writers, attracted writers, and therefore continue to serve this audience via social media.

But is this the right audience for me? Truth be told, as a picture book author, my desired audience is comprised of librarians, school teachers, and parents/family/caregivers of young children. A writing event doesn’t appeal to this group. I’m like Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom: “You’re doing it wrong.”

However, PiBoIdMo has become part of who I am as an author and a person. I enjoy inspiring writers to create great literature for children. I share this message on my blog but also via appearances at conferences and literacy events. I donate PiBoIdMo proceeds to Reading is Fundamental. monstorecover800Bear Book final coverAnd I write books that I hope children will love—quirky, off-beat, laugh-out-loud books. Books that I wish I had when I was a kid.

Let’s go back to the platform question: For what do I want to be known? Primarily, I want to be known for writing great books for kids. But if you look at my platform, I’m probably more well-known for PiBoIdMo than anything else. So platform is a tricky thing. Be sure you are creating something that really reflects you and what you ultimately want to accomplish.

PiBoIdMo really is who I am, though. I like making other people happy. Perhaps that’s my message, my legacy as an author. Whether it’s a child reading my book, a parent enjoying time with their child, or a writer getting a burst of inspiration, I hope what I do spreads joy.


What better platform is there?

taranewblogpic2014ABOUT TARA

Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that adults never find. Her debut THE MONSTORE was released in June 2013, with I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD to follow in 2015. She’s the founder of PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Idea Month, an annual November writing challenge. Tara lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and far too many stuffed animals.

To learn more about Tara, her books, and Picture Book Idea Month, visit her blog.

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