Writers’ Writing Competition: If I invented my own religion

Here is the theme for the writing competition that also builds your author platform. For full details please see week one’s post.

But first, an apology

I admit I dropped the ball this week. I honestly thought I had everything set up and scheduled but I failed to realise where we were in the week. That is my fault and I apologise. Winners to be announced shortly too.

Week Three: Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 20th. However, if you need more time because of my mistake say so and I will delay judging by a day.

If I invented my own religion

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to.

Ideas

This theme was invented to allow you to show how your twisted mind works as a writer. Although the intention was that it be a biographical topic, feel free to write fiction, poetry, essay, you new cult manifesto, or something entirely crazy.

Don’t forget

Don’t forget to link to this week’s post so your entry is (much) easier to discover. You may find it easier to get more comments if you also share your post to your Facebook friends or on Twitter.

It is important to realise that unless you link to this post, then ou ping may not show up, and if it does, it will show up in the wrong place.

WordPress Help for Thanet’s Writers

By Othmanhlallouch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Most of our competition participants have chosen WordPress.com to host their entries; a good idea I think. Here is a collection of, what I hope are, helpful resources.

However far along the path of learning about publishing your own content online, I hope this post can prove useful.

Getting fully setup on WordPress.com

Set Up Your Blog in Five Steps is a WordPress guide to the five steps that you will probably want to follow to get fully set up.

While most of you will have done at least four of those steps it might be worth looking at the section on widgets. Widgets are those elements that allow you to show custom text, links, social integration and other features.

The basics of WordPress.com

My problem is that, for me, it is all the basics. I’ve been blogging and doing web things for over thirteen years. Try as I might it is very hard for me to imagine myself as a person just getting started.

That’s why I’ve taken the time to find other people’s posts and videos that do a better job than I might.

As far as general overview videos go this one is pretty good.

How to use the make and edit blog posts

Blog posts (sometimes called blogs by people) and pages seem very similar on WordPress. Blog posts are the things you will post most often. Skip on down a bit if you want to learn about pages.

I watched a lot of how to videos on to make this post for you. This was the best video about creating blog posts on WordPress.com that I could find.

That said I strongly disagree with one of the things that she says in this WordPress video. Blockquote is not for making a paragraph “stand out”. It does do that but blockquote is a semantic tag which means that it means something when you use it; it means that you are quoting someone else.

I would also add that although you have a lot of formatting options the best thing to do is use them sparingly. Inline formats are like exclamation marks – they are most powerful when they are rare.

WordPress Pages: What are they?

So you want to know about pages on WordPress? Great, keep reading.

Pages are a great way to add sections to your site that do not change very often. You WordPress.com blog comes with a few already.

We here at Thanet Creative Writers have used pages for the many different types of forms that we have. Forms for reporting problems, forms for asking questions, forms for asking to join the Thanet Creative Writers charity, and so forth.

There is a page which carries our list of projects and another for the blog listing.

You get the idea.

Typical uses of a page on a writer’s blog might be:

  • About the author
  • For books they have published
  • Press coverage and positive mentions
  • Images and useful information for the press to use
  • Upcoming appearances and book signings
  • A booking form
  • Upcoming releases

Embedding a video in WordPress.com

If you search, you will find a lot of advice on how to embed a video in your post. They are almost all wrong!

The reason that most advice is wrong is that the self hosted WordPress and premium WordPress differ significantly from the free hosting WordPress.

The way to embed a video from YouTube that works with a free WordPress.com account is to copy the address (aka URL) of the video from the title bar of your browser.

If you look up, right now, you should see a thin box at the top which starts “https://thanetcreativewriters.wordpress.com/” that text is the address of the page.

Paste the YouTube address, which begins “https://www.youtube.com/” on a line all by itself. When you publish (or save and preview) there will be a video there. Not just any video but the one you were just looking at on youtube.

I spend hours figuring that out and got very frustrated. I hope that tip saves you some tears.

WordPress Projects

This is a slightly more advanced part of WordPress. The chances are, you will not want to play with this yet. But if you do this is something you may find useful.

If this section is not for you, skip it.

Before you try WordPress Projects

Projects are best saved for when you have at least one book or article accepted by a publication.

That said, it never hurts to play with things.

If you feel ready to start

First dive into your settings and have a good look round. You will find that you can enable projects. I’ve deliberately not told you where because you will should have enough confidence in your own ability to find it by yourself if you are going to do this.

Now you will have a projects option under pages (which is under posts). Click add and add a project. Notice how much it is like adding a page or a post.

Use your projects to add your published books and stories. One per project.

Now create a page and use the shortcode (I did say this was advanced) to create a projects listing page. Now you have a page of your books (or whatever) that you can add new items to whenever you wish.

More advanced uses would be to set categories for books, short story and anthology, and speaking engagements. You could create a page for each one and show only that category on the page by editing the short code.

Over to you

I hope that something in this post was helpful. There is a lot more that I could explain about using WordPress.com but this blog, as a whole, was never meant to be the WordPress fan club and at some point you will want to get back to writing.

  • What tips or hints might you add?
  • What is your advice to WordPress using writers?
  • How have you been getting on with your blog?

Week One Winners

As I suspected, choosing the winners for this first week has been no easy task. I was assessing not only for writing style and content but the planning and execution of the very hard task of setting up a blog.

There were three winners to identify:

  1. Best Post
  2. Best Comment
  3. Most Commented upon

For best post, I decided to look at a number of criteria:

  • style
  • clarity
  • reading ease
  • inventiveness
  • novelty

As you all had to set up a blog I decided the only fair way to judge that aspect of the competition was to separate it out into an extra bonus section. This week only, there will be four winners. The fourth winner being:

  • Bonus #1: for making a great effort setting up a blog

Things that particularly impressed me

The thing that impressed me most was that you all managed to get set up somewhere to post your entries. For some of you, I know that this was not an easy first step. Just taking part demanded that you step up and get to grips with something new. You all deserve recognition for overcoming the barrier to entry in order to take part.

You have all created praise-worthy first-week entries and blogs. If I was to cover everything we would be here all day so I have focused on one or two things that most impressed me about each one. Forgive me for not linking to all the blogs again. There is a list of all participants here.

The Joy of Words hit the ground running and got their blog post out nice and quickly. This gave the post an enormous head start when it came to getting comments. From the names I saw here and nowhere else, I imagine that this post has been shared on the author’s Facebook timeline.

Braidy Spice mentioned a story she had written and then promised to share it one day soon. This is a great idea. It reassures readers that there is something to come back for and it gives you a game plan for what you are going to write next. I also have to say that her by-line made me chuckle – Writer Without a Clue: The Ramblings of Pantser.

Artimas Blake (Simon) knocked it out of the park with his easy-to-relate-to conversational style. There was a sparkling wit to the way he writes his entry which in many ways reminded me of the better sort of newspaper column. If he keeps up with that style of writing, Simon should have no trouble building a strong following for his Artimas Blake pen-name.

Irving Benjamin is clearly new to blogging software and yet powered through and adapted. Getting stuck in, making mistakes, and then learning from them is all part of the learning process. None of us would write anything if we let fear of spelling, grammar, or style mistakes stop us. Irving’s approach – of just getting in there and figuring it out – impressed me.

Kentish Rambler chose a no-frills blog theme. This can be a powerful choice when you want your content above all else to shine. She clearly has a good eye for what works. Despite a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get set up, she has done an exceptional job. Kentish Rambler has attacked a difficult task with great success. I also have to stop and give praise to a poem which really summed up writing and why I write. I found her post very easy to relate to.

Neil W included inline links in his post. These links were appropriate to and enhanced the context. His links take the reader to somewhere they can read up on the topics he mentions which is a great way to add value to a post. Good links, such as these, provide readers with a good experience. Linking out is a great skill to develop and a solid way of establishing what the connections of your post in the wider world.

Ansteysp, who has a user name I am not sure how to pronounce, chose a theme which is focused on reading above all else. Like Kentish Ramblers minimalist theme, this one too is fantastic for reading. Ease of reading is a big deal and can make it much easier for a blog to really take off and find a solid reader base. I think the big theme and dominant image matched the mood and style of the narrative form used for this post.

The Winners

When I say this was a hard choice, I am not being nice. This was one of the hardest choices I have ever had to make. Even after grading all the posts on a scale of 1 to 5 for different areas, I still had several joint first places. I took a long time over this. In the end, the winner of “Best Post” was a photo finish.

Week One Best Post: Kentish Rambler

When it comes to poetry I am very hard to please. Not only was this post expressive of the theme (as so many were), and not only did it resonate with me, but it was a poem. This post picked up bonus points for being a novel approach to the theme and managed, by a nose, to win out against some very stiff competition.

Week One Best Comment: Neil W

There were several strong contenders for best comment but Neil’s comment was a stand out winner for me. There were a lot of good comments but this one, in particular, I felt really epitomised what giving good feedback is all about. Neil’s comment, along with several others, added a great deal of value to both the blog post as well as, I feel, being good feedback for the writer.

Week One Most commented Upon Post

Here, at least, was a contest point that required only that I be able to count. Jess Joy’s post gathered a lot more comments than any other. I am pleased that I am able to write that this post is a winner because it was a very strong contester for the Best Post slot and, like all the posts this week, it deserved some love.

Bonus Winner: for making a great effort setting up a blog

When I wrote that we would have a bonus prize for best effort, I foolishly thought it would be easy to judge. This was not the case. However, there was one contest participant who I could see was making a lot of effort (and indeed I praised that effort). Irving Benjamin, this one is for you.

And Now: Week Two

Why not congratulate the winners (and other participants) by giving them some comment love.

Best of luck to everyone who takes part with this week’s theme. It’s not too late if you want to join in now – there are 11 themes left to go.

You can find out about Week Two’s theme here.

Writers’ Writing Competition: Week Two

Here is the theme for the writing competition that also builds your author platform. For full details please see week one’s post.

Week Two: Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 13th.

If I had a time machine…

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to.

Don’t forget

Don’t forget to link to this week’s post so your entry is (much) easier to discover. You may find it easier to get more comments if you also share your post to your Facebook friends or on Twitter.

Platform Building Jargon Buster

Helping people get set up for the writing contest has caused me to realise just how much I take for granted. Not everyone knows what I know, which should be obvious.

The aim of this post is just to help you navigate what can be some confusion terminology for something that should otherwise be quite a lot of fun.

Author Platform

This is the sum total of all the people paying attention to you. Your audience, in other words. Not to be confused with your blog or website.

Blogging Platform

Blogging platform has to be the most confusing name anyone gave anything. This is just your blog, or rather, the technology that runs your blog.

I try to avoid using the phrase “Blogging Platform”. Instead, I like to call it blogging software or blog system which is a bit easier to understand.

Reach

This is usually a measure of the number of people you can reach. Also known as your audience. Some places, such as Facebook, have their own spin on what it means.

URL aka URI aka link

At the top of your screen is an address bar. It probably says something like http://www.example.com/stuff… most of the time. If you are asked to post a link, that is what you are being asked to share.

To share a link to a post, for example. Navigate to the public version of that post (WordPress and other systems often have a private version for you to edit and so forth). Then copy and paste the text from the address bar.

To add to the confusion, links my be referred to by any of the following names:

  • URL or URI
  • Link
  • (Web) Address
  • Web link
  • Web path

Whatever word you prefer it all amounts to the same thing.

Comment love

Comment love is a term bloggers often use which means to show appreciation for a blog post by posting a good comment. It can also mean to get traffic back (through the link your comment makes) due to leaving a good comment.

Leaving helpful comments that add value to a post can be a good way to grow your readership (and thus your author platform). Try to move beyond saying “nice post” to actually explaining what you liked or engaging the topic and other commenters in a discussion.

These days it is very easy to keep your comments to facebook but taking a moment to post directly on a blog is a way to show love and appreciation for the writer.

Pings and trackbacks

This is not one thing, but rather a bunch of technologies that do more or less the same thing. It is a way of saying “hey, I mentioned you”.

If you are using WordPress the pingback settings are found under settings, in the Discussion section and probably look something like this.

ping-backs

The exact system differs from system to system. For example, in NucleusCMS (which I use for my personal sites) this is an added feature which requires a plugin.

Like comments, pingbacks and trackbacks often need to be manually accepted on most sites. Which can mean that they take a little while to show up. Not all blogging systems support them and those that do might not send them. If yours does not, it is not the end of the world and I really would not worry too much about it.

For example, Tumblr and Blogger accounts generally don’t have that (they may have similar systems for internal use).

SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. To be honest, until you are comfortable just writing good content and publishing it, don’t worry about SEO. SEO, is for the most part, about creating quality content.

There is a bit more to SEO than that, but quality content is the cornerstone of all SEO.

  • I have written a lot more about SEO here.

Guest Blogging

Again this is something that you don’t want to get stuck into until your own blog is well established. Once you are well established occasionally writing for another reputable blog, or having a blogger of good reputation write for you, can be a nice change of pace.

Outposts

Some experts describe things like your social media presence (pages, twitter accounts, profiles, etc) as your social media outposts. This is a way of simply recognising that your social media is not the centre of your platform but more like an outpost on foregn soil.

Thus, it follows, your best stuff should always be saved for serving to your own guests, at home. Most blog systems allow you to send a link out to your outposts when you publish. This can be very handy and cut down on your workload.

Spam

We all hate spam email but there are also spam comments and even spammy blog posts. They are just as devoid of value and reak of desperation. If what you were about to post feels “spammy” it might be time to rethink.

Spam is anything that is low quality and of no value to another human being. Spam is bad. Don’t do it.

Link love

Link love is a term bloggers often use when talking about linking to another blogger. Links are like votes to Google so by taking the time to link to another blog you are showing them some love by voting for them.

Link love is great and you should be fairly generous with it when you find a deserving blog or blog post. Don’t go silly. Remember, your readers need to understand why you posted that link and it needs to fit with what you are saying. However, spreading the love around makes the world a nicer place.

An appropriately placed link says to your readers, go here and read this. Make sure that is a deserved recommendation and your readers will thank you.

Bad neighbourhoods

This is a Google idea that has some merit. It is a way of describing those bits of the web which are low quality and spammy. You are unlikely to have to worry about bad neighbourhoods unless you being a bit shady yourself.

Your readers will not be happy if you link them to such nasty bits of the web and Google takes a dim view of it too. However, if you follow the recomendation to link to things that deserve it, you will almost never link to a bad neighbourhood.

Domains and Domain Names

Domain names are usually the part of a URL that you remember. Like facebook.com or thanetcreativewriters.wordpress.com. If you are willing to pay for it you can get a custom .com or .co.uk (or whatever).

Custom domain names are probably something you can leave until later. Unless, of course, you want to set up a custom website or self-host your blogging software.

Anything else?

Have I missed anything out? What else would you include in this list? Share your insights in the comments below.

Over to you.

What is an author platform?

Your author platform is what enables you to sell a lot of books, but what is it?

Very few agents know what an author platform is. Most publishers seem to be clueless about author platforms. Even successful authors are not always aware of their own platform or how they built it.

Over the course of this post I am going to explain what an author platform is and why it is so hard to explain.

I am also going to share the secret of a good authorial platform.

Defining an “Author Platform

Very few publishers truly understand the author platform. Even writers have a hard time explaining what one is.

It seems that even Jane Friedman, who has a very effective author website, has a hard a time as anyone defining what one is and she has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry behind her.

This difficulty is not a surprise. Author platforms are badly defined most of the time and most people only have a vague sense of what they are. This is because the idea of a platform is a marketing concept that has made a crude transition into the world of publishing.

As writers, we are often still trying to “get it”.

I have spent the last fifteen or so years in the world of marketing and SEO and might be one of the few writers that can explain author platforms to you properly.

What is a platform?

In marketing terms a platform is all the work you have done to get an audience. That audience is listening to you and while you have their attention – that is your platform.

If I had a hit chat show that I hosted, then that chat show would be my platform – millions of people would tune in each week and I could use that to push a message or promote something.

If I have any sense I would promote my product in such a way that I would gain rather than loose viewers. That gaining of viewers is know as building my platform.

A platform is the current attention that I have that I can use to address any topic I want.

A newspaper is a platform. Newspapers moguls often use that platform to play “kingmaker” in general elections.

A successful blog is a platform. Top bloggers often use their platform to make money and sell products or services.

Facebook and Google are a platforms, but they are not your platform. To use Facebook’s or Google’s platform you are going to have to pay money or be very good at viral marketing.

So what is an “Author Platform“?

When Jane Friedman defines an author platform as an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach, she pretty much summed it up.

An author platform is the platform (connection to a steady audience) that you have as an author.

That’s why blogs and social media play such a huge part in building an authorial platform. They enable you to address any topic you wish. Do that well, and your platform will grow.

There is a simple secret to all this.

Neil Gaiman’s “Author Platform

A perfect example of building a good author platform is Neil Gaiman. Mr Gaiman, aside from being an amazing writer and one of my literary heroes, is also genuinely interested in interacting with fans.

Neil Gaiman blogs about life, about writing, and about books that are coming out soon. When his beloved dog passed away millions of us mourned with him. Gaiman’s ability to put feelings into words let us share a personal moment with him; or at least feelt hat we did.

Not only does Neil Gaiman have his blog but he has a Tumblr account too. The by-line says The official Neil Gaiman Tumblr, but honestly no better than the unofficial Neil Gaiman Tumblrs out there. Will sometimes have stuff about my books or my wife in it.

Here, Gaiman will sometimes answer fan questions and give advice to young writers. That’s just the sort of awesome person he is.

Neil Gaiman’s platform is not the blog or the tumblr (although they are put of it). If they were to be deleted tomorrow he could set up shop somewhere else and still have the same platform.

Neil Gaiman’s platform is the loyalty and attention that he has earned from his fans and followers.

He got that by employing the one secret that I am going to share.

Your “Author Platform

When I wrote Setting Up Your Author Platform, I said that the core of your platform would be your own website. That’s because unless you are lucky enough to have a syndicated and popular chat show, a website (with a blog) is probably your best way to get started.

That’s not to say that your main presence might not be a Facebook page, a tumblr account, a youtube channel, a podcast, a web series, an endless series of speaking engagements, or something that no one has even invented yet. It might be any of those, or none of them.

There is also sorts of SEO, video editing, essay writing, networking, and social media management that can go into a good platform. But at the heart of it, the secret of a good authorial platform is so much simpler.

Want to know the secret?

The secret of a good authorial platform

Forbes tries, and makes a good effort, to explain what an author platform is. Read their explanation here. Yet even though they spend two pages explaining author platforms, they only skirt arround the issue.

Neil Gaiman instinctively employes the secret. If you study his platform you might work it out for yourself.

George R. R. Martin was given his platform by HBO (although, to be fair, he had one before that too).

The secret of a good authorial platform (aka your Author Platform) is this:

Give people a reason to spend their finite supply of attention on you, by providing value.

  • You provide value by being authentic.
  • You provide value by constantly connecting with people
  • You provide value by providing content that matters to the people you want to reach.

Neil Gaiman does this by being himself and connecting with other people who are like him. This works because those are exactly the sort of people that will want to read his books.

It helps that Gaiman has been writing a long time and his fans actively seek him out because they passionately love what he does. I know that because I am one of his fans.

George R. R. Martin’s platform works because there is a huge TV show based on his work and enough fans to remind the new fans that there are books they can read.

George R. R. Martin got there by writing solid books and working hard to build a fan base. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like he did that by being a regular guest at expos and festivals. That was what worked for him.

J. K. Rowling maintains a platform by being sassy on Twitter. The geekier news sites love her for it. Of course, it helps that she has a hit book series and a whole bunch of films to back her up. What Rowling is doing is capitalising on her success.

Rowling, Martin, and Gaiman have all found a way to give back to the people that love what they do. It is, very much, a two way relationship between author and fans.

These authors give people a reasons to invest attention on them by providing value.

Attention is finite – the last true limited resource. People do not give it away for no reason.

For example, the fact that you are still reading this article is evidence that I have been successful in sharing something that you have decided was worth your time to read. You are not reading this article because I have some magic way with words but because I have, I hope, shared something that you found helpful.

To make it as an author, we each need to provide a good reason why our content is worth other people’s attention.

Do that and then, when you have a book release coming up, there will be people that are willing to not only notice but care enough to go out and buy that book.

When you and the content you produce are worth attention, people will give it freely. The secret of keeping that attention is to keep giving value.

Of course, there are ways to leverage that attention and maximise your return from it but at the heart of it all is the simple fact – you need to be worth paying attention to.

That is your author platform in a nutshell.

Writers’ Writing Competition

As promised, here are the details of our just for fun writing competition that also builds your author platform.

The competition is design to be a little bit like one of our group meetings. We all share our work in a format that we are happy with (see getting set up for more on that) and then we give feedback to each other in the comments.

You win if you get the most comments from the most people, or if you write a really good comment, or if you write a great entry.

This competition is all about being social and working together (with great feedback) as well as showing off your writing skills.

Competition and Rules

Anyone can enter

This competition is open to anyone at all. As long as you have access to the Internet, you can enter this competition. If you have time, you can enter twice but you are probably not going to want to.

Competition

There will be 12 rounds, one each week. Each round will have a theme to which you may write as little or as much as you wish. The only requirement is that your entry must be posted online – I will show you exactly how to do that as this is the part that builds your platform.

At the end of the 12 weeks, there will be a big community vote to pick the all time favourite – as chosen by you.

How to enter

To enter you need to publish your entry online with a link back to that week’s competition page. Don’t worry this is really easy. There are lots of free ways to publish your entry in a way that builds up your platform. There is a section called “getting set up” which will show you how to create a free account to post your entries. If you get stuck, ask in the group.

Winning

There will be three winners each week:

  1. Best entry
  2. Best on-page feedback (to someone else’s entry)
  3. Entry with the most on-page comments by different people

The winner will be whoever it seems like, has best matched one of those criteria. If there are lots of good entries and your one is not picked all I ask is that you be a good sport about it. Just by writing well, you are winning yourself a good foundation towards your future writing career.

The prize for best feedback will be limited to people who have entered the competition, so make sure you are clear about who you are. Also, don’t forget to give the feedback on the article itself and not on Facebook otherwise I might miss it.

So don’t just put your entry up, go and read other people’s because you might just win for an insightful or helpful comment.

This competition is as much about the comments you give as the entry itself. Read how to give great feedback.

Build your Author Platform

The aim of this competition is to have fun and while having fun you will also be enhancing your author platform without realising it.  An author platform is an engine by which you are able to generate sales as an author. It is made up of the presence and following that you have created prior to publication.

So in other words, you will have fun while also laying a foundation for future writing success. We will be having fun but you will also be building up your author presence – something which can take a long time to mature.

Week One: Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 6th. Before you get writing, you should read the getting set up section, if you need help setting up a free space where you can publish things (Facebook just is not going to cut it this time).

What gets me writing?

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to.

My Platform: Getting set up

Placeholder Image

This is the only bit that is ever so slightly fiddly and may take as long as three whole minutes. Longer, if you want to customise things a lot.

It is also the most exciting part of the whole process. You will be claiming a space for your authorial voice to be heard. It is really easy and super fun. It is also very helpful later on when it comes time to get published.

To build your platform, you need somewhere you can publish your own content. This s where you are going to post your competition entries. If you already own a blog, then you can use that, if you want.

I recommend WordPress but I will show you haw to set up on a few different free sites so you can find one that you are comfortable using.

You don’t have to use these platforms but you will get the best benefit from using a proper blog. Also, blogs are fun. Trust me.

WordPress

If you have signed up to contribute to this site, or you have blogged at WordPress before then you already have an account but if you need one they take no time at all to set up. then just pick a format and you are ready to go.

WordPress will ping us when you publish your entry so I will know that you have entered. This is because you are going to link to that week’s competition page.

Quora

If you don’t like WordPress you can use Quora which has a free blogging option. It will look something like this. Just sign up and choose the blog option from your profile menu.

You may need to share your entry in the group, which is fine because I think you might like to do that anyway.

TumblR

Another choice is TumblR. We have a TumblR blog here. To play fair, you will have to make sure that your entry has comments enabled.

Medium

If you just want to enter the competition and don’t much care that you could be building a platform at the same time them Medium might be the choice for you. Again, grab a free account and post away.

Linking

With all these platforms to make a link, you just highlight the text to make into a link and then press the link icon. This will give you a box where you can paste the link which is found in your address bar at the top of the page.

It starts thanetcreativewriters.wordpress.com but you knew that right.

Try to use some text such as:

This is my Thanet Creative Writers Competition entry.

That way, it makes it easy for me to know that you want to be part of the competition.

Good Luck

Best of luck and remember you can write anything that fits this theme and use any title that you wish. Just link to this page and share your article on our Facebook group so I know that you are entering.

There’s no wrong answer and you can win not only by writing but by leaving a great comment on someone else’s work. If you need help, leave a comment on this blog post or post in our Facebook group.

I can’t wait to read what you write.

Setting up your author platform

Nothing else will sell your book to an agent or publisher like the idea that you have already set up the marketing and they simply need to cash in on it.

When we talked about getting a good agent and took a look at the advice out there, one of the top points was building a platform. That means gathering prospective enthusiastic readers who would buy your book if it came out today.

A strong platform is like catnip to agents and publishers. It means ready success and, more importantly for everyone, profits.

Creating an author platform is no small task. However, long before your book is ready, there are some foundations you could be putting into place.

In a single post, I could not possibly cover even half of the basics so this is going to be a very broad strokes picture. I will go into more detail on specifics in the future and the chances are that sooner or later I will run a seminar or two on the subject.

So you do not miss out I suggest that you follow or bookmark this blog and like the Thanet Creative Writers page so that you get those updates as soon as they come out.

Building an author platform

This is perhaps the most important single nugget of advice that I can give you – start with something that you completely control.

Facebook, Twitter and all that are great but at the end of the day they are owned by someone else. If you spend all your effort building a platform in someone else’s sandbox and, one day, they close up shop then you have nothing.

There are two things you can control. One on-line and one off-line. Both have legal and security considerations and can carry a small cost but they are worth doing and doing right.

Building an online platform

An online platform should be founded on a website. From here you are going to build a presence as an author. I suggest a setup that allows people to subscribe and allows you to make regular updates.

Those updates are very important. Without them, your site will appear dead and your support will become stale and useless in a matter of months. A great example to follow is Neil Gaiman a popular author who maintains a very open dialogue with his fans.

As part of this site, you are going to need a unique domain name. such as, for example, amazingauthorbob.com (or whatever). I can help with that.

This website should be on hosting that you can directly control. Even if you don’t really understand the ins and outs of it all you, personally, should have access to the files and the database that make up the website.

Hosting is going to set you back a few quid a month. Best value comes from a Linux based hosting deal which offers FTP access, PHP and some sort of database (MySQL for preference). These technologies are likely to cost your host nothing at all so the price of your package will be low. Furthermore, you will be able to run a CMS (content management system) or blog platform (such as WordPress, Joomla, or WebGUI).

Before picking a platform, decide what you want to do with it and then select a platform that does those things really well. You can take a huge number of open source (free) solutions) for a spin at opensourcecms.com. Best of all most of these packages are entirely free if you host them yourself.

If you are not a technical person and find the thought of setting up your own website horrific, it may pay to hire a local geek to do that for you. The chances are, these days, that the average teenager could set that up for you with their eyes closed. Alternatively, some hosting packages come with the option to press a button and have the setup done for you.

The reason for suggesting a CMS or blogging system is that the interface for putting up content is a whole lot friendlier than doing it with raw HTML and CSS files. What’s more, you are in control of the content. Being in control of your own content means that you are free to work on things whenever you have time, rather than waiting for some busy designer to get back to you.

Using an online platform

Now that you have a website with a domain name of your own, you have something that you can put on business cards. Not only that but if you set things up right you also have a custom email address with that domain name in it. Custom email addresses look more professional and inspire trust.

I am sorry to say but from the moment that you launch this platform you are committing to putting out something fresh at least once a week.

Make friends a with a cheap digital camera as photos bring content to life.

If you are part of a local writer’s group, you might consider promoting them. This shows that you are active as a writer and also is reasonably pretty likely to result in reciprocal promotion down the line.

There is one more thing that you need to set up and promote on your site – a contact form. With this you will make connections with possible fans and, assuming you get permission, you will start to build your list.

Building an offline platform

Offline, your best platform is your author’s address book. In marketing terms, we call this your “list”. It is a list of people that you have permission to contact. Ideally, people that will be pleased to hear from you.

As a safety measure do not store this list only in your web hosting. If anything goes wrong with the hosting, you want to keep hold of the list.

I could write from now up to the end of the year about list building, about ways to get people to subscribe to your mailing list, of getting people to sign up for newsletters. Of all that. What it boils down to is networking your behind off.

When you have a book signing, after you are published. Being able to email local fans and get them there will impress the publisher (and your agent) and also get you a lot of credit with local bookshop owners who will be very pleased to have you back next time.

Extending your platform into social media

Now you have the foundations in place, it is time to look at social media. A well established social media outpost represents you, as an author, in the social space but also serves to point people back to your site (home).

Social media users are not at all tolerant of spam – spam in this instance is posting the same thing more than once and also posting very similar things. Mix it up and keep it interesting. Share pictures (use that camera I suggested) as well as links to your new content on-site.

Each site has different amounts of effort required to make it work. Twitter, for example, is somewhat over-posting tolerant and is highly forgiving if you take random days off. Facebook (pages), on the other hand, are extremely intolerant of over posting and goes stale if more than 24 hours are left between updates. Choose what works for you.

Ideally, you are looking to start, not with big numbers, but quality fans or followers. Quality here means: Reacts to and interacts with you.

Try to connect with communities that are interested in the type of book you are finishing.

Conclusion

I could easily write a book about each area that I just covered. There is just so much that could be said. The most important is that building a good platform will make your work easier to get published.

On a side note, you are already doing a lot of free work “for the exposure” so don’t let anyone take advantage of the fact that you are just starting out. Big operations and small will often try to get you to work for nothing more than a link home. You are a professional writer – or will be once published – professionals get paid or at least make an even trade.

Finally, do not let all this distract you from actually writing but try to make a little time to build a valuable platform. You will be glad that you did.

What tips would you add?

Do you have an author website – tell us about it?

Do you promote on social media? Which sites worked best for you?

Getting a good literary agent

Getting published is not easy. Getting a literary agent helps but getting an agent is no small task.

For example, 5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Work from Ending Up in an Agent’s Trash” by Bethany Cadman (author of Doctor Vanilla’s Sunflowers) lists not following the submission guidelines, poor spelling, and bad query letters among the reasons writers get rejected.

Assuming that you avoid the common mistakes here is a selection of advice from writers about getting a good literary agent.

Forbes contributor Nick Morgan, writes Here’s How To Catch The Eye Of A Literary Agent. One of the key points here is that it pays to build your platform. We are going to look at building a platform another time because it is a truly huge topic. I have spent my entire life learning methods you can use and even I feel like I am still something of a novice sometimes.

When it comes to platform, the basic advice is this – build a collection of followers who will be delighted to hear from you and would very likely buy your book when then do. As I said, more on that another time.

A sad but true fact is that Science fiction, a genre close to my heart, has suffered from more than its fair share of fraudulent scammers (pretending to be agents) over the years. Science Fiction Writers of America has a solid article helping you to find a real agent and identify scammers (hint: a real agent does not ask for upfront fees). Read it here even if your genre is something else entirely.

Jane Friedman has compiled a fantastic in-depth look at how to get published and specifically what you need to do to get a good literary agent. How to Find a Literary Agent for Your Book looks at how to assess your work’s commercial potential, how to decide if you even need an agent, and how to research agents. There is so much more in there, just go read it.

Writers & Artists have a huge selection of articles about getting an agent including advice for first-time writers, getting your foot in the door, and why you should beware of vanity publishers.

Piers Blofeld, a literary agent, tells you how to get an agent in the video below.

One of the most important things that Piers Blofeld says that you need is a cover letter. You’d know this if you had not skipped the video (in which case you are missing out scroll back up and watch it now). Below, agents talk about the best, or at least most striking, cover letters that they ever got.

I hope that when you are ready to seek out a literary agent for your new masterpiece that this guide will help you find success.

Have you been published? Did you self-publish, go directly to the publisher, or did you use an agent? What advice would you add?