Thanet Creative: New name; new site

The sun is setting on this website – we are moving off to Author Buzz UK. Don’t worry, all the best bits of this website are coming with us.

Our new name, in case you have not guessed, is Thanet Creative which means our work for writers is now Thanet Creative: Writers. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In the year or so that the Thanet Creative Writers’ blog has been here, we have had a fantastic competition and I’ve written some really fun articles. As a charity, we have struggled with the fact that all the most relevant domain names were being cyber-squatted by mean people. We know who – they said something that told us without ever realising they did.

As a charity, we have struggled with the fact that all the most relevant domain names were being cyber-squatted by mean people. We know who – they said something that told us without ever realising they did. However, as a wonderful side effect of a recent simplification of our name, we have been able to snag much better domain names and can now set up a dedicated website.

I talk about that a bit here.

Meanwhile, we are in the process of moving over to Author Buzz UK and if you check out our new site, you will see it is a lot like this one. All of our projects are listed there already. WordPress.com has been a wonderful host and looked after us very well but it is time to spread our wings and play with more powerful toys.

I will continue to post updates here until we are fully settled in and then this website will be left as an archive to point people to our new site.

I hope that you will join us at our new home. See you there.

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How Author Buzz UK is helping writers

This post is all about a new project called Author Buzz UK it can be found at authorbuzz.co.uk and is designed to help writers, bookshops, authors, publishers, and agents connect with readers.

Author Buzz UK was designed to help authors create a solid platform without any more technical skill than is required to sign up for a free account. A fully customised Author Buzz account should definitely become part of your growing author platform.

All of this goodness is offered for free to anyone and all you need to get started is an easy to set up profile. Once you are set up with your profile you will have access to the following resources. If you have a wordpress.com account then you can log right in with that and start enjoying your profile right away.

Talking about running your own blogs, I already have a writer blog set up. The Matthew D. Brown (author) blog is where I post my stories as a serial. You should get over there and give them a read. If you subscribe to the blog you can get an update when I publish new story entries.

Later, as the admin team continue to expand the site’s capability, there will be even more great features open to you. These features are planned but are still being tested and improved.

  • Agents will be able to maintain a profile for their authors
  • Authors will be able to maintain a list of their books which readers can review and, quite importantly, purchase from major retailers.
  • Readers will be able to connect their account to GoodReads and show off the books they have read.
  • Read more about the vision for Author Buzz UK.

It has to be said that, as of writing this article, things are still being set up at Author Buzz. So there will be ongoing changes and improvements. Crucially, this is the stage of development where your input could radically alter the finished product. If your company or your needs as a writer are not being met anywhere else, then your input could help shape Author Buzz UK into exactly what you need.

I would highly recommend that anyone who writes, publishes, or promotes those that do, sign up for a free account and become a beta tester while your opinion has the power to shape the site.

The admin and development staff at Author Buzz are dedicated to the principles of transparency and open creativity. As such they have a dedicated development blog where they talk about both the success and failures that they encounter as they work towards bringing this dream to life. I know this because I am the lead developer in the team.

Thanet Creative Writers already have our own group on Author Buzz. Connect with us there if Facebook is not your thing.

Get on over to Author Buzz UK and create a free account.

Competition thoughts

There should have been a new entry for this week. I know it is late. There should have been one (or is it two) sets of winners announced this week too.

I’m going to get to that in just a moment. Before I do, would you mind if I rambled on about what I have been so caught up in this last few weeks?

Brilliant, thank you.

A few weeks ago I started working on a new article. One of the big, well-researched ones that I have not written for a while. This one was about the author of the Martian. In the article, I focused on how Andy Wier used his platform to get a book and film deal (in the same week). One of the things that Wier did was publish his work as a serial.

One of the things that Wier did was publish his work as a serial. Serial writing seemed like a lot of fun and something I wanted to try.

As a typical over-thinker, I started thinking not about the easiest way to do this but the best way. In no time at all, I had cooked up a whole batch of ideas. One of those ideas was a project I had been sitting on for years and years – Author Buzz. I had owned authorbuzz.co.uk for a long time and at some point I let it expire.

My chosen domain name was available again so I registered it. But not before I suggested to Thanet Creative Writers that we start a portal for all writers. Both the idea of serial writing and the portal received a positive response and so I went ahead.

chimpanzee_seated_at_typewriter

What I did was create an entire WordPress network (like wordpress.com but just for authors). I then had to start writing and fixing and integrating and coding and theming like a wizard. I am not a wizard. This is much, much harder than I thought it would be.

This is an actual photograph of how I felt while I was doing this.

As a result, I have not kept up with everything. For that, I apologise. It was not fair to keep you guys hanging.

If it is okay with everyone, what I will do is pause the competition for this week. Which adds an extra week for the deadline of our last theme. During the week I will announce our winners and on Monday I will announce the winners of last week (and this week, now). I will also set the next theme ready to publish. In case you want to get writing, here was the sneak peek of what the themes will be. I had planned all twelve before we even started.

We have two themes and the grand vote off to go and I want to give you wonderful writers my full attention while it takes place.

I also want to shout out to Jess Joy for reminding me just how far from the straight and narrow I have wandered lately. I also want to thank not just Jess but AUTHORity, Artimis Blake, Kentish Rambler, L. L. Winder, Neil, and Anstey for your wonderful contributions. Reading your work has been a pleasure and a joy. I truly hope that all of you continue to write after the competition has ended.

Once more, please forgive this interruption. We will get back on track next week. That’s a promise.

What stops me writing?

This week our competition hits the half way mark and comes with a twist in the tale. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

As with every week, there is a theme. As with every week, there will be three winners. This week, however, things change a little.

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but there will not be a winner for the most comments. Instead, it is time for us to push ourselves and enhance the platform we have been building with our blogs. Entries that take part in this new section will be given preference in the event of a tie (and let’s be honest, you are all very good).

Additionally, to get “best post” you need to have linked to this post (unless you write something which is unequivocally orders of magnitude better than all the rest combined. If you need help with links see this post and if you need general WordPress help see this post.

But first the theme, this one is a sequal:

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 17th.

What stops me writing?

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

A bonus will be awarded to any writer that manages to link back to their own “What gets me writing” post (week one) in a way that fits with the post and seems natural. If judging is as hard as it normally is, that bonus could help.

How to really win this week

In preparation to our big finish, you will need to step out of your comfort zone once more. This time, however, it is not such a big step. If you can sign up for Facebook, then you can do this too.

Have you ever used Reddit? You will need an account there. It is free to sign up and free to use (just like Facebook or Twitter).

On Reddit is a section called Thanet Blogs. I created it a few months ago and it has been mostly dormant for a while now. That makes it perfect for our new competition element.

Once you have published your blog post, you will need to post a link to the Reddit. WordPress users, that means making sure you post the public URL and not your private one.

The winner will be the post with the most up votes (down voting by competition entrants is not allowed). Aside from us, anyone who uses Reddit could come and vote. You could, for example, get your friends to come and vote for you. You might want to be sporting and vote for each other too.

If you use WordPress (or Google analytics on Blogger) you may see traffic (that is visitors) being sent to you from Reddit. This is good. Once you are comfortable posting on Reddit you might feel like extending out from the sandbox of this particular subreddit and finding larger communities. Writers of Thanet, for example, or the global Writers, if you are feeling brave. There is even a Thanet Creative Writers (which is just about Thanet Creative Writers).

Getting your links out into relevant places is part of establishing and growing your platform. (The opposite of getting your link in irrelevant places – which is spam).

The answer to the question “what stops me writing?” might now be “reading reddit”. You have been warned.

You will be needed your Reddit account for the total lack of grand prize and the Overall Winner selection at the end.

Week Two Winners

Late but arriving as fast as I can format text, are the winners for the Week Two competition. The theme was time travel which reminds me, if I don’t hit publish soon I will need a time machine because guests are about to arrive for

The theme was time travel which reminds me, if I don’t hit publish soon I will need a time machine because guests are about to arrive for Tea and Chat. The irony of getting a post out late during Time Travel week is not lost on me.

As always, there were three winners to identify:

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

I am aware that one or two of you are still tinkering with WordPress or trying to figure out how to get started. I have also learned that things that I take for granted like adding a link to something specific is not at all clear for everyone (yet). I promise to write about linking specifically as soon as I can. I put together a WordPress FAQ for those that need it.

Things that particularly impressed me

The quality of the work this week was really astounding. What was I thinking, imagining that I could pick out just a few winners?

Congratulations to everyone who was using WordPress and dealt with the sudden change to the editor this week.

Unexpected plot twists. I saw a real handbrake turn of a plot twist this week. It was so good that I felt it was worth a mention.

Everything I look for in a time travel story was found in one perfect short story. Despite a snafu with the linking making the text a bit hard to read (all blue from links and my dyslexia, not so fun) it was nevertheless perfectly told.

A poem that almost sets up a story not told was the tease we had this week. I want to read the story of good intentions derailed by temptation.

A very honest reflection. Ine of the best ways to write is to be brutally honest. This is a post that typifies that honesty perfectly.

A perfect insight into a writer’s mind. What more can you say? This was a fantastic reflection on the engine of writing. Asking “what if” and filling in the blanks of unknowns. Loved it.

A novel approach to an old topic. This read like some old school sci-fi, a bit rough around the edges, but what a story!

Sci-fi and comedy delivered with a comfortable ease. I liked the way the author self-inserted their own writer persona as the main protagonist. Also, coffee powered time travel.

Poetry with a plot twist. I love the way, in so few lines, this poet plays with several tropes of time travel.

Some constructive criticism

This is aimed at no one in particular but are just some observations that I hope will help you. To be honest, there was so much to praise about this week’s batch of entries that I struggled to find anything to write in this section.

Don’t forget to post

First, and most obviously, don’t do what I just did – promise a post and then utterly fail to get it published. I feel like I should still apologise some more for that. Such a silly mistake.

Centre aligned paragraphs

I saw a lot more centre align text this week than last. It is a topic I address to businesses fairly frequently. This is probably because I have something of a unique perspective on odd text. I am dyslexic and centred text (and a few other unusual formattings) plays merry hell with my ability to read it. (Don’t worry, I am a geek and can get my browser to correct my view for me).

Generally, people centre text when they want it to look balanced, appear to be different, or just want to make it stand out or look “nice”. It might look okay to you but if you raise the reading difficulty of the text by quite a bit.

WordPress users have the Block Quote option which looks like a pair of opening quote marks. That will definitely make the text appear to be different. Other options include italics, bold, a different colour, or full justify. Our WordPress FAQ has more details on how to use these features.

Links

Links are great. Links are how the Web works. Linking to something is like sharing love. It is a great way to build the community around you. I have promised to try and produce a guide to linking. I will be doing that soon.

If you can figure out linking then try to always link to what you are talking about. Some of you do – this is to your credit.

As a side note, links work best if they are added in after the text is written. Put them in at the end, is my advice. This can also help avoid situations where the editor tries to make everything one giant link.

Please note that I never knock off marks for not linking but you will not get as much out of the contest if you do not link out when it counts.

The Winners

Best Post: Ansteysp

OMG, you writers! I honestly had a good reason to give each and every last one of you the prize for “best” post. The batch of posts this week was amazing. Each one typified a great post in some way. It almost came down to my simply drawing names out of a hat – that’s how hard it was to pick a winner this week.

Best Comment: Kentish Rambler

There were several great comments to choose from this week. I spend ages go back and forth between them all trying to make up my mind. You have all really gotten into the whole constructive feedback groove this week. This was a hard call to make.

Post with most comments: Irving Benjamin

The runaway winner for most comments was Irving’s post. You all did a good job of picking up comments and commenting on each other’s work but this post just picked up a few more.

And Now: Week Three

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 10 themes left to go.

You can find out about the Week Three theme here.

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.

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.

5 Great Sites for Writers

When it comes to writing advice there is a lot of junk out there. There is also a lot of really good content hidden among the junk. If you are willing to search, there is truly amazing advice that will supercharge your writing with its insights. Here are five (ish) links that I think you will definitely want to bookmark.

1. Bane of Your Resistance

Bane of Your Resistance is a blog all about overcoming resistance to writing (such as writers block or being too busy to write). The tag line actually says so you can stop feeling guilty and really enjoy writing again.

Bane of Your Resistance is written by Rosanne Bane, TEDx speaker and general expert on such things. Rosanne Bane is a creativity coach, writing and creativity instructor, speaker and author. In other words, she knows what she is talking about.

If you struggle with not writing, and we all have at some point, then Rosanne Bane is the person that you need to be reading.

2. Funds for Writers

Funds for Writers is a website all about getting paid as a writer. It tells you all about grants you could apply for, competitions that pay well, and much more. While this would be of more use if you like American dollars and live in, say, the USA, it is nevertheless a great place to get inspired to think outside the box about funding your writing.

This will not be a site for everyone. Taking what you learn on Funds for Writers and the American market and applying it to the UK is going to take some personal effort and for some of us, that effort is just not worth it. For those us willing and able to put in the time, Funds for Writers can be a great source of inspiration.

3. Writers Helping Writers

Some of the best advice for writers I have read was found on Writers Helping Writers. If you are looking for advice on creating vivid characters, demonstrating motivation, dealing with difficult issues of pain in a story, or any other topic (those were just the ones on the front page when I looked just now), I assure you that you will come away feeling inspired and educated.

As the title of the website says, this is a site where writers offer advice and help to other writers. All of the articles are geared this way and the quality of advice is very high.

I have seen plenty of “me too” sites where the drive for daily content has resulted in a declining quality of articles and a general desperation that drives the editors to publish any half-baked junk they get sent. Writers Helping Writers is just the opposite. It is a website packed to the nines with high-quality advice. Advice that you could and should read.

4. Better Novel Project

The Better Novel Project is a blog that deconstructs best-selling novels scene by scene to show you why and how the novel works the way it does.

Take, for example, How to Write a Fight Scene (in 11 Steps). This is not just one writer’s personal opinion but a breakdown of how such scenes work in best-selling stories.

Before I wrote this guide I had not seen the fight scene breakdown. I stopped writing this guide and read the fight scene article intently. I can honestly say I have a better idea of how to write a fight than I ever did before.

If you only read one new blog this year, read this one.

5. Stack Overflow, no seriously.

“Can you really mean that?” you might be asking. “But Matt,” you might say, “SO is a geek website all about computers.” (Which it is).

Stay with me for a moment because I am about to let you in a secret. There are subsections of SO that are just perfect for writers. The first is called Writers and the second is Worldbuilding. I get lost reading these sites sometimes and have had some great feedback on many complicated issues. For example, the conditions under which a moon could be terraformed.

For example, in World Building, I got very good scientific insight into the conditions under which a moon could be terraformed and how that process might actually work in a very specific scenario.

Before you go and get stuck in, you need to understand that this is not a forum and chit chat is not well tolerated. SO is a question and answer site. The idea is that the best questions and the best answers rise to the top and the community is very active towards that goal.

Writers and Worldbuilding can be powerful friends to help you plan and write you great novel but it is worth taking the introductory tour first.

A bonus mention

With so many great sites that I could recommend (and a few I could recommend you avoid) there were always going to be ones I had to leave out. Here is a bonus link: Writers in the Storm it is a blog, every bit as good as the others I have already shared. With a title like that, I had to include it anyway.