From Blog to Book: Building an Online Platform
When I was a literary agent I received a nonfiction book proposal, Twinspiration, from Cheryl Lage in 2003, right about the time when “platform” started to become a buzz word in publishing and before the blogging craze really took off. I immediately fell in love with the work. I was excited to read the About the Author section of the proposal to see who else knew about Cheryl.
Aside from her role as a volunteer twins lactation consultant for her local hospital and a few locally published articles, the world was missing out on what Cheryl had to offer — delightfully refreshing advice on how to have a successful twins pregnancy and first year of twin parenting. Although a little deflated by the lack of platform, I felt this author definitely had something and after speaking with her, I knew with a little guidance, she could create an online presence that would connect her with her tribe.
Despite her lack of platform, I did something rare — I offered representation. But before the first book proposal was shipped off, we had a platform to build. Here’s the process we followed.
Know Your Purpose
If you’re an expert or advocate, what’s your purpose? What do you want to give your audience, your potential book buyers?
Cheryl wanted to give non-intimidating, common-sense, personal advice about how to have a successful twin pregnancy and first year of twin parenting.
Know How You Want to Communicate
Personal interaction with your audience is one of the best ways to earn their loyalty and continued readership and participation.
It was important for Cheryl not only to speak to her tribe but to speak with them. Cheryl decided that inviting her readers to participate across several areas of content was crucial to the success of her platform.
Know Your Content Anchors
What regular content will you offer?
Cheryl and I discussed key areas of content, something I call Content Anchors, before she began crafting her site. She decided she would have a themed blog post every day of the week. For the interactive component, I suggested she add a Q&A column and call out regularly for reader questions. She also added a book club and invited her audience to submit their best twin photos for her to showcase on her site. We had the formula. Now, all she had to do was go live.
Know Your Deadlines
As an expert who blogs, you are also an editor and a publisher. Creating compelling content consistently and sticking to your own blogging schedule and deadlines is important to building an interactive and invested audience. If you’re inconsistent, your online statistics will reflect it.
Cheryl chose a schedule she could stick to. To this day, I have not seen her miss a day of content. She has blogged through her twins’ daily lives, through her husband’s ongoing battle with cancer and through a hurricane disaster that nearly destroyed her home. She takes her role as an expert seriously and her fans love her for it.
Know Your Time
After approximately 18 months, Cheryl developed a worldwide loyal tribe of parents and grandparents of twins and multiples. She pitched articles to local and national magazines and newspapers, and connected with other twincentric bloggers and experts online. Because of her robust platform, she was sought out by a producer of The Today Show and other print and online media. Her work has since appeared in USA Today, Good Housekeeping, TWINS Magazine, Martha Stewart Living Radio and more.
Once her work was known nationally, we knew it was time to go out with her book proposal. Several months later, Twinspiration: Real Life Advice from Pregnancy Through the First Year sold to Taylor Trade and continues to be a popular resource for twin parents today.
In what ways are you strategically using an online presence to build your platform? If you’re not doing this, what’s holding you back?
Erin Reel, The Lit Coach, is an editorial and publishing consultant, platform strategist, writer’s coach, columnist for Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake.com and former Los Angeles based literary agent.