I have the opportunity, by virtue of my work, to attend a number of writer's conferences. Of course, the topic that never gets far from writer's brains these days is platform. "How do I build a platform?" "Why do publishers care so much about platform?" "Oh yeah, she got an agent... but look at her platform."
Seriously, it's everywhere.
We treat it like a novelty, like authors caring about finding an audience is somehow new. I promise, while the places we find our audience have changed, while technology has made it easier -- in some ways -- to quantify, authors, or at the very least publishers, have always cared about finding an audience.
That's because most of us don't write just for writing's sake. We write to communicate ideas or to have an impact. I want to tell stories that brighten a child's day, the way so many great writers did for me. You may want to spread the word about adoption from foreign countries or encourage a revival in the church or bring light to a dark place. The way you do that, if you're a writer, is by writing well and being read.
So, how do we build these platforms? There are whole books that talk about mechanics, and those are great. There's also enough web content to circumnavigate the globe several times. But I think the heart of it is actually very simple. I didn't come up with this, but it's a truth I've held dear to my heart. It's the best platform building tip I've ever heard. Sadly, when I heard it, I didn't write it down. I didn't note who said it. But over time, it's become clear to me that it is the key:
Decide who your audience is and love them.
Love them by creating great free content for them. Love them by creating great purchasable content for them. Love them by connecting them to other things that they will love. Love them by creating experiences they will love.
It's not a bad thing to want to make money from providing value for people. That's actually exactly how it works with every other job. My plumber creates value by fixing things I don't know how to fix. My doctor does too. They make my life better.
And no one ever gets mad about it. I've never thought to myself, "That Andrew Peterson... I'm so mad about the great music he makes that I keep on buying," or "That Leif Enger... I hate it that when he releases a book, I feel like I have to own it."
Make lives better. That's your job as a writer. You'll find your platform.