What is a Writer’s Platform? 10 Tips for a Writing Portfolio

learn what a writing platform or portfolio is

Shout It Out From Your Writer's Platform!

First, you must learn what a writer’s platform is. Then, you must use these tips for building your online writing portfolio – because a writer’s platform will help you get published and increase book sales! These tips are for writers who want to reach more readers and show publishers their skill.

Before the tips, a quip:

“What I had that others didn’t was a capacity for sticking to it.” ~ Doris Lessing.

If you want to be a published, fellow scribes, you need to persevere…and stand on a solid writing platform…

Your writing platform is how well you’re known — how big an audience you have. Oprah, for instance, has a massive writing platform…and I have an itsy bitsy one. Since a writer’s platform can make or break your chances of selling a book proposal or manuscript to a publisher or literary agent, you need to know how to build your writing portfolio…

What is a Writer’s Platform and How Does it Help?

Your writing platform is a tool you use to promote yourself and sell your writing. To build a strong writing platform, you need to be an entrepreneur and marketing guru with established followers. It’s a tall order – but take heart! In our modern technological age, it’s possible and not too difficult to do.

Your writing platform proves your ability as a writer to promote and sell your book on a national or international level, which drives book sales. It provides a measure of security to the publisher and acts as a vehicle to promote your book and you, the writer.

Some writing and publishing experts say not having a writing platform is an automatic death sentence to an article query or book proposal. If you don’t have a writing platform, you won’t get published. According to Frishman and Spizman’s book Author 101 Bestselling Book Proposals: The Insider’s Guide to Selling Your Work, building your writing platform is not only necessary, it’s essential.

10 Tips for Building a Writing Platform or Portfolio

Create a website or blog that represents your work as a writer

Create your own website with blogs, forums, newsletters, and photos. If you don’t have a website, don’t worry! It’s easy and effective to start a writing blog. To promote your website and yourself as a writer/blogger, use social media, such as Twitter for writers, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Write or blog for established websites

If you’re not blogging or writing for an e-zine or online organization, it’s time to start! I write for Suite101, and I love it. It doesn’t pay as much as About.com (who I don’t write for but really wanted to for awhile) but…every bit of income and exposure counts! To learn more, read Is Suite101 Worthwhile for Writers?

Create your niche

Figure out what your specialty or niche is, then build your writing platform around that. For example, I love love love “quips and tips”, created six “Quips and Tips” blogs. I’m also a health and wellness writer. It’s easier to build a writer’s platform or portfolio if writers have specialties.

Promote your niche by giving talks

Give talks about your specialty in schools, churches, libraries, local groups, etc. Personally, I’d rather give myself a Brazilian wax than than give talks about writing. I love to talk about writing and blogging with people, but I don’t want to teach it.

Teach about writing, or about your writing specialty

Teaching workshops or classes is a great way to expand your platform — especially if you teach sessions at writers’ conferences, where publishers and editors can see you in action!

Create products that advertise your writing business

Some bloggers make and sell their own t-shirts, mugs, pens, etc. This is can be a creative way to “market your brand” (which is another way of saying “build your writer’s platform”).

Hang out in forums and online communities

Taking time to participate in online communities and forums can increase your writing platform. Make sure you offer thoughtful comments and helpful information — don’t just spam your stuff. Take this tip a step further by reading 6 Ways to Promote Your Book for Free.

Give it away for free

Sell or donate magazine articles or bits of your book to magazines, newspapers, or newsletters. Writing for free can be a great way to build your writing platform.

Add research to your writing portfolio

Conduct focus groups or send out surveys to convince publishers that your idea has merit and will sell. This will build your writing platform by giving you tangible support.

Ask for a commitment

Ask an organization to commit to buying a hundred or so copies of your published book – and include their letter of commitment with your book proposal.

The idea behind creating a writer’s platform is to get your name and writing out there as much as possible! Publicity begets publicity, writing begets writing, getting published begets getting published, books beget books…

For more tips on building your writing portfolio, read Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform.

For more platform-building tips, read Twitter for Writers – How Tweets Help Writing Careers.

Fellow scribes, what are your tips for creating a writer’s platform? I welcome you below!

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7 thoughts on “What is a Writer’s Platform? 10 Tips for a Writing Portfolio”

  1. Thank you so much for this great article Laurie! You’re awesome! I’ve had quite a few messages from my readers saying they loved these tips.

  2. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your feedback, Kylie!

    Actually, I think professional writers earn at least $50 per hour, not necessarily per word (that’s what I charge, anyway).

    I’ve been writing for Suite101 since Oct, 2006. Sure, there are lots of hobby writers there. And, there are lots of professional writers and bloggers, like me!

    In fact, I have an email from the editor of an architectural magazine sitting in my in-box right now, waiting to be answered……she likes my Suite writing style (she found me through my Suite articles) and wants to know how much I charge. I’m debating whether to say $50 per hour or $1 a word…..either way, it’s sweet! 🙂

  3. Are you aware that Suite 101, like About.com, are content mills? That’s very different from a legit website or media outlet, and writing for them can actually damage one’s credibility as a writer. It separates the hobbyists from professionals. Professionals earn money per word, not by hit.

  4. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi John,

    lol, cute joke about the agent and the inventor 🙂

    Congratulations on your blockbuster book idea! Books on finance/investing are always popular, so you’re on the right track right off the bat.

    If you DON’T put your book idea out there, how will it get published? I’m not quite sure what you mean by “put the idea out there”, but I’m assuming you mean approach literary agents, publishers, editors? That’s the only way you’ll get it off the ground, unless of course you decide to self-publish.

    OHHH — if by “put it out there”, you mean talking about it before you’ve sold it to a publisher, I’d say it depends on the idea and how you put it out there. Many people blog about their blockbuster book ideas for months or years before they actually sell it to a publisher. They build their platform, get lots of followers, and land a book deal based on all the excitement (platform, platform, platform).

    Leverage also depends on your level of expertise or celebrity. That is, if you’re a famous successful plastic surgeon who has a blockbuster book idea, then you don’t necessarily need to build a platform — you have your expertise or celebrity to thrust you into the limelight.

    I suggest sending your idea to a few literary agents in your field. Find out if there’s a market for your idea, and if you should be blogging about it.

    And, find out if someone else is already exploring your idea in their own money or finance blog….since there’s “nothing new under the sun”, you never know if it’s already been done….

    Good luck with it!


  5. I’ve got a blockbuster of an idea for a book on finance/investing, and I seem to be in a catch-22.

    Supposing that an inventor trying to solve the energy/environmental crisis slaved away in his garage every night and every weekend for years and one night by accident discovered that fermented watermelon juice was the perfect clean fuel for our cars.

    What should he do with this idea? If he handles it the wrong way, either he or his idea could be ignored. I read one story about an inventor at a conference who asked a patent agent how the former could be sure the latter would not steal his idea. The agent hitched up his pants, legend goes, and said, “Young man, steal it? I doubt you could give it away.”

    I want a fair shake for me and my idea. Would it be better to put the idea I have out there? If I give it away, am I losing my leverage or gaining more leverage by causing a stir?

  6. Thanks for your question, Afi. If you ask 10 different writers, I suspect you’ll get 14 different answers! Here’s what I think:

    Regardless of the size of my platform, I’d rather go with a traditional publisher because I don’t want to take on the marketing, selling, distributing, etc that e-books or self-published books demand. (Though I am well aware that even traditional publishers require their writers to market their own books!). Plus, I want the weight of a big company like Penguin or McGraw Hill behind me. And, I think publishers offer additional exposure and opportunities, which you don’t have as an indie publisher.

    There’s a writer in my writing group who self-published her first book. Though she doesn’t regret it, she’s now looking for an agent and traditional publisher for her second book. Self-publishing seems to be its own business — and as a writer, I don’t want to get involved in the business and marketing end, any more than I have to.

    That’s just me — I do know other writers who love self-publishing — to each his own!


  7. I keep asking this question. If I do all of the above and build a platform, why should I submit a manuscript to a publisher?

    Why don’t write the manuscript, do a print-on-demand or ebook, and sell books to the audience I’ve created?