Interview: Chrissy Hennessey of The New Me

Christine Hennessey - informal photo

A lot of writers struggle with the pressure to create an online platform — including a blog, which can steal precious writing time from other projects. You don’t need to be a writer or a blogger, though. You can be … Continue reading

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Book review: Create Your Writer Platform by Chuck Sambuchino

cover art - create your writer platformThis is part of an ongo­ing series of book reviews. To view all of them, click here.

Want more people to see your writing? Start by keeping Create Your Writer Platform within arm’s reach of your desk. Even if you think your work will stand on its own without self-marketing, this book should give you a firm-yet-friendly nudge in the right direction.

Chuck Sambuchino covers all the major platform avenues — website, blog, e-newsletter, non-fiction articles, public speaking, and social media — in just under 250 pages. While that length doesn’t allow for a deep exploration of each topic, it provides plenty to get you started.

Likewise, even if you already know some basics — like how to use Facebook or set up a blog — you won’t need to skip anything. As a former public relations and social media professional who has built several websites, I still gained valuable insights into how these tools should serve me as a writer. Create Your Writer Platform also introduced me to key social media analytics tools to quantify my progress.

Sambuchino crafts his message so readers grasp the importance and magnitude of the task at hand, yet don’t feel so overwhelmed they don’t know where to begin. Perhaps some of this approachability stems from the fact that Create Your Writer Platform reads like a blog: more like listening to a friend than reading a textbook. I couldn’t pick it up without my notebook close at hand — not just because I was taking notes for this review, but because I kept jotting down ideas and next steps for my platform-building efforts.

The only big disappointment came with Sambuchino’s treatment of Facebook. He presents readers with a choice: accept every friend request and use your Facebook profile as a professional tool, or keep it closed off and miss an important platform opportunity. Facebook pages bridge that gap, allowing you to create a professional presence for yourself without opening your personal profile to the public. I was disappointed that this feature received only a cursory mention while Sambuchino described the personal profile as an ideal platform tool.

pull quote - create your writer platformI was tempted to gloss over the case studies at the back of the book, but I’m glad I gave them a thorough read. Fiction writers may struggle with Create Your Writer Platform’s bias toward non-fiction platforms, but will find themselves well-represented in the case studies. The presentation will be familiar to anyone who reads blog interviews: answers to a standard list of questions are included, largely unedited, in the interviewee’s own words/voice. This makes even the bestsellers feel human and relatable and will leave the reader thinking “hey, this is something I can do, too.”

It would be easy to finish a book like this feeling like I could never rise to the level of the case study authors, or like there was simply too much to do, but I felt just the opposite. Create Your Writer Platform will leave you feeling energized and ready to get started, even if your niche hasn’t fully revealed itself to you yet.

Use Google Alerts to keep tabs on your author platform.

What will an agent see if she Googles you right this instant? Are you tracking your name in real time as it appears on the Internet?

If you answered no, you have a problem. Luckily, it’s easy to solve with Google Alerts. Google Alerts automates the process of Googling yourself and sends updates directly to your email so you never miss a thing.

“I do a Google and social media search for every query I read,” David Rozansky, publisher at Flying Pen Press, told me via Twitter. He’s not alone. These days, you can be certain agents you query will run a Google search on your name. They aren’t just checking for negative stories or bad behavior; they need to assess your platform.

“Platform…is your visibility as an author,” Chuck Sambuchino writes in his book Create Your Writer Platform. The better visibility you have, the more salable your writing looks to agents and publishers.

With that in mind, it’s crucial to keep tabs on those Google search results. Here’s how:

If you don’t have a Google account, you’ll need to sign up for one to use Google AlertsOnce you’ve logged into your Google account, go to www.google.com/alerts. Google gives you a form to create a new alert right away:

  • Search query: Your full name, surrounded by quotation marks.
  • Result type: Everything.
  • How often: Up to you, but I recommend once a day. This will give you a daily update with any new Google search results for your name. If your name is high-profile or you write about a controversial topic, you may want to choose as-it-happens to make sure you’re the first to know if something goes viral.
  • How many: Again, up to you and how tightly you need to monitor your online image. Only the best results — where Google weeds out irrelevant results — is sufficient for most writers. By default, search results pages are filtered similarly, so choosing only the best results gives you something close to what an agent sees when she Googles your name. If you feel more comfortable weeding out those junk results on your own, choose all results.
  • Deliver to: Choose your email address.

You’ll notice Google displays a live preview of your search results as you adjust your alert settings. I made a few notes on mine here to demonstrate some important things you can learn from these results. There are ways I could fix these platform issues, but we’ll save that for another tutorial.

alert settings

Click the image to see a larger version

Once you’ve finished filling out the form, click Create Alert.

You’re all done! Google will keep you abreast of what’s happening when people search for you. If you want to get really fancy, you can create alerts for competing authors, relevant topics, your agent’s name, and anything else you want to monitor. 

Questions? Requests for future tutorials? Leave them in the comments.

4 things your graphic designer wishes you knew

If you’re a freelancer, chances are you’ve collaborated with a graphic designer at some point. When I worked as a public relations writer, I was taken aback by the amount of time required to get anything right. Most of our design contracts specified two rounds of edits, but our team always needed at least double that number.

Want to minimize frustration next time you work with a designer? Follow these four easy tips.

I’m guest blogging on Write Faye Write today — click here to read the full post.