(Photo by Anne Lindsay)
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl--Real Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, a self-help book based on the 59 jobs she's held so far. She hopes there won't be Job#61--writer of course, being Job#60.
On the first afternoon of the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) Summer Conference, Karen hosted the workshop Building a Platform from Nothing.
"Platform" is a new concept among writers. It means--roughly--an author's visibility and expertise both on-line and in-person. The importance of building a platform is to assure publishers that one is publishable and marketable.
The top 3 components of platforming Karen discussed were:
1. Branding, that is developing a unique identifier so readers can associate a product with your name. (Karen Burns = Working Girl).
2. Utilizing search engine optimization by having a unique URL (Uniform Resource Locator). Karen certainly succeeded in an optimal fashion. Googling "Karen Burns Working Girl" yielded 51,400 results with the first 5 pages directing searchers to her website.
3. Building an on-line presence by developing a website or blog, along with participating in social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.
The remaining components she touched on were: Publishing articles and newsletters, joining associations, teaching classes, giving lectures, getting quoted as an expert source, conducting podcasts and webinars and making products related to your book. Karen has a whole line of Working Girl-related products: http://www.cafepress.com/aworkinggirl
But how important is all this platform building compared to actual writing?
Judging from number of people who attended Karen's workshop, I'd say a lot of new writers felt platforming was essential to their budding careers. Karen was told to expect about 30 attendees, so she brought 40 handouts in case a few more stragglers wandered into the room.
As it turned out, the stagglers outnumbered the handouts by at least 2 to 1 that warm July afternoon. In fact, more people attended her seminar than the Writing Sex Scenes workshop held the following day. (Which attendees had their priorities straight, I'll leave open for debate...)
Working Girl, disguised as mild-mannered Karen Burns is a soft-spoken, endearing speaker capable of charming an audience with her dry wit. As Working Girl her sense of humor comes to the fore. While her book is targeted for women, those of us testing positive for Y-Chromosomes can benefit from good advice--even if it comes in a frilly book jacket.
I don't think Working Girl has to worry about moving on to Job#61...
The link to Working Girl can be found here under the Writers' Blogs Section.