Interview by Catharine Bramkamp
Teresa LeYung-Ryan has been helping authors with their platforms for years: Her own platform – reach out, not stress out – speaks to her focus on authors and how to make their promotion, their sales and even their conversations more productive and natural.
Platform and Fanbase-Building Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan says:
“When I was an aspiring writer, playwright Kim McMillon would invite me to literary parties. ‘Make connections,’ Kim said to me. ‘Have fun.’ I was too stressed out to have fun. I’d introduce myself by my first name only, and, I didn’t know how to articulate what I was writing about. Then, I would go home, dreading the next networking event. Kim did not give up on me. She even put me in the line-up at her open mic events. True friends are your biggest fans.
“Through watching Kim’s plays, I discovered what makes a performance/story memorable. Those recurring themes! What is theme? The subject matter/topic/issue discussed repeatedly in a piece of writing. Theme answers the question ‘What’s your point?’ Whether you are writing fiction (as in novels), narrative nonfiction (as in memoirs) or prescriptive nonfiction (as in workbooks/how-to books), theme is the thread with which you weave your chapters. For example:
- In E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (fiction/classic children’s book), the core themes are: true friendship; cycles of life; believing in one’s self.
- In Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (narrative nonfiction), the core themes are: Chinese myths; being a Chinese-American youth in California; losing and gaining one’s own voice.
- In Angie Choi’s My Dreams: A Simple Guide to Dream Interpretation (prescriptive nonfiction), the core themes are: understanding personal dream symbols; solving problems; transformation
“So, the platform statements I would create for these brilliant authors would be:
- Through his children’s books, E.B. White teaches young readers how to be a real friend.
- Through her memoirs and novels, Maxine Hong Kingston inspires us to reclaim our voices.
- Through her book My Dreams, Angie Choi shows us how to interpret personal dream symbols and transform our waking worlds.
“Side note: The Woman Warrior was the book that inspired me to write my first book Love Made of Heart. Thank you, Maxine Hong Kingston!
“To writers, I say: ‘Make your name stand for something—to attract target consumers—who are likely to buy what you have to sell.’
- The something = themes you write about
- Target consumers = readers who read about the themes you write about
- What you have to sell = your intellectual properties
“Your platform statements will attract attention before and after publication, whether you’re going to self-publish or sell rights to a publisher.
“When I teach ‘For Theme’s Sake: Edit Your Own Manuscript Before Pitching to Agents OR Self-Publishing’ the first assignment I give is: Reread one of your favorite books (especially a classic children’s book). What is the author’s point? What are the topics /subject matters/issues running through the entire story? Then, tackle your own story! Knowing how to weave core themes makes rewriting enjoyable.
“Authors of fiction need to work doubly hard building their platforms. With more than 3 million titles in the Literature/Fiction category for readers to choose from, how will they find you if you aren’t already an award-winning author, bestselling author or celebrity? My first book Love Made of Heart is a novel. I was a newbie. My agent believed in me. However, I had to demonstrate to Kensington Publishing in New York my platform statements:
- Teresa LeYung-Ryan encourages adult children of mentally ill parents to speak openly about the stigmas.
- Teresa LeYung-Ryan helps survivors of family violence find their own voices.
“It is challenging to enter the fiercely competitive bookselling arena. The other players include authors with proven track records / established platforms / big fanbases / celebrity status and authors who are also seasoned publishers or promoters. That said, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’. Yes, you can transform challenges into opportunities that feel right for you. And turn off the noise in the brain. I recommend Elisa Sasa Southard’s book Break Through the Noise: 9 Tools to Propel Your Marketing Message. Elisa has taught me well.
“The Internet helps your fans find you. They find you when you broadcast your platform statement on cyberspace. After all, where do we go when we need to find something or someone? My workbook Build Your Writer’s Platform & Fanbase In 22 Days: Attract Agents, Editors, Publishers, Readers, and Media Attention NOW shows you how to create and broadcast your platform statement / how to reach out, not stress out. Some best practices from this workbook:
- Who are you? Not a year ago. Who are you today? If you want others to notice you, you need to notice yourself.
- What are tags? Tags are keywords and phrases. Understand the function of tags on cyberspace (especially in your blog/website) and you will rejoice over your name and platform statements.
- Celebrities reach out. Organizations reach out. You reach out.
“Here are a few excellent platform statements because each one fulfills the definition from my workbook – Make your name stand for something—to attract target consumers—who are likely to buy what you have to sell.
- Writing Coach & Chief Storytelling Officer Catharine Bramkamp helps small business owners tell their stories on social media platforms to attract more clients/customers.
- Through her books, Margie Yee Webb promotes pet awareness and encourages people to make a difference in the lives of cats and other companion animals.
- Linda Lee of Askmepc-Webdesign says: Whether you are a novice or veteran Internet user, I can help you optimize and monetize your website.
- Mary E. Knippel (Your Writing Mentor and founder of The Unleashed Homemaker) is fiercely committed to guiding women—who have been silent too long—to polish their words so that they sparkle and shine.
- Travel writer and professional Tour Director Elisa Sasa Southard turns student travelers into explorers.
- Author and teacher Connie Smith Siegel says: ‘You do not have to be an artist to reclaim your unique creative language. Drawing and the use of color is for everyone.’
“Enjoy the benefits of being a WNBA member. I have had the privilege of working on the board and committees, co-presenting, and connecting with members of the San Francisco Chapter (by the way, many members are also colleagues through California Writers Club and San Francisco Writers Conference). I have served WNBA by doing what was enjoyable for me – using my organization skills, knack for taking pictures, and platform/fanbase-building expertise. Get to know other WNBA members by attending mixers and other WNBA events, and subscribing to the weekly blog posts.”
WNBA-SF Member Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan teaches her clients (writers, artists) how to reach out, not stress out, before and after publication — identify themes in their intellectual properties and create scripts for pitches, query letters, press releases, talking-points, one-minute videos, photo slideshows, and the all-mighty blog. Visit http://WritingCoachTeresa.com and http://lovemadeofheart.com/blog/ for more resources. Teresa’s upcoming speaking events are listed on this page.