Modern Authors Need a Platform in Order to Get Published
Unless you are beyond doubt the best author in a century and all the stars align in your favor, a platform for a writer isn’t just a help: it’s a necessity. Let’s face it, anyone with a computer and the drive to sit in front of it can write a book these days. Technology has eliminated a monumental hurdle that kept would-be writers’ thoughts firmly in their heads. To compensate, technology has also made it possible for more books to be published every year. These two events would seem to cancel each other out, but unfortunately the sheer volume of work submitted to agents and publishers is staggering and technology hasn’t eliminated the need for a human being to read through all of it.
Because of the volume, agents and publishers are looking for excuses to say no. They’ll pick on anything to help them wade through the pile. What a platform can do for a writer is give an editor a reason to say yes.
What is a Platform?
For a writer, a platform is anything that puts your face or work in front of pairs of eyes. It can include any of the following “planks” and more:
- Published Credits (articles, books etc.)
- Blogs, V-logs, Forums (Yours or those you contribute to regularly)
- Your Network
- Mailing Lists (Yours and Those of Partners)
- Regular Speaking Engagements or Classes You Teach
- Publicity (Radio Spots, Interviews)
- Your Educational Credentials
- Book Tours, Talks, Signings
Your query letter should include at least an outline of a marketing plan and list any planks you have. Did I say “query letter should include?” Yes I did. Ideally, you’ll have been building your platform long before you finalized your book proposal. If you didn’t, you have some catching up to do.
Fiction Writers are Not Off the Hook
Nonfiction writers have a built-in focus for their platform building efforts: their topic. For that reason, nonfiction writers are expected to come with a platform of some sort. In most cases, you’re writing as an expert on your topic. What makes you an expert? If no one knows you’re an expert, focus on letting everyone know and you’ll be on your way.
Fiction writers have a tougher time. If you’ve made up the fantasy or science fiction world you’re writing in, no one is going to argue your expertise on the subject, but will anyone really care? Because of this, fiction authors haven’t been expected to come with a platform. Those days are over. Thankfully, you fiction writers tend to be very creative because you’re going to need every shred of creativity you can come up with to build your platform. Syndicated audio recordings, or podcasts, of works in progress or short stories have become very popular ways of building a following among the science fiction community in particular. Fortunately, since fiction tends to be a more general interest market than nonfiction, any pair of eyes will do. Therefore, you can build your platform on many different types of planks.
- Participate in Genre Forums
- Join Local and National Literary Organizations
- Start a Blog or Teach Classes on Writing
- Start a Blog About Your Day Job
- Make Friends – Lots and Lots of Friends
No More Trolls
The day of the eccentric author laboring in a secluded house on the seaside is over. Platform building means socialization and for a lot of authors that can be very scary. If you’re introverted and shy, you need to take some steps to get over it. As early as the 1960’s publishing houses were taking chances on authors with radio or TV appeal simply for their look. Think of your platform building as an opportunity to learn the social and presentation skills you need to be the next guest on Oprah—because you just might be.
Originally published on my Wordbress Blog, December 14, 2007.