Author Platforms

March 21, 2012 · 3 comments

in Business of Writing, LDS Publisher, Promotion

Everywhere I look on-line I read that an author needs a platform if he/she expects an agent or publisher to accept the writer or the work.

Now, I can see that if you have a published work to tout. A platform helps get a book the publicity it needs to be successful. The internet makes that relatively easy, yet time consuming. If you have a ready-made platform, all your “friends” on FaceBook and elsewhere have supposedly been following you and should be anxious to see your book.

But what if you don’t have a book to tout yet?

I’ve been struggling with that issue a lot lately. I have two books, one of which is probably ready for publication. But, without a platform is an agent or publisher willing to accept me or my book for publication? But how can I get a platform if I have nothing published yet?

Maybe someone can help me here. It seems like a dilemma to me. Frankly, at this point, being unpublished, I would rather spend my limited time writing.

Understanding what a platform is and is not trips a lot of writers up. Ten years ago, a well-written book was platform enough. An author might generate some extra publicity if the book was based on a timely topic, but it wasn’t really necessary.

However, now, when anyone with a computer can “publish” a book, and when traditional publishers do less to promote their books, having a platform is very important. All things being equal, an author with an established platform will have an edge over the author without one.

So, let’s go over this briefly.

 

What is a platform? It’s a tool or process used by an author to reach and build their target audience, usually through online visibility, to create a group of followers and/or fans. Sometimes it ties in with a topic or theme from their book. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a blog with lots of followers.

Jane Friedman has an excellent post on this. Go read it now. I’ll wait.

Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent, did a post on Author Platforms last year. Go read it. I’ll wait.

I found another good description for a platform by Karen Dionne: “Just as a real platform elevates a speaker above his audience, if fiction authors can find a way to make themselves stand out from the crowd, the odds of their fiction being picked up by a major publisher increase.” (Go read the entire article.)

 

What difference does a platform make? I’ve heard one LDS author say that it meant the difference between her book coming out as a midlist title (which is how it was originally scheduled) to actually being released as a frontlist, or lead title (one that gets more attention, promotion and marketing). If an agent can see you’ve got an established platform that works for you, they can use that to sell your book to a publisher.

Bottom line, life as an author is no longer just about creating the novel. The author has to spend some time in promotion and spreading the message.

 

How do you create a platform? Find an outlet that spotlights your writing skills and your message. A blog is a good way to do this. Readers will get a sense of your writing style and personality, and that will increase the chances that they’ll buy your book. You can use Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to enhance and support your platform. You can also do speaking engagements.

 

What’s your message? That’s up to you. It might be on writing itself or perhaps it ties in with the theme of your book. Click here to read a post from 2008 with a few examples.

 

Readers, do you have a platform? If so, what is it? Where is it? Please tell us in the comments below.

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