Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Do I need a Platform to get Published?

Do I need a Platform to get Published?

platform-4-626 I read something today that’s really bothering me. Thanks to Christine for pointing it out. A literary agent blogged that writers need a “platform” before querying her. I’ll give you the quote:

I DON'T want to see in your proposal, "I am willing to start a blog and join social networks to market myself."

I DO want to see: "I've been blogging for a year, with my readership growing steadily. I use Facebook and Twitter to create relationships with potential future readers of my books, and to drive people back to my blog. I'm currently making contact through the blog and social networks with several hundred (or several thousand) people a day."

Here’s the original post by Rachelle Gardner. Note that it’s more directed towards non-fiction, but she says that novelists should pay heed.

Now does she mean that I need to grow my readership by a hundred people a day? Or simply have 300+ subscribers? Either way, holy crap!

BTW I love you guys. By reading this blog, you’ve already proven that you’re smartest and savviest people in the blogosphere. I don’t know if you found me or I found you, but either way I appreciate it.

So apparently I need to grow this thing, fast. I have no idea how to do this, but here are some thoughts. Let me know if you’ve tried any.

  • Follow everyone I can find on Twitter who is either a writer or SciFi fan. The problem with this is that there are a bunch of tweeters I really want to read, and their tweets would get drowned in the crush. I guess I could create a “platform” account that I never read, but that seems lame. Maybe there’s a filtered Twitter reader out there.
  • Comment on every blog I can find. Keep following links around and make myself known across the blogosphere. Become a pest (but add to the conversations).
  • Facebook? Does mean I friend everyone in every writing and SciFi group out there? And do I suck up to all the agents? God I’m starting to feel dirty.
  • Make this blog so interesting that people put links to my entries everywhere. Oh wait—that will never happen. I’d have to do stuff like find authors to interview, have guest bloggers, and not rely on my own random prattling. Or start giving away stuff. Hmmm…

This sounds like more work than writing the damn book…and I need to do this before I even send out query letters! Note that this particular agent doesn’t represent my genre so she’s not on my list, but I think she’s echoing what a lot of agents are thinking nowadays.

The other issue is that I want my friends to read my Facebook and Twitter. I don’t really want random strangers reading details about my colonoscopy. Or even you guys for that matter (I apologize). But I do want them to read my posts about writing and publishing (if/when I ever make any that are worth reading).

So let me know what you think I should be doing. Does this “platform” thing really have merit? Or would I be throwing a lot of energy down a hole when I could have been improving my actual writing? What do you think?


  1. Take note; most of what Rachelle says IS geared towards non-fiction, and yes, a platform is pretty essential to market non-fic.

    For fiction, think of it more of a presence.

    But, for gods sake, stop worrying about this stuff and write something publishable first! There's no point having 200K readers if you can't write a book that will attract an agent.

    You're putting the cart before the horse.

    Haha, if you read Anon 1:33's comment and Rachelle's answer, she says exactly the same thing. Book first, platform later.

  2. Gods I hope not. Lol.

    I think that what has been said previously is true. You should develop a platform for non-fiction work. For fiction I think that this is much less important. Actually I think the publishing credits (short stories, novels, novella's (ebooks?) and the like are more important), not that I have any of said credits, but I guess you could consider that a platform for a fiction writer. Of course those are almost as hard to build as the regular platform, and almost as hard to publish as books.

    Jeez, can't we get a break from time to time. Lol.

  3. I agree with Merrilee that the most important thing is writing a great story first. That said, I think agents are most interested in what kind of effort you are putting into your own marketing. Long gone are the days of a publisher buying up your manuscript, handing you a check and doing all the promotional work for you. They will do it for Clancy, Grisham or Baldacci - but that's about it. What the agent is really saying is 'if you don't care enough to make every effort to market your own material, why should I?"

  4. Wish I could get this horse moving. Hee-ya!
    So basically no all-out promotion effort, just an all-out writing effort. Working on it! :)

  5. I'm crap at marketing, so I have no real advice to give you. Pat Bertram, on the other hand, is a genius, so you could look on her sites for help. On the other hand I do know for a fact that she hasn't written anything for the past year because she has been so busy doing the above marketing. I'll do stuff if it gets sent my way, like the blogtalk radio interview I did the other day, but I don't really do a lot in the way of active marketing.

    I think getting published, be it short story, ebook or whatever, is your best bet to getting an agent's attention. I've also heard that you can make valuable contacts if you attend writing conventions, but since I'm not in the USA that doesn't help me a lot. Might be good for you, though.

  6. I agree with Merrilee above about putting the cart before the horse. But a net presence and networking with other writers (and potential future readers) is a good thing :)

    Don't beat yourself up about it, though, when you could be writing some awesomeness instead!

    And, for what it's worth, I found your blog via Google when trying to find advice on writing a one sentence plot summary. I say just keep doing what you're doing and good luck with the writing (and the query letter stuff... ugh it can be so painful!) :)

  7. Welcome aboard!

    Hmm...writing a one sentence summary...
    Here's a crappy one line summary of Dawn's Rise I wrote a while back:
    On a futuristic world reeling from unprecedented disasters, can struggling psychic Dawn Anami find the strength to conquer her delusions and self-doubt and accept her destiny—-to lead the ragged remnants of mankind on an improbable path to safety?

    Basically if I had to rewrite that, I'd say:
    Sham psychic Dawn must choose between saving her skin and saving the planet when computers decide she is the new leader of the world after massive temblors destroy most of the world's population.
    Still not there, but I think the key to a one-sentence summary is to highlight the main character's choice.

    And for right now, I'm just expanding my subscriptions and followers to try to find good advice and ideas for writing and publishing. Maybe even some beta readers if I'm lucky! I'll worry about marketing later. :)

  8. thanks for this post. i've seen the "you must have a platform" quote on agent sites, blogs, etc. I *do* have a platform (I'm a public speaker, decent amount of audiences all year), but I always take the agent's stipulation to mean, "You must be Suze Orman or we won't even look at you." It's tricky being a nobody in publishing these days....I think it was much easier 20-30 years ago.


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