Saturday, March 29, 2014

Balancing on the Platform

I spent this afternoon at a presentation by historical fiction author Victoria Wilcox. One of the topics she brought up that raised a lot of questions among the audience members was about building an author's "platform." Apparently both aspiring and published authors have questions about what a "platform" is and how to create a successful one. I was among those with questions, and not surprisingly, I walked away feeling overwhelmed.

Modern authors are told repeatedly that we have to promote our own work by any means necessary. Those means always include – but aren't limited to – a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and a zillion other social media avenues that have been created in the past 15 minutes. Apparently that contact with the public which can be used to sell books is an author's platform.
During today's presentation, Wilcox suggested that smart authors volunteer details about the dreaded platform when they're sending out query letters to literary agents and editors. When I heard that, it reminded me of the time that an agent asked what my platform was after I submitted a query to her for a nonfiction book. At the time, I was unclear on the concept. My first thought was that the agent was supposed to help me built a platform by securing a book deal. Yes, go ahead and laugh; I was naïve.
Needless to say, hearing people talk about their platforms today made me feel guilty about how I neglect both my blog and my Twitter account. I regularly talk myself out of posting by asking why anyone would want to read the ramblings of a stranger when they could instead be doing anything else on the planet. But it seems that putting material out there for the public to read is exactly what having a platform is all about.
No one reads it, but at least you can say that you're making the effort. At least you can write in your submission letters that you have a blog, and it's possible to post a link to it on your website. At least it makes you seem like you're not a complete Neanderthal when it comes to technology. Maybe it even makes you appear to be a serious writer. And if nothing else, it demonstrates that you have a clue what a platform is. Which puts you head and shoulders above where I was not too long ago.

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