This post was originally published on Live to Write – Write to Live where I blog about writing and publishing with a diverse group of literary friends.
What does it take to land a publishing deal these days?
Once upon a time, the most common answers may have included “great writing” and “connections.” While each of these definitely has some bearing on publishing success, the latest buzzword when it comes to catching the eye of an agent or publisher is “platform.”
What exactly is platform?
If you google “what is a writer’s platform,” you’ll get over 440,000 hits and dozens of different definitions:
- What a writer stands for (a la the political platform)
- What a writer is known for (as in niche expertise)
- Who a writer is (in terms of personality)
- An existing audience that’s hungry for your book
- The thing that gives you credibility
- Your overall public presence
Confused yet? Don’t worry. As an aspiring author, I’ve read a good deal about “platform,” and I’ve come to the conclusion that none of these answers is 100% correct. In my humble opinion, a writer’s platform is actually a well-integrated combination of all these things.
Why do you need a platform?
In case you haven’t heard, the publishing world has experienced something of an Armageddon over the past few years. Recent polls show that getting a contract from a publisher is now 270% more difficult than retrieving the Golden Fleece from the Hydra. No longer is it enough to write brilliantly in a highly marketable genre or on a massively relevant topic. Today, writers must also prove their marketing savvy and prowess. They must demonstrate an ability to sell books, thereby decreasing the publisher’s risk and making the writer a more attractive gamble.
How do I get me one of them platforms?
Building a platform is a 5-step process:
- Define who you are as a writer – what you write, what you represent, what you offer to your readers.
- Research your market – who is already playing in this space, how they define themselves, where are the “holes” in the market?
- Develop a “uniqueness” strategy – what special benefits do you deliver, what’s different about your story, what special expertise do you have, how does your personality play into the pitch?
- Build the platform foundation – an online hub, a social media presence, offline credentials (i.e., teaching and speaking), press coverage, etc.
- Nurture your “tribe” – make connections, build relationships, encourage word-of-mouth promotion, invite collaborations
None of this is really rocket science. Platform is all about knowing who you are, what you have to offer, where you can reach your audience, and how you can build your credibility and marketability by creating a viable readership before you’re book hits the shelves.
What’s your experience with “platform?”
Image Credit: marfis75
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who, among other things, works as a marketing strategist and copywriter. She helps small businesses, start-ups, artists, and authors with branding, platform development, content marketing and social media. She also blogs. A lot. She is a mom, a singer, and a dreamer who believes in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Look her up on facebook or follow her on twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.