Questions About Author Platform
I seem to receive more questions about platform than anything else, so I’m answering some basics today.
What is a platform?
There are various kinds of platforms. A train platform is the area from which you board the train. A diving platform is a structure from which you careen your body into a pool of water, hopefully with some style and grace. A platform usually refers to the place from which you launch some kind of journey. An author platform is the place from which you launch your writing career. It refers to the means by which YOU will help sell your book by your presence in the media and/or the public sphere, at least within the audience you hope to reach with your book.
In non-fiction, publishers want to see what the author is already doing to get their message out there—before the book is published or even contracted. In fiction, they want to see that you know what it will take to begin building a platform once your book is contracted, and that you will be an active participant in the marketing of your book. You tell them this in your proposal.
Is platform different for fiction authors than it is for non-fiction authors?
For fiction, a large platform isn’t necessary to sell your book to a publisher. Helpful, but not necessary.
In non-fiction, it’s fast becoming the #1 consideration. In most cases, it’s necessary to have some type of platform before your book can sell to a publisher. The size of platform required depends on the book, the topic, and the publisher.
In what other ways do fiction and non-fiction platforms differ?
Non-fiction writers need to have a pretty good platform prior to selling the book to a publisher. Fiction authors need to be prepared to start building one after their book is contracted (if they haven’t already) by finding ways to increase their following and reader loyalty.
Author marketing efforts are proven to help sell non-fiction books. However in fiction, nobody is really clear whether author marketing efforts translate to significantly greater sales or not. The prevailing wisdom is that it certainly doesn’t hurt, and publishers will take every edge they can get.
A non-fiction platform can be much more targeted than that of most novelists, since it’s based on a particular topic, whether it be parenting, Christian life, marriage or whatever. Non-fiction authors can target publications, websites, radio shows (etc) that address their topic. Fiction readers are more difficult to categorize.
What if I have a non-fiction book idea but no platform?
I would strongly recommend you take the time and effort needed to begin building a platform (even if it takes a year or two…or more). Without a platform, no matter how good or helpful the book is, publishers are simply not giving good books the time of day (sorry to say). Your next option is to self publish and sell the books yourself, which many authors are having to do.
Is blogging considered a platform?
I think a blog is a good tool for those who enjoy it and have the time to maintain it. I believe it gets writers used to writing everyday and engaging audiences. It helps you learn what people respond to (and what bores them to death). And yes, it can definitely build your visibility on the web. It’s a great way to begin capturing names and email addresses for that all-important database that publishers want you to have. However, a blog does not a platform make.
I am overwhelmed and don’t even know where to start.
Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, start with good website. Not just a blog. Get a nice-looking website that tells about you. Visit your favorite authors on the web to get ideas of what a good author site looks like.
Choose two social media platforms on which to focus. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. Learn to use them well.
Begin getting yourself used to speaking in public. Join Toastmasters if you need to. Speaking experience is helpful for both fiction and non-fiction authors, since either way, you might eventually be doing radio interviews, book signings, and other events. You want to be ready.
Try to place articles in magazines, journals, newspapers, both online and print. Again, this is helpful for both fiction and non. It helps prepare you for the realities of publishing, and it can even begin to create a small following for you.
These are just a few opening ideas.
What is the hardest thing for you about PLATFORM?
[…] Rachelle Gardner answers questions about author platform. […]
Really clarified things for me as to when I should make my moves for fiction. I’m dabbling with a blog, but still want that website….as soon as finances, getting my book edited and out there allow. And will certainly ask Micah & Luke to do the designing. Thanks, Rachelle. (hope this doesn’t come up twice–have had trouble posting comments)
Really clarified things for me as to when I should make my moves for fiction. I’m dabbling with a blog, but still want that website….as soon as finances, getting my book edited and out there allow. And will certainly ask Micah & Luke to do the designing. Thanks, Rachelle!
Do you think a robust platform would also apply for nonfiction children’s books (specifically picture books)? Several prominent nonfiction picture book authors I know of write about varying subjects (e.g. science/STEM) and don’t seem to have a central platform based on any one subject.
>Oh, you know I meant “Rachelle.” Sorry. My keyboard is dyslexic.
>Platform. Platform. Isn’t that what you stand on just before the trapdoor opens?
Oh, not that kind.
Well, although I’ve been working very hard (and with some degree of success) to enlarge mine over the years, like Lauren I’ve come to hate the P word. But that’s the nature of the business–and that’s the operative word: business.
Thanks, Rachel, for sharing with us. And if we shoot at the messenger, it’s out of frustration, not because we’re unhappy that you’re going out of your way to educate us.
You should see all the revenge gf videos on my site.
That’s crazy, I’ve been doing this since I was 18!
I’ve been following her for a long time. I’d say #1 in the biz.
>I have to be honest: I’m beginning to hate that P word. It’s all I ever hear about. I realize it’s part of the package now- but I have to to wonder if some of the great writers, from long ago, would have made it today. So many of them were loners, losers, and lost in thought- not out on a stage or building a platform.
You got that right, Lauren. I too wonder how as young writers first starting out the mega authors of yesteryear would do if dropped into today’s publishing morass. Not as good, I’m sure.
>Thanks – VERY helpful!
Can I re-post this on Tricia Goyer’s My Writing Mentor blog?
>Dear Rachelle –
I have some clips (devotionals, fillers, anthology, and ezine). Will these non-fiction pieces help land an agent or publisher for my fiction book?
>Thanks, Rachelle. Excellent post today. I’ve been waiting for this series.
Here’s my question. You’ve said before that it’s important for fiction authors to know who their target audience is and who’s buying the style of books they’re writing. While it seems a little easier for an author to define who their target audience is, how do we go about researching who is actually buying a particular style of book?
Thanks for your help!
>Oops, here’s the link to my article.
That dinner theater experience is for YOUR benefit, not for trying to impress an agent or editor. If it helps you improve your public speaking skills, terrific. You’re doing the right thing. However, it’s not going to be of interest to an agent unless it’s helped you establish a following of 5,000 devoted fans who will buy your book.
>Great post today, Rachelle. And thanks for quoting me. You make it look like I know what I’m talking about!
I think your readers might be interested in my article on what goes into a great fiction proposal. I have a nice (though not entirely without sarcasm) discussion of a fiction writer’s “platform.” Look for it under the section called “What Not To Include.”
The article is here: http://www.wherethemapends.com/writerstools/writers_tools_pages/publishing_biz_pages/professional_proposals.htm.
>Okay, Rachelle, you asked for questions…
How good does it look to an agent if an unpublished fiction writer already has a website (not just a free blog site)? What information and content should go up on it? Should the website include a shopping cart feature or should the purchasing books be left to regular distribution channels?
In an agents eyes, what makes one fiction platform look more appealing then the next? How much money out of the author’s own pocket (on average)is expected for marketing?
I am really enjoying your blog and finding it very helpful. Thank you for the time you spend on it.
>Would an agent want to know that I have performed in dinner theaters at church – to show that I can get up in front of an audience without getting nervous?