Monday, December 8, 2014

A Definition Of Author Platform

Platform is one of the most difficult concepts to explain, partly because everyone defines it a little differently.
But one thing that I know for sure: Editors and agents are attracted to authors who have this thing called “platform.”

What editors and agents typically mean by platform

They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.
Let’s break this down further.
  • Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves?
  • Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.)
  • Proven reach. It’s not enough to SAY you have visibility. You have to show where you make an impact and give proof of engagement. This could be quantitative evidence (e.g., size of your e-mail newsletter list, website traffic, blog comments) or qualitative evidence (high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre).
  • Target audience. You should be visible to the most receptive or appropriate audience for the work you’re trying to sell. For instance: If you have visibility, authority, and proven reach to orthodontists, that probably won’t be helpful if you’re marketing vampire fiction (unless perhaps you’re writing about a vampire orthodonist who repairs crooked vampire fangs?).

What platform is NOT

  • It is not about self-promotion.
  • It is not about hard selling.
  • It is not about annoying people.
  • It is not about being an extrovert.
  • It is not about being active on social media.
  • It is not about blogging.

(This excerpt is taken from an article written by Jane Friedman and posted on her blog, Jane Friedman: Helping Authors and Publishers Flourish In The Digital Age. You can read the rest of the article HERE )


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Michelle - what a brilliant post. Platform building is being the shy expert ... being available, being around, but not promoting oneself as such ... and constantly producing that body of valuable and professional work.

Cheers - great post for the IWSG .. Hilary

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Authority and expertise are really important, and they can apply to fiction writers.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post. I think a lot of people don't realize what a long journey it is and how important each and every reader is too.

Linda Kay said...

Great post, Michelle. Thanks for your comments.

J.L. Campbell said...

Thanks for sharing this, Michelle. All of this is stuff we need to remember.

cleemckenzie said...

Great to read this. I know I'm hooked by bloggers and tweeters and those on fb whose personality comes through their posts. It's a skill all right.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Consistent effort - that I can do! Good stuff, Michelle.

Fundy Blue said...

This is an excellent post, Michelle! This is the best explanation of platform that I have read. thank you for sharing it!

Julie Flanders said...

This is something I'm always trying to figure out! Thanks for this great article, going to save it for sure.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I remember first hearing this word years ago and thinking what the heck is a platform? I think many new writers have no clue what it is though agents and editors expect them to know. Great article.

Patricia said...

I just joined IWSG and this post is the FIRST I've read that actually explains what the heck a "platform" is and I so appreciate your allowing us to read it. As Christine Rains said above, some authors don't realize what a long process it is to create a platform. Thank you.

Murees Dupè said...

Thank you for this post Michelle. It was very comforting, because I'm not popular with/on social media at all. I always thought the amount of followers you had was important for platforms. Now I know better.

G. B. Miller said...

To a small degree, it is a lot about self-promotion. If you have a good product, you need to promote it.

Saying that it's not about self-promotion basically insults a lot of writers, both traditionally and indie in all kinds of genres.

I know of at least one who started out as an indie, made the NY Times best seller (as an indie), reviews in US Today (as an indie), and landed a publishing deal with one of Amazon's imprints (as an indie).

Yeah, self-promotion didn't help one bit in her career.

Father Nature's Corner

shelly said...

Hi, Michelle:

This was an excellent post.

Janie Junebug said...

I've never heard that kind of effort called a platform. It sounds the same as "building a following."


Cathrina Constantine said...

Thank you. I've heard of building a platform, but never really knew what was or how to do it. Great Post Michelle!!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm too selective in how I present myself. I have a blog that I am active with. I have a Twitter, Facebook, Googe+, InLink, Pinterest, Goodread and Pearltree accounts. Out of all those accounts, I'm more active at Twitter, Pinerest and Pearltree. To tell the truth, I'm not sure why I've kept the other social media accounts except for that I don't want to feel bad about dumping someone who is a contact through one of these.

Do I think my platform is doing me any good? I really don't know.

dolorah said...

Thanks Michelle, for all the definitions and tips. I've been uncertain what this "platform" thingy was. I'm saving this for future reference; perhaps I can up my "visibility" by following these points.

Peaches D. Ledwidge said...

Things to think about. Platform is so many things. Thanks.

Michelle Wallace said...

Hilary ~ I like the words 'shy expert''s almost contradictory... but it makes sense.

L.Diane ~ I'm sure you're right.

Christine ~ I was thinking that writers who have accepted that they're in it for the long haul will have the correct mindset to tackle author platform.

Linda Kay ~ Thank you.

Joy Campbell ~ It's a good break down of the concept.

C.Lee ~ Some know exactly how to navigate the social networking scene to their advantage.

Alex ~ Consistent effort is also something I can do.

Fundy Blue ~ It's a detailed explanation of author platform... really helpful.

Julie Flanders ~ Me too. Platform is that 'elusive creature'...

Susan Gourley ~ I'm still learning too.

Patricia ~ Welcome to the IWSG!

Murees ~ I'm glad the article could shed some light on the topic.

G.B. Miller ~ Perhaps it could have been worded differently? 'It is not about self-promotion' could have been 'It is not about self-promotion that borders on spamming'... or something similar?

Shelly ~ Hugs and chocolate kisses to you.

Janie ~ Wouldn't "building a following" be a small part of platform building?

Cathrina ~ Learning never ends... there's always something new to learn.

speculationsimpressed ~ It must be quite tricky trying to juggle the social media platforms?

dolorah ~ We have to try. Good luck to upping 'visibility'.

Day Laughs Night Cries ~ It's not straightforward at all... there are so many dimensions.

Toi Thomas said...

This is very helpful and insightful.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I agree with the others, this is the best post on the subject since I got online back in 1993. Excellent. I have to confess I don't have an emailing list. I've tried, but I have nothing to say that comes anywhere near interesting enough to email. I know, poor attitude. But after trying for 8 years, I've given up and am sticking with just posting on my network. Thanks for summing up Author platforms so easily that even I can understand.