No matter where or when I speak about building an author platform, inevitably someone–or more than one person–begins to whine and complain. “Writers should just be allowed to write. Publishers should just buy our books because we have a good idea and are good writers. We shouldn’t have to do all that social networking and speaking and media stuff to get traditional publishing contracts–or to sell books. We should simple need to write good books.”
Right. In a perfect world. In a world that existed many years ago…12 years ago at least.
In the current world of nonfiction book publishing, there is no way to get around the need for author platform. It’s a fact of life; publishers are looking for good business partners before they give you venture capital. Yes; publishing is a business, and get this through your head: Authors ask publishers to financially back their writing projects. That’s a risky business partnership, to say the least.
As for fiction, you can simply be a good writer with a great idea. That said, if you have a platform, you are 100 percent more likely to land a book deal if you have the other two pieces. You will be a more attractive business partner.
The two questions I ask most “old-fashioned” writers who only want to write and who balk at the idea of building platform is this:
- How badly do you want to be published?
- How badly do you want to succeed or your book to succeed?
If you want these things badly, it’s time to come into the current publishing age where “platform” is the watchword and has been for more than a decade.
How do I know this? Because I’ve just been asked to resubmit my very first proposal to the very first publisher I ever contacted. Before submitting it, I’d never heard the word “platform” before, and I already knew a fair amount about the publishing industry and how to get published. Prior to submitting to him, I submitted to a big agent in New York City. She contacted me and told me she loved my idea, I had written a superb proposal and I was a great writer. Then came that word we hate to hear: But. But…I had no platform, so she couldn’t represent me.
“What’s a platform,” I asked her?
“A built-in readership for your book,” she explained. “It’s all the people who know you because of all the things you do, like speaking, media appearances, blogging, etc.”
I submitted that proposal in 2001. It took me at least four or five years to really start building platform seriously–to decide I wanted to be published and to succeed badly enough to do what it took. I landed my first traditional publishing deal in 2011. Platform doesn’t happen overnight.
If you are a kick-ass fiction writer, platform may not matter. But if you are here reading this blog, you are likely a nonfiction writer. If you are a kick-ass nonfiction writer, you will still need to start laying some boards in that platform if you want a traditional publishing deal. And start doing it early. And don’t just lay one board and pound in two nails a day. If you do, it will take you 10 years to land your traditional publishing deal, too. (You don’t want to wait that long, believe me.)
So stop whining and moaning about the need to build author platform. Stop resisting building an author platform and decide to get with the program and succeed as a writer–and as an author.
Photo courtesy of shaire productions.