Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What Platform?

post by Jennifer Carter
I've heard agents and other professionals say that for the prepublished author, platforms are not all that important. Then again, I've heard others say it's crucial and I should definitely have one before I try to get published.

If I were to assume the latter is correct, then it would be a good idea to figure out just what the heck a platform is to begin with. Now, I've gone to some workshops and read some articles about building your platform, but I have to admit, when I picture mine it still looks something like this photo. And just as empty. I hear the words they're saying about what it is, and I do understand English most of the time, but I have to say--I still don't get it.

From a nonfiction standpoint I can see how it would work--you are an expert on something and that's your platform. In certain cases of fiction writers I can see it, like Mike Befeler's geezer lit or Cricket McRae's homecrafting mystery series, but what does a run-of-the-mill literary fiction writer's platform really look like?

I've heard that whatever your book is about, that's your platform. Well, I'm not sure I want sin and repression in a small town to be my platform, because what if I want to write about something else? Do I need two or more platforms? One for every book?

We have over 200 writers in NCW, so I would love to hear from any or all of you on your take on platforms. Are they necessary? Do you have one? How did you "design" it? And if you had one before you got published, did it help? If you didn't have one, did it hinder you?


Jenny S. said...

I write mostly fiction, and I'm as uncertain about platform as you are. (I love the visual...the big, empty room. That's me, too. Only my platform is more like a shelf.) I suppose part of my problem is wanting to be defined as a writer but not defined by my writing.

Kay said...

Platform? Hermits don't have platforms.

Whatever, I go through the motions because it lends discipline to my life and helps me organize my thoughts.

bfav said...

I waffle on this too. Platform to me is a jumble of things to help sell you and your book. As a currently unpublished author, I think it is good to build a network (ie facebook, writing orgs). Having a blog, website, or twitter account will come when I find a publisher/agent.

I think if you are unpublished and you have a (public) blog, website or twitter account, you should make your content relevant about your market or craft...not about you. At least not yet.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I answered a question on platform at The Blood-Red Pencil blog this morning. I defined a fiction writer's platform as: "Your platform will be your online and in-person persona, representative of you and your work." I tried to be more vague, but this was the best I could do. :) I then went on to address the commenter's specific question.

In the same Q&A, author Robert W. Walker said: "Platform in my definition is what makes your romance or your detective tale unique and unto itself as in a blind half Asian, half Irish detective with a sixteen year old daughter who dives her crazy."

Clear as mud, right?

Rob's definition might require a separate "platform" for every book. My definition lets the author establish a broader public image that encompasses all her work. And if you Google "writer's platform," you'll probably find quite a few more definitions. I wonder if anyone has written a book on this topic yet.

Heidi said...

I see it as developing a cohesive vision of yourself as a writer. Writers present themselves very differently based on why they write. For example, Dan Brown's website looks very different from Laurie Halse Anderson's.

Anyone can make websites, blogs, press kits, etc. I think the challenge is making these items into a collection that represents who you are as a person and a writer.

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