Are You A Literary Force To Be Recognized? (AWP Panel #1: What’s Your Platform? What Agents & Editors Are Looking for in Writers)

by @thewritermama on April 8, 2010 · 4 comments

Warning: This post contains tough love.

Here’s a few points I hope to share about platform at the AWP 2010 Conference:

Understand what platform means. Here’s my official definition:

“A platform communicates your expertise to others. It includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership.”

“Basically, your platform is everything you DO with your expertise. A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Once you establish a platform, it can work for you 24/7, reaching readers even as you sleep. Of course, this kind of reach takes time. If many others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then you likely have an active platform.”

“I find it helpful to define a platform as a promise writers make to not only create something to sell (like a book), but also to promote it to the specific readers who will want to purchase it. This takes both time and effort, not to mention considerable focus.”


What is a legitimate platform? A big diversion I’ve noticed is that writers are willing to acknowledge that nonfiction writers need platforms but want to endlessly debate whether or not fiction writers, memoir writers, children’s writers, etc. need one.

I can clear this up: Every writer, who plans to publish or be published, needs a platform. It doesn’t matter what you write. As with most things, the sooner you get started the better. Because platforms take time to establish, cultivate and build. No exceptions.

Understand that platform applies to every kind of writer. Don’t get platform confused with what you’d like it to mean. Man, there is a lot of misinformation and quibbling about about what platform is and isn’t whether or not writers need to work on building one. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…in all the time spent debating, a writer could have actually built a platform!

To clarify, debating about whether or not you need a platform should not be confused with actually taking concrete steps towards building a legitimate platform. Get out of the debate club and get into the platform-building club instead. I hope you will all take the No Whining Oath (it’s in Get Known) and get to work building a productive platform that offers folks value.

Need examples? Here are a handful of writer/author platform examples. None of them are the super-fast, slap it together overnight kind because the staying power of those kinds of platforms has not yet passed the test of time. This explains why someone who is classified as a “Lift-off,” in my estimation, has actually been working at this platform stuff for years (I’m keeping things real because that’s what I’m known for):

Nonfiction (how-to):

Master: Eric Maisel

Up-and-coming: Cami Walker

Lift-off: Arnie Bernstein

Fiction:

Master: Sandra Cisneros

Up-and-coming: Joe Meno

Lift-off: Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

Poetry:

Master: Gary Snyder

Up-and-coming: Kim Stafford

Lift-off: Guy LeCharles Gonzales

Memoir:

Master: Dave Eggers

Up-and-coming: Kelly Corrigan

Lift-off: Cheryl Strayed

Remember, you won’t witness the sweat that these folks have invested into their writing careers over the years when you click on these links. Instead you view the results of all their years of hard and steady work. Don’t wish for someone else’s success. Roll up your sleeves and go do your own. Carve out your own distinct niche in the literary world.

Now go. Build your own darn platform. [Sound of whip cracking!]

And remember, no whining while you do it…except maybe to your closest writer friends, who are likely in the same platform-less boat.

So why not pull together and encourage each other to take concrete platform-building steps? You’ll find them in Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books 2008).

And if you have taken concrete steps to start building an author-worthy platform, good for you! It’s a fun and expansive process, isn’t it? Almost as much fun as writing…if you let yourself have fun with it.

Resources:

How to Build A Marketing Platform by Christina Katz (Writer’s Digest magazine)

Excerpt from Get Known Before the Book Deal, Why All Authors Need Platforms

Online Tools Every Author Can and Should Master

~ Photo by Isolino

Like this post? Subscribe to my Feed!

  • http://www.lydiasharp.blogspot.com/ LydiaSharp

    I am so glad you posted this! I've seen too many arguments that platform is only important for non-fiction writers. I beg to differ.

  • Pingback: Writing Roundup, April 9 « Uncategorized « Jen's Writing Journey()

  • http://www.writeupmylife.com/ Julie Hedlund

    Excellent post! Love the no-nonsense advice. Do you have any examples of children's authors that you could share? Thanks!

  • Pingback: Platforms @ Daryl Sedore()

Previous post:

Next post: