Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Best of Blog: PlatForm Building

So here is my first Best of Blog post. Basically, as i have hopped from blog to blog, i have come across some great gems of info on certain issues, so i've decided to share!

Today the topic is Platform Building.

Now the reason i set up this blog was due to an article i read called Moon-rats Guide to Being Published. Most of the points sounded all too familiar to my aspiring author's ears but one thing that struck me was the concept of Platform Building.

What is Platform Building?

Platform Building
is creating a 'brand' or image of yourself that you can sell to the literary agents and publishers. Part of this is both building up legitimate credentials (your moms opinion does not count) by previous publications and building up a base or network of fans.

Basically, platform building is not rocket science, as Christina Katz says its merely

" ... the ways you're visible and appealing to your potential, future or actual readership. To build a platform, an author must create and maintain a Web presence without sacrificing too much regular writing time or paying a fortune in fees. Platform development is not only important to existing authors, it's also crucial for wannabe authors or soon-to-be authors."

Why Do I Need a Platform? I'm amazing as is, right?

In my mind i thought this was unnecessary - Talent shines through, but as it has been pointed out numerous times on various blogs, sometimes the ok author with a good fanbase wins over the great author with none.

Its the world we live in as Moon Rat says "This is the Walmartization of the book industry".

What does this mean?

Basically you have to Brand and Market yourself and what your selling (your writing). Exactly like the Branding of products in your local supermarket - its all about differentiating a product on the shelf from everything else. Its all about the packaging, the product and the volume.

Ok so its fine when your talking about branding some inanimate object like a tin of beans and not some one's 'masterpiece' or 'talent' - well 'Brand Management' is alive and well in the business industry and it seems to be leaking into the publishing world. A perfect example of a Branding Phenomenon is Twilight

As a marketing blog says

"How did a then 32 year-old stay-at-home-mother named Stephanie Meyer, with no prior novels published, take a dream she had about a romance between a vampire and a teenage girl and turn it into every author's dream - more than 25 million books sold and a knockout Hollywood adaptation?

The Internet had a lot to do with it."

"So she created a personal website,, that was far more personal and intimate than the website Little, Brown developed. She posted blogs and was eager to engage personally with those who would comment. Not content to relegate the 'conversation' to, she went to other websites and interacted with individuals on their online turf."

Whatever your opinion of Twilight, you can't deny its success and that it is a viable product which was pitched perfectly to its intended audience and used proper 'branding' methods to launch a platform for itself. An Apple with two pale hands will always be seen as 'Twilight' related from now on, with even a CS Lewis book with a similar cover causing fan outrage.

Its like the Obama brandomania craze that's everywhere now. Branding Sells. Ask CoCa Cola.

Is it any wonder that l.Agents and Publishers want an established fanbase 'prior' to publication if Twilight is the result of 'post-publication' platforming. Granted, it took two years and the third book in the series for Stephenie Meyer to even dent the bestseller list, but that was primarily due to her 'word of mouth' fanbase exploding.

With scary stats like these, branding/platform building is becoming as essential as editing to the writing world.

How Do I Build A Platform?

Basically there are two main steps to building a platform.

1. Credentials -

NonFiction: Expertise, Credentials etc.

Fiction: Readership, Awards, Previous Publications (Short stories etc. in magazines etc)

2. Networking -

Website, Magazines, Journals, Competitions, E-Zines, Blogs, paper columns, etc.

as the BookEnd Lit. Agency state "a platform goes beyond just who the author is. The book itself also has to have a platform."

The essentials of good writing obvious need to be there, but you also need to establish yourself with a readership (especially if its non fiction, where expertise and regular readership is essential). For example in the post dawn era of the DaVinci code and other similar books Nathan Bransford posted a blog entry about 'what is a platform?' and talked about the influx of terrorism themed books.

"But here's the problem: no one who is writing me is an expert on terrorism."

Nathan further makes the great point that

"Let's say you are thinking about writing a book of nonfiction. The first thing you need to do is assume that every single person in the entire world wants to write a book (which isn't really an assumption, it's basically true). The second thing you need to do is ask yourself if you are the most qualified person in the entire world to write that book. "

So this is nonfiction - credentials, expertise and knowledge are very very important.

Fiction is the same - you need credentials to help but being KNOWN helps more.

Just Look at the Celebrity bestsellers. Cha-Ching.

"Publishers are even starting to look more and more at platform in fiction. A lot of debut novelists already have a web-based following or are fixtures in their local writing scenes. Or they are a celebrity or have a good back story. You can see publishers' obsession with platform reflected in the JT Leroy scandal. Great writing is not always enough, and, recognizing this, a struggling writer created an entire fictional author with a tragic (completely made up) life history just to get ahead. It actually worked until, you know, the supposedly HIV+ transgender former teenage prostitute author was discovered to be a 42 year old woman"

So apart from creating a false identiy - here is my list of tips for 'lazy' platform building (fiction)

  1. Network - Join communities of writers either in 'real life' or online, either through community forums like the writers draft or critique groups etc. Join associations affiliated with your genre as well.The world of publishing is very very small.
  2. Web 2.0 - Online community forums, web rings, websites, blogs, e-zines etc. get the word out that you exist!
  3. Credentials - this is the BIG one. L.Agents like to see credentials such as previous publications in known/independent (basically not your own ezine mag) magazines or placements or awards in competitions!
For More tips (that involve being less lazy) have a look at this pdf file.

Ten Top Tips for Platform Building

What Now?

Go Platform Build !!
You can never start too early! (and *cough*network *cough* link me!)

I hope that people found this article interesting and that you click the links, cause there is a great source of information out there from people in the know and in the industry.

Thanks for Reading (if you got this far down the post)

Sources (in no particular order)


AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

to lazy to at blogging so I'm kind of tired of browsing...this looks interesting, so I'll make sure to come back again, when my mind is rested and able to actually process the info being read :)

Randa said...

That's some good advice. Very interesting, too.

marry said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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Chlobinsmom said...

Thank you. Building my platform doesn't seem quite so scary now. My memoir is called Finding Me, and it's about my search for my birthmother, which was quite a twisty, turny, surprising journey.

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