Let’s say you’ve written a novel or a memoir that you and others feel is ready for prime time. Be aware that the buzzword in publishing today is “platform.” As in “what’s your platform?”
How do I know? My agent told me.
As publishing struggles to remain profitable in a business environment never envisioned by their founders, editors (hence agents) need more and more assurance that the book you’ve brought to them will sell. This is your platform.
What exactly is a platform and how do you get one? Occupy a position of national importance. Barack Obama has a platform. Be a celebrity. Shaq O’Neil has a platform. Be a recognized expert. Paul Krugman has a platform.
The question “what’s your platform?” need hardly be asked of these guys. But what about the rest of us?
For a novelist, it would certainly help to be able to tell a prospective agent that, through a personal blog you’ve been writing for 5 years, you’ve accumulated a list of regular readers and commentators from all over the country, numbering in the hundreds.
Or several thousand Twitter followers.
Or hundreds of Facebook friends.
I can already hear most of the literary friends in my generation start to yawn. “Oh, the Internet again…” It’s been a minor tragedy for me that my oldest friends have almost no idea what I do “online” or why the hell I would waste my time doing it. For them, I’ll soon be posting about the dangers of being a Luddite, as that world shifts its informational and social locus toward the Web.
I will even print it out and snail mail it to them.
Many of them, of course, built their platforms in a previous world, and they are still as ever. But let’s face it: social media have become our new gathering places–and for writers, the simplest and surest (and cheapest) way to connect you with your readers. If you are 26 and not yet heard from, get busy.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some basic platform-building tips. In the meantime, a quick platform-building reality check:
Do you have a blog? Do you have a Facebook account? A Twitter account? All three of these basic “planks” are free, relatively easy to use, and each is representitive of the most powerful media of social expression and communication in the history of the earth. Enough said for now.