We hear the word platform bandied about a lot these days. Publishing blogs tell you that without a platform you might as well use your manuscript as tissue paper because no one’s going to touch you without said platform.
Off course not everyone is particularly clear about what a platform actually is. Some say it’s web presence along the lines of a blog, others will tell you it’s all about social media like Twitter and Facebook, still others will say (cynically) that if you want to get a book published these days you’d better be Snookie.
The reality of the situation is that it can be some or all of these things.
All a platform is to a writer is a group of people pre disposed to buy your book without having read it already. If you’re a famous singer for instance, and you write (or have had written for you) a memoir detailing your debauched life of sex, drugs and more drugs, with the odd smattering of music, then the millions of people worldwide who follow your music are already predisposed towards buying your book.
On a smaller scale, let’s say you have a popular blog that get a few thousand visits a day. These visitors aren’t automatic customers, but they’ll be listening if you put up a blog post telling them about you’re vampire/unicorn/sasquatch paranormal romance trilogy.
Platform is not the same thing as advertising.
I could feasibly advertise a novel to one million people and still sell fewer books than if I had a platform of ten thousand people.
When you advertise people buy the book based on a great many factors, including the appeal of the ad, the genre of your book, how pretty the cover is and how they’re feeling.
With a platform part of the reason people buy the book is because they have a reason they already relate to you, whether that is because they know you online, they know your work in another field or they’ve read other books by you.
Of course you can make this work against you. If your online presence builds you a platform of dedicated, hard core horror fans and you write a regency romance you might find that your platform suddenly hates you.
The easiest way for those of us who aren’t sports stars, famous singers, or intoxicated reality television stars to build a presence is by making ourselves available online. Whether that’s by blogging, using Twitter and Facebook or through any of the many other ways to show people who you are online, the important thing is that you’re out there making contact with the world.
Of course you still have to write a good book. No matter how good your platform is, if your book is bad it will never get sold. A lot of writers spend far to much time building their platform and not enough time working on their craft. You need to be doing both, but by far the most important thing you can do as a novelist is write, edit, polish and then sell your work.
The platform is just a shiny chocolaty extra when it comes time to sell your work.