Frequently agents will tell writers, nonfiction writers most specifically, that they need a platform. But what is a platform?
A platform is needed for non-narrative nonfiction. This is nonfiction in which your readers expect you, as the author, to have a certain level of expertise. If you're providing advice on anything—how to achieve happiness, credit repair, parenting, wart removal, movie suggestions, cooking, sleeping, eating, shopping, business start-up—you will need a platform. Heck, sometimes you will even need a platform for memoirs and humor, but not always.
So what is this elusive platform? Let me first tell you want it's not. A platform is not your credentials. It has nothing to do with your degree or degrees, or the level of respect your colleagues have for you. A platform is your name recognition on a national or international level. It's how well you can sell books simply because you have a following.
A platform is your national newspaper column, your television show on NBC, your regular appearance as an expert on radio, TV, or a major website, like theknot.com. A platform means you have thousands of Twitter followers, a blog with thousands of readers, and you get major attention for those things or have received major attention for those things through other outlets.
In other words, a platform means that thousands of people you don't know know you and would buy your book because they know you.
I think this is a bit grand--even for non-fiction writers. To dial the scale back to the average writer, I point to Kristen Lamb, whom I've found to be one of the shrewdest and savviest gurus on forging networks and building one's author platform.
Thanks for addressing this buzzword! I have been reading a lot about it, and as someone hoping to publish fiction, I have been stressing out (probably a little too much) over my "platform" and what exactly that means for fiction writers.
This can also assist those who wish to build their platform in a certain area. Start writing articles, joining online/offline groups, attend workshops, and read, read, read.
Your expertise and by extension, your platform will emerge and grow the more you take part and contribute.
I don't know columnist Joel Stein personally. But I know of him. I see him around social media and I read his column in Time religiously. And I'd definitely buy a book if he had one published.
I tend to agree with Evangeline Holland's comment. And further to what a platform is...it may not mean knowing thousands who will buy your book, but being connected in a real way to others - pivotal people who will help you reach those thousands who will, in turn, buy your book.
What about an interview book? Does the author still have to have an established platform?
I totally agree. And the way you presented it Jessica is blatant terms offering first what it's not and then what it is is brilliant and unconfused. Though there will be majority who don't get it.
What I don't understand is how some authors can build a platform of 2+ pseudonyms and others can't even do one.
Very frustrating for agents indeed.
Under those terms, it's amazing anyone besides a celebrity stands a chance--kind of sad, actually...
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