Novels and Platforms

For years, I kept hearing publishing industry folk talk about platforms. It was the writer’s responsibility to market their own books. The publisher, it turned out, was the venture capitalist.

My argument was always the same: the best marketing a writer can do is to simply write better books.

Okay, so I wrote a few. My publisher did very little to get the word out about my novels. I did even less, partly out of ignorance, part fear, but mostly because I was under contract to write another novel. When I tried to balance deadlines with my family, my day job, and living an actual life worth tapping into for literary fodder…there was very little time left for platform building.

After the release of my third novel I took a break for while, rediscovered my love for music, gained some much needed perspective. Now I’m writing again and trying to sort out this whole platform thing.

I recently read a blog post where Dave Long (Bethany) and Rachelle Gardner (Books & Such) chimed in on the importance of platform–specifically regarding blogs–for the working novelist. They seem to agree that the quality of the work still trumps one’s ability to market it. But given the choice between two authors of similar talent and similar stories, the more marketing-savvy writer will likely get the contract.

So…marketing platforms are not THE most important thing, but rather one of many in a writer’s career. Still, I contend that writing should be about the process of writing, not just the adventure of getting published or paid or even noticed.

So for now, here’s my simplistic plan:

1-Write well. Get better every day. Never sacrifice creative writing time to come up with a nifty blog post or some clever marketing scheme.

2-Remember that community is more important than platform. One is a lifeline, the other a luxury.

3-Consctruct your platform the old-fashioned way, one brick at a time. Most of us have pockets of time during the week that can be used to write blog posts or participate in Twitter or write back cover copy. Use those “spare” moments wisely.

Michael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, and many others have written extensively about how to maximize your efforts. I won’t try to reiterate them all here. Suffice to say that the creative use of Twitter, Facebook, Hootsuite, MarsEdit, and a few other online tools really do streamline one’s ability to engage with other writers and potential readers without cutting into precious composition time.

As to whether a platform will actually move the needle for novelists? To be determined…

So when you think of “platform” do you think of an Olympic high-diving ledge? A dank, graffiti-laden concrete slab where you stand around waiting for trains? A lectern rising up above a crowd? Something else altogether?

One thought on “Novels and Platforms

  1. As I finally get some fiction finished which I actually believe to be of worth for publishing, I’ve been struggling with all of that ‘platform building’ quite a bit. It feels, as you said, a little like trying to build a kingdom one brick at a time (but they say Rome wasn’t built in a day).

    I think that a platform will move the needle for a novelist. I’m sure there are thousands of amazing writers I have never read, and I can’t imagine a publisher easily getting my attention with a promotion, as I tend to get most book recommendations through friends. But those who I’ve connected with through recent ventures into blogging and twitter have made themselves known to me, and being known, one would suppose, is the first step in getting read.

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