Advice, Agent, Editor, Fiction, Marketing, Publish, Tips, Writing

Without a platform to stand on …

In a recent blog post, Kirsten Lesko wrote about platform. She said, in part, that she learned at a recent conference that writers should spend 50% of their time building a platform. My first thought was this does not really apply to fiction writers. Then yesterday, I read this post by editor Helen Ginger in which she said:

Another way the meaning of the term platform has morphed is that it now applies to fiction, as well as nonfiction. Agents and editors now look to see if fiction writers have a platform. They want good writing, a genre that will sell, and a new and interesting twist to the book – all the things they’ve always wanted. But now they also expect the author to have that third part of the equation – a ready-made audience.

She goes on to say that in order to get published nowadays, you need to be a national celebrity or, at least, a local one; or be giving speeches and directing workshops; or have daily blog hits in the hundreds, if not thousands; or be involved in enough organizations and groups that you’re certain of big sales.

She adds:

Agents will tell you they only care about the writing. They say they look at the pages and whether it hooks them. The hard truth is publishers – and agents – look at the bottom line – will this book sell.

Wow! And wow! I’m trying hard not to panic. This time, I can’t tell myself Ms. Ginger is not referring to fiction writers. She is. And I am one—without any sort of platform!

I’m not a celebrity, past or present, national or local. I’m not qualified to give speeches or direct workshops. This blog, on its absolute best days, gets 100-plus hits. And I, being the hermit I am, belong to NO, zero, zilch groups or organizations. I don’t work outside the home, so I can’t even hawk my book to coworkers. I think I could guilt a few relatives and badger my fellow writer friends into buying a copy. Do you think the prospect of fifty sales will get me an agent?

What shall I do? What are you doing to build your platform, fellow fiction writers?

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31 thoughts on “Without a platform to stand on …”

  1. Linda, I don’t think anything is cut and dry and you should never let these things discourage you for long. And I know it won’t. You’re much too determined for that!

    Before my novel came out, I never even thought about building a platform. I guess I took the same attitude as Jennifer. Maybe I wouldn’t have even considered trying to get published if I had thought about it in those terms.

    Hopefully an agent will look at what’s really important— your writing. Being a celebrity doesn’t necessarily mean you can tell a good story.

    And for the record, when your novel comes out, I’ll buy a copy…See you didn’t even have to badger me!

    Your first line made me laugh, Laura, because I know you’ve been around here long enough to recognize my mercurial ways. 🙂

    Can I add your pre-order to my platform? Hear that, all you literary agents, my book is already selling! 😀 Amazon tells me I should receive your book on or about April 5th, looking forward to it.


  2. Hi, Linda. I’ve been one of your silent readers for awhile now, and just wanted to come out of the shadows to say two things:

    1) More people probably read your blog than you think. I read it through Google Reader, and others probably do the same or use another RSS feed aggregator. This means your site statistics may be artificially low. (Although if we get technical, the photos you post may be showing as hits on your website because those do appear in Google Reader. It depends on whether your site statistic software looks at hits on every file, which would include images, or if it requires a web page to be loaded. I suspect yours is doing the latter, which would mean that I’m right and your stats are artificially low.)

    2) From what I can tell about this whole business of writing and getting published, there is no right answer. The important thing is to write for you. Write something that you are very, very proud of, and chances are, it will take you somewhere pretty awesome.

    OK, back to the shadows. Happy Spring!

    Oh, Rebecca, don’t go back to the shadows; stay out here and play. Welcome and thank you for letting me know you’ve been following my blog. Yes, WP only counts a hit when a page is loaded, so it doesn’t count when someone reads my posts on a reader or email. Now I’m dying to know how many other “secret” readers are out there. Hmmm … I’m thinking poll.

    I agree that absolutes are absolutely wrong in this business. Sometimes it just takes me a bit to realize that. If I want to continue writing, I can only write my way. If that leads to publication, so be it. Don’t sweat the small stuff; don’t compromise the big stuff.


    1. And there was I thinking my readership was in single figures when, in all probability, I have a hidden fanbase using readers and feeders. What? Who said ‘delusional’? C’mon, we’re all entitled to dream!

      Well, due to my new poll, I’m about to have my delusions shattered. Probably better to keep dreaming.


  3. For my marketing platform, I have (in no particular order) my less popular blog; my friends and family; authors and editors I’ve met at conferences or online who might one day put in a good word for me; local writers’ groups; and the bookstore owners, booksellers, and librarians I like to talk with. Some might help with convincing a publisher to buy my first novel while others might help spread the word about my future releases.

    Now think about this: We are *your* platform, and you share a bit of ours.

    Ann, your platform sounds great for a fiction writer. I need to leave the house more.

    And I certainly didn’t intend to demean you all. I do consider you as part of my platform, as I am part of yours. Now if we could just assure an agent that we also have thousands of silent blog readers … 🙂


    1. Indeed. And very happy and grateful to be such. I’ve beneftied enormously from the discussions here – more power to the collective elbow!

      “Collective elbow”? 😀


  4. Or collective knee, either way, we make an impact. Just one’s more excruciating than the other for the recipient!

    The elbow is stronger, Cathryn. Let’s stick with that. Unless we do boot to the head.


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