Friday, April 13, 2012

Platform: A Buzz Word You Can't Ignore by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The problem with buzz words is that we start hearing them so often that we're tempted to ignore them because we think we've gotten the message or we're tired of hearing it . Platform is a buzz word that has been making the rounds in the publishing industry for a few years now and looks like it might become one of those permanent fixtures. 

Agents and editors have blogged about it, and marketing professionals and publicists have taken it to a whole new breakout level. There is now the Marketing Platform, Online Platform, Speaking Platform, Blogging Platform and now the Social Media Platform. It seems that we need a substantial platform in every area of our lives that has the potential to amplify our names and promote our work to increase possible sales. In short, this platform buzz word isn't going away.

A few years ago when the economy began to tank, publishers became more selective than ever in what they accepted for publication. The competition got tough, and as I've always said, in my humble opinion it was already tough.

So what is platform?

My personal definition is that platform is a buildup of readership and/or a following of people who like to read what you write enough to buy and/or promote it. The bigger your platform, the higher your ability to sell your books in large volume and to get your books published through a publisher. 

One reason why some have come to dislike the word platform, is because so many good authors are being rejected due to their lack of platform--or at least that's what they're being told. Their writing is good enough for publication, the concept interesting and applicable to the present, but if the author doesn't have a great platform, it can be rejected based on that alone. In the old days, it was the quality of a writer's work that meant publication. They were told to keep improving their craft and a door would eventually open. 

Times have changed!

Now authors are expected to build a platform before publication while they improve their craft. It wouldn't hurt to have a marketing degree, but if not, writers need to be reading all the marketing and promotion blogs and articles they can find, and implement what they learn. It isn't enough just to store away the information for later use. Somewhere in all this time while learning the craft of writing and platform building, writers must squeeze in a full-time job to pay the bills and have enough left over for writing organization fees, conferences, and workshops.
So the great question for every author is: How do I build a platform? It all boils down to marketing yourself as a writer, promoting what you write, and connecting and networking with people. Those who are great at promoting themselves, speaking in public, and building that public awareness will build a bigger platform and have the edge over writers who don't promote themselves well.

I'd like to point you to some great articles that have been written on this topic:

  • Need A Platform? by Agent Terry Burns

  • Fiction Platform by Agent Rachelle Gardner

  • How Important is an Author's Platform by Michael Hyatt, Board Chair of Thomas Nelson Publishers

  • What are your thoughts on platform? Are you feeling overwhelmed by this buzz word? Have you been able to implement what you learn? What are your most difficult challenges in building a platform?


    Cheryl said...

    I don't know that I am overwhelmed by the word as much as I am by the sheer amount of information out there. After reading Rachelle's article a couple of times, I realize I probably haven't narrowed my focus quite enough. I blog about books, and I even have a blog dedicated to children's books, but I don't focus on picture books, which is my market.

    How helpful have all those years of blogging been? I don't know. I volunteer in the schools often. Has that helped? Maybe. I know I've sold books to parents because of it.

    The most difficult thing for me is time. I work from home, plus I have two girls here and a married son. One would think the married kid wouldn't be much work, but...

    There's just never enough time to accomplish it all.

    Meghan Carver said...

    I agree completely with Cheryl. I think I know what I need to do, but finding the time to do it all is another story. I have six children and homeschool the four that are school age, so I have to fit platform in between multiplication problems and making peanut butter sandwiches.

    Davalyn Spencer said...

    Jennifer - you're reading my mail and that of others who are also up to their eyelashes in busyness. Why is it that those who "do" do so much? If I could just figure out the domino effect of marketing. I have some of it linked, but not enough. Thanks for the suggested readings.

    Cecelia Dowdy said...

    Jennifer, I agree with the others. It's hard to find time to do everything. I have a full-time job, plus, I have a six-year-old son. I do make an effor to expand my platform. I've been blogging regularly for almost six years. Have my blog posts increase my book sales? It's pretty hard to say.

    I do have a mailing/email list, too. I also use Facebook, but, probably not as much as I should.

    Charmaine Clancy said...

    You're right about buzz terms becoming complacent, most writers have been working on their platforms for a while and think they've got it all under control, but the thing with social media is it keeps changing. Industry professionals are more likely to be on Linkedin or Google+ than Facebook these days, teen readers are more likely to be reached on Instagram, Pinterest or Tmblr than Blogger or Wordpress. It's not enough to manage what you have, you need to keep looking for the sweet spots online, otherwise you'll end up with a dusty, lonely MySpace page.

    Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

    For those of you who are challenged with time constraints, I feel your pain. I'm still working that full-time job right along with you. Hang in there. I'm convinced. that baby steps are still progress as long as you're moving forward and being consistent at it.

    Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

    Charmaine, It's true, we have to be flexible and willing to change what we're doing and how we're doing it--constantly. I gave in and opened a Google+ acct when it came out, as well as a Pinterest acct and I'm glad I did. Even if I'm only have once or twice a month, my platforms are growing in those places and I'm able to connect and reach people I don't have access to on Twitter and FB.

    Melissa K Norris said...

    I'm one of those weird people who enjoy platform building. I like connecting with people who are interested in what I am. I've made great friends and hear some incredible stories.
    Pinterest has been my favorite new social media and by far sends more hits to my website than twitter.
    The time constraint is an issue though. Balance is key, but sometimes hard to achieve. sigh.

    Heather Day Gilbert said...

    I'm with Melissa--I've been shocked by the quick connections I've made through twitter and Pinterest. I did balk at first, but Pinterest in particular garners followers who are interested specifically in your book, if you have a board for your book inspirations. I think authors have to embrace social media in this day and age; otherwise, they're giving up a great networking and promotional tool.