From Maria Schneider
Christina Katz is one writer who has mastered the art of the platform.
She’s been supporting and educating writers for more than a decade now with her Writers on the Rise E-Zine, her book Writer Mama, and she’s recently published a really helpful book on establishing a platform, Get Known Before the Book Deal. I really admire Christina’s can-do spirit and practical approach to publishing. Here she answers 5 questions for writers wondering about this “platform” thing we hear so much about:
1. Why is it so important to publishers that writers have a platform?
Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform. A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence.
A writer can have a great book idea at the perfect time and be the absolute best person to write that book, and still not land the deal if he or she doesn’t have the platform that is going to fulfill the promise to sell the book. A platform is a promise, which says you will not only create something to sell (a book), but also promote it to the specific readers who will want to purchase it. Agents and editors have known this for years and they look for platform-strong writers and getting them book deals. If you want to land the book deal, today, then you need to be a platform-strong writer.
2. What are the social networks that you most recommend for platform building?
The new rules are: get out and mingle virtually. One thing I have noticed during my years as a teacher is that my students come from every which way imaginable. Word-of-mouth seems to have evolved so that there are fewer degrees of separation between people before a connection is made. You could have someone say, “I heard about your class because my friend on Twitter said she met you on Facebook after her friend took your class, after she read your book because she saw your article.”
So which was the deciding factor? Not any one of them but all of them combined. The same goes for books. You never know how folks will hear about you, so you may as well get your face and your expertise out there. It’s fine to spend most of your time on Facebook, if that’s your favorite social network but don’t neglect MySpace, Squidoo, Twitter, Red Room, Shelfari, Goodreads, Linkedin, etc. Because of the clickable nature of the Internet, you never know how someone will find you. By casting the widest possible net, you can be more visible without spending your whole life online. It only takes about a half hour to get set up on any site, just be sure to visit occasionally to touch base and keep your info up to date.
3. Is it important for writers to blog?
If possible, yes. If not possible, then don’t. And don’t sweat it. For folks who consider blogging a part of their professional platform, a blog can reach thousands—even millions. There are so many good reasons to blog: to build and maintain your identity online; to be a part of an extended community of bloggers; to explore what it’s like to write and have your writing responded to online; to share about your writing process; to give and receive support; and to become better known. And don’t be afraid to take a creative approach and stand out in the crowd, even as you become a member of a huge online movement. Forethought prior to execution is the key to success, from everything I’ve seen.
4. Are there any types of writers who don’t need a platform?
Yes. There are dozens of reasons to write but only writers who want to establish themselves as professional writers, who aspire to publish a traditionally published or a self-published book should concern themselves with platform development. If you’re writing for other reasons, such as to heal, to connect with friends and family, or just for pleasure, then perhaps you don’t need a platform.
5. Do fiction writers also need to build a platform?
Definitely. But when it comes to platform building, what nonfiction writers do and what fiction writers do may seem like opposites. A nonfiction writer will often micro-niche to reach a more specific audience that matches their expertise. While a fiction writer will spin off a series of topics they can explore to help promote topics or themes they’ve written about. However, once a fiction writer starts spinning off ideas, it’s still a good idea to make those ideas very specific to separate yourself from the masses.