A summary of…
R163. What’s Your Platform? What Agents & Editors Are Looking For in Writers. (Christina Katz, Jane Friedman, Robin Mizell, David W. Sanders) Yes, the quality of your writing still matters. But becoming visible and influential is more crucial to landing a book deal than ever, according to agents and editors in every facet of the publishing industry. Aspiring authors need to develop a platform in order to get noticed. Fortunately for emerging writers in all genres, there are more affordable, accessible tools available for platform-development and building, which make this important responsibility a pleasure and not a chore.
Much of this panel focused on what exactly a platform is, why it is important, and how an author should go about developing one. Many of the suggestions felt obvious (getting a website, establishing a Twitter feed, be on Facebook, Redroom, and various other social networks). Some, though, were new ideas to me.
Here’s a run-down of some of the best points:
Christina Katz would rather call this panel Harnessing the Artist’s Power. She explains this concept by saying that the author must use his ability to be passionate about his work to create passion among others.
David W. Sanders said that there is a connection between how known a writer is in the world and how well they succeed. He went on to say, “a book may not sell because the writer is dead. Which is a valid reason; the only valid reason.” A writer must be a missionary for his work.” He also suggests writing fan letters to authors as a way to show investment in the literary community.
Robin Mizell says, “your platform is not your CV. Your platform is a continuing conversation with your audience.”
What are the ways to build platform?
Christina Katz offers…
- Build website/Facebook/twitter/etc.
- Publish eZines
- Teach classes (even online classes, or mentor via forums or email)
- Write for specific publications
- Give lectures, readings, and workshops
- Host a reading series
- Offer contests and giveaways on your blog
Robin Mizell offers…
- As an agent, she can guild the author, but her job is not promote the author (? Really?)
This question was posed: What are the biggest challenges with platform building?
David W. Sanders says time is the biggest challenge. An author only has so much time.
Robin Mizell says that it is necessary to be “other focused,” which many wannabe authors aren’t. Engage in conversation before even telling someone you are a writer or have a project going.
Christina Katz offers…
- Confusing platform development with socializing
- Not communicating everything you offer
- Not focusing enough on your audience
- Thinking there is an end. Platform building ends only when your career ends.
The panel members then each offered resources for more information about platform building.
Robin Mizell recommends Christina Katz’s book, Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform.
Ultimately, the panel left me wondering, if an author must have an established platform (re: a group of people willing to buy; a hyper-focused demographic) to sell a novel, then what is the point of a traditional publisher. Why not just self-publish?