The Powerful Case for Developing Your Fiction-Writing Platform

The Powerful Case for Developing Your Fiction-Writing Platform

There are tons of articles out there with tips to help authors build their platform.

There are almost as many articles explaining why fiction authors don’t need a platform to get an agent or publisher.

Most of this advice is completely accurate. So should fiction authors just cross “platforming” off their to-do lists?

Heck no.

As a marketing pro and a fiction author, articles declaring there’s no need to build a platform make me facepalm. Articles expounding on this point are built on the premise that your platform is intended to get you a publisher.

But that’s not what a platform is for.

Forget publishers. An author’s platform is for connecting with readers.

It’s a crowded world out there

Most books, traditionally or self-published, never sell any more than 2,000 copies in their lifetime. Not a month. Not a year. We’re talking entire shelf life.

How’s that possible? It’s a crowded world out there for a book. About 750,000 new books are released every year, according to Tim Grahl’s research.

So sure, an agent and maybe even a publisher might pick up your book without a platform, but what about when your book is squeezed onto the massive shelf along with all those others out there in the online abyss?

Your fans are the key

The average American adult reads 12 books every year. Compile all those different people and all those different book choices, and that’s a lot of opportunities for your book to get read.

Every time a reader looks for their next book is an opportunity for you to be discovered.

But different readers are looking for different types of stories. Not all of those readers will want to read your book.

But others will adore it. There are readers out there right now, just waiting to love your book.

So how do you find those readers? The answer to this fundamental author question is platforming.

Benefits beyond readership

As I began platforming online, I paid more attention to the online writing community because it was right there in my Twitter feed.

I made invaluable friendships with other writers and bloggers, which have helped me learn and develop as author. It’s also given me awesome opportunities as I launch my first book.

The result: Long before I had any books to promote, platforming was already well worth the effort.

I also became part of a community of enthusiastic sci-fi and fantasy readers. Again, this happened naturally over time, simply because as a fantasy writer, I was sharing content that interested me and that I thought would be of interest to others in this community.  And it’s really a blast to have those people there to geek out with when something exciting happens, like a new season of Daredevil drops on Netflix.

See how it works? Platforming is a win-win. But this isn’t even where the benefits of platforming end.

Setting yourself up for long-tail success

Your author ambitions don’t stop with one book deal, right?

Most writers consider a book release a stepping stone, rather than an end goal. You want to keep growing your audience so your next book sells even better, and so on.

This audience growth over time is called the long tail. A platform is key for this.

First, it helps you maintain long-term relationships with the readers who love you most: The ones most likely to want to buy your next book because they loved your first book so darn much.

This list inevitably grows over time as more people read your work and find you online, allowing each new book to be more successful. Each book launch, in turn, helps you gain more exposure, which helps more people find you. It’s a lovely cycle.

Secondly, the sales success this cycle leads to helps you maintain agent and publisher relationships.

Sales are your responsibility as much as your publisher’s. If your book flops, you’re not likely to get a second chance.

Platforming can be pleasant

With so much to gain from platforming, why would authors avoid it so adamantly? There’s a stigma to platforming it doesn’t deserve, though I understand where it comes from.

Promoting your writing can make your feel icky, or even like you’ve sold out. But platforming isn’t about making sales pitches all day. It’s about making connections — sharing what you love with the people who love what you create.

Another barrier is the idea that platforming takes a huge amount of time. But it doesn’t have to.

If your time is limited, start with just one or two social media networks. Even if you post just a few times a week — an effort that should take just minutes — you’ll see more growth than if you do nothing. Free tools like Buffer and Hootsuite can help.

And sometimes, writers get frustrated with the slow nature of the audience-cultivation process.

I know, I’ve been there myself. It’s rough to see your followers inch up from 0, 10, 30 … but hey, we all start there. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself and have some fun with it.

But please writers, I’m begging you, do something.  

Consider it an investment in your writing career. Your future self will thank you.

What advantages have you found to developing an author platform? Or, if you’ve procrastinated on this task, tell us why!

Filed Under: Marketing
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7 comments

  • Tal Valante says:

    E.J., I couldn’t agree with you more. A professional author website is key in connecting with readers and marketing your books, which very few publications will do for you.

    I’m actually in the process of developing such a platform builder for authors who have no technical experience. It’s called Readership Pro, and you can find it here: http://www.readershippro.com . I’d love to hear your opinion on it!

    Thanks for a strong, important, post.

    Tal

  • The problem is that once a writer is convinced he needs a ‘platform’ there are hundreds of folks out there to convince him he can’t build a platform without their help. There are simple, free things any author or would-be author can do; try those first.

    • Good point, Nissa. I agree that authors should always be the hand on the wheel when it comes to building their online platform. Sometimes, though, additional tools or an expert voice can be helpful. Personally, I’m a major fan of Buffer for this. But to your key point, authors should always give it a try before giving up … you might surprise yourself 🙂

  • I’m a firm believer that every self-employed person (and after all, every person trying to make money selling their writing is self-employed, even if they work full-time for someone else) needs a platform. There are many ways of building it, but as Emily says, DO SOMETHING!

    My social medium of choice is YouTube. I find it an excellent vehicle for offering information viewers will find useful for their own purposes while promoting my own business. I also like the fact that it does not require the kind of daily attention that a successful campaign on Twitter or Instagram may demand for best results. I can invest the time in creating a high-quality video during a slow period, and it will be available for viewers even if my schedule or health prevent me from making another for weeks or even months. A good video can continue to drive traffic to a website for years! I even have two channels for different facets of my business.

    If you are thinking about dipping your toe into the YouTube waters, take a look at how others have done it. The vlog format works well for some, though I’ve chosen more of an “informational video/infomercial” model for my Epiclesis Consulting channel and a “sample of my work” model for my Retreat Preacher channel. If you’d like to check them out, here are the links:

    Epiclesis Consulting channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLqOsVzGEIRtyNTi_fPDsqA
    Retreat Preacher Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOnZ3lCZl-Cb9I0zaR6lsSw

    Best of luck with whatever route you decide to pursue!

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Freelance Editorial Services, Writer’s Resources, and Spiritual Retreats
    http://www.epiclesisconsulting.com
    http://www.epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com

  • Thanks Emily for your post. My platform is growing, in that I have two published novels and a poetry anthology shortly to go live. It’s a continuous learning curve. I have started more social media sites plus a blog and website. The blog and website are free sites. I need to have more promotion expertise / knowledge before I upgrade.
    Without a main stream publisher behind your book launch who places your novel in Waterstones, WH Smith’s, Foyles and other large booksellers across the land you are aware that your novel is largely hidden from your potential readership. I have joined organizations that are related to my genre. It’s a slow burn, but readers are asking for signed copies, which is gratifying.

  • Many have wonderful very professional site

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