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Monday, May 5, 2008

Platform for Fiction Writers?

Diving platform by gva_pix Creative Commons

I've returned from the OWFI conference in Oklahoma with major bags under my eyes and updated info on the world of publishing.

One of the surprising things I heard is that some agents are starting to look more at platform for fiction writers in query letters. With the tougher economy, fewer books get published, so they need a way to weed out the less experienced.

Platform has generally been a non-fiction requirement. It's basically your marketability as an author and includes several categories:

Previous Publishing History (shows someone else thought you could write)
ad copy
anything else someone paid you to write
awards/contests (List only the most important - and not everything since 3rd grade)

Groups You Can Market To:
memberships in large organizations were you can market your book
frequent speaking engagements where you can sell your book
a website or blog where you can sell your book to readers
The Walton family are your best buds and will put it in Wally-World
Anywhere else you can sell your book

Level of Education/Fame:
College degree
Sudden Media Darling/Hero
Expert in your field

Your Activities:
Writing Group Memberships/Positions
Critique Group Participation
How mediagenic you are (How well you can talk on radio or television - so if you have examples, mention them).
Subscribing to Media info sources like Publisher's Weekly and Mediabistro

Basically it's anything that proves your writing was worthy of publication previously and/or you can market your book and yourself to lots of people. Don't forget to make your willingness to market clear.

I've published with the Travel Channel,, and various food and lifestyle magazines. As a college English teacher, I'm an experienced speaker and frequently address local writing groups. As a Missouri Writers' Guild member, I attend yearly conferences. I have contacts with Rotary groups, I write reviews for (marketing website), I host the Coffee and Critique blog, and I serve as publicity chair for Saturday Writers.

If you haven't published anywhere yet, don't panic. Good writing can still trump lack of resume - but if you're up against other good writers, it may give you an advantage to build a platform that raises you above the madding crowd.

Has anyone else heard this mentioned at conferences? Is it a widespread trend to consider platform for fiction?


Catherine Rankovic said...

"Platform" is recommended for every writer at St. Louis Publishers Association monthly meetings. Speakers almost exclusively discuss aspects of platforming and marketing yourself -- which now precedes, as you say, Tricia, marketing your manuscript or book. I bet there's an independent publishers association in every metro area. Link: Each meeting $6 if you don't want to join.

Tricia Grissom said...

Thanks, Catherine. I'm going to check that out right now. Sounds like they have great advice.

Anonymous said...

Good news folks!

My forthcoming book, "Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform" covers this topic thoroughly from zero to hero.

Catherine's comment is right on the mark.

I would clarify further by pointing out that your platform goes beyond what you did, it refers primarily to what you do.

Visibility comes from doing. So, as long as you are actively doing and not just resting on your past laurels, you are on your way!