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Thread: Do you really need a platform?

  1. #1
    tiny hedgehog JetFueledCar's Avatar
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    Do you really need a platform?

    I read an article on a website I use to find paying specfic markets. I don't normally read the articles (I tend to get most of my advice on publishing from, well, AW), but this caught my eye. It was about the author bio, and it included quotes from a couple editors. One of the editors said that they want people who submit to have a website, a blog, social media, something. They want authors with "platforms." Authors who can connect with their readers. Now, I take this editor's input with a giant block of salt, because they pay a flat rate of $10 for submission calls that are so specific you'd have to write just for this market and they played the "Do you dream of seeing your book in print" card on a writing contest they hosted. But I'm still concerned that other editors might be having these thoughts.

    So my question is... do I need to have a platform? Really? To submit a short story? There are reasons I'm not active on social media. It took me long enough to get comfortable posting on AW, which is strictly moderated for trolls and people being rude. I have a Twitter and a Tumblr, but I don't use them, because the possibility of something getting grabbed by hateful people who will just try to chase me off the internet scares me to death. I can see why it might be helpful, especially in an e-zine that can link directly to that website/social media/blog. But do you actually need it? Will I really lose out on publication because I don't post?

    ETA: My remarks about the market's payment are not meant to suggest that token-paying markets are invalid, only that this particular market seems to ask for a great deal while offering fairly little, which makes me question whether what they're asking is fair and reasonable--or in this case, even necessary. They also offered a book contract and "free edit of novel up to 50,000 words" as the grand prize for their contest, which... I'll let that speak for itself, actually. The point is, I would question submitting to this market based on what they ask for, so in turn I question them asking for more.
    Last edited by JetFueledCar; 09-07-2017 at 06:23 AM.
    "Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days, nothing else matters." - Neil Gaiman

    In the Batman movies in the 60s, the Batmobile was designed to run on jet fuel. It looked cool and went fast but it could only run for about 7 seconds at a time. So now you know why a hyperactive project-hopping writer is called JetFueledCar.

    It's not a political Twitter, but I'm a political person, so it amounts to the same thing.

  2. #2
    reading all the things Anna Iguana's Avatar
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    I don't think there's a general answer to this. My understanding is that platform usually or always matters for nonfiction books, and platform usually is not decisive for selling fiction to one of the Big Five.

    For short stories, poetry, and essays/creative nonfiction, and for publishing novels with small publishers, platform matters sometimes. Generally, the smaller or less-established the publisher, the more platform matters. A number of magazines and presses explicitly list it as a factor in their decision.

    There's a huge middle range of publishers, where it's hard to know--but anecdotally, prior publications and perhaps other aspects of platform matter. However, the time of day that your work is read also matters, because that affects mood. It also matters--a lot--which reader your work lands with, because a lot of choosing is a matter of taste. In other words, I wouldn't tie myself in knots over this one factor, platform, because there are several factors beyond our control.

    That said, there are also publishers who read blind, and there are publishers who explicitly seek to publish debut and emerging writers. For these publishers, platform probably matters litle or not at all.

  3. #3
    tiny hedgehog JetFueledCar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anna Iguana View Post
    I don't think there's a general answer to this. My understanding is that platform usually or always matters for nonfiction books, and platform usually is not decisive for selling fiction to one of the Big Five.

    For short stories, poetry, and essays/creative nonfiction, and for publishing novels with small publishers, platform matters sometimes. Generally, the smaller or less-established the publisher, the more platform matters. A number of magazines and presses explicitly list it as a factor in their decision.

    There's a huge middle range of publishers, where it's hard to know--but anecdotally, prior publications and perhaps other aspects of platform matter. However, the time of day that your work is read also matters, because that affects mood. It also matters--a lot--which reader your work lands with, because a lot of choosing is a matter of taste. In other words, I wouldn't tie myself in knots over this one factor, platform, because there are several factors beyond our control.

    That said, there are also publishers who read blind, and there are publishers who explicitly seek to publish debut and emerging writers. For these publishers, platform probably matters litle or not at all.
    My list of places to submit is mostly populated with people who read blind or people who are looking to publish historically ostracized demographics (many say they're seeking nonbinary authors, which makes me a happy kitten), so that at least is a relief. My real concern is this implication that just not having an active blog/Twitter/Tumblr is going to keep me from getting published by markets that I might otherwise be a fit for.
    "Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days, nothing else matters." - Neil Gaiman

    In the Batman movies in the 60s, the Batmobile was designed to run on jet fuel. It looked cool and went fast but it could only run for about 7 seconds at a time. So now you know why a hyperactive project-hopping writer is called JetFueledCar.

    It's not a political Twitter, but I'm a political person, so it amounts to the same thing.

  4. #4
    reading all the things Anna Iguana's Avatar
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    Right, I got that. The answer is, yes, at some places, lacking a platform might keep you from being published. On the other hand, if building a platform interferes with your life in a way that hinders your writing, your decreased writing quality or quantity would probably affect the amount you publish, too.
    Last edited by Anna Iguana; 09-07-2017 at 06:36 AM.

  5. #5
    tiny hedgehog JetFueledCar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anna Iguana View Post
    Right, I got that. The answer is, yes, at some places, lacking a platform might keep you from being published. On the other hand, if building a platform interferes with your life in a way that hinders your writing, your decreased writing quality or quantity would probably affect the amount you publish, too.
    Sorry, I read your original answer weirdly. Thank you for clarifying. But the latter half of your reply is the crux of the matter: I do not have the time, energy, or spoons to be active in areas where trolls run amok. It is time, energy, and spoons I should be using to write. I suppose if I can find a few hours to figure out WordPress or blogger or something, I might be able to swing one of those. At least there I can delete trolls before they start feeding. And then I can satisfy people who want to be sure my readers can reach me (it's sweet of them when you put it that way, I'm just anxious as all get out).

    ...Criminy, I'm a defective millennial.

  6. #6
    paying my dues RaggedEdge's Avatar
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    Jet - I can't speak specifically to small presses/short stories, but I've been reading some things about this topic by Jane Friedman, who's business is keeping up with trends in publishing. On her website, she has some articles about platform - what it is and when you need it. You might check them out here (scroll down a ways to the subheading "Platform Building."

    Also, she makes the case in her book, Publishing 101, that platform is not the same thing as social media. I'd suggest looking for what she has to say on that. You can probably find it in one of the articles on her site, since the book is a compilation of years of articles and blog posts.

    A lot of us writers are anxious on the internet. I'm taking baby steps myself, getting used to Wordpress among them. Good luck.
    Last edited by RaggedEdge; 09-07-2017 at 07:54 AM.
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  7. #7
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaggedEdge View Post
    Jet - I can't speak specifically to small presses/short stories, but I've been reading some things about this topic by Jane Friedman, who's business is keeping up with trends in publishing.
    She has some odd ideas, but is good at getting them heard. I disagree with a lot of what she tells people. Just be careful with what you take to heart.

    Also, she makes the case in her book, Publishing 101, that platform is not the same thing as social media.
    She's right there.

    ***

    Platform is an odd thing. It can make some authors, while others who have fabulous platforms don't succeed, and others who have none at all do brilliantly well. (Think of writers who died before their books were published. What platform do they have?) It's probably more required in non-fic than in fiction, but even in non-fic a great book can succeed without its author having a platform of any sort.

    Write your books. Engage with interesting people online if you like it. See what happens. But don't try to force yourself to run a blog or have a Facebook presence if you can't bear it. It won't help. You have to have fun for it to be helpful.

  8. #8
    tiny hedgehog JetFueledCar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaggedEdge View Post
    Jet - I can't speak specifically to small presses/short stories, but I've been reading some things about this topic by Jane Friedman, who's business is keeping up with trends in publishing. On her website, she has some articles about platform - what it is and when you need it. You might check them out here (scroll down a ways to the subheading "Platform Building."

    Also, she makes the case in her book, Publishing 101, that platform is not the same thing as social media. I'd suggest looking for what she has to say on that. You can probably find it in one of the articles on her site, since the book is a compilation of years of articles and blog posts.

    A lot of us writers are anxious on the internet. I'm taking baby steps myself, getting used to Wordpress among them. Good luck.
    Thank you for the link! I'll be going through the archives during downtime at work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    She has some odd ideas, but is good at getting them heard. I disagree with a lot of what she tells people. Just be careful with what you take to heart.
    I am sometimes TOO careful, thanks to this site, with what I take to heart. Anything that doesn't jive with what I've seen mods and sages say, I squint at and get a second opinion on. Thus the thread.

    She's right there.
    The thing I originally was thinking about talked about both as though they were pieces of each other, so I figured social media must be included in a platform. That's my bad.

    Platform is an odd thing. It can make some authors, while others who have fabulous platforms don't succeed, and others who have none at all do brilliantly well. (Think of writers who died before their books were published. What platform do they have?) It's probably more required in non-fic than in fiction, but even in non-fic a great book can succeed without its author having a platform of any sort.

    Write your books. Engage with interesting people online if you like it. See what happens. But don't try to force yourself to run a blog or have a Facebook presence if you can't bear it. It won't help. You have to have fun for it to be helpful.
    The bold is tremendously helpful. When I have certain things more under control--my time, for one; my anxiety, for another--I might make an effort to start a blog or be active on Twitter. But for now, I'd rather spend my tiny amounts of time writing. My social interaction, what of it I do online, I'd much rather do here.

    Thank you all much!
    "Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days, nothing else matters." - Neil Gaiman

    In the Batman movies in the 60s, the Batmobile was designed to run on jet fuel. It looked cool and went fast but it could only run for about 7 seconds at a time. So now you know why a hyperactive project-hopping writer is called JetFueledCar.

    It's not a political Twitter, but I'm a political person, so it amounts to the same thing.

  9. #9
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
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    No, you don't IMO - platform seems to be vital for non-fiction, but I don't think it is for fiction. I mean yeah, I'm sure it *helps*, but it's not vital. I had nothing except a "family & friends" Facebook account when I sold my first novel. I think once you're published you probably do need a website with your press pack stuff on it and details of you books, but everything else is gravy really. Even now I don't blog, it just doesn't interest me.
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  10. #10
    Swan in Process Siri Kirpal's Avatar
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    Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

    I've had agents reject a memoir for lack of platform, but only because the sub-genre is a hard sell. It's usually not a big issue for fiction.

    Blessings,

    Siri Kirpal
    "The only freedom any of us ever has is the freedom to choose how we will not be free."

  11. #11
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Even for non-fic you only need a platform when you... need a platform. If you want to write a book of medical advice you need the platform of being a relevant kind of medical professional, but if you want to write a book of dragon-related jokes and puzzles probably not so much. I mean, having a popular dragon blog or a PhD in dragonology won't hurt, but its not a deal killer.
    Emily Veinglory

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