Maybe I should start with asking, “Do you know what a platform is?” I’m not talking about the construction/architectural definition or the political definition, but the one used for us writers. Recently I proof-read a query for a friend and realized that not everyone knows what agents are asking when they request information about a potential client’s platform. Granted, the terminology is confusing. I’d never heard the word used like this before I got into the business.
A platform is the group of people you personally have access to.
That’s all there is to it. Do you have a family? Do you have friends? Do you belong to any kind of organization? Do you have a job? All these count toward your platform. They may not provide the impressive numbers agents and publishers are looking for, but they’re a start.
The best time to start building your platform is the moment you decide you want to write a book. Get involved with social media if you haven’t already, and if you have, expand your circles. You don’t have to write book-related things, just make friends. Your “followers” count as part of your platform. Write for magazines. Join groups. Like I said, they don’t have to be writing-related. Join organizations that hold the people who will comprise your future audience. They’re your springboard. Look at it this way: A platform is the foundation from which your readership will be developed.
Gaining this understanding is the easy part. The hard part is developing numbers high enough to impress those you query.
At the ACFW conference, I listened to the professionals during two agent panels as they discussed the importance of platform. The numbers they were quoting made me wonder just who was dreaming–me or them? Folks with the kind of platform they’re hunting are a small percentage of those seeking an agent. It was depressing, I tell ya. Made me wonder if I had a chance.
I started brainstorming ideas of how to improve my platform, add to my numbers. First idea that came to mind was to streak the Super Bowl. Then, as they led me off the field, wrapped modestly in a cop’s jacket, I’d hold up a placard: “Christian Author! Follow me on Twitter!”
I discarded that idea. Getting to the Super Bowl would be expensive.
Another idea I had was to claim to be related to someone famous. I could be Linda Kardashian, the redheaded stepchild. Linda Trump, the one who didn’t inherit the business mogul gene. Or maybe I could star in a reality show. Real Housewives of Naconowhere, Texas. Dish Dynasty. Naked and Frightening. Laundry Wars.
Truth of the matter is, every single superstar author started out as Joe Blow or Jane Doe. Before Stephen King was–you know, Stephen King!–he was probably just plain Steve. Agatha Christie was probably Aggie. Everyone had to start somewhere.
I asked one of the agents whether not having a monster platform was a deal-breaker, and he said, “Well, not for me.” And probably not for the others either. If so, they’d have a hard time getting clients. Which means that having an incredible product and a willingness to work can still land you an agent, even if your platform is as small as mine.