Lack of a solid
platform can knock ya right out of the ballgame...
I’ve grown to hate the word platform.
Not only does it remind me that I used to worship Elton John, but now
my pre-pubbed authors have to come up with marketing strategies instead
of concentrating on writing. Ah, well.
So, what exactly is a platform?
Literally, something ya stand on that puts you above others. Same idea
in the publishing industry. Editors and publishing houses wanna know
why your book will stand out from the pack and how you're gonna help
sell your book. Huh? Rewind. Sell my own book?!
Sorry, that wasn't a joke. With dwindling promotional dollars allocated
for new writers, it’s important for an author to pick up the slack in
the marketing department.
Unfortunately, platform, once
only vital for nonfiction writers, is increasing in importance for
fiction writers as well. Lack of a solid platform can knock ya right
out of the ballgame. In fact, without one, a newbie might not even make
it into the parking lot. Now ya hafta “sell” your book before ya sell
your book! (Sheesh.)
Part of a platform is rounding
up author endorsement quotes. (Probably harder than corrallin’ my curls
on a bad hair day.) You know, those wonderful quotes found on the
book’s back cover or on the first pages. But not just any endorser will
do. You need recognizable names. Big names. Names that haul in sales.
(Hint: Herman Schlump won’t impress Random House.)
Accomplishing this can prove
difficult. I recently sent out a nonfiction proposal and had to ask Big
Name Authors for endorsements. One old-timer spoke to me like she was
patting me on the head. “Oh, we have a way we do that. There’s an order
and precedent. First, you have to sell your book; then your agent,
editor, or publishing house calls my agent, editor, or publishing
house. And if I have time, they’ll submit your book to me and I’ll let
them know if I can endorse it. Right now, I don’t have the time.” (Ah,
it may have been done that way in 1978, but it ain’t done that way in
2008, at least for the most part.)
I’ve also heard, “My contract
prohibits me from endorsing other writers’ work.” (That’s convenient. I
wonder if that author forced her agent to get that clause included in
Then there’s the “good ol’ boy’s
network,” for lack of a better phrase. Major best-selling authors have
deals with their friends
who are also major best-selling
they endorse one another exclusively. (Sigh. How can I join? Never
mind. I know.)
No, I have nothing against
mega-authors. I admire them greatly. (Yes, really.) I realize the
constraints they hafta operate under. In their defense, they don’t have
a lot of extra time for reading newbie authors’ works. And what if they
don’t like it? (The word awkward comes to mind.)
Let’s move along, shall we? What
else belongs in a platform? Sorry, gotta use the “B” word. B-L-O-G.
Writers need a blog. More important, they need a blog people sign up
for. Even more important, they need a blog with high traffic, or, a lot
of “hits.” (Ugh.) Not only do ya hafta get people to show up, but ya
need repeat business.
I’m not a big fan of blogging.
Takes a lot of time to keep checking to see if ya hafta answer
comments. Buuut, I just started one, and I get to rant, which provides
a modicum of value. I’ve warned everyone I’m neither PC, nor do I shy
away from controversy. What a shock. (I’ll still get slapped upside the
head, but I already look like I’ve gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson in
his prime. Ya know, before he started snacking on his opponents’ ears.)
In addition, ya hafta convince
other writers you’d be a great guest on their blogs. What’s that? Oh, I
forgot to mention blog tours. That’s where you “guest blog.” You either
write a post, do a question-and-answer, or both. More work. At least
it’s writer’s work. So, start networking, or you can pay
someone to set up a blog tour for you. (It’s kinda like going to a
travel agent, but ya don’t get the vaca.)
There’s more, like book
signings, radio and TV appearances, public speaking (gasp!) etc., etc.,
etc. Why can’t we just stick to stilettos? (Sigh.)