This seems to now be all the buzz. "Platform, platform, platform!" was what I heard at the Willamette Conference from the editors and agents. Platform before publication? Before you sell your book? It seems out of the natural order and it seems the stuff of controversy amongst groups and bloggers--for example see Sandra's post on My Little Corner and the link to the Writers in Residence blog that discusses how and why to platform.
One event, however, convinced me of the reason behind all the insistence on platform. The first night at the conference there was a "pitch practice" session where writers could get up and...practice their pitches, of course. One writer's first words were "I've had a million (!) hits on my blog." That's all the agents and editors needed to hear. Why? Think about it. Even if those million hits meant only, oh let's say 200,000 people have visited her blog and only 10% of those buy the book, 20,000 copies are presold. Plus it's still true that book sell by word of mouth most, so even if it's 10,000 people who visit a lot--the writer has name recognition. Though not a guarantee, chances are the book will be a bestseller.
The publishing world is changing moment by moment and the electronic revolution is driving much of that change. We writers have to change our expectations (the publisher will do all the promoting of my book, I don't even have to think about it) and our business plans.
Does this mean spend all your time writing your blog or developing a web page or working on Facebook at the expense of the writing? Of course not. The writing always comes first and foremost. But creating virtual and real "face time" and "name recognition" is now a necessity, I believe.
So, dear readers, what do you think? Do you believe this may be just another reason to turn down authors or does it have merit? What has been your experiences: with creating a platform, or promoting a novel, or both?