Friday, September 4, 2009

A Platform for Success

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?


Jim Murdoch said...

Yes, it's important up to a point but if you're going to be half-hearted about it then there's no point. The point is that it's not a matter of setting up a website and/or a blog and then sitting back, no, you need to actively promote those sites and there's no fast way to get an audience. I've been slogging away at mine for two years now at I'm getting about 4000 visits a month which sounds great but once you start to drill that down it's not so many when you count repeat visits and only a fraction of those who visit my blog – the main attraction – ever click on the links to my books or my website and only a fraction of those buy anything so you have to be in it for the long haul and the question is: do you have it in you to write a blog that will attract a regular readership as a completely separate thing from your other 'real' writing? It's not easy.

Nicklaus Louis said...

Showing a publisher/agent that you already have a marketable product (your name) can never be a bad thing, can it?

Kathy McIntosh said...

It's important but I find it time-consuming; as Jim says, it takes a lot of effort.
That said, I learn from other blogs I visit.
The huge variety of social media makes it difficult to decide on a focus...shall I tweet, blog or book my face?

Conda Douglas said...

Too true, Jim, a dead blog is worse than no blog at all. As is a blog without good content.

Yours is both lively and delightful content rich.

Conda Douglas said...

Exactly my point, Nicklaus! That's what they're looking for--name recognition!

Enid Wilson said...

My website and blog help the sales of my books a lot. It's a lot of effort to keep them up to date though. I guess multitasking is the key.

Bargain with the Devil

Swubird said...


Blogging to promote a book is only one element. Other media are just as important---maybe even more important---depending on the subject of your book. A friend of mine wrote a travel guidebook. Blogging didn't seem to help, but articles and ads in travel magazines and classified ads in targeted newspapers and newsletters are doing the trick. It all gets back to indentifying your target audience and then bombarding it with information about your project.

It's only my two cents.

Happy trails.

Conda Douglas said...

Kathy, you bring up a good point, or several rather, because in a perfect world there'd be time to do all of 'em and have all be effective.

And I agree--I learn a lot from my fellow bloggers, in an enjoyable way.

Conda Douglas said...

Multitasking is right, Enid--and some of us are good at it--witness your blog!

Conda Douglas said...

Swu--targeting, yes! Absolutely. And the more you hit that targeted audience the more great response you'll get--I'm thinking of how the main way books sell is still word of mouth.

Dave King said...

It's got to be good from the agents' point of view and from that of the guy whose had a million hits, but if it is or becomes the only route, then that can't be good for writers or writing as a whole.

Helen Ginger said...

Yeah, agents want you to have a platform. It doesn't have to be a much visited blog. There are other ways to get name recognition and potential buyers, but if you have a platform, it puts you ahead of other writers who don't. Seems like everything is hard nowadays!

Straight From Hel

Enid Wilson said...

Hi Conda, sorry to contact you here, I couldn't seem to find your email. You won the coasters from Helen's giveaway. Please contact me at enid.wilson (at)


Bargain with the Devil

Conda Douglas said...

yes, Dave, see my next post because I so agree. The writing has got to be first.

Conda Douglas said...

Helen, wasn't the computer age supposed to make everything easier? Seems to me people's expectations just grow and grow, but not along with our time.