Friday, April 15, 2011

Anatomy of a Fiction Platform

You thought you'd dodged this bullet, didn't you? heh.

Oh, novelists, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news (although I'll remind you not to shoot the messenger), but you should take a look at your platform, just like those nonfiction writers.

Is platform in any way essential to fiction the way it is to non? NO. I'll be clear on that. Fiction is sold on the story and the writing. And the economic viability. :) Platform, for novelists, is a bonus. (Nonfiction writers, see yesterday's post stat).

So if a nonfiction "Platform" means convincing editors and agents 1. why you're the best person to write a book and 2. that there's a large audience already eager to read on the subject, what does platform mean for novelists? Answers would be 1. because I thought of it first and 2. Um...everyone wants this! Of course!

And those answers aren't helpful. Platform, for fiction writers, is more about demonstrating that there are people out there who like you. Who think you're funny, say. Or people who find you engaging. Check out Chuck Wendig and Maureen Johnson on Twitter for examples of people who do this really well. Copy them. (sort of serious)

Fiction queries are 100% focused on the novel: who's the main character, what's the big choice they're facing (See Query Shark if you're at all unclear on what a query should do). You don't have to mention your 2K Twitter or blog followers in your query.

But agents will Google you. They will find your 2K Twitter followers and your popular blog (in email queries, at the bottom where you write your contact info, you can include these links, too). They, and the editors to which they pitch your book, will be impressed that you've gone out there and started talking with what will become your audience.


  1. My God, did you install cameras behind me? I was browsing Maureen's site not two minutes ago for this. Exact. Purpose.

    I'll add this: Writer's Digest webinar led by Jane Friedman on social presence was awesome! Check their site and register.

  2. Chuck Wendig is HILLARIOUS! I aspire to be so witty on a daily basis. ;)

  3. So the more I blog, the more I'm convinced that the vast majority of writers who blog in hopes of getting a fiction platform are doing it wrong (and this includes me, sadly). Building a platform is engaging with your target audience: readers. So unless you write writer's manuals, your blog should not be aimed primarily at writers . This is especially true for unpublished young adult writers -- teenagers are not reading those blogs, yet YA writer - bloggers make up a dispropporionate chunk of the writing blogophere.

    I will grant that blogging is good for professional networking with other writers, and that can indeed be very helpful for your career. But I get the feeling that many writers start blogging and tweeting with the illusion that they are building an audience for themselves when their time might actually be better spent writing the next book, taking that time and sending out copies of their book to reviewers, or even working at McDonalds for minimum wage and using that money to hire a publicist.

  4. Livia makes some good points. Many of the writers’ blogs I’ve happed across seem to be for other writers – not readers. While their topics are interesting to me, I try to look at the blogs from a reader’s POV, and mine comes up short. I suspect this is why I’m having difficulty thinking about blog topics.

    I used to be blog copiously at one time – I wrote snarky blogs about the world’s stupidest psychopaths (you know, murderers who were none to subtle about letting judge and jury know they killed their spouse for the insurance money), and it took off in an insane way. I interacted with followers. This ate up about four of five hours of my free time. I eventually deleted the blog, because it was too time-consuming. And, there’s just no way to monetize a blog like that effectively. If you ask me how many people who read that blog would be interested in my writers’ blog, that would be exactly -0-.

    What Livia wrote definitely gives me pause. What audience am I targeting, and where can I find them? How can I get single title romance readers – not necessarily writers – interested in me? Any ideas?

  5. You guys are so brilliant. Livia, as always, fantastic points.

    Not to cross-promote too heavily, but I posted on this topic a few weeks back:

    There's a whole series right around that time about author blogs.

  6. I blogged on the same idea awhile back. If all we do is read each other - and promote to each other - it isn't a sustainable business model. We need to reach out to readers. Book reviews and posting flash fiction or poetry can do that. Always blogging about writing won't.

  7. Maxwell, can you post a link to that particular blog? (Note to self: Bookmark!)

    I'm trying to think of topics relevant to romance readers, but this is such a diverse group of (mainly) women. The topic that got the most hits (if not the most comments) had to do with what qualities readers liked to see in a male protagonist. But coming up with similar topics is teeth-grindingly difficult.

  8. The people who often comment on our blogs is our community or network. It's the traffic that doesn't comment who we should be marketing to. I've had this conversation with a friend over the past year - we have to reach new people. For me, the people in my field - mind body spirit - aren't clients, but are a form of networking. I want to reach everyone outside my field and I do this by doing what no one else is doing. I say what no one else is saying in a unique way. I don't try to be anyone else. I'm branding me! Maggie Stiefvater is one of my online mentors - I adopted her - and her blog was one of the reasons, by her own admission, that she was published. Half the material on her blog is play time and personality, and that's what sells books. Real people not afraid to share their personalities and lives. Leave the writing tips for the workshops. We're story tellers.