Platform Plateau? – Part 1

   Posted by: Faith   in Write!Canada

While I was at Write!Canada, there was a lot of talk about ‘building your platform’. And I mean a lot of talk. It was general concensus that no author today will succeed without a solid, innovative platform that’s reflective of and changes with the times.

This week, I’d like to take a look at different aspects of platform building, along with some some perspectives from specific authors (gleaned from talks at Write!Canada).

During the symposium on the future of publishing, author and speaker Sheila Wray Gregoire had quite a bit to say about platforms, so I’d like to share that with you today.

Note that I called her an author AND speaker? Hmm… the platform comes into play already…

Sheila has a lovely, very user-friendly website. It’s jam-packed with media, downloads, articles, resources, and a place to buy her books. This woman knows what she’s doing – she may only have a few books published, but she’s got a killer platform. Go visit her site, then come back here.

In brief, here are the things Sheila had to say about the future of publishing/being an author/platforms:

  • Authors must, must, must have a platform.
  • It is now easier to find places to write than ever before, but harder to get paid.
  • Can’t rely on royalty publishers anymore for 100% of income.
  • But… we can create ways to get paid.
  • Don’t get intimidated!!!
  • Do the work, practice the craft, learn the technology, and you can get noticed, because…
  • “Excellence will always rise to the top.”
  • Authors must face that they can’t survive on just one book a year, so they must have a multi-platform action plan, including such things as…
  1. Podcasts
  2. Livestream TV (ie. Youtube)
  3. Twitter
  4. Functional website
  5. Blog w/ regular updates
  6. Articles that complement your book/expertise
  7. Ebooks

Sheila has done all these things and more, so she knows what she’s talking about… and she does it well! Yes, it’s a lot of extra work to build a platform, but in today’s publishing industry, taking the time to do all these things can mean the difference between success and obscurity.

The only thing I really take issue with in Sheila’s observations is that “excellence will always rise to the top”. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on who you are), that isn’t always true. A mediocre author with a fantastic platform will almost always “rise to the top” above a brilliant author with just a decent or even non-existent platform. Then again, people measure success in different ways, and one person’s success may be another person’s sorrow. But, if we’re talking sheer numbers, the person who rises to the top in this day and age will likely be the person with the better online/public social profile… even if their writing kinda stinks (a few names spring to mind, but I’ll let you think that one over yourself).

Monday Ponderings: Where do you stand in regards to platform building? Have you thought about it? Do you plan to build a platform, or will you simply let your writing speak for itself?

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 10th, 2009 at 3:58 pm and is filed under Write!Canada. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

6 comments so far


The only thing I’ve done thus far is the blogging, and it’s more of a way to interact with other writers than it is to build a platform. My focus is on my writing at the moment, but I have to do that before a platform is even necessary, right? :)

August 10th, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Well, that’s why I started my blog! I figured if it takes about 2years to build a blog audience, and about 2 years to get a book published, then I should start getting me voice out now so that I’ll have a community THEN.

And of course, I hope people have some fun reading me in the meantime…

August 10th, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Interesting. Thanks for sharing what you learned. Was she speaking about all writers – or mainly nonfiction? I know fiction writers also need a platform, but I think excellent writing is more important…just my two cents. :)

August 11th, 2009 at 12:40 am

LazyWriter – It’s true! But then, it’s also a bit of a catch 22… some publishers want to know about your platform before they take on your project, but you kinda need a decent product before you can develop a serious platform… ahh, the endless circle of insanity…

CKHB – Makes sense! Then you’ll have a dedicated following to push book sales FOR you… and in an industry where authors are now expected to sell at least 60% of their own product, a strong blog following can be absolutely crucial.

Katie – You know, she didn’t specify, probably because the room was full of all kinds of writers and she only had 4 minutes to speak (according to the symposium format). Now that you mention it though, Gregoire is a non-fiction writer and I think it’s easier in some ways for non-fiction writers to build a platform – they have a niche to hook into. I agree that excellent writing is critically important, but when you consider how many mediocre authors have “hit it big” on content alone (as opposed to great writing)… it can cause even the most stalwart novelist-in-training to feel a twinge of despair.

August 11th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Stephanie! WordPress is being wonky and ate your comment… we can’t even find it in the system… time to get a coder on it! In the meantime, hopefully I can re-post your comment within mine:

Stephanie (http://stephie5741.blogspot.com/) said – “I agree. Until recently, I was a top blogger on MySpace but the blogging section of the site was on a downward spiral and I began to realize I might be popular over there, but it’s the wrong environment for me. I was being read widely by 20-somethings and that was great…but this is a much more professional environment and these are the people who will read my books if I can ever get one published. The others were just playing on a social networking site.”

It’s so true… MySpace is like a fun, casual way to talk to people, but when it comes down to it, when you’re published people are going to Google you – and if all they find is a MySpace blog, they’re going to be less likely to take you seriously. A dedicated site/blog makes all the difference, in my opinion! That must have been such a tough choice to make, but you’re right, it probably was the right move in the long run!

August 12th, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Ohhh I can’t believe this. Jill, WordPress ate your comment too.

Here’s what Jill Kemerer (http://www.jillkemerer.com) wrote:

“Such a great subject. The agents I listened to at a recent conference all said to get your craft to the highest level before attempting platform.

The agents I read online say platform is vital and to get started now.

Who is right?

Both. It takes a long time to build a platform, so I think it’s a great idea to start one early, that way you’ll slowly grow your networking as you work on improving your craft.

Why not work on both simultaneously? Right?

Thanks for the terrific blog!”

Thanks for visiting, Jill! I think that’s spot on… do both, so you’ll be prepared either way!

August 18th, 2009 at 3:19 pm