I chimed in to a discussion on LinkedIn last week with this very same title: Is An Author’s Platform Now A Prerequisite?
Little did I know just how much commentary there was going to end up being.
A few people had commented before I found the post, saying that they felt an author platform was important. One of my favorite responses was from Ian Miller, who said, “You don’t need a platform to, write, but you need one to attract readers.”
I then chimed in with the following:
I agree with most of the comments here. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get published without an author platform, but it means that you’re starting with a great disadvantage if you don’t have one. Put yourself in the position of a publisher: if you’re deciding between two or three authors, which one would you choose to publish? The one who has shown that he or she knows how to market books and has already built a following, or the one who hasn’t?
There have probably been 20 responses to my comment, mostly in agreement. But I thought I would give you some of the excerpts so that you can decide for yourself:
Beverly Bistransky • @Karen, Yes and No. I think the connection between the writer/author and editing publisher have quite a bit to do with who they choose to deal. At least the better publishers etiquette if you will, know that this is just as important as the author already having a current following especially if the author is changing their subject demeanor.
Elly Taylor • And, as I’m just finding now, there is a lot of platform building to be done between being published and achieving commercial success. In hindsight, I could have done more while waiting for the book to be published, especially as far as social media is concerned.
Nancy Root Miller • Karin sums it up nicely. I am in the process of researching agents and publishers for my cookbook. Nearly every one asks for details on your platform: what social media do you use, do you have a blog and/or website, do you teach, are you a regular guest on television or radio. If you’re a terrific writer without a “platform” and you’re lucky, you may be able to find a publisher or editor who will take a risk on you anyway. You’ll increase your chances if you participate in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (!), Pinterest, and so on.
Sean Concannon • A unique proposal, and demonstrated ability to write are just as important in getting published as having a platform. With a high quality project, and a strong platform, you are almost certain to get published. If you have a high quality project to sell, and no platform or very little in the way of a platform, it’s worth getting started. A strategy for nurturing your platform will make your project more attractive to potential agents, who will know that they can use the quality of your project in combination with the potential of your platform to sell your proposal to a publisher.
Tannera Kane • I recommend authors develop a platform before publication. ONe can always adjust the platform after publication if one aspect of marketing doesn’t work.
Brad Windhauser • Today, I think a writer needs a platform more importantly, an author needs to figure out how to construct a sensible platform. How can you attract an audience that compliments your work? I have a traditional website where people can find samples of my work, etc. I plug away on Twitter. I have FB. along with four other writer friends, I started a group blog (5writers.com), a blog site we use to discuss writing. Since it’s a group blog, the burden of posting is spread out–and we all benefit from the attention each writer brings. I also started my own blog project (BibleProjectBlog.com) where, as a gay author, I chronicle my reading of the Bible for the first time. Since I don’t openly court “Christian” readers, I’m using this blog to develop my voice and expose my style to a new audience (hopefully).
Allison Bruning • I think its especially important nowadays for authors to build a platform. There are so many books in the market it’s easy for a new author to get lost in the sea. But if they can work on making their presence known throughout the social networks and various writing oppurtunities out there then they may be able to drive traffic towards the fans they have acquired.
James Hockey • I think we are falling into the error of comparing apples with pears. Elly’s case above demonstrates the classic route forward for non-fiction where there is a manifest social need whether it be parenting or home electrics.
Fiction on the other hand is very different and without building a platform the author is likely to die the death of total invisibility.
Beverly Bistransky • The subject also in itself can end up being the platform. For example: a disorder that is rarely ever talked about. If it is well written and touches the audience in a tangible way, it will be its own platform, the subject disease that is.
Reynold Conger • In spite of all the articles about platforms, I still do not understand what a platform is. Obviously a good publicity campaign helps the sales of a book, but does this need a platform?
Gaurav Bhatnagar • Coming to the answer on the original post from @Gemma, yes, indeed, it’s required. Problem is not with book discovery or authors discovery… Today’s book lovers are much aware on what they want to read than ever. A platform can give an author a boost to their books, an enhancement to their knowledge, increased fan base, new friends helping each other and so on.
There are about 20 more comments in the conversation, but I’m going to stop there. The general consensus? “Yes, authors do need a platform to sell books.” That platform can manifest itself in various ways — an author website, a blog, a presence on social media, etc.. — but every author needs to be doing something. Just writing isn’t enough to be a professional writer any more.