Wednesday, October 10

Does Every Writer Need A Platform?

Does Every Writer Need A Platform?

In the first blog post of this series (What Is A Writer's Platform?) I discussed what a writer's platform is (a way, a vehicle, for reaching out to, and building, community). It is a way to reach out to your community, your audience, to those who want to read your work and will pay for the privilege.

Today I want to talk about who needs to build a platform.

Does every writer need a platform?
A writer can produce the most riveting prose imaginable but if you don't have readers you're not going to be able to pay the rent. And paying rent is important. I have no desire to end up under a bridge trying to wrestle the good cardboard box from Big Martha. Of course, one doesn't have to make a living through writing, but if you want to then you'll need readers to buy your work. It doesn't get more basic than that.

How does a writer get readers? By building a platform.

Simple, right? Yes, but don't let that make you too comfortable. Building a platform is one of those things that's simple but not easy. For instance, losing weight is simple: eat less; it's sure not easy though.

It's simple to build up a large Twitter following (I'll have more to say on this later), it's simple to blog regularly. You're a writer after all, producing a regular blog post is something you can do. But it's not easy. It's not easy to find the time to blog, it's not easy to think of topics to blog about. You have a busy life and other responsibilities gobble up your time like a teenager at an eating contest. But, in the end, either you're working your way toward becoming a professional writer or your not, and professional writers write.

Are you sure every writer needs a platform? 
Let me play devil's advocate for a moment. You might be thinking: No one had a Twitter account until six years ago or a Facebook account until eight years ago. This social media thing could be a fad. And as for writing blog posts, wouldn't it ultimately be more productive if I spent my time writing my next book? And, when I'm published, if my readers want to know what I've written I don't need to give them a website, they can go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or Kobo, or any one of the gazillion other online bookstores that are popping up like mushrooms after a rain, and do a search on my name.

You're right.

It is possible for a previously unpublished writer, one with no platform, to become famous overnight. This happened to Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus. Of course she wrote for years and made sacrifices and toiled over her manuscript. AND she believed in it enough to submit it, to have it rejected, and to submit it again. Still, Erin's success was a bit like winning millions of dollars in a lottery. In fact, I think there are more big lottery winners than there are writers who have had this kind of luck!

So, do you need to go through the time-consuming task of building a platform? Honestly, I can't say. You could be the next Erin Morgenstern!

What I believe is this: The more people who know about you, who you are, what you write, the more people who read your work and recommend it to their friends, the more likely it is you'll be able to make enough money (and possibly more!) to do this writing thing full time.

How much time should I spend building a platform?
The devil's advocate is right about something: building a platform can gobble up your precious writing time. You certainly don't want to spend more time building your platform than you do writing! That said, even if you only have a half hour a day to write you might be able to find a way to engage in social media for short bursts during the day (while you're waiting in line for coffee, walking to the corner store, etc.).

If you don't have any time to spend on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) it takes only a few minutes to put up a static page on the web. It's important to have an online 'home', something that tells people who you are, what you write and how they can reach you. After all, even if you don't want to hear from the general public, it would be a good idea to give agents, editors and publishers a way of contacting you.

In the next section I'm going to discuss the nuts and bolts of how to go about building a platform, starting with your online home: your website.

Other articles you might like:
- Building A Platform, Part One: What Is A Writer's Platform?
- NaNoWriMo: 5 Tips On How To Get Ready
- Jim Butcher On Writing
- Perfection Is The Death Of Creativity

Photo credit: BIGDOG3c


  1. Thanks for this, Karen. I really needed to hear it, yet again. Have such a hard time with the Social Media stuff, and am so new to it, that I freeze up! I know I need to get on board, but feel like I'm still learning and that I'll make some huge faux pas along the way.
    Having said that, do you think that each writer needs to do what they feel capable of (Bad Sentence!)? For instance, I've given up on Facebook. Not for some amorphous "I don't get it" reason, but because I simply can't get my Fan Page to work properly. And I just get frustrated with it to the point of distraction, and then I throw up my hands and walk away in disgust. (Besides, have you ever looked at how often FB is down?) As for blogging, I guess I'm just insecure enough to think 'it's all been said before; what could I possibly add to the discussion.' But having said that, I also know I'd like to start a blog. (?) So I'm going to have to discover what my blogging persona will be, which is driving me bonkers.
    Oh dear. I truly did NOT mean to turn this into a whine-fest.
    So, I'll say it again: thanks for the push!

  2. Annette, absolutely! Take every aspect of platform building, including social media, at your own pace. Whether you engage in social media at all, and to what extent, depends on your goals.

    Besides, you're off to a good start! You have a website and you're using it to feature your book, A Sea Change. Also, you have links to your author's page over at Goodreads and your Twitter account. That's a great start! (I don't think one needs to be actively engaged in BOTH Twitter and Facebook.)

    I admit, I DO think it's a great idea for a writer to have a blog, and to blog (somewhat) regularly, but you don't have to blog often. Once a month is just fine! :)

    Thanks for the comment. :)

  3. Just a quick kudos for your series.

    Lots of good thoughts to provoke.

  4. I think we forget that J K Rowlings was an unknown. Her first Harry Potter book was rejected by twelve big publishers. She submitted it to a small publisher, Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury bought it. First printing: 1000 copies.

    We know what happened after that.

    1. Sure, it happens. The Night Circus for instance.

      The first Potter book was published in (I believe) in 1997. Twitter started in 2006 and Facebook in 2004.


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