I had a question from a writer come up earlier this week that I think is certainly worthy to explore.
How important would you say a platform is to unpublished author trying to get his or her name out there? It can be a challenge when your first book hasn't hit shelves, digital or otherwise, yet.
Let's start first with understanding what a writing platform is. Essentially, a platform involves all of the activities you do to get your name out there to the readers. This involves showing the readers and the public you as a complete package. I am going to return to a comment Deb Werksman from Source Books once said about her acquisitions process. She doesn't buy and promote books, she acquires authors with their books. I think this says a lot about your platform
When an author develops his or her platform, they want to create a public presence that represents who and what they are. This involves the idea of branding we have talked about her on the blog. You simply begin by asking yourself, what do you want to be known for?
If you think about your favorite authors out there (and not their books), the odds are you are thinking of these people in terms of their brand and platform. The covers you image, the type of the characters they write and so forth are their brands. You think of these in a broad and very general sense.
So, in terms of the question the author asked, I think it is amazingly important to begin thinking about your platform and formulating some ideas as to how you see your writing going. Does this mean you go out and create a website, blog, Facebook page and so on? Not necessarily. Know it will be something needed when you are published, but prior to that, it probably isn't that necessary. In all honesty, what are you marketing? What are you selling? You don't have a book yet so there is nothing to sell.
Part of the reason you need to develop those ideas early on is due to the speed that things happen when you are first signed. All of a sudden you have a lot of things happening after that first book gets contracted. You have editing, revising, new proposals, art work to consult...and so on. Trying to now "decide on a platform" is not going to be high on your priority list.
In that earlier post this week, one reader did respond and say that she had read that editors and agents do look at your websites in that early acquisition phase. Be careful with this thought. For the most part, we would only do that if that person was previously published and had material they were promoting. For myself, I do that if someone tells me of all these books they have sold, but don't tell me who they were published with. Sometimes, those query letters sound pretty dang amazing so I do a little bit of research. That's generally when I find the person has only published things via the local copier, or they were published 20 years ago.
Remember also, that just by having that presence is not going to sell those books for you. Readers have to know where to look for you. Just floating out there on the net isn't going to draw in those readers. But, having that presence and utilizing it properly can certainly enhance those sales.