One of the most valuable tools an author seeking publication can acquire is a platform. In most cases, they’re a requisite for non-fiction writers and are very valuable to most novelists. However, when you build one, be sure it IS NOT like the one shown above.
What’s a literary platform? Depends on who is defining it. Some “experts” define it as Jane Friedman does – primarily as a body of work. Her definition is a good one and she has some excellent advice and counseling for writers in this area. I’d highly recommend reading her discussion on the subject at https://janefriedman.com/author-platform-definition/ .
I view the need, use and construction of a platform from a different view-point. I see part of it as a requisite to producing that credible body of work that merits interest. Part of platform is having tools that construct it.
Ms. Friedman correctly states that a platform isn’t a hard requirement for “we” fiction folks. Yep, but my footnote would be … it helps … particularly in some genre. Try pubing a historical novel with fractured facts! In alternative histories … sure, but ones that are used to frame a plot … good luck. The credibility of that author is respected as much as a doormat because of the niche that reads historical novels. Most are history buffs and don’t like their love raped.
If you’re writing about yourself and some other areas, platforms admittedly don’t buy you much. Unless you have one built in as a celebrity has.
Rather than an expedition in semantics no one would profit from, let me recommend some things to the writer that I believe will help.
Gain genuine knowledge about the core of anything you are going to write about to develop a platform.
A quick visit to Google isn’t enough. That doesn’t preclude “looking it up on the net.” The net is a legitimate start; it’s a great place to find string ends to pull that unravel the subject’s fabric. But, that’s not normally comprehensive enough to add to your platform. It is a great place to develop an old-fashioned bibliography. Those string ends will lead to interesting facts that will add immeasurably to your work. If you’re like many writers the same core knowledge will serve you repeatedly. For example, learning criminology process can serve in many books you may write.
Here are a few ways to gain that core knowledge.
Research! Yes, Virginia, it means a lot of reading time … you know … reading … that thing you want others to do … why you are writing. Spend those hours in the library. If you find a book that is particularly good on your subject of interest, buy it. Use the net, but be sure that the sources you use are designed to illuminate, not to indoctrinate.
Sign up for a class (or classes) on the subject. With so many institutions available to us, both in our communities and on-line, this is one of the best ways to get a basic understanding of a topic, its most important tenants, and acquiring a glossary of terms. One cautionary note; if you have the bad luck to get an educated idiot that wishes to spend 75% of class time on politics and NOT on the subject, stop wasting your time and get your money back from the institution.
Volunteer! Do what you can to spend time actually observing what you wish to write about. Want to write a drama about a TV reporter? Volunteer as a production assistant. How about a geriatric romance? Volunteer at an assisted living facility. Want a tough crime fighting cop suspense? Volunteer at you local sheriff’s office. The possibilities are endless. Particularly if you are honest with those you wish to volunteer, about your intent. Often I’ve found they will find ways to help you.
Visit! Go to the location your story or event is sited. If you live in NYC and try to write a “Nick Sparks” outer banks mainstreamer, you’ll lose the depth your work will have if you’ve not been there, done that. Besides the obvious advantage of being able to describe your setting there is a factor you can’t get from reading or pictures. Places have their own mystic and we absorb that feeling and transmit it to text if you are a writer. Stand in Bloody Lane at the Antietam Battlefield and if you can’t feel the tortured souls of those who died there, maybe you should reconsider writing.
How does this enhance your platform? Some of Ms. Friedman’s most informative words are dedicated to how a platform grows. (Read the article linked above) …… Quality work in quality outlets … get people interested in what you have to say … speak at events where you will gain credibility … exchange with your audience … heighten your visibility. There is a key word that is required in all those. That word is respect. The best way to get that respect is to earn it. Know what the hell you’re writing about! Notice … your knowledge will show you won’t have to scream about it.
Building that platform takes time and lots of effort. Writing and Work both start with W and that’s not a coincidence. There aren’t any short-cuts. I recently met a lady who wrote a racy love-story/drama set on the Pacific Rim in the 90’s. Her list of travel, educational credits, and accomplishments was lid lifting. Then I read her book. There were so many inaccuracies that I spent more time shaking my head than reading. Raffles isn’t in Malaysia. Oriental women have significantly different behavior patterns than Occidental. One airport wasn’t built at the time story was supposed to take place. Descriptions of Singapore as a crime ridden, backwards city were ludicrous unless the novel was fantasy … which it wasn’t. I asked about some of her travel, background, etc. claims. She said, “Oh, I haven’t done most of those things. Those are to give my book some gravitas. You know, publicity.”
I tried to explain with no success. Smoke and mirrors as a short-cut to developing a platform will build something that looks a lot like the one pictured above.
# # # # #