This post, by Christina Katz, originally appeared on the Writer’s Digest site on 4/5/13.
For most fiction writers, the true definition of that buzzword “platform” has always seemed a bit fuzzy. While writers of nonfiction can draw upon their subject matter in seeking opportunities for their work, theories on how aspiring novelists should promote themselves abound. Many fiction writers have a vague understanding of the need to network online, but are unsure of the specific and tangible benefits of doing so. Can time invested in platform development up front really help sell more novels later? Does offering craft tips or glimpses of your personal life succeed in leading people to your fiction?
Without having a clear idea of which methods of promoting yourself and your work are really worth the investment of time and money, you might be tempted to avoid the subject entirely. After all, you’ve got a novel to write! But in today’s publishing world, neglecting your platform—even before you have a book deal—can be a big mistake. Simply put, writers need readers. It’s an undisputable fact that many of today’s most successful fiction writers are those who’ve developed ways of creating lasting fans—and of reaching out to new ones every day. And aspiring writers who’ve developed budding fan bases have an advantage when it comes time to appeal to publishers and agents.
So as much as you might want to, you can’t afford to wait to create an online identity. The kinds of connections that translate into devoted readers of your work take time to build. “First and foremost, I try to remember the brand is me, not my latest book,” romance novelist Gwyn Cready says. “My efforts go into building a connection between the reader and Gwyn Cready, the writer.”
The key is to get your name known early on and then work at continually increasing your visibility as your career progresses. But knowing you need a platform and knowing the best way to go about building one are two entirely different matters. The good news is that when developing a strategy for beginning—or strengthening—your own presence and outreach, you don’t have to spend valuable hours starting from scratch with your own trial and error. Many notable novelists have succeeded in building large networks of fans over time—and are willing to share what they’ve learned along the way.
What does a successful platform really look like for a fiction writer? Read on to find out.
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