Does Platform Really Help an Unpublished Writer?

If we read agent blogs long enough, we're sure to come across the word "platform." According to my wonderful and lovely agent, Rachelle Gardner, platform is: The means by which YOU will help sell your book by your presence in the media and/or the public sphere, or at least within the audience you hope to reach with your book. (Taken from: Let's Talk About Platform).

In other words, platform is all of the ways we're attempting to build our readership. Nowadays, writers are encouraged to begin their platform even before they're published. From what I understand, non-fiction writers must have a platform--the bigger, the better. Fiction writers are not required to have one, but it is considered a plus.

Last week, I blogged about some of the reasons Bethany House picked up my book (click here to read). In response, Joanne asked a great question: How about platform in addition to the writing? Do you think that plays a significant part?

In other words: Did my platform play any part, even minor, in helping sell my book to Bethany House?

My answer: Platform had absolutely nothing to do with landing me a book contract.

Of course, as part of the book proposal that Rachelle initially sent to Bethany House, I stated a number of the ways I planned to help market my book once it's published. I mentioned blogs as well as my website (which is still in the works). My editor may have briefly looked over this part of the proposal and said to himself: "She's off to a good start."

But I'm fairly certain the STORY and WRITING sold the book, because in reality, my platform is non-existent. My blog and my web presence are still much too small to have had any influence in selling my book. Even if they were much larger, even astronomically higher, I don't believe they would have made a difference.

I'm convinced that for fiction, publishers look at whether they can sell our books. Story and writing trump platform every time for unpublished writers. Even published authors, with platforms much, much bigger than mine, struggle to renew contracts.

If we don't write quality, entertaining books that attract readers, then all of the platform in the world won't help us. We can have hundreds of blog followers and facebook friends, but if we haven't crafted a book they'll want to read, then we're really just spinning our wheels, dare I say, even wasting our time building a platform at the sacrifice of time spent on writing?

I didn't enter the cyberworld of networking until just this year. Before that I spent years focusing on honing my craft and creativity. In hindsight, I'm glad for those years of uninterrupted, uncluttered writing, without the pressure to build a platform.

There comes a time, however, when we need to jump in an start thinking of the future and building that platform. But we shouldn't put that pressure on ourselves until our story and craft are ready to sell. More about that in the next post. . .

Today, I'd love to hear your opinions. Do you think the emphasis placed on platform for unpublished authors is over-rated? Have you felt the pressure to build a platform yet?

*Update: Make sure to check out the comments! My agent left her opinion there!

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