Author Platforms: One Size Does Not Fit All

Written by Emily Harstone

An “author platform” is your position as a writer, not just in terms of social media, but in terms of real-life connections and associations.

More publishers and agents are asking for writers to talk about their author platforms as part of the query letter, and more small presses and agents are approaching authors that already have platforms.

People ask me all the time, what makes a great author platform?

They ask if it’s Twitter or Facebook. Or is it some new upstart networking platform?

I always make it clear that it doesn’t work that way. It usually isn’t even just one thing. It isn’t online or off, but both. A combination of friends, acquaintances, and community.

They always shake their head at me, as if I’m being rude by not sharing the one secret that’s keeping them from being successful. Even though most people know there is no secret.

When I was at a conference this summer, half the audience asked what makes a successful author platform. What one thing should they be doing now? The agents and publishers all agreed that there is no such thing as a platform that works for everyone.

Some writers are great on Twitter, others on Facebook, some have made Instagram Stories work for them, others still function best through blogging, others have made a platform by building a community for writers, online or off. Still others are best networking through in-person events like readings and conferences.

For me, I’ve always been the best at one-on-one communication. I’m not great at speaking to or connecting with a crowd. My platform has been cultivated with the hundreds of emails I exchange every month.

This is obviously not the most efficient use of my time, but it is the most effective, and it is meaningful to me, which I think makes a difference.

I think the secret to finding the right fit for you, in terms of building your platform is to figure out what you are good at already. A friend of mine who is great at one-liners has built a large Twitter following by sharing them and tagging them correctly.

That only worked for them because they were naturally funny and they worked on their craft. They’re a humor writer, so the fit really works.

Maybe you are already doing something, such as taking excellent photographs, that could help build your platform. You could, for example, start posting those photographs on Instagram and find a way to connect them with writing quotes.

If you are really great at networking, yet don’t know any writers, find a way to change that. Start attending readings and conferences, show up to any all literary events even if the genre isn’t a perfect fit.

Maybe if you have an unusual day job, you can blog about that and trying to be a writer. It might really help people engage with you.

These are just a few examples of how you can build a platform using the interests you already have and your natural talents.

Find out what works for you and don’t be afraid of taking risks and making mistakes along the way.

But also don’t waste your time trying to be someone you’re not. I, for example, have an unusual sense of humor and starting a funny Twitter account would be a complete waste of my time, and embarrassing for everyone involved.

Find what works for you and then work on getting even better at it. That’s the key to success and connecting with people in a real way.


Emily Harstone is the author of many popular books, including The Authors Publish Guide to Manuscript SubmissionsThe 2019 Guide to Manuscript PublishersSubmit, Publish, Repeat, and The Authors Publish Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Publishing.

She occasionally teaches a course on manuscript publishing, as well as a course on publishing in literary journals.

 

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