One question I see come up a lot is: Do I really need a platform to sell a book?
Okay, so first let’s talk about what a platform is. When you hear people talking about a “platform” what they mean is a social media following.
- How many Facebook friends do you have? Do you an author page?
- How many Twitter followers do you have?
- What’s your Instagram following like?
- Do you have a long list of emails from visitors to your website?
Having a platform is an obvious plus because it shows publishers there are already people who are interested in hearing what you have to say. But is a platform a “must-have” or a “nice-to-have?” I say the latter.
I see writers fret all the time about growing their platform.
The problem is some people just aren’t social media people. You know who I’m talking about (or might even be who I’m talking about), their Tweets are all about self-promotion or their Facebook looks like a ghost town. It almost feels unfair to have to force yourself to be more active online when all you really want is for someone to read your work.
In this day and age, I think it’s nearly impossible to grow your career as a writer without some kind of online presence. For every Elena Ferrante there’s a thousand writers you’ve never heard of and are never going to hear about. But you shouldn’t ever find yourself putting more energy and effort into building a platform than writing.
Let me repeat that: The most important thing a writer should be doing for their writing career is writing.
From personal experience, I’m super active on social media, but I hadn’t put much effort into growing a following. The followers just kind of trickled in at their own pace. After my Longreads essay went live, I picked up about 300 new Twitter followers. I tend to pick up a few new followers every time I publish a piece (I average 1-5 pieces per week), but that was by far the most number of followers I’d received from a piece. But what it basically showed me was that if the work is strong the platform will come.
I also received interests from agents after publishing that essay and none of them seemed very concerned that I only had 1,000 followers on Twitter. I know people who were only tasked with growing their platform after their books were sold.
So, yes having a platform can make you more appealing when you’re trying to a sell a project, but it’s not a dealbreaker if you don’t already have a platform. The most important thing to focus on as writer is getting better at your craft and completing your project. Don’t let worrying about your status on social media be a distraction from doing the real work.
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Image credit: William Ivan