Monday, April 13, 2009

Instant Platform, Just Add Writing

Writers talk much about platform and many have learned to hate the word, but only the people who don’t have one. They look at platform as the most difficult thing in writing. Oddly enough, there are certain groups of people who have an instant platform. I’ll pick on Rachelle Gardner. When did she join Wordserve Literary? Late 2007, I think? How many people are listed as followers of her blog now?

While you go check, let me point out that Rachelle has several years experience in the publishing industry and I don’t want to take away from that by mentioning her, but the fast popularity growth of her blog is largely due to instant platform in the publishing industry. Professionals with the same experience level in other fields will not see their blogs grow at the same rate. But new literary agents and publishers can put out a sign on a blog saying, “I’m an agent” or “I’m a publisher” and aspiring authors will flock to them. It helps if they have something useful to say, but it isn’t a requirement.

Most of us don’t have the benefit of instant platform. It only exists when there are tons of people putting their hopes in a few, as is the case with the publishing industry. The rest of us have to find another way. A few weeks ago Jason Smith suggested that, “platform just happens.” ( It sometimes seems that way because we have no control over the public interest aspect of platform and even the expertise aspect may seem like as much of an accident of nature as anything else. Just being at the right place at the right time or having been born into the family of a famous person can give us another type of instant platform. Many aspiring writers see this as unfair, but hey, life isn’t fair. All I can say is that if you happen to have an instant platform you should enjoy it. The rest of us have to work for every reader we get.

There is a problem with instant platform. Those who have it are stuck with it. Chip MacGregor is a literary agent. He puts his instant platform to use on his blog, where he talks primarily about the publishing industry. He is also a author and has written a number of books. Now I’m sure his books get a few collateral readers from those who follow his blog, but until he writes a book related to his instant platform he will not see a large increase in sales from it. He is stuck building the three aspects of platform, just like the rest of us.