Sunday, January 3, 2010


This is a tough business and it seems not a day goes by that writers are not asked to do more, follow another rule or guideline, promote harder and find innovative ways to do it, and then grin and bear the tough road we tread. I hope this article helps, or at least encourages you to persevere and to enjoy the journey.

For the majority of authors, writing a novel is a rewarding experience, a joy, a burning desire fulfilled. The other side of the experience involves promotion and marketing. Marketing is getting your book into the hands of readers. Promotion is building a name. It's like having a toolbox. In order to build a house, you have to have the right tools to do it. The same applies for writers building their careers. You must have the right tools in order to succeed.

One tool in the toolbox is a platform. In today’s world of competitive publishing, the writer's platform mainly applies to non-fiction writers. If you glance over the non-fiction titles in bookstores, you will find celebrity names galore. It is their name, their fame that initially sells their books. Who they are is the foundation of their platform.

What about fiction writers? Can they build a platform in order to attract an audience of readers? Certainly. First, the writer needs to know what the author’s platform is. The Webster’s Dictionary defines platform as 'a raised flooring or stage for performers, speakers, etc.' For the writer marketing their work and promoting their name, the platform is an imaginary stage, where the author is in full view of a target audience of potential readers. It is in a word a circle of influence.

For the fiction writer the platform is not so narrow except in the area of genre. Most people would like to read a good yarn. The platform therefore is broader. It's like throwing a stone into a pool of water, causing a rippling effect. Say your genre is historical fiction. The center of the ripple is readers that prefer historical novels above all other genres. The writer targets that group, and word of mouth advances in ripples. The writer can then branch off their platform to influence other types of readers by having a platform that promotes a good story.

What does a platform do for you as an author and what kinds of things have you done to build your platform?


Jan Cline said...

This is a subject that keeps me awake nights! The prospect of a platform for my fiction AND non fiction excites me because I love speaking to groups and such. But the how to do it is what scares me. I guess my platform so far is pretty small, but I very much want to expand it. I have some experience under my belt, a website, 2 blogs, recorded a CD, and have a facebook and myspace page. Not much, but it's a start. Any suggestions are welcome!

Jessica said...

I love the example of ripples in the water. I hadn't thought of it like that before.
I guess I'm doing my blog, though I'm not sure that's platform since it's targeted to fellow writers rather than readers.

Rita Gerlach said...

Jessica, just remember that fellow writers are fellow readers.

Jan, I'll put up another post with more tips. Even if a writers platform is small, say localized for example, it can have a ripple effect. Even a local platform can gain you a lot of readers.

Anonymous said...

Great info. I am not a writer, but the info is interesting. Also, congrats on your reviews of Surrender the Wind. I loved that book. Waiting for the next one to come out.Blessings

Amy Deardon said...

Rita, great subject! Platform is tough to establish, and I think the key is to just do little things for it hopefully to build. Besides blogs, speaking is another way to go. Your book is beautiful! How is it selling? Happy new year.

Rita Gerlach said...

Thanks, April. I'm so glad you like Surrender the Wind. I am writing a 3-book series, and now have a wonderful literary agent that will be plugging it to editors for me.

Rita Gerlach said...

Hi Amy,

Yes, a platform has to be built over time. Not something that can be done over night. My next post will be things writers can do to build their platform.

Surrender the Wind is doing very well. Thanks for asking.