“Every new author needs a platform.”
Some months before I’d planned to have fully completed my first novel, For Rye, I began preparing for whatever came next. Naturally, when I began the book, there were several points on which I can now see I was grossly misguided. From looking forward to finishing my first draft so I could drift through the relaxing business of editing and rewriting (fool), to my arrogant confidence in my characterisation abilities (total fool).
After wrestling through countless months of this supposedly relaxing editing and rewriting, followed by many more months of retrofitted characterisation, I started researching the next step. The almost-unanimous opinion on what’s needed before submitting to literary agents – besides a damned good manuscript, pitch, query letter, etc. – made me squirm:
“Every new author needs a platform.”
“A platform – also referred to as an author platform or a media platform – is an established media forum through which an author connects to his or her audience.”
Valerie Peterson, Why Publishers Want Authors with Platforms
I’m a guy who values his privacy. Translated: I’m a guy who wants to hide and be left alone. (Don’t fret, friends and family, that’s a slightly sweeping statement – slightly.) I believed this charming trait of mine would be well suited to the modern writer. How wrong I was.
At the 805 Writers’ Conference, Angela Rinaldi defined a writer’s platform as:
“Your outreach into the community and the larger world; your media relations, your following, your ability to get media attention. It’s everything that you do to leave a footprint in the world.”
There I went, squirming again. It seems I was misguided on more than just my characterisation skills or the ease with which I thought I’d sail through editing. Toil in private, craft my work in obsessional solitude behind a closed door, then throw the thing out of said door and see what the hell happens. Let the world chew it up and smack its lips in approval, or wince in revulsion (and not the kind of revulsion I’m hoping for in my writing). Either way, it’s out of my hands.
Except it isn’t.
Contrary to the romantic image of the troubled, recluse writer who need pay no mind to such trivialities as promotion and branding and connecting, the modern author seems to have evolved into somewhat of a social beast whose work stretches beyond the realm of the book itself. You are now advised to create a ‘hub’ in the form of an author website (which I’ve also heard referred to as a ‘modern-day business card’ – an image I like, even if it isn’t in Patrick Bateman’s bone coloured Silian Rail of choice) where you will post content, and to have an active presence on social media where you’ll network and steer your victims towards your knockout hub, and generally do a load of the work that once upon a time the publisher would have done for you.
So what are my reasons for giving in to this trend? Why have I taken the leap against my better judgement and thrown this ‘ere website (ahem…hub) together before getting my manuscript out there? Is it because of all the expert advice I’ve digested on what to do when you’ve written a book telling me I should already have some scrap of a platform in place before submitting my work? Well, truthfully, yes. But it’s also because I’ve seen potential in such an endeavour away from the please-for-the-love-of-God-subscribe/follow/like/share-my-shit culture that has come to define so much of this oftentimes content-based sewage system we call the Internet. Bitter, much? Well, maybe a little disillusioned with this current online validation-obsessed vibe. This cynicism probably isn’t conducive to building a successful platform (in fact, it probably makes me the worst candidate in the world for an enterprise such as this) but then maybe I’ve found myself drawn in by the few possibilities away from the amassing of the coveted fake internet points, such as:
The industry is as competitive as they say, agents and publishers are justified in holding out for manuscripts that explode off the page, and they might even know what they’re doing when they pay extra attention to writers already reaching out to the ‘community and larger world’, who are knee-deep in the building of an audience/fan base/readership/following/congregation of worshipers. After much (reluctant) research into these fabled writers’ platforms, my pessimism began to dissipate. Was I really beginning to see the worth in such an undertaking?
The novel is a slow, careful, calculated process, far removed from the electric conversations I enjoy so much with friends and family, picking apart books and film and the art of storytelling. Maybe a platform and website full of essays, reviews, critical analyses, and blog posts could be the place to start new discussions, to rip open the horror we love so much, to tear apart what frightens us, and to dissect the inner workings of what draws us into the darkness and keeps us coming back for more.
And so with this, my first bLoG pOsT (oh god, did I really just write a blog post?) let’s see how this ‘outreach into the community and the larger world’ fares; whether I can successfully garner that aforementioned audience, fan base, readership, following, or congregation of worshipers, or whether this whole damned thing will fall faster than first act Freddy Krueger fodder.
Screw it. Let’s talk horror.