23 March 2014
Me: I’m writing my author platform rant.
Rick: Is that what your statue sits on?
I said a few months ago that I had a pending rant about author platforms. It’s that time. I’m completely frustrated about something entirely different, so it’s a good time to fuel that energy into this.
For non-fiction writers, your platform is, in part, your specific expertise to write that book. Being a kick-ass researcher, like Mary Roach, will help you get through problems writing books like Packing for Mars even without subject-matter expertise prior to starting the book.
Note that I said in part. I’ll get back to that.
For fiction writers, your platform is a lot more nebulous, but the similar part would be what you write about.
Which is another thing. I sometimes see statements like: my platform is (and a list of social media and blog stuff, possibly with a mailing list). Um, no. That’s an important aspect, true, but it’s like saying the car you drive is you.
The rant, for me, comes in here: a platform isn’t an external thing. It’s not actually external to you. It is you, but it’s not all of you. People asking, “What’s your platform?” just make it feel like it’s something that’s external.
It’s how you present your work and how you interact with potential and actual target audiences. It also excludes the audiences you alienate, even though you may think you don’t ever want to alienate any. You will. It’s a given. Not everyone will be into what you write. It’s okay.
Let’s say you’re writing a historical romance. I’m not your target audience, so that would generally exclude me unless you happened to hit enough other things I liked that my interest in those things transcends genre. Write about a romance with strong women in the Venetian Renaissance? I’m there.
Your platform is how you appeal to and interact with the various groups that comprise your target audiences, including:
Even if you’re writing two books in the same series, not every book in that series will appeal the same to every reader. It’s not even about what book is (or isn’t) objectively better. The Empire Strikes Back is (my opinion) objectively better than Star Wars, but I still prefer Star Wars because it doesn’t have the middle-part-of-a-trilogy structure problem.
My favorite plot structure is, essentially, not really in the catalog of possibilities for a typical romance. However, I enjoy reading romance. I just won’t bond with it quite as deeply as I might if the story used my favorite plot structure. (Books: Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates and Steve Martini’s The List. Movies: The Player, and, to a lesser extent but for similar reasons, Donnie Darko and Inception.)
As I’ve said when giving career advice to people in technology: the sum total of what you care about, what you do not, and how much you care/don’t is unique. I care about my favorite plot structure, but not to the exclusion of other plot structures.
How do you help people find you who care about the same things you write about?
That’s the big question, isn’t it?