"[Building a platform is] the new brushing your teeth." - Arielle Eckstut
Long time since I last posted; it's been a busy several days. I executed my first publishing contract (yay!) and so soon I'll be a published author. That said, I have to echo the words of every author I've read saying that once you get a publishing deal, life speeds up. Over the past few days I've written bio and back cover synopsis and questions and answers--and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! It's truly been a fairy tale existence, and I promise I'll blog about it soon.
Oh, I also cut the tip of my right ring finger off on a veggie slicer early in the weekend, so every time you see the letter l or o or a period, just know that it pained me to type that. That's affected my motivation to write, to be sure.
In any event, the session under consideration is "O Platform, Where Art Thou," a session that started right after lunch on the first day of the conference, well before it occurred to me that I'd be blogging about the sessions. Thus, my notes on who was actually there are a little skitchy. The program says the moderator was Kit Wilkinson and the speakers were Randy Freisner, Dave Smitherman, and David Henry Sterry. Wilkinson was clearly a perfect moderator because I don't have her quoted anywhere in my notes, and everyone knows that a moderator's job is to provoke yet stay out of the action. Friesner is an agent and Smitherman a publisher, but Sterry wasn't there. I know this because he was replaced by his lovely wife, Arielle Eckstut, an agent at large and the source of most of my great quotes for the event.
A platform, by the way, is the following that a writer brings to a publication deal. I'd thought it important only for non-fiction, so I'd gone with the interest of learning something for the Grumpy Dean in mind, but I was soon convinced otherwise. According to the panel, many publishers these days won't publish either fiction or non-fiction without a platform.
Someone--I believe Mr. Freisner--compared a platform to the tree stumps of old. Hearing him describe it, I was reminded of a day in Colonial Williamsburg when an actor portraying one of our forefathers stood atop a wooden platform and started yelling to the people, which included all of us twenty-first century tourists standing around. His message was interesting, in a vaguely historical way, so we listened. Back in those days, platform required a talent as a speaker, but Mr. Freisner pointed out that these days a platform employes the natural talent of a writer to reach out to an audience and hold them. We write, yes? Thus, we should be able to hold peoples' interests as we write for them.
How much time should a writer give to building a platform? Some time, every day. Eckstut compared it to brushing teeth. Every day, for about fifteen to twenty minutes each day, seemed the consensus. "If you want your job to be a writer," she said, "this is part of your job description."
A web site is key, the panel said, but there are a lot of web sites out there. It's like a tree in a massive forest, Eckstut said. You have to put a site up that's an extension of you and your brand. It also has to seem active, as must the entirety of an author's electronic platform. It's a lot of work, but it pays off.
It's not the publisher's job to build a platform. The author can expect some collaboration in the efforts, the panel agreed, but Smitherman pointed out that it's "hard for publishers to reach specific markets. It's easier for the authors" to do so.
The panel discussed book signings at length. These used to be considered a vital part of an author's publicity efforts; now, most of the literature discounts them as largely a waste of time. Eckstut disagreed. "Book signings can be great, but only if you make them so," she said. An author has to make a book signing an event. It's possible, she said, to team up with other authors, promote the event through the social networks. Blog tours are extremely useful in doing this.
Overall, a great session. You must get thee to the James River Writers Conference next year.