Agency Lessons: platform matters

Are you sick of hearing about platform yet? It's the dirty word of publishing. You know you need one, but aren't entirely sure what it is. Oh sure, you know it's your online presence. But what does that include? And the bigger question: does it all really matter?
There are lots of posts out there about what your platform is and how to develop one. I'll talk about that more through the week. Today, I want to answer that last question. Does it matter?

Yes, yes it does.

Every agent worth your time is going to tell you that the manuscript is king...and that's the truth. First and foremost, your book has to be awesome. I need to love it enough to want to put it on my book shelf nuzzled snugly between Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice. But sometimes, that's not enough.

I can practically hear your brain sizzling over here on my side of the computer screen. It's barely detectable over your screams of "What do you mean that's not good enough?"

Yeah, I wish there was a nicer way to put it, but it's the truth. Sometimes, having a kick butt manuscript still isn't good enough. Because I read a lot of really amazing manuscripts. And so do editors.

And that's where platform comes in. An established platform creates a tag team effect with your superb manuscript to create a publishers dream. A great book with an author who has shown an understanding, willingness and ability to promote themselves.

To give you an example, let me shine the spotlight on my newest client, Kelly Hashway. I've actually been a frequent visitor to Kelly's blog before I was even an agent. She has a well organized blog that she updates several times a week without fail. She keeps her posts relevant to writers and readers while allowing readers to get to know her personally. Kelly also has a presence on Facebook and Twitter that she uses to engage readers. Add to this a regular newsletter and you've got a well-rounded platform.

Here's what else I like about Kelly's platform. She promotes her work without pounding followers over the head with "buy my book" links. She offers promotional opportunities to other writers and gives back in the form of reviews and blog tour posts several times a month. And finally, she responds to everyone.

When Kelly came to me with a great book, signing her as a client was a no-brainer. I know I can take her amazing manuscript to editors and show them a talented writer who can sell books.

But there's one more reason a platform matters to agents. A well established platform shows me you are serious about writing as a career. A great book is...one great book. But as an agent I need to sell a lot of great books to make a living. I want clients who are going to continually write great books. A platform tells me you are in this for the long haul. A platform is an investment of your time that gives a clue to your dedication to becoming a professional author. It's like hanging a shingle over your door to proclaim your status as "serious about writing".

Write a great book. In fact, write an amazingly awesome book. But don't forget that platform does matter.