The 4 Platform Secrets No One Has Told You




It’s all anyone in publishing wants to talk about! Writers are feeling this top down pressure to check all the boxes publishers and agents are looking for. Including platform. But we’re talking about platform for a reason. (Need a platform primer? Try Jane Friedman’s here.)

Let’s be clear: non fiction authors understand that platform is non-negotiable; it’s a must. However, fiction authors don’t require one–but we won’t be sad if you have one. Now that we’re all on the same page. Let’s breakdown the secrets to platform that you probably haven’t discovered how to leverage. Ready?

The secret to a meaningful platform is engagement. It doesn’t matter how many tweets you send or pins you post. If there is no engagement on the other side you’re wasting your time speaking into a black hole.  You don’t always need to go searching for more, more, more. Try focusing on the small fans you’ve cultivated this far and work with them. What does your current audience require to be more connected to you? Be authentic, be honest, learn from online greats like comedians, authors, and journalists. See how they’re doing it. Guess what? They’re out of their shells and interacting with people, tweets and memes. Platform is not self promotion, it’s engagement.

The secret to building a platform is following other people. It goes against our desire to be “cool” when we follow other people hoping to get followed back, but guess what: it works. Following other people is a signal to the world that you exist. You’re not a satellite circling alone, you’re a compass pointing visitors to your brand. A vacant platform can be a sign of fear: are you afraid to follow other people because you’re afraid you won’t be any further ahead? It’s also a sign of disinterest: are you too “busy” for your brand? Then a publisher isn’t going to make time for you. Many of today’s success stories revolve around authors who have understood what their fans expect and want from them. Never before have you had a water cooler at your fingertips. A missing platform is a sign that you don’t understand technology and that scares us: how can we expect you to market your book if you don’t have time for social media? So to build that platform you have to tell the world that you are here and you have something to say.

The secret to platform isn’t just primary social media sites. Everyone thinks Twitter and Facebook are the only platforms that matters. Guess what (depending on what you do) there are many platforms for you to leverage: YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, blogging, journalism, podcasts, or online TV. Where can you show your voice, expand your brand, and engage with like-minded people best for your message? That’s where you need to be. There is no right or wrong way to develop platform, but the success comes from the most authentic way to share your voice. What do YOU want to say? And how or where can you say it best?

The secret to platform is numbers. Do you know yours: Followers? Impressions? Shares? Sales? Subscribers? As soon as you learn to quantify your platform you know how to transition to leveraging your engagement. How many people clicked on your links? How many people signed up for your e-newsletter? How many people do you speak in front of per year? Numbers means audience. Audience means sales. Sales is what business is all about–even publishing.

Experiment: take a week and follow a few hundred new people (and engage with them!) and then report back to me how many new followers it got you. Deal?

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

13 thoughts on “The 4 Platform Secrets No One Has Told You

      1. Carly,
        I’ve followed your advice for the last four days. In that time, I went from 80 Twitter followers to 200. More than that, it’s caused me to pay a lot more attention to the hows/whys of Twitter. I plan to keep going. If you have any advice on clever ways to get my adult children to listen to me…. or pay off my mortgage … or win a Pulitzer, I’d appreciate that, too. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m in a group thru FB, and someone just said their writer friend bought 100,000 followers when he was trying to sell his proposal. This person was wondering if it was worth it, since all publishers want to see these numbers. Well, my jaw dropped. I’ve been there before with my non-fiction proposal. I read the publisher rejections, and it was always “great concept, too-small platform.” A real bummer if you hope to publish traditionally. But, is this what the world is coming to? Buying followers to try to fool publishers and agents (apparently even through Fiverr you can buy followers.) Eek! What are your thoughts on this?


    1. I’ve definitely heard of this and I know it’s possible. I’ve seen it. Platform is more than followers though. So yes, buying 100,000 followers can help, but when the publisher looks at your tweets and sees that you’re only getting 5-10 RTs or Favs then they know something’s up. Like I said, engagement is so much more powerful than “big numbers.” So if you’re trying to shop around a proposal you’ll need 5-10k on the low side PLUS another platform like a blog, podcast etc to show that they are an engaged, cross-platform audience. Make sense?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally makes sense. The bottom line for me anyway, is that it’s dishonest. You will get busted. And what kind of relationship do you want to have with the person championing your proposal? Thanks for sharing your perspective!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Platform is important and I’ve been working on mine for years now. I strongly advise looking at two things to get platform to work: 1) your product, which is every blog post on your blog, every tweet you write or retweet, every photo or joke you might share on FB. It’s all part of your outlook and what describes you. Even when I make a typo on twitter it bothers me. 2) let your platform reflect who you are. I make every effort to thank people, to relate to them as I would a friend or a kind acquaintance. Or to distance myself if I sense something’s not cool. Platform affects and colors personality. It’s probably more important than the fleeting time we might sometimes give to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree that engagement is important, without interaction with the audience, then it means that assumptions are in place, those assumptions need to be tested.

    I disagree that numbers means audience, and that audience means sales, that is vanity metrics, a large list of newsletter subscribers, even if they are opening and reading the emails, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will become customers.

    Liked by 1 person

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