Author Bob Hostetler

Why I Use That Dirty Word … PLATFORM

It’s a dirty word to aspiring writers. It is even unpopular among many agents and editors. It elicits snarls and sneers from people who just want to write great stuff and get their writing published.

I’m talking, of course, about the word “Platform.”

It refers to the extent of a writer’s influence. It answers the questions, “How big is your audience? How many people are already reading what you write? How many people are in your sphere of influence?” It helps a prospective publisher weigh not only on the quality of a person’s writing but also whether that person is capable of partnering with a publisher in the Herculean task of getting recognition and readers for a new book.

In one of my first blog posts as an agent, I wrote:

I am looking for people who are already having an impact. They are writing blog posts that a lot of people read, share, and subscribe to. They are connecting and engaging with large numbers of people on social media. They are speaking at events large and small, far and wide. They are not waiting for readers, listeners, and followers to come to them, they are already engaging with people about their genre and topic.

To some people, however, that’s an unfair standard. Numerous aspiring authors have expressed dismay at my insistence on a healthy and growing platform. One replied to my coaching efforts by saying, “I am not a ‘celebrity’ and have no desire to be. My sole goal is to be faithful, not famous.”

What kind of commercial publisher—who has a responsibility to owners, board members, shareholders, employees, and future customers—would be anxious to sign and publish someone who doesn’t understand that obscurity is not a selling point? That “A good name is better than fine perfume” (Ecclesiastes 7:1, NIV)? That a worthwhile message doesn’t have to wait until a book release to start having an impact?

If you owned a publishing house, would you look for writers who are waiting for their books to be published before building a following? Or would you want someone who is clearly passionate about a message and already networking with people, gathering a tribe, honing a message, experimenting with new technology, and using every resource available to say important things in impactful ways?

I think the question answers itself. As an agent, I’m willing to wait for a writer to demonstrate the willingness to learn, the desire to improve, and the ability to communicate well that will inspire blog or email newsletter subscribers, Facebook and Twitter followers, seminar audiences, radio listeners, and whatever else will say to an editor and publisher, “My sole goal is to reach people, even if that means I end up being famous.”

That is why I use the word platform. And why I look for writers who are building one.

 

Leave a Comment

A Writer’s Top 6 Productivity Practices

I’ve met fifty book deadlines, never missing one (though I have renegotiated a few), and many more article deadlines. These days, as a writer, editor, and agent, I have even more tasks, schedules, and details to juggle than ever before. Happily, I’ve installed a handful of productivity practices that aid …

Read More

Every Book is a How-To

C.S. Lewis famously said, “We read to know we’re not alone.” I think that is true. But I have long subscribed to a similar statement that I see as sort of a corollary to “Lewis’s Law.” It is this: No one reads about other people. We read only about ourselves. …

Read More

Write Like You Brush Your Teeth

I listen regularly to a half-dozen podcasts. One of them recently talked about how valuable “systems” are in making life run more smoothly. The podcast host said that making something a habit is the simplest but also one of the most effective “systems” a person can install in his or …

Read More

Write Like Jazz

Years ago, I was helping a friend brainstorm and outline a book, and at some point in the course of our conversation about writing, I said, “Writing is like jazz.” Both of us were jazz aficionados, so the phrase was apt, and it stuck. He has reminded me of it …

Read More

Write Like Baseball

Did you know there are nine ways for a batter to reach first base in the game of baseball? A few are obvious, of course. The batter could get a hit. Or a walk. Or even be hit by a pitch. But those are not the only options. The batter …

Read More

Glad to Join the Fun

A Self-Interview with Bob Hostetler It is an honor and a joy to join Tamela Hancock Murray, Dan Balow, and my long-time agent and longer-time friend, Steve Laube, as a literary agent with The Steve Laube Agency. So, for my first SteveLaube.com blog post, I took the time to sit …

Read More