Saturday, September 09, 2017

More on what platform is, and when it's valuable

I am an Indie author with several published books and I have done quite well (I sell several hundred books per month). I have books for MG and adult readers, but I have several children's story books I would like to pitch to an agent. Should I stress platform in my query since I have quite an established platform and would work very hard to promote my work, or will that even be a factor since it's such a different genre?
Let's review what platform is (and thus what it is not.)

Platform is NOT published books (unless the published book has an excerpt from the new book.) Platform is how people will know you've published a new book.

So, if you're selling several hundred books per month (and that's a terrific number, congratulations) the way people find out about your book is platform.

Are you working a mailing list?
That's replicable so, yes, I would count that as platform.

Are you Tweeting and Facebooking to let readers know your book is out there?
That's replicable, so, yes,  it counts as platform.

Is it being listed as a "deal of the day" in online bookstores?
That's NOT replicable (or at least it's outside your control unless you are self-pubbing) therefore it's not platform.

Are you gaming the system to get listed as a NYT Bestseller?
Well, people know about you, that's for sure, but probably not in the way that encourages further sales.

Platform is how people know you now, and how they will learn about your new book.

Now, to your actual question.
I'm not sure what you mean by a "story book." Generally books for young readers are categoriezed categorized (oops) as picture books, early readers, chapter books or by age/grade level (ages 4-6/Pre-K-1)

Those books are bought by parents and librarians, not the actual readers, and much of those sales are review driven.

It won't help your editor reach the picture book market to know that you've sold eight gazillion copies of A Really Good Novel.

The way to promote picture books, and other books for young readers are school visits, not Facebook or Twitter. Have you done a school visit? Do you know what they are? Remember, it's not some sort of failure if you don't. None of us were born knowing all this stuff.  I still learn things every day (almost always the hard way of course.)

If you want to branch out into books for younger readers the very first thing to do is find your nearest chapter of SCBWI and join. And go to meetings and events even if you're not sure they're relevant.  You need to soak up information before querying. Books for young readers are whole different ballgame from adult books.

Any questions?


  1. The hard way. It seems I have to learn that way so it'll stick in my memory space. Sometimes it's a matter of not knowing the right question to ask. Which I found out yesterday for my WiP and now need to rethink one of my story braids.

    On topic: although there are two topics here but I'm focused on the platform question. It's good to hear the specifics of how platform is done.

    I think Janet stated before that a website is not a platform? It's the newsletter list generated that's a platform? I suppose just because your RSS gets a certain number of hits a day doesn't guarantee readers who will purchase a book.

    But hey! What about the Reider list? Oh, commenting on someone else's blog is not a platform!!! jk

  2. Good morning Janet. That word it must be related to frieze in relation to the picture book? (the paragraph after your statement, Now, to your actual question)

  3. Talk about learning something new every day... I had never heard of the term 'chapter books' until years ago when I took one of the grandkids to B&N for books. He said he was into chapter books. It sounds idiotic now, but I thought it was something new in elementary schools. I asked him what they were and he couldn't tell me, so he showed me. Ooooh, BOOKS!

    "Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him."

  4. Is learning something the hard way related to the dogged need to figure something out on your own? And are there clubs and t-shirts for people like usI mean Like That?

    So....somewhat related (maybe not, but I don't want to not tell the Reef), one of my Writing Twitter buddies let me know that my most recently published story is on the SFWA "Recommended Reading" list for the Nebula Awards!

  5. Well, this proves you are never to old to learn. To retain the learning, that's another subject.

    I think I've been hit with the stupid stick, battered actually, because I always thought "platform" was the knowledge and expertise you bring to a subject and how well known you are within your field.

    If your non-fiction subject is "how to become a shade tree mechanic" then extensive knowledge in auto repair would be your platform.

    If your novel pivots around Bettywith2Ts Buttonweezers choice of paint colors then her adult life of managing and mixing colors at a Sherwin Williams store is her flat, gloss or eggshell platform.

    I'm confused. Where's my paint tray. I'm having a Zen Gray moment.

  6. Great new info today. Thanks Janet! Congrats, Jennifer. My heart is with Floridians this weekend.

  7. Jennifer,congratulations! That's wonderful!

    Kitty, chapter books are actually a child's introduction to novels. Some kids skip through that stage very quickly. But, those kids who love chapter books DEVOUR them, and become very attached to a series. I have a series starting in 2018, and it makes me so happy to be part of that childhood journey of reading!

    Last, for those interested in writing for kids there's a HUGE tribe of supportive writers out there! It centers around SCBWI, where membership is a bargain, and fans out in many directions.

  8. 2Ns: I'm still trying to work this out in my head. It seems to me something Janet said ("Platform is how people know you now, and how they will learn about your new book.") and something you said ("...I always thought "platform" was the knowledge and expertise you bring to a subject and how well known you are within your field.") are connected. I suppose people (potential readers) could know about a writer because of her expertise in a certain area, and that expertise could allow the writer to be interviewed on TV, radio, in magazines, etc. And during interviews, she could mention that she has a new book coming out. What I'm not sure about is what would actually be considered "platform" in this case. The expertise? The connections with people who line up interviews?

    Thanks for the post, Janet.

    Jennifer: Congratulations! I just finished tearing up more confetti (my goodness, we have lots of success around here!), and I'm tossing it your way. :)

  9. Congratulations Jennifer!

    Taking a break from Hurricane Irma prep to check in. A friend gifted me with boxes of books (right after I sent boxes of books for our hospital book cart and to the veterans - I love the way that works out). I read the complete Game of Thrones series during the last hurricane. Will not lack for reading material during this one.

    The good thing about hurricanes - I always get a lot of writing done.

  10. My working definition of platform has always been: "Why should anyone buy my book instead of someone else's, especially within the same category/genre?"

    Is that misleading? Incorrect? Too vague?

    Cynthia: I know you Floridians are used to this, but Irma's forecast to be a major hurricane for most of it's trip up the western coastline. That's not the usual Florida hurricane path. You know this... so please be sure you and yours are safe!!

    1. Thanks,Colin. I grew up on the Gulf Coast aka Hurricane Central. We pretty much maintain constant readiness during hurricane season. We're about as far inland as you can get. Hopefully she'll blow herself out a bit by the time she gets to us. My worst one so far was Camille, a Cat 5. You do all you can do then pray.

  11. Congratulations Jennifer! Very exciting news.

    2N's--as I understand it, expertise and knowledge are not synonymous with platform. Sure, being topnotch in your field gives you credibility, but platform is how you reach a large number of people. We all probably get umpteen emails from bloggers or other sites we went to that required our email address. We are now their platform--it is opt in email lists vs buying a huge list from some other aggregator that we want.

    Platform does not equal the little soapbox you step up onto on the corner of the block (although that is literally a platform!)
    --platform is how big a group of people are standing around excited to hear what it is you have to say.

    Publishers want to know there are people who want to buy our books once they're out there. It's up to us to find them and connect to them in some way.


  12. This is off topic, but I wanted to pass along a bit of news of one of our Reiders. If you have time take a look at the link below.
    (Scroll down to part one first.)

    Our own Southern Belle; Donna Everhart has been going through a bit of a dark stretch and I thought we could all supply a little light. She handles and writes with her usual charm about a dark chapter that has visited her. There is light at the end of this tunnel, but I feel that for all she has handled so far, a little cheer would help.

    Donna, you have been a constant in this community. Please keep us posted, and know you will never be alone with this. If you need anything...just ask.

    Cheers Donna!

  13. Donna!!!!: :(

    I understand you not sharing with us. So like you to not want to draw attention to yourself like this. But you know we all stand with you, pray for you, and are here for you. :)

    Here's the linkified link to site Hank posted:

  14. Donna, I'll add you to my prayer list at Mass today.

  15. You're an amazing person, Donna Everhart. It's impossible not to like and admire you.

  16. Dear Donna, sending all the XOXO the waves can carry! You know this group here holds you in their hearts!

  17. Donna You are an amazing inspiration. I am praying for your speedy recovery. Take care.

  18. Donna, My family's thoughts and prayers are with you and yours. I won't offer courage, as you have an abundance of that. Ditto for strength, humor, perseverance. Let us know how else we can help. Light always follows dark. Kathy

  19. Donna You are amazing. While I can't imagine how you feel, I admire how you're handling it with such grace and am thankful that you were willing to share your diagnosis and journey on your blog.

  20. Donna,
    Stay strong. You already are. Keep it.

    Also, I didn't realize you were married to Brett Favre. I guess he doesn't walk around in a #4 shirt so he stays incognito. I probably shouldn't blab about it to thousands of people here. Oops.

    The picture left in my mind; You, virtually laughing, on a gurney. Take that, Cancer!

  21. Okay, back on topic.

    My wife killed me a dozen times this past April. So I'm feeling pretty good about platform for my WIP murder mystery. Just not sure how I'm gonna explain that platform in the confines of a query. I can't even claim to be part cat since I'm three lives past their max.

    Reincarnation is a thing, right? Here we go...

  22. I had thought that platform was only a necessity for non-fiction. In fiction it is all about the writing, and the concept, and the marketing, and your personal politics, and ...

    Donna: If there is anything you need other than my thoughts and prayers, let me know

    Hurricanes: If Irma was to go where the weather people say it will go, it will land on my house at about 3AM Monday. Luckily hurricanes don't go where others tell them to go. I have doubts that it will follow that track but you do all you can.

    Last time a hurricane was aimed our way, St. Pete ran to Orlando. The hurricane, Charley, turned and followed them. You never know where a hurricane will go until it is over.

    1. Craig - Charley went over our place (not this one) and left us a cool waterfall on our stairwell wall (followed by Frances and Jeanne. Conga line good times). Stay safe.

      Donna - what I said yesterday. Hugs.

      Janet - apologies for being OT and gratitude for having something else to think about besides Irma.

  23. Platform? I thought that was a type of shoe...and one I wouldn't wear walking onto a platform of any kind (I'm a such a klutz, it's not funny).

    When I think of platform, I equate it with promotion--even though I usually hear people talk about platform with non-fiction books--which to me says "marketing". But I would think marketing is essential whether one has written fiction or non-fiction. Janet, correct me if I'm wrong, please.

    Congrats Jennifer!

    Donna, my prayers are with you. Stay strong.

    Speaking of strong, hope all in Irma's path gets through it in one piece. Stay safe, everyone.

  24. I got 1,000 words in today that aren't crap, including words about the Confederate blockade runner that was previously a racing yacht that won the One Hundred Sovereign Cup later renamed the America Cup and the first successful CW submarine. It wasn't the Hunley. I'm rewarding myself.

    I've pondered the platform thing and it's a toughie.

    Someone on the Writer's Forum suggested that I start posting different tidbits about Civil War history on the blog and create a following of people who are interested in CW history, Victorian costuming, etiquette, manners, language, etc. So, that's my game plan. I'll do something similar with the old cowgirls when I get there.

    I haven't posted anything on the blog in a very long time because it still has some glitches on it after the hack. It's not infested. I just never got it all put back together. All the pictures are missing. Posts are still messed up and some of the widgets are still messed up. I need to get my techie son to straighten it out when he has time. Former host company, thanks so much for taking care of me so well even with me paying for the super duper premium package.

    I have no idea if anyone will read it or care, but who knows?

    Donna I have sent out prayers for you. I know you are tough and will get through this. My very best wishes.

    Jeremiah 33:6 'Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.

    I have been fighting the funk again lately, but it's hard to do that when you know others are in so much more dire straits.

  25. Donna, I'm praying for you. Hugs.

  26. Julie Weathers: I enjoy your tweets. You're doing a great job piquing my interest. I'm sure others agree. Neat strategy. When you get your Civil War gem published, I'm a buyer.

  27. Ohhhhh Donna, Ohhhhh Donna...I don't remember the rest of the words but it was great song. Hang in babe. Like I said, you are in my thoughts all the time. BTW your husband looks like a hunk.

    Okay, Rosanna and Amy I get what you're saying and I think I knew that. So, I have a platform because of my tens of thousands of fans related to my column, ah, thousands of fans, um, hundreds, well, the ten people who line their birdcages with the latest issue.

    Time to sing again.
    Ohhhhh Donna, Ohhhhh Donna, okay, okay, okay I'll stop now.

  28. Julie, I also like your tweets. Maybe a word or two about the book sometimes, e.g., "you'll see more about this in my novel." People who follow you for the history will stay for the book.

    Ahem, 2Ns, eyes off the hunk. *Leaves blog quickly to relook at link to Donna's blog.*


  29. Donna, we love you and we're here for you!

    Julie when the time comes, I just want to know where to buy your books. For me your platform has been your comments here at the Reef and I'm HOOKED!

    Thanks for the congrats, everybody!

  30. Donna, I am sending prayers for rapid healing. As a former radiation oncology nurse, I know you are in good hands.

    And from one writer to another, I have a great word for you. Apoptosis. Visualize the cancer cells literally "popping" during treatment (whether radiation or chemo).

    Take care.

  31. Craig F, I've always heard that platform is important for both fiction and nonfiction writers. The biggest difference is that a lack of platform isn't a deal breaker for a fiction writer. But if you're a nonfiction writer, you need a platform.

    For example, if you have a well-trafficked food/recipe blog, your regular readers are likely to buy your cookbook, versus if you're a chef with no following.

  32. Hank, thank you for that...

    And, I thank all of you for your encouraging, supportive words and comments. I appreciate it more than you know, and it's definitely brought some lighter moments to mind as I read through each and every one of these.

    Funny, many of you and others on FB have been so encouraging about what I've shared, and yes, it ain't easy putting perhaps less than flattering photos "out there." I've had a comment from a family member... "I was very surprised you went so public with pictures and all..."


    To me, this no different than writing without fear. I figured if I was going to write about what was happening and how I felt, then I was going to share all I could - within reason. So, out there they are, and out there they'll stay, along with what I wrote.

    Once again, I'm struck by the breadth and wealth of kindness shown here, especially when there's so much other stuff going on. (Irma! Harvey aftermath!) The capacity of the compassion bucket in this special little spot of our universe is like the loaves and fishes, is it not?

    To all...xoxo and a big old (((((HUG!))))

  33. Late again - surprise, surprise - but I just wanted to add my congratulations for Jennifer and my best thoughts and virtual *hugs* for Donna. Hang in there, dear lady. Praying for a speedy recovery for you!

  34. Thank you so much for answering my question! And yes, fan base was what I was referring to, but I'm glad you clarified for folks who might not know.
    I have about 800 newsletter subscribers, and I'm working on building my base. My website gets about 100 unique visitors a week. I promote with 8-10 promotional sites (the ones that work) per month, and I have a decent following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
    And yes, I'm learning that picture books are a totally different thing, which is why I'm thinking about going traditional with these. My MG books sales are reliant on mostly local sales and I've been to several schools and kids events, but my adult book sales outnumber the MG books by the hundreds.


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