I recently learned that I need to build an author’s platform. At first, this was a frightening thought because I’m terrible with my hands and my wife is reluctant to let me use her power tools. Fortunately, I soon learned that “platform” is used metaphorically, whatever metaphorically means
Everyone and their third cousin twice removed, today, wants to be a novelist (more accurately, they want to be a novelist whose novel is optioned for a multi-season Netflix original series). But the harsh reality is, most literary agents and publishers aren’t going to waste time and money promoting an unproven hack (me). There are simply too many new, mediocre novels written by proven hacks, competing for a limited amount of reader attention. So an aspiring novelist (me) needs to show literary agents that he has taken the time to build a platform (a community of readers who might possibly pay attention to what the aspiring novelist is droning on about).
Thus, I’m dusting off this blog because a blog, supposedly, can serve as the foundation of an author’s platform. The idea is simple: someone (anyone) subscribes to my blog because they’re anxious to have one more piece of drivel that they won’t read show up in their inbox every day. That person, in turn, is so enthralled by what I’ve written that they share it with their social network of real and faux friends, and so on until, within weeks, I’ll have amassed hundreds of millions of readers around the globe. Thus, with hundreds of millions of readers hungering for my very next dangling participle, I prove to literary agents that my soon-to-be-completed, mediocre novel is worthy of publication and just might sell more than the average of 250 books per author, per year (YES, this is a real number).
This got me to thinking: how would Ernest Hemingway have fared in today’s platform-obsessed literary environment? I imagined the following rejection letter from a literary agent to whom Papa sent a letter asking for representation:
Dear Mr. Hemingway:
We are in receipt of your recent query seeking literary representation.
Unfortunately, at this time, our firm is unable to represent you for two reasons:
- Had you done your research you would know that our firm only represents writers specializing in an extremely narrow literary genre: DYSTOPIAN PRESIDENTIAL FICTION FROM JANUARY 20, 2017 TO (fingers crossed) JANUARY 20, 2021.
- You have not built a freaking author’s platform. Nothing! You don’t have a blog or newsletter or downloadable white paper or anything on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest or YouTube. All we could find are a few dispatches from the Spanish Civil War and a smattering of middle-of-the-night, incoherent Tweets
Indeed, the sample pages of your novel From Here to Eternity show promise and we encourage you to continue working on your craft. But, frankly sir, without an author’s platform, you’re pretty much screwed.
Good luck in your literary endeavors.
In advance, I would like to say thank you to the hundreds of millions of readers who will soon be part of my author’s platform.