The Denver AWP Conference, part 3: Your Platform — “What Agents Are Looking For”

I really wanted to visit the “Shameless Self Promotion” panel prior to this one, but found myself already ravenously hungry, which prompted me to take a break and purchase an other-worldly-priced bratwurst (that’s price did not remotely match its overall deliciousness) and a Pepsi.  I think my pseudo-lunch cost me $10.  Moving on…

Building a platform, according to the panel is about being an empowered artist, becoming visible.

Typically, there are 2 questions, with respect to platforms, that I will get to shortly and will offset with such ingenious formatting techniques as block quotes, italics and bolding.

Platforms are essentially what you do besides write, they are not your CV.  Building a platform is an ongoing effort to connect with your readers–both a journey and a process.  In this regard, you need to make your platform work for you; it’s your Presence [capital ‘P’].  The best example of platform building in the 20th Century (according to the panel) was Ezra Pound. In other words, make your platform your life.

Q1: With what tools can you build a platform?

– Websites, blogs, e-zines, e-classes, write for publication, give talks, writers groups, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads.  Embrace all opportunities that exist; don’t say “no” to anything. You really need to create an online presence.  A term I also was told to Google is “Conversation Prism.” The bottom line is that you don’t need to be on all of the social networking sites, just focus on a few. These things, remember, are just tools. Be adaptable. Twitter is great for reference referrals. You have to be where your audience is: “Become the Poet Laureate of your coffee shop.”

Q2: What are the biggest challenges in building a platform?

Time. Remember that the writing is the most important.  Let the world know what you know. It takes time for your efforts to pay off. Overcome the stigma of self promotion. Get out and comment on other people’s sites. Clarify yourself as a writer by zooming in on what you offer and thinking about your audience as much as yourself. Have a concrete plan. Find yourself 3 role models: who’s out there? Who’s accelerating their careers? Get honest feedback and always stay professional. Oh, and check out this site too: Her book on platform building is great!

Also check out Seth Godin’s book Tribes and Chris Guillebeau’s 279 Days to Overnight Success.

And lastly, find models your comfy working with.  See what your favorite authors are doing.  Write them fan letters.  Keep in mind three things, however: 1) you will write a lot about the book after you have written the book, 2) You have got to pitch yourself, and 3) approach agents and editors as an equal; give them reasons they should sign you.

That’s all for now. The next post will be focused on the panel discussion: “From MFA Thesis to Novel.”

One thought on “The Denver AWP Conference, part 3: Your Platform — “What Agents Are Looking For”

  1. I always learn something new

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