Platform vs. Writing Ability

As a literary agent, I routinely get asked which is more important platform or the quality of the writing?

For writers who are looking to get published, this is an important question to debate. It may be the most important question.

The correct answer is not as easy as it may seem. The winner of this important debate between platform and writing ability can change more frequently than the tide. For the purposes of this post, I will look at this great debate from a traditional publishing perspective as it pertains to unpublished authors. For self-publishers, a third-party candidate weighs into the equation—marketing/networking.

Unpublished Authors

I have looked at a great number of submissions from first-time/unpublished authors and wanted to scream because their work was sooo good, but they had zero platform. Zilch, nada, nothing.

No website. No Twitter. Not even Facebook.

Sure these are extreme examples, but I can’t sell books written by authors who have no platform. It’s very difficult to sell books by authors with a small platform—many times near impossible.

If you have an excellent book and no platform, some agent may be able to sell your book, but your success rate will be low and that path will be paved with a lot of rejection.

Writing is a Business

You have to remember, your book is your business. It’s a marketable and sellable product. To sell your book you need to have influence enough to convince potential buyers to purchase your product. And you have to understand that a real-world business with no influence doesn’t get sales, because it has no platform.

If you owned a small business with no buyer influence, would you risk going on the television show Shark Tank and attempting to get billionaire investors?

No, of course not.

Those billionaires would tell you that you had no proof of concept. No sales potential.

It’s the same way with most publishers. They want to see that the book has sales potential to an audience or fan base that you are already connected with. Maybe through speaking, YouTube, instructional classes, blogging, etc. and at the bare minimum they want to see that you understand platform and you are actively working on growing your writer’s platform.

As an unpublished writer, if you want to sell your manuscript to a traditional publisher, you need to spend 60%+ of your time and effort building your platform. If it’s not your passion, learn to love it. Learn to make platform-building part of your passion.

There is only one winner in the debate between platform and writing ability as it pertains to an unpublished author—platform.

What percentage of your writing time do you spend working on platform? How can you make platform your passion?