Roxane Gary started PANK, which gave her visibility. Cheryl Strayed was published in The Sun and wrote the Dear Sugar column in The Rumpus. We could go on and on about the various ways nonfiction's biggest names developed their platforms. The common theme would be that they had a platform. Platforms gave them name recognition and an audience who already knew them (much like celebrities), which exponentially amplified their chances of being picked up by a publisher and agent.
Do you have a platform? Are you using it to talk to the prospective readers, or are you only talking to other writers? Nonfiction writers, unlike fiction writers or poets, unequivocally must have a platform. However, other genre writers also boost their chances of landing a more prestigious agent and publisher with a developed platform.
Jane Friedman, who has worked for F+W Media and the Virginia Quarterly Review and whose advice to aspiring authors has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR, offers abundant advice on how to build your platform. Consider the visibility notion.
"Visibility means: Where do you or your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence?" she writes. "It’s typically not enough to say you have visibility. You have to show how and where you make an impact and give proof of engagement."
Platforms might contain a variety of means of communicating with perspective readers: your e-mail newsletter list, website traffic, high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre.
"A lot of people confuse platform building with marketing, promotion, and publicity," Friedman says. "While those types of activities can build your platform, let’s be clear: being an extrovert on social media will not, by itself, lead you to a platform that interests publishers."
The methods to building a platform are countless. Writers from across the world are invited to learn more in a live Zoom chat with the Writers Publishing Exchange, a (usually monthly) meeting of aspiring authors.