Do you know what this word refers to in conjunction with the publishing industry?
Platform is the reason why Lena Dunham landed $3.7 million for her book proposal. If you want to sell a manuscript, more than the quality of your content (though it should certainly be up to snuff), you need to develop a reputation. If you’re thinking that your reputation is going to come from your book, you’ve got it backwards.
There are many ways to develop your platform. If you have public exposure in some way, you’re already set. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to most of us and it can be hard to generate (I’ll leave that to others far more qualified than I am if your intent is to get famous). However, a solid portfolio of writing in other forms can do wonders for establishing a ready-made audience eager to read your book (which any publishing company would love).
A novel is a huge undertaking. I certainly think all writers should attempt one, but consider the following diverse forms as a way to gain exposure and increase your chances of selling your idea for a book:
Poetry – Whether it’s traditional or free-verse, avant-garde or transparent, there are tons of poetry journals that always are seeking quality expression.
Short Fiction/Flash Fiction – Scale back your world building and capture a photograph. That’s the art of the short story. Again, there are tons of literary magazines that are always in search of quality fiction. Regardless of your style, there’s a market for everything (of quality).
Plays – Why not write a play, send it to a contest, or work with your local theatre to have it staged?
Screenplays – Think with an eye for the visual. There are some excellent television programs and films that are quite a bit more literary than most fiction (e.g. Mad Men, my favorite program). If you want to sell your script, there’s an excellent book written by Blake Snyder called Save The Cat! that gives an insider’s view into what kind of scripts sell in Hollywood and how to write them.
Nonfiction – Do you have expertise in a subject? It’s so easy to write an E-book and publish it on the Web. While fiction can be harder to attract an audience, with nonfiction there’s always a built-in audience for just about every topic.
Freelance Journalism – Yes, the pay is terrible, but your name can get out there with some rather influential people.