little known fact is that the working title for this website was Platforming for Academic Publishing. I was very familiar with the idea that an author needs to be ‘visible’, preferably before they pitch, and I wanted to look at this specifically in relation to academia. I ditched the title because this isn’t all I wanted to do with this site and because it seemed a bit jargony in the end – and besides PhD2Published is way cuter!
I also didn’t start the site with looking at platform building, but instead I set about installing lots of ways to flood it with content on how to make your book pitch, as this seemed the best way to establish it. But I do want to visit this idea of the platform now and, as luck would have it, a good post just came out on Writer’s Relief to remind me. Although this article, ‘Author Platforms: What They Are, Why Agents And Editors Look For Them, And Whether You Need One To Get Your Book Published’ doesn’t tackle the idea of being an academic and having a demonstrable following for your work, it does look at the idea of the platform for the non-fiction author.
What is a platform? Well, as the Writer’s Relief article explains, it’s a ‘built-in audience’ and or a way of regularly communicating with this established audience. If you’re an academic, you might well be giving papers at all the right conferences, and this does in part constitute your platform, but with all the communication technologies that surround us today, a further part of your platform is having a way of regularly communicating your work – and perhaps with an audience that goes beyond the conference scene alone.
To be honest, with all the tools there are around us today – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the plethora of blog platforms that mean you don’t even need to see the back-end of a website alone HTML – there’s little excuse for not getting your work out there. As the Writer’s Relief article points out, if you want to show your publisher that people are listening to you and will therefore buy your book, on top of speaking and writing, you need to be using social media!
I will concede however that it’s not always obvious how you should use these tools. I accept that starting with them, if you don’t already have some idea, is rather daunting. And I know that they seem like they are going to be very time-consuming. But if you’re an academic and you think they have no place in your world, you are just plain wrong!
If you look at my Facebook friend list you’ll see some of the most important figures in my field listed. What this means is that I not only get regular updates on what they’re working on, but I can update them on my own work and even contact them directly. And I can do all that without the sometimes eye-watering cost of a conference fee. If you look at the people I follow on Twitter, again you’ll find some biggies in my field, and if you look at who is following me, well, quite often they are! And if I don’t have all the super important people in my area following me on Twitter, I do have a list of people following me who are interested in what I do, whether they are academics in the strictest sense or not.
If my book proposal appeals to a commissioning editor and they look at my CV, they’ll find plenty of direct links to my website which will instantly point them to anywhere else I hang out online. Then they can see that not only am I demonstrably linked to my academic community and beyond, but that if they publish me, I’ve got several hundred people I can direct market my book to straight away.
So features we’ll be rolling out in the section on self-promotion are guides and advice on how to set up accounts and use them to build your author platform online. In the mean time, if you have any questions you’d like to ask to get the ball rolling, contact us and we’ll find the answers for you. Alternatively, a great way to start is by writing articles for websites – even if you don’t have a website of your own – so feel free to use PhD2Published as the perfect place to kick-start (or advance) your self-promotion, and write us an article! And if you can’t think what to write about, we’ll even help you with that – just get in touch!