Veteran Write Naked contributor Dorit Sasson is back! Last time Dorit interviewed author/freelancer Hope Clark on writing income advice. Today, Dorit (whose memoir is a finalist for multiple awards) is back with another interview. This time we have a literary agent (who represents memoirists) explain why she doesn’t singularly consider a writer’s platform when selecting authors.
Interview With Junior Agent Saba Sulaiman:
Importance of Writer’s Platform
By Dorit Sasson
In today’s digital age, promotion means online promotion, having a social media presence, a website, followers and fans. A platform is a tool used for promotion. It’s a way to sell yourself as an expert and to sell the products, books or services that you have to offer. It’s a method for publicity and a way of branding yourself.
Agents nowadays look for evidence of an author’s platform to evaluate whether authors have a strong enough reach with their target audience to sell books. However, some agents, like Saba Sulaiman, a junior agent with Talcott Notch Literary Services, do not necessarily evaluate an author’s writing on the basis of platform alone. The following interview clarifies some of the issues involved in building an author’s platform particularly in the genres of fiction and non-fiction.
Write Naked: How important is one’s platform for a fiction writer when seeking agent representation? How is this different for a non-fiction writer?
Saba Sulaiman: Platform is not important at all for a fiction writer — at least, it shouldn’t be! It’s all about the writing quality, which should speak for itself. Non-fiction, however, is a different story altogether. We always encourage budding non-fiction authors to build a platform from which readers can perceive them to be the absolute authority on their subject matter. Otherwise, there’s little to no reason for readers to either be interested in, or to trust what these authors have to say. If it’s a memoir, platform can help tremendously, but it’s not as important, because the author’s unique life experiences may be enough to make the memoir marketable. But even so, having a strong social media presence and getting their writing published somewhat regularly will definitely help them build an audience.
WN: How sizeable does a platform need to be – are the numbers the driving force or is there something else you are looking for?
SS: It’s always difficult to determine the size of one’s platform. Sure, you can count how many Twitter followers someone has, or how many hits her website gets, but these numbers don’t necessarily translate well into book sales. As an agent, I personally look for memorability — how much does the person stand out? How refreshing will her take on her subject be? Yes, the numbers help sell the project, and they definitely do matter — but I think in an age when it’s relatively simple to build a large enough following without having any particularly unique perspective to share, I try to evaluate the person’s particular appeal, especially given that the market for memoir (which is the only kind of non-fiction I work on) is so crowded.
WN: Brooke Warner, publisher of She Writes Press, represents an author platform with the following visual. Do you agree with this? How is this visual representation similar or different when you’re evaluating proposals from prospective authors – either published or unpublished?
SS: So I work in memoir only (and a little bit of humor), so I rarely look at proposals. I look for stellar writing, a gripping, memorable voice, and a story worth sharing with the rest of the world. Yes, platform counts, and this visual looks like a pretty reasonable metric for evaluating one — but I prefer to consider my authors on a case-by-case basis. If I believe in the author and her project, I might give it some thought, even if her platform needs work. If her platform is stellar but her writing needs some work, I might pass on it. Or I might not. It really depends on how I feel about the project, and whether or not I think I’m the best agent for it.
Dorit Sasson is the founder of Giving Voice to Your Courage podcast and website. She supports heart-centered business owners and authors build visibility and increase engagement as thought leaders. Her groundbreaking memoir Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces is a finalist for the next Generation Indie Book Awards and Santa Fe Literary Awards and is also a widely read handbook on how to become more courageous in life.