Hi! Lisa here and I recently asked our participating wonder-agents:
How important is an online platform when considering a new author?
And here are their answers:
Suzie Townsend from New Leaf Literary
I represent fiction so the most important thing to me is whether I love the book. I do, however, like to see that an author has some kind of online presence, whether it's twitter, tumblr, a blog, etc. The platform doesn't necessarily matter and neither do the number of followers, but I want to see that they're actively involved with social media in some way.
Sara Megibow from the Nelson Agency
For me, seeing that a prospective client has a positive online platform before considering them for representation is important. If that prospective client has no online platform whatsoever (which is, frankly, rare in this day and age), this is not a deal-breaker. However, if I cyber-stalk someone and their Fabebook page or twitter account or blog is particularly negative toward publishing, then I will pass on asking for a full manuscript. "Why would anyone be negative online while hunting for an agent,” you ask? Frankly I don’t know, but I’ve seen it two or three times in the past year and moved straight along to the next submission.
The next logical answer is, “what do you mean by positive online platform?” and my answer is simple - an inexpensive or free website that has a short author bio, maybe a headshot, and a paragraph that talks about the book (or books). In addition, I find that many prospective clients have either a twitter account or a blog. Again, having no online presence isn’t a deal-breaker, but having a negative one is.”
Jordy Albert from the Booker Albert Literary Agency
I think an online platform is important because it allows reader to interact with authors, and find new readers. An online platform also gives us a glimpse at the author(s) personality.
Sarah LaPolla from Bradford Literary Agency
For non-fiction, "platform" is very important. But since I don't represent non-fiction, I'll speak only to what I consider for fiction authors. The story and the writing are what matter most. Sure, it's great if the author mentions their 500K Twitter followers and connections to famous authors. Do I care if they can't offer that? Absolutely not. Sometimes I don't even care if they do offer that. I like asking about Twitter after I offer representation because I think Twitter can be a great tool for new authors. It's not a necessity though, and certainly not a prerequisite. All it is is a nice bonus, and no one should really expect or demand a bonus. That's why it's considered something *extra.* Whether you have 3 followers or 3,000 followers, all that matters to me is if I loved your book and think you'd be great to work with. Big online platforms don't really impress me if I don't already connect with the writing. Nor do I think marketing should automatically be the job of the author. Enough publicity falls on the author these days as it is. That's just the way of the industry now, particularly for debut authors who don't get as much money toward publicity. That said, if a publisher or an agent relies on one person's Twitter account or Facebook page as the primary marketing tool, that's a problem. I wouldn't trust an agent who doesn't put the novel or the writer ahead of "presence."
Thanks to all of the above agents for their input!