Monday, February 07, 2011

Platform vs. Credentials

This was originally posted in the nonfiction forum I moderate on AgentQuery Connect. I thought I'd share it here. Comments are always welcome.

While reading through agent blogs recently, I came upon a wonderful distinction that sums up quite well one of the challenges that frustrates writers of nonfiction: Platform vs. Credentials.

For example, say you're the president of a small company that produces widgets. You started in the field as unpaid internship in widget making, got a full-time job after graduating widget school, and worked your way up the ranks to be chief widget operator and finally president. You're a big wig in your little widget world. Congrats. You have credentials.

But do you have platform? Not necessarily.

You're running a small regional operation that until recently was struggling to make payroll, remains virtually unknown outside of the widget world, and makes decent widgets but is not recognized as an innovator. To make matters worse, you cancelled your subscription to Widget World Times ten years ago. I mean, who does that?

You don't have a great platform. As far as the widget world is concerned, you're a dinosaur. In fact, if it weren't for your son, you might be facing difficult decisions about the future of your little company.

Your son, who you hired a year ago after he earned his masters in widget management even though he followed at your heels since he was a kid, not only gets a subscription to Widget World Times, he's been quoted dozens of times in its competitor publications and has a column in the Widget Gazette. In addition, his blog,, is quickly becoming a must-read for the widget cognoscenti. Not only does he boast of his hundreds of blog followers, his frequent Twitter posts get retweeted regularly by the 4200+ followers he has there. And comments? Jeez, he pays your teenage son $10 a week (and supplies him with a six-pack of beer on occasion -- but you didn't hear that from me) to moderate the comments on Widgetwatcher.

Your son is developing a strong platform. If he can help you grow that company, then his platform becomes even stronger. Because he doesn't quite have the credentials yet. Maybe you and he could write a book together.

Does that help?


TK Richardson said...

Matt, this is a great post. Thanks for sharing such good information. :)

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks so much. You're too kind.

Caroline Hagood said...

It's so true that credentials are not enough anymore. You do need the platform. I'm pretty sure you can't even sell a book anymore without an online platform to ensure publicity and sales (if there are any such assurances anymore). It's a daunting world out there. I recently read an interesting article on female self promotion on Jezebel (!5754083/ballad-of-the-female-self-promoter). I think the real question of the internet-age-writer is how to promote yourself (platform and all) without becoming insufferable.

Matt Sinclair said...

A tough balancing act, I'm sure. I may be quite insufferable already and I keep pushing it up to 11.

Angela Ackerman said...

I would love to see your thoughts about the other side of the fence...a marketable concept, a great platform...but no credentials...yet.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Matt Sinclair said...

An excellent idea, Angela. I'll do that. I have a post in the works about the changing nature of readers' expectations over time, but I intend to do a lot more related to nonfiction in 2011. Thanks for your visit and your comment. I hope you return often!

Angela Ackerman said...

Great--looking forward to it. :)

Angela@ The Bookshelf Muse

Matt Sinclair said...

Stay tuned! I expect to post the aforementioned item this weekend, and I'll get cracking on your suggestion right after that. I already have some thoughts running rampant through my brain on it. Thanks again!