Build a Following Friday: The Why
With the advent of the internet and the economic realities that have caused publishers to place a higher value on an author's personal platform, just about every author knows that she needs a following of some kind. Many authors, however, don't know why they need an author platform. Are publishers unable to promote authors themselves? Are they too cheap to promote books?
Publishers are plenty able to promote authors themselves, and good ones certainly are not cheap. Publishing a good book is quite expensive. Think about it this way: if you were a Vice President at a Fortune 500 company, would you hire the guy with a law degree and an MBA or the guy without one? Publishers can afford to be picky. The really successful ones like the Big Five NYC Publishers can afford to be very, very picky, and that's their prerogative.
Sending a query letter is very much like sending a resume. Your synopsis is your portfolio, and your publishing history, bio, and platform information is the resume itself. Employeers will look for people with experience and a proven track record of success. Publishers will do the same. Both will look for people who can present themselves and their lives well. They want people. They don't want robots or people so boring that they could be mistaken for robots. And ultimately, employeers look for what sets a candidate apart from all of the others. In a publisher's case, she will look for who has the best platform most of them time.
That is why a platform is so important. It shows that you are willing to put in the extra effort and have extra skills that are very useful. It's not that publishers are unqualified to market books or are total cheapskates. They're looking for someone special. Give them someone special by investing some time into learning how to build an effective platform then doing it!