Simply put, an author platform is a pool of potential book buyers, people to whom you are connected in some manner and who have cause to purchase your book.
It’s a good idea to know who might buy your book. This is market research you should do before starting to write. It’s even better if you already have a large pool of people who recognize your name and expertise, and with whom you communicate on a regular basis, making them more likely to purchase one of your books. An established platform makes authors more attractive to traditional publishers, but is essential for self-publishers.
Authors who have a platform but no book are in good stead. (If you are writing a book but don’t yet have a platform, don’t panic. Just finish writing. I’ll get back to you in a minute.) In fact, having an established platform is a good reason to write a book in the first place, because your followers are eager to hear more from you. Publishing a book is an opportunity for you to expand your business or perhaps branch into a new field.
Where or what is your platform? Here are some examples:
- People who follow your blog, where you post on a regular basis.
- Your subscribers to your podcasts or videos.
- You are considered an expert in your field; your clients and potential clients would be considered a platform.
- You are a regular speaker at events in your field; conference attendees are a platform.
- You run webinars on a particular topic and have become somewhat of an expert in the eyes of your fans.
- Subscribers who have signed up to your email subscription list and with whom you communicate regularly via a newsletter, for example.
- You are a regular contributor to magazines or journals in your area of expertise and therefore have some name recognition.
- Your name appears in the media because you’re a go-to person for various topics or your activities are reported to the public (this is why celebrities are able to publish books!).
Bottom line: Assess your standing in your genre, industry, or area of expertise and consider how many people recognize your name, value your thoughts, or would enjoy your personal story enough to purchase your book.
Social media is a platform, but a thousand followers on Twitter or five hundred Facebook friends do not make a solid platform upon which to sell a book. Unless your social media following is based upon something concrete that you have created, such as a blog or a business, your followers may not know you or be vested in you enough to purchase your book.
An author who is working on a book but doesn’t yet have a platform—perhaps he or she is trying to break into a new field—should start nurturing an audience now. Don’t wait until the book is finished! Here are some tips:
- Well before the book is published, create a website.
- Plan a series of blog posts, podcasts, and/or videos that can be posted at regular intervals on your site.
- Include a “subscribe” box on your website. There are courses on the Internet that teach you how to build your email list and how to best use it to your advantage.
- Send your subscribers regular communiqués via an email marketing program such as Mailchimp.
- Publish short papers as free downloads from your website. These papers provide more samples of your writing and evidence of your expertise.
- Find opportunities to be a speaker on a webinar or at a conference.
- Be a guest blogger on someone else’s blog.
- Create your social media accounts and build a following there, remembering that you need some substantial content for people to share (i.e., your blog, videos, links to webinars, etc.).
Before long, you should start to notice people following you, visiting and commenting on your blog, and joining your subscription list. Your platform is starting to grow!
Most importantly, make platform-building part of your marketing plan before you start your book. Think about what size of platform you might need to meet your sales goals, and then make an honest assessment of your current platform and what you must do to develop it in time for your book launch.