Platform is a big word in publishing. Seriously, it’s a critical component of getting a book sold. It’s so important, in fact, that many experts recommend that you start to build your platform long before you’re ready to submit your book for publication.
What is an author’s platform? It’s what helps sell your book. Need a better explanation? An author’s platform is the way you reach readers. It’s a network, and it’s notoriety. It’s exposure.
Sound scary? It can seem that way! The good thing is that to build a successful author’s platform, you don’t need to be a celebrity or even have fame. What you need is an angle, a gimmick if you will, that helps you reach out to your target readers and promote your book. Without much help from your publisher.
Here’s how to start building your author’s platform right now, even if you’re still in the rough draft stages of your first book (which is, incidentally, one of the best times to start!).
Who Is Your Audience?
It doesn’t matter if your book is great enough to be the next breakout novel and speaks to everyone. It may speak to every reader on the planet – but you don’t have the money to market to everyone. Instead of trying to reach a massive audience that breaks genre lines, focus on the readers most likely to love your writing.
An example: If you’re writing the next genre-bending novel that combines fantasy with the most sizzling romance ever read, you’ve got a huge audience to cater to. The number of readers who may become totally enthralled with your writing is huge – but you can’t convince them of that, they need to find out themselves. So, instead of trying to reach all of them, pick one aspect of your writing that is the most strong. In this example, we’ll go with the sizzling romance aspect. You would target your platform to romance readers. But it’s not all about romance, so you can spice it up with the fantasy aspects.
What this means is that you’re focusing in on the area that will do you the most good, have the strongest impact. Just because you’re focused on the strongest impact doesn’t mean that the other aspects of your message will fall to the wayside. Other people will get the message.
How Do You Reach Your Audience?
At one time, this would have been the most frustrating step in existence when you built an author’s platform. It’s likely part of the reason why publishers didn’t put such an emphasis on platform as they do now – it wasn’t easily possible, unless you had the fame and celebrity ties.
Thanks to the power of the Internet, you have unlimited options. You can use the Internet to communicate with your audience in ways that are free or nearly-free. What this means is that you can establish yourself as an expert, someone who has the standing to be read.
Let’s go back to our fantasy-slash-sizzling-romance example. You might consider yourself an expert in the field of writing romance because you’ve read so many romance books (this really does matter!) and taken many courses on how to write in the genre. By using the Internet to your advantage, though, you can become a visible expert – someone with credibility.
So what options should you look at? Blogs can get tons of attention, if they’re constantly updated and loaded with worthwhile information. Some authors begin building a platform online through radio shows or podcasts – which are completely free, if you work through an established group. Newsletters are also a great way to go, if you have your own website … which is yet another really valuable step to establishing a platform. If you go the route of a blog or website, make sure to get a domain name that is your name. Don’t try to go for something clever – it will help you tons later on.
Some author’s websites to look at? Diana Gabaldon is now a New York Times bestselling novelist, and her official website is the perfect look at what an author’s platform can be: www.dianagabaldon.com. Another really great author is Jacqueline Carey. Her very first book became a best-seller, and she continues to use her website, www.jacquelinecarey.com, as a great author’s platform. Breakout novelists leverage the web, too! Check out www.danbrown.com to view the author of The Da Vinci Code’s website.
Start Publishing Now
If you’re going to communicate with your audience, you need to … well … communicate with your audience. What this means is that you need to start getting your words – your thoughts, opinions, advice, etc. – out where people can read it and become familiar with you as an author. That’s what platform is all about – communication, and publicity.
Basically, you’re marketing yourself. When a publisher buys your book, they’re buying a complete package that includes the book, you, and the platform you’ve built. Major publishers don’t put a lot of time and money into midlist books, which is (depressing as it may seem) where 99% of us will start out. What they want to know, then, is that you can reach readers on your own.
So get started reaching them. Via a website, an article directory, magazines, or content sites like AC, let people start to know you. Present yourself as you are, let them see you as a person, and get a chance to like your writing. After all, each of us are more likely to spend money on someone we like – especially if we feel that we kind of “know” them.