An Author Platform is one of the most difficult concepts to explain, partly because everyone defines it a little differently. But one thing that Goldilocks knows for sure is that publishers and literary agents are attracted to authors who have this thing called a “Platform.”
So what exactly is an author platform?
The publishing professionals are looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.
Let’s break this down further…
-Who knows you?
-Who is aware of your work?
-Where does your work regularly appear?
-How many people see it?
-How and where does it spread?
-What communities are you a part of?
-Who do you influence?
-What are the sources of your credibility?
-What are your credentials?
(This is particularly important for nonfiction writers but it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role.)
- Proven reach
It’s not enough to SAY you have visibility. You have to show where you make an impact and give proof of engagement. This could be quantitative evidence…
For example, (size of your E-Mail newsletter list, Website traffic, blog comments) or qualitative evidence (high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre).
- Target audience
You should be visible to the most receptive or appropriate audience for the work you’re trying to sell.
For instance, if you have visibility, authority, and proven reach to orthodontists, that probably won’t be helpful if you’re marketing vampire fiction (unless perhaps you’re writing about a vampire orthodontist who repairs crooked vampire fangs?).
An Author Platform is not about…
-Hard selling and annoying people
-Being an extrovert or the fact that you are active on social media and have a blog
-Your qualifications, authority, or experience, although these are tools for growing or nurturing a platform.
-Something you create overnight or a onetime event
-An item that you can buy
-More important than your story or message (but hopefully it grows out of that)
Bottom Line: An Author Platform isn’t about bringing attention to yourself, or by screaming to everyone you can find Online or offline, “Look at me! Look at me!”
In essence, it’s not about who yells the loudest or who markets the best.
Rather the focus is more about putting in consistent effort over the course of your career, and making incremental improvements in extending your network. Also it is about making waves that attract other people to you, not about begging others to pay attention.
How Important Is an Author Platform When Seeking a Traditional Publishing Deal?
This concept has taken on an astoundingly important role when it comes to whether or not a writer will get a traditional publishing contract and it’s equally important to self-published authors who are serious about their writing careers.
The rise of the author platform as an industry obsession is a relatively new phenomenon. While industry folks may argue that it has always mattered, today it’s more important than ever before. A huge shift has transpired in the past decade when it comes to what agents and editors weigh when deciding what projects to represent or publish and in some cases an author’s star quality matters more than the book itself.
Remember this, when a traditional publishing house gives you a contract, after the initial book launch you are expected to pick up the ball and run with it and work to promote your baby. This is something that a lot of authors don’t understand about choosing the traditional publishing path. Obviously, if you decide to independently publish your work the responsibility for getting the word out there about your book release is solely in your corner.
Fiction Writers Need an Author Platform
Developing an Author Platform isn’t just for nonfiction writers although it is less important for fiction authors.
You may think that your area of expertise matters little to the novel you’re writing, but is that really true?
For instance, suppose that you are an infectious disease specialist and you are writing a thriller whose central focus is on a terrorist that uses a legally obtained Ebola virus samples to infect a whole city, your expertise is very important. Also of importance would be your contacts in the medical field.
Fiction authors are scrutinized for the other aspects of a platform as well as those described for nonfiction writers.
Contacts, previous books and media connections, social media presence, readership and the ability to execute.
It may take getting a book or two under your belt to grow a readership (which is why there’s a case for novelists to kick off their own careers through Independent (INDIE) publishing), but no, you’re not off the hook.
What activities build a good author platform?
The following list is not exhaustive, but helps give you an idea of how your platform can grow.
-Publishing or distributing quality work in outlets you want to be identified with and that your target audience reads.
-Producing a body of work on your own digital presence…
Blog, E-Mail newsletter, social network, podcast, video, and digital downloads, etc.
that gathers quality followers. This is usually a long-term process.
-Speaking at and/or attending events where you meet new people and extend your network of contacts.
-Finding meaningful ways to engage with and develop your target audience, whether through content, events, online marketing/promotion, etc.
-Partnering with peers or influencers to tackle a new project and/or extend your visibility
Some people have an easier time building an author platform than others. You will be lucky if you…
-Hold a highly recognized position (powerful network and influence)
-Know key influencers (friends in high places)
-Are associated with powerful Online communities or hold prestigious degrees
This is why it’s so easy for celebrities to get book deals. They have a “built-in” platform.
Platform Building Is Not One Size Fits All
It’s an organic process and will be different for every single author. There is no checklist Goldilocks can give you to develop a platform, because it depends on your…
- Unique story/message
- Special strengths and qualities
- Target readership
Your platform should be as much of a creative exercise/project as the work you produce. While it gives you power to market effectively, it’s not something you develop by posting “Follow me!” on Twitter or “Like me!” on Facebook a few times a week. Use your imagination, and take meaningful steps. It’ll be a long journey.
Goldilocks does provide very detailed descriptions of several examples of platform building activities in her…
Building your author platform is a process
If you’re a writer who wants to publish in any capacity, an author platform can be a difficult thing to wrap your mind around. What’s expected of you can feel overwhelming, if not insurmountable. In addition to teaching and writing about platforms, Goldilocks is growing her own, so she empathizes with the glazed-over looks she sometimes gets from authors who ask her questions like…
Do you have to do all of this vast platform building to be successful?
The key is to take it slow. For writers who are just beginning, it can feel like you’re coming really late to a party that’s been going on for years and that’s in essence exactly what’s happening.
Just look at someone who has thousands upon thousands of Twitter followers, it’s likely they have been building those numbers over several years at best.
Remember that what you bring to the table already just by being you, comprises a large part of the pie…expertise, personality, and ability to execute
With this you at least have a foundation, and possibly, with the right project, enough to land a deal. But most authors need to start to layer on the rest of the components in order to prove to a publishing house that they’re worth a bet. No matter how good they think your book might be, if an editorial board can’t justify its sales potential, they simply won’t offer you a contract.
Here is another thing to think about, getting rejections is often not about how good your book is, or whether it deserves to be published. It’s more a situation of publishers weighing whether they think they can sell thousands of copies of your book, a tall order for any author.
Your platform is an engine working for you to meet that goal, and all you can do is to keep growing it, a day at a time. At the end of the day, none of this is science. Some authors receive many rejections before landing that coveted publishing contract.
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Goldilocks shows you in great detail some of the more important platform building activities in her…
In addition, a lot of the parts and pieces are needed for one of the components of a Nonfiction Book Proposal which is your Book Marketing Plan. Take a look at her methodology/process for composing this promotion plan.
You will also see a template for composing your fiction book marketing plan which is not generally required with the submission of your Fiction Query Letter but is important to have on hand to present to a traditional book publisher. Here are the links to both of these documents…
Goldilocks is here to help you to prepare your Book Marketing Plan, just reach out to her…
E-Mail her: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pick up the phone: 914-944-1474
Goldilocks Wishes You Success Building Your Author Promotional Platform!