Author Platform: How to Get Started

First things first, what is an author platform, and why is it important? An author platform is the quantifiable reach writers have in relation to their target audience.

For instance, an author of cookbooks might have a TV show and be CEO of a cooking school that hand sells cookbooks to its students. These are quantifiable, because the author in question already has this connection to her target audience.

Speaking helps platform.

An author platform is not the measure of what you’d be willing to do to reach your audience. That is, a platform can’t include all the guest posts you will write, all the interviews you will have. Platform is past and present tense (with more emphasis placed on present tense).

So why is an author platform important?

The main reason an author platform is so important is the changing dynamic of the publishing and media business. Publishing has always been a business. Publishers have always needed to create more profits than losses to stay in business.

With smaller margins than ever before in publishing, publishers are hungry for “sure things,” which translates into authors who already have a strong platforms they can use to help sell books in conjunction with the efforts of the publisher. That’s not being cold-hearted or anti-author, it’s just what needs to happen for publishers to keep making new books.

Does the writing itself matter?

Of course, it matters more than ever. There’s so much competition that books really need to transform lives, entertain readers, and deliver an incredible experience (whether it’s happy, sad, serious, or humorous). So don’t confuse building a platform with ignoring the writing.

Here’s an equation for writer success:

Great Book + Strong Platform = Publishing Bliss

That “publishing bliss” is for the writer, publisher, and ultimately the readers.

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How do I start building an author platform?

If you’re starting from scratch, then you really need to step back and think about your goals, your strengths, and your weaknesses. These will help you figure out the best way to start developing your platform immediately. Remember: Author platform is a career-building exercise, not a month-long project (though I do have a 30-day platform building challenge available here) or even year-long endeavor.

After you address yourself, here are some things you can do to start building your platform:

  • Start a blog or website. Or a website with a blog. This is a great and, in the case of blogging, often free way to start connecting with your target audience (here are some blogging tips). That said, writers should…
  • Create social media profiles. Getting on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads are a good start, but real traction won’t start to be felt until you try making real connections with other writers, publishing professionals, and your target audience–not to sell stuff, but to make connections.
  • Get out to live events. Before social networking, there was real face-to-face networking, and it’s just as relevant today as it’s ever been. When you connect social networking with live networking, then you’ll find opportunities like never before. Before doing so, make some business cards to distribute.
  • Get involved. This might mean joining a group or two. It might entail starting up a reading or writing group. It could mean creating a challenge that you can either lead and/or face with others.

 

Author Platform: Cautions

Every expert has a different view on platforms, so take my advice and hold them up to the light. There are a few things I’d like to caution writers against doing in relation with their platform building.

First, don’t treat it as a platform for a specific project. Platform building should be about building the author. In fact, I think the term “author platform” is a little limiting. In my own efforts for the “Robert Lee Brewer” brand, I think of it as building an “expert platform,” who can write books, teach courses, judge contests, speak at events, etc.

Anyway, the effort spent on building a platform shouldn’t be wasted once a project is finished. Focus on your career, not a specific project. Each project has a place within your platform.

Second, avoid treating your platform as just a marketing tool. Sure, the point of building and organizing an author platform is to quantify your reach to a publisher, but that doesn’t mean you should tweet all your followers on Twitter five times a day to buy your book. It doesn’t mean you abandon the writing in pursuit of 5,000 Facebook friends. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is to keep your perspective (and commonsense) in building a platform.

You can build a platform, and you can get started today. Start by taking a step back to identify who you are, what are your strengths and weaknesses, and ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish?” Good luck!

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Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

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