I can imagine many people wincing or furrowing their brows when I ask these questions:
- What is your platform?
- How many people do you speak to each year? Each week?
- What magazine articles have you written?
- What television or radio interviews have you done recently?
- Do you blog, and have you ever done a blog tour?
- How many people have opted in to your mailing list?
- How many friends do you have on FaceBook?
- How many followers do you have on Twitter?
- How many people are you connected with on LinkedIn?
Don’t feel alone, even people who have “a platform” and are working on it are concerned and sometimes embarrassed when asked these questions. So what does it all mean, and how is it important to you as an author?
First, a better understanding of what we mean by your platform. It can be confusing, especially when one Googles it and reads that it is “A raised level surface on which people or things can stand.” One of the very best definitions of a platform as it relates to an author is from Jane Friedman, the former publisher of Writer’s Digest. Here’s how she defines it:
When editors, agents, and publishers are looking for someone with a platform, “They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.”
She goes further with this expansion on what she means:
- Who knows you? Who is aware of your work?
- Where does your work regularly appear?
- How many people see it? How does it spread?
- Where does it spread?
- What communities are you a part of?
- Who do you influence?
- Where do you make waves?
- What’s your credibility?
- What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role.)
- 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 (e.g., size of your e-mail newsletter list, website traffic, blog comments) or qualitative.
- Evidence (high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre).
- 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?).
The entire blog post is worth reading and can be found at: http://janefriedman.com/2012/03/13/author-platform-definition/
Can you see that Jane Friedman just grew her platform by writing such an informative blog post?
If you do not have a large platform, this is where you can become totally discouraged, but don’t. There is hope! Many authors discover that traditional publishers especially almost require the author to have an extensive platform, and someone who is self-publishing is in denial if they think they can sell books without creating one. Authors sometimes feel like they don’t have the time or money to write their book(s), blog, do social networking, speak, do interviews and everything else that goes into their platform.
It is at this point of discouragement that well-placed advice from experienced authors and professionals becomes advisable. While it is important to be building one’s platform concurrently while creating one’s book, unless an author has deep pockets, selecting the most effective techniques and media for platform creation are critical.
There are countless people who spend hours on social media because they enjoy it or have been told to, when it is not always done in an effective way to build their audience and followers.
One of the biggest mistakes an author can make is to focus solely on writing a book, and totally ignoring the issue of their platform until it is done. In fact, spreading the word about what you are writing, getting input and ideas, and building anticipation can be a great way to build your audience.
Be sure to opt-in to the email list of Bob Bare, the founder of SEGR Enterprises, to stay abreast of new ideas, articles, workshops, and conferences that will help you build your platform as an integrated part of your journey as an author.