where the writers are
What is an Author's Platform and How Do You Build One?

The majority of people who come to me for help with their nonfiction book proposals have one issue in common: They have nothing to fill the platform section of the proposal. This may seem a small problem. After all, it’s just one part of the proposal and has nothing to do with having a good idea or being able to write well. In actuality, this section of a nonfiction proposal can mean the difference between getting an agent or publishing contract or being turned away. Plus, when an aspiring author wants to approach agents and publishers ASAP, having done nothing to begin building an author’s platform poses a large problem. Platforms are not built over night.

This post marks the beginning of a series of posts about how to build your author’s platform. I’ll be talking about concrete things you can do little by little. Most aspiring authors cringe at the thought of having to do anything—and so they don’t. You must begin now, though…before you begin writing your book, almost before you feel ready to begin a book, before you ever approach an agent or a publisher with a proposal or a finished manuscript.

I could have sold a book the first time I tired if I’d had a platform, but I didn’t. The agents sent me off regretfully—yes, regretfully. They told me to approach small publishers. Even the small publishers told me to go build platform.

Why? Because a platform ensures readership for a book. Few, if any publishers want to take a chance on a book—especially a book by a new writer—who doesn’t have a built-in readership.

As Julia Andrews sang in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning…” What is a platform? As I indicated, it’s your built in readership. It’s all the people who know and love you and your work, whatever that might be, and who are ready and waiting to buy your book when it is released.

What does a platform consist of? It consists of a large mailing list, huge numbers of followers on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, impressive numbers of blog readers and visitors to your website, an active speaking schedule, a popular podcast, radio or television show, and numerous appearances on radio and television shows, as well as sizeable groups of people who attend your talks, teleseminars, workshops, etc. It can consist of one of these elements or a combination of these elements.

How do you build a sturdy platform? By attracting people to sign up for your mailing list with a popular newsletter, participating in social networks, blogging, having a web presence, speaking, hosting a show, appearing on radio and television shows, and offering talks, teleseminars, workshops, etc. To build a platform you must do something other than write, although many of these activities involve writing.

Today, think about which of these platform-building elements appeal to you. Which ones might you be willing to take on and work at daily or weekly? Which ones could form the foundation upon which you will stand when you launch your book into the world?

Tomorrow, we’ll begin looking at each of these elements in more depth.