Where Did It Start?
Back in the day, people used to go to the main town square where people with ideas would stand on boxes and shout their ideas out into the crowd. These were the first platforms and while today we don’t use literal soap boxes and platforms to hawk our ideas and goods, we still need a modern day equivalent. Today, authors are expected to have platforms from which they can market their books.
Why is it Important?
An authors platform is your influence over a particular readership, your ability to sell your own work. Even with traditional publishing, you will be expected to help market and sell your own book. As an author, you should begin building your platform perhaps even before you begin writing your book. Having a platform is important because it shows that you’re a team player, it gives you an important piece to add to your book proposal, shows you see it as your job to get the word out on your own – that you expect to be an active participant in promoting and speaking about your book. But what does a platform look like?
An Idealized Platform
An ideal platform is a national one, one that covers the entire US or all of Germany. It’s when you speak at least once a month or more all around the nation in the hundreds or thousands. An ideal platform also usually includes a media component – you host a radio show, show up regularly on a morning television broadcast, are wildly popular on Youtube. With an ideal platform you also have connections to media outlets and publicists. In general, an ideal platform means that your name will be recognized by hundreds of thousands of people and will have personal connections you can leverage for publicity.
A Realistic Platform
And while it’s nice to dream about having such a platform, not all of us can be Oprah. What can you do to start building a platform? Try to develop a local following via Twitter, Facebook, a website, or even a blog. Show that you have way to connect with your target audience. Reach out to your local libraries, synagogues, colleges, or community centers and off to speak on a topic related to your book or to writing in general. Do this regularly. Try to show you have some media savviness, either as a guest on a local radio or even a podcast. Submit regularly to local, regional, or even national literary magazines or newspapers that run a section for short stories or poetry. Don’t forget to leverage your social media – use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, Goodreads, your own website!
Eventually, you can build on this by grow the target audience you are connected to, perhaps become even regionally known – such as a western novelist becoming well known via western literary magazines through their short stories and have a regular following of readers who are looking for more. From your local speaking experience you can try to leverage for panel discussions at conferences or to be a speaker at a conference. An interview on a podcast might turn into a tour of author interviews on a series of podcasts and Youtube channels.
One small pebble can often be responsible for starting the avalanche. Don’t be afraid to start small and build your platform slowly. Just be certain that you put yourself out there. Don’t forget your book proposal will need to be specific as possible on all the ways you as an author plan to reach your target market; having an author platform already in place will help you define exactly how you plan to do that.
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