Building Your Author Platform: What, When, and Why

With the new trends in publishing, especially the independent (indie) publishing revolution, creating and maintaining an author platform is more important than ever. If you plan to publish via the traditional route, building an author platform is a huge plus, as publishing houses love it when an author can bring his/her own readers and guarantee some sales. If you intend to indie publish, establishing a reputation for yourself and cultivating a readership is 100% necessary to your survival (and profitability). An author platform is the best way to do this.

What exactly is an author platform?

platformThink of your author platform like your personal soapbox. It is the raised crate on which you stand and shout your proclamations to the busy street of passerby. In less metaphoric terms, it is anywhere and everywhere you have a presence and a voice and display your brand. (Yes, you are a brand from the second you step into the public domain.)

Today, author platforms are mostly online. The core components of a virtual author platform are: an author website, a blog, an email newsletter, and social media accounts as well as all the content featured in these places. However, author platforms can also encompass “real-world” engagements, such as speaking events and services you offer.

The last main aspect of your author platform is your products, your books. Some authors do not think of their books as part of their platform, because generally a platform is considered places where the author engages with readers, networks, and markets. But think about this: what shows your brand and speaks to your readers more than your books? They definitely count.

When should I start building my author platform?

Now. I would say yesterday, but unless you have access to the TARDIS, that probably won’t happen.

I am going to assume that, if you have read this far into this article, you are serious about being a published author and making a career for yourself. If not, no big deal — you can take as long as you want to decide. However, the moment you decide, 100%, that being a published author is your goal, start your platform.

Things you need to start an author platform:

  • The desire to be a published author
  • The drive to make it happen, one way or another
  • Access to the internet
  • Working knowledge of the internet, social media, and the publishing industry
  • A pen name (either your real name or a pseudonym)

Things you DON’T need to start an author platform:

  • A finished book
  • Any other publications
  • Readers

That’s right — you don’t need a book when you start. I began my author platform in August 2014. I started a blog, created every social media account I wanted to use, and put myself out there in the indie community. I wrote my book in November 2014, and as of the writing of this article, it still isn’t published. But do you know what I have now?

  • A community of writer friends who support me
  • (Growing) authority as a blogger and indie author
  • Loyal followers who intend to buy my book when it is released
  • Non-writer connections in the indie publishing industry (editors, podcasters, designers)
  • The support, knowledge, and confidence to make my dreams come true

If you don’t have a book written or published yet, you may feel a bit intimidated by starting an author platform. Who are you, a wannabe author, to get in public and talk about your unwritten book and spout writing advice? You’re youYou have a unique, valuable perspective to offer. Don’t feel silly or un-entitled. Stop asking for permission. Just do what feels authentic and others will appreciate you. I promise.

Why should I build an author platform?

Just in case you skipped to this part, here is a quick list of the reasons:

  • You will meet other writers to help and support you.
  • You will meet a few readers who will be ready to buy your book when it is finally released.
  • You will make connections with other publishing industry professionals.
  • As an indie author, if you do not have an online presence, it will be nearly impossible for readers to find you and your books.
  • As a hopeful traditionally-published author, an author platform will gather readers and connections that will make your more attractive to agents and traditional publishers.

If you are an established author, this article is probably old news to you. But, if you are a new author, or simply a writer interested in pursuing publication one day, building your author platform may be the farthest thing from your mind. Don’t let it be. If you have the desire, drive, and dedication to pursue being a published author, you will succeed at it eventually. And having an author platform will make it 100x easier.


Resources

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt – You can read my review here.

Developing an Online Presence with Lindsay Buroker – The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast – This is an older episode, but still relevant. If you don’t listen to Simon, you should.

A Definition of Author Platform by Jane Friedman – This is a slightly different take than mine (I still agree with her) and much more geared to the traditional publishing route.


This post is the first in a series on building an author platform. Check out the Author Platform category page for related topics. 

How are you creating your author platform? What questions do you have about an author platform? What related topics would you like me to discuss?

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34 thoughts on “Building Your Author Platform: What, When, and Why

  1. Amanda Richter says:

    It’s so scary to just….jump into creating your on-line platform/presence, but so necessary. I have trouble not putting the horse before the carriage, but at the end of the day I would rather have done things out of order than not at all. Once you get started it’s amazing how much motivation you can draw just from doing it. It’s kind of fun too. Looking forward to the rest of this series, your advice, and tackling some of those resources.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Matthew Stott says:

    Yup, super important. I’ve been attempting to do this but haven’t been doing it consistently as of yet, or really decided what to blog about, or what not to blog about..! Think I’ll settle on a mix of pieces about writing and just general comment about what interests me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ben Y. Faroe says:

    Thanks for the great post, Kate!

    I’ve started noticing a lot of author platforms (mine included) start gravitating toward writing tips, publishing information, and things like that that are more likely to draw other authors than new readers. Anybody have ideas about how to craft a platform that engages readers (or ‘pre-readers’?) and draws them into a community that’s eager to read and share your next release?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate M. Colby says:

      Thanks for reading, Ben! This is something that I have struggled with as well. I think it is most difficult in the early stages, when an author is still trying to establish him/herself. It is also more difficult for fiction authors, especially those who write in multiple genres. After all, a nonfiction author who writes books about traveling can just blog more about traveling! I’m currently researching tips for we fiction authors, and I plan to cover this in a later post. Right now, the suggestions off the top of my head are to write about your novels’ themes (as they relate to wider pop culture issues), review books similar to yours, and interview authors within your genre.

      Like

      • Ben Y. Faroe says:

        Good call – that’s actually helpful. I hadn’t thought of interviews within genre, and have only had glancing blows off the ideas of reviews and thematic stuff.

        My broad approach (or rather, theory) so far has been to try to write about the things I care about and enjoy, trusting that they’re the same sorts of things that will come out in my novels and will thus attract readers to my blog who will also like my books. But those are some specific variants or applications of that theme that bear reflection.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A.R. Files says:

    Thank you for this post! Only recently (as I’m editing the second draft of a novel) did I decide that I should try to look a little more professional in terms of creating an author platform. That was the reason I replaced my profile photo with an actual photo of myself. XD

    Now, I know how to go forward even more! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Happy Typewriter says:

    Thanks for this. I was thinking about this yesterday and wondered if I should delete all my social media profiles and just keep the blog since I don’t have a published book yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Debbie says:

    Great article, Kate.
    Is this your author platform… or perhaps one of them… or do you have another website?
    Do you share part of your works on your author platforms online?
    thanks
    Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate M. Colby says:

      Thanks for reading, Debbie! This is part of my author platform and my current website. I will probably transition to a self-hosted website once my book is closer to release. I do share some of my writing on here, under the writing samples tab.

      Like

  7. Eleanor Dix says:

    Great tips! I never knew it had a name but I do now. I’ll keep trucking along with my blog. Sometimes I get disheartened when I get no likes or comments. Maybe I’m blogging about the wrong things. Lots to think about ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate M. Colby says:

      Thanks for reading! I’ll be writing more about blogging later, but my best tip is to just stick with it. It took me months to get my blog off the ground, and it’s finally getting good traction. Reaching out to other bloggers and always learning are good to — and you’re obviously doing those! Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ortaylor1990 says:

    Ummm…did you write this post for me? Haha! It was exactly what I needed! So helpful and informative. I’m just beginning my journey of building my platform. I’m going to go read the rest of your series on building a platform now!

    Liked by 1 person

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