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?
Think 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
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 you. You 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.
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?