The Importance of Building an Author Platform

If you have been spending any time around people in the publishing industry then you must have heard the term “Author Platform”. It is a term used to define the demand for an author’s work, and is often considered well before the author’s work is even produced.

In essence it is a measure of how much demand there will be for a person’s book… or ebook.

If you don’t have an author platform then there is nobody anticipating or ready to buy your book and you are unlikely to sell many copies when your book is released. On the other hand if you already have a good author platform then you have an audience who is enthusiastic for your upcoming book.

Building a strong author platform involves establishing your presence and cultivating your readership. It is all about audience development.

The model for building an author platform has been changing significantly in recent years.  Alan Rinzler explained recently over at Forbes, “By definition, the old model of the author platform was the writer’s public visibility and reputation that the publisher’s publicity department used to promote and sell the book.

He explains how the old way favored authors with “high gloss visibility” in the national media or “big buzz” for recent accomplishments. “We insisted on a stellar track record in book sales and appearances on radio and TV. Everyone understood that the bigger the platform, the higher the advance.

So why has it changed? Because the way people choose books has changed. Today readers are more likely to go online to search for something to read than to pick up book tips from a TV show or newspaper column.

Rinzler goes on to explain that the new model for author platform still involves visibility and reputation but revolves around interaction between authors and their readers.

You should start building an author platform as early as possible since you want to have a strong following when you launch your book.

There are many ways to build a good author platform however every strategy should include the following elements:

Set up Your Web Page or Blog

As an author you need to have your own blog or web site. Your web site should be an easy way for your readers and fans to find up-to-date information including your author bio, upcoming events (book signings, readings, trips), and links to purchase your books.

Certainly you might set up an author page at other book and author community sites but you should also have your own site. You can set up a blog free at Blogger.com or WordPress.com but it is better to have your own domain name and web hosting service, which is typically available for as low as $4 per month through hosting companies like Hostgator and Bluehost.

Social Networking

For years I considered social networks like Twitter and Facebook to be time wasters – because I didn’t realize just how authors have been using social networks effectively in their business. After I discovered what was actually happening I wrote a post at Worldwide Freelance entitled “Why Should Writers Use Twitter?” Much of that advice applies to other social networks too.

The power of leveraging social networks to build your author platform comes down to tweeting, posting helpful messages, and joining the conversation on relevant topics. By doing this you are building your visibility and reputation in your field.

I am sure that your readers will be looking for you online and on Facebook and Twitter in particular. The good news is that your followers on social networks will be among the first to buy your book when it comes out.

Obtain Book Reviews

Book reviews are very important to building your reputation as an author and helping people to finalize their decision to buy your book. There are various ways to encourage book reviews which I’ll cover in a separate post.

More Ways to Increase Your Visibility

Other activities which will help you to build your author platform include giving interviews, making appearances at book events and doing “book signings”.

In closing some wise words from Jane Friedman, of Writer’s Digest, which appeared at WriterUnboxed:

“Getting a book published does NOT equate to readership. You must cultivate a readership every day of your life, and you start TODAY. Your readers will not be interested in reading just one book; they will be interested in everything and anything you do—and that includes interacting with you online. Audience development doesn’t happen overnight (or even in 6 months or a year)—and it’s a process that continues for as long as you want to have a readership. It shouldn’t be delayed, postponed, or discounted for one minute.”

About the Author: Gary McLaren

Gary McLaren is the author of 'The Indie Author's Guide to Publishing Ebooks'. He also manages several web sites for professional writers including Publish Your Own Ebooks and Worldwide Freelance.





Comments

  1. Most authors get that they’re supposed to start a blog and get involved with social media, but they often start out writing/tweeting for other writers instead of for their target audience (and I was the same way, grin). It’s not just about amassing a lot of followers, but about having the right type of followers — those who read in your genre of books (or niche, if you write non-fiction). Also, I’d add starting a newsletter as an absolute must for this list.

  2. This is a great post, Gary. I think an author in many ways has to look at themselves like they were a brand and a product (doesn’t sound great, but you know what I mean). I think you have to have some good judgement skills to decide where, how and why to be seen.

    Love this blog.

  3. I agree with Jonas, in that writing is and always has been a business, separate and together with the creative aspects of putting pen to paper. To build readership, it makes sense that the author will have to “advertise” his/her product – the book, build an audience and relate, on an ongoing basis, to the readers. There is also the very real fact that people buy ANYTHING, based on salesmanship and branding. I don’t mean the slimy, unscrupulous kind of salesman, but the one who makes you want to purchase what they’re selling and believe in the product. Like it or not, today’s authors are expected to contribute to the sale of the book and the selling process, not just sit in a corner and write. Great article and very timely.

  4. In my previous career, classical singing, one had to be very careful to be ready before presenting ones self – and not to jump in too quickly and make mistakes that would never be forgotten! This makes one wary. What to blog? What to Tweet? What Facebook messages? I’m all set up but want to say the right things and at the right time and in the right way! Wish me luck! My feeling is that you are right and today is the day for me to jump right in!

  5. Many authors (myself included) try building a platform after they have published a book. The word platform means something you stand on in order to be seen, therefore you need to start building before the book is published so you can be visible to your audience.

  6. I’ve never really understood the concept of building your platform before you have any published writing to offer. How can you market yourself when you have nothing to market? Why would anyone want to be a fan of someone who ‘might get a book published some day’ when the writer has nothing tangible to offer.

    Building relationships with people who have similar interests through social networking certainly has benefit, but I think there needs to be more.

    I guess my thought boils down to this: It’s hard to become a popular author when you’re not actually an author yet.

    Something I’ve found useful in building a platform is writing free serial fiction, which I make available on-line. Suddenly I have something tangible to offer which makes me worth following. I have started to slowly build a fan base through this, which will be helpful when I eventually get a novel successfully published.

    • Great to know! I write and ma helping a few self-publishing authors go to press and to market their books. Building your platform before your book is complete, because it gets people excited about the book you’ve got coming out. There’s nothing like making a sale the second your book is in your hands! Was going to wait til the book was printed … but now I think we’ll get going with the website and FB pages! Tnx

    • Zalina Barrington says:

      I agree with this statement. So far I’ve written 2 completed book & partially started others. However I’ve decided to try re-write both books and add more illustrations & then publish e-books.
      But due to the diversity of my own interests I do not stick to one genre, which will make it difficult to establish a fan base on blogs… I also have a natural distaste for wasting all day online and avoid the internet, so a blog isnt an option for me.
      I’d never get any books written if I spend all day online!
      Writing books takes time and peace & quiet, with no disruptions if one hasnt got writers block.
      Meantime I had best finish my art diploma (honours).
      The first book I’ll be writing is a children’s story book about a nasty little compost mouse who came into my house & interbred with my pet mice. Not a nice memory. Trying to PC it for kids who dont like to have anything die has been a right pain!

  7. So true, Gary.

    And building a platform is as much about offering the reader something (like information) as well as asking something of him or her (buy my book). I often find it annoying if somebody only updates Facebook status to repeatedly mention his book, but I find it refreshing and helpful when people write illuminating articles on their blogs.

    Yes, it’s time consuming but we build a better following by giving rather than simply hoping to take in the royalties.

    Sigrid

  8. All great points, Gary. I’ll share this with colleagues who are just starting out and are curious about an author platform.

    In response to Adam, it’s like this… think about the grocery store when it’s Sample Saturday. Shoppers are far more likely to buy something they’ve sampled than something that’s a complete unknown. Maintaining a blog with writing that is typical of what potential readers will find in your future books is a way of providing samples.

    You’re on the right track with your serial fiction. That’s what will allow you to develop a following of readers who will be highly motivated to read your future books.

  9. There are plenty of valid points here but there are still the old-fashioned roads e-book writers can still follow.
    Local Press and Radio are always ready to assist local talent. They are good to bear in mind.
    When I wrote hard copy books, I’d get plugs from my local papers. This would be a half–or even three quarter–page and with a big photo of me. I even appeared on local radio and it did help book sales.
    What’s often surprised me is how things I’ve written for local newspapers have been taken up by the (British) nationals. True, I didn’t make money from the nationals but I got plenty of publicity.

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