What, exactly, is an author platform? This has mystified many because it seems the answer differs depending on who you ask. The best explanation that I have found comes from a post on Jane Friedman, “…an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.” It encompasses how you can reach an audience of customers right now, or how you plan to do so in the future. It includes the number or people you can currently reach and the potential for future growth in that base.
A platform is not about hard-selling, annoying people or being a social media extrovert. It is creating a base of loyal fans who are interested in both you and your books and, therefore, it not something that can be built overnight. This is a long game for book sales!
But do you really need a platform to get your book published and into the hands of readers? The answer to this, like so many questions, is…it depends.
Is your book fiction?
Then the answer is no. Publishers make fiction acquisition choices based on the quality of the manuscript, first and foremost. If you’re a famous person writing the book, that might help but it is certainly not required. As a fiction writer, your task is to focus on your writing and produce a book that can be marketed in the first place. Your platform will grow from there.
Is your book non-fiction?
The answer is yes. This means demonstrating your credentials, authority, and your visibility to your target audience. You need to be able to show that you are an expert in the subject, a thought leader or an experienced professional. If you can’t do that yet, all is not lost. Small and university presses are frequently more interested in the content than the platform which gives you time to build a more traditional platform. But again, keep writing!
You may already have a platform if you have:
A popular blog, website, or newsletter with an email list of subscribers
A podcast or YouTube subscribers
Followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social networks
A speaking platform and a willing audience to come and see you in person
An existing business with clients or customers who might buy your book
If you answered no to all of the above, don’t despair. Every author at one point had nothing. No sales, reader fanbase, followers or email list. Building a platform is cumulative--a little attention every day will add up over time. It’s best not to look for immediate, measurable results but to enter into it with enthusiasm and in the spirit of giving good content to your current and future community.