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Why Building a Platform Is Key for an Author

Platform is that buzzword in the book world that makes many an author cringe. It’s a term that’s often overused–and sometimes hated. More times than not, when you talk to an author about why the publisher turned their book project down, you hear something about “not a big enough platform.”

So, what is platform? And does it really matter for an author?

Platform, in its simplest and most literal definition, is “a raised surface on which things or people can stand.” Think about it. If you have a physical platform and choose to stand on it, you are higher than the people around you. You can see the crowd around you, and they can see you. You are given a voice that travels far above the noise of the chatter below you. And if you stay on the platform for awhile and shout interesting and valuable things, the crowd around you will grow.

In the online world, a platform is just that. It’s a metaphorical raised surface from which you are seen and can speak clearly. It’s influence.

Platform can take shape in many different ways. It can look like any of the below:

  • Strong blog following
  • Robust social media network
  • Connections to influential friends
  • Vigorous speaking schedule
  • Long, engaged email list

The factors above are just a few examples, out of a much longer list, of ways that an author can develop a podium–literally or metaphorically–from which to speak. A platform is simply that: a way to get your voice heard.

Generally, one form of platform builds another. When the email list is strong and strategic, the blog following will grow too. Or, when connections to influencers get tighter and more authentic, the speaking schedule grows in width and depth. Platform grows platform, both online and offline.

So, you might ask, why is it important for an author?

In the old days–the pre-internet days–an author could write an awesome book, and the chances of that manuscript alone winning a publishing deal were fairly likely. But now, because of the internet, individual people hold the power to shout to the masses, so we expect proof of that “shouting” power in a book proposal. Publishers now want strong writing… but also proof that the author can sell that writing. Platform is that proof.

Publishers want good writing--but also proof that the good writing will sell. Platform is that proof. Click To Tweet

Here are four reasons why building a platform is key for an author:

1- A platform is a built-in promotional channel. Whether you’re a big-time blogger or a sought-after speaker, you have an established and proven communication channel through which to share your ideas. The channels are certainly grown through the sharing of valuable information for a specific audience, but that value can be interwoven with effective sales messaging with book launch time comes.

2- A platform demonstrates proof of concept for ideas. If you have a blog following or a social media tribe that responds well to a certain topic or perspective, that’s a strong indication–for both you and for the publisher–that the topic is resonating and is worthy of becoming a long-form product. If a concept wins consistently with an audience, it is more likely to win as a book.

3- A platform proves to a literary agent and a publisher that you have an audience for your message. Words and ideas are great, but in the book business, the bottom line is dollars. And what guarantees dollars? An audience. If you have a platform, it means you have a group of people who deem you and your message worthy of their attention. This is a critical first step for selling books.

Words are great, but in the book biz, the bottom line is dollars. What guarantees dollars? Audience. Click To Tweet

4- A platform can turn a book into a business. With a strong and engaged group of online followers, you do not have to rely on the publisher. It’s increasingly easy these days to leverage your platform to create and distribute small eBooks to grow your email list–or for profit. You can create online courses around your book topic, or even sell other products, and you have a built-in audience primed to buy.

If you’re an author with hopes and dreams for a book career–whether with a publisher or independently–platform is key. For as many hours as you spend writing your manuscript, you’ll need to spend equal time methodically and strategically building your platform. It takes perseverance and time to gain followers and to get your voice heard, but it’s worth it. If done well, the time and energy invested will pay off in the end.

 

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  • Stefanie Lynn

    Wow. Equal number hours building platform as writing! I never heard it put that way. As a new author, that’s a total game changer.
    Thank you for that insight! You completely changed my perspective.

    Stefanie Lynn

    • Stefanie, I’m glad the blog was helpful for you. Good luck with the writing and building your platform!