How To Build Your Author Platform

by Brian Cormack Carr on September 2, 2012 · 14 comments

in Author Platform, Indie Publishing, Marketing & Promotion, Publishing, Writing

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The term “author platform” is one that new and aspiring writers are hearing more and more often on their journey to publication. As I make progress towards my own goal of publishing two books in 2013, I’ve been doing a considerable amount of research on the topic. What is an author platform? Why do we need one? I’m learning as I go, and – as promised – I’m sharing that learning with you.

What Is An Author Platform?

Despite what the name suggests, having a platform doesn’t just mean having a base from which to pontificate.  Editor Jane Friedman defines author platform from the perspective of what mainstream publishers want:

“They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.”

She points out that it isn’t about self-promotion, the hard-sell, or being an extrovert who’s willing to annoy people as a means of turning prospects into customers. Instead, it’s a composite thing that ties together your ability to be found by a prospective audience (visibility); the mechanism for getting in touch with them, such as a mailing list (reach); and your own credibility as a writer they should want to read (authority).

I’d add that in this age of social media, there’s another important element to platform – and that’s conversation. We’re a sophisticated bunch these days, and we’ve come to expect that public figures will engage with us directly through social media outlets such as Twitter. Many of us have experienced the thrill of someone famous responding to one of our tweets. Being seen as a human being is a great way to build an audience that trusts your work.

What platform-building isn’t!

The best news for introverted authors is that platform building is less about drawing attention to ourselves just for the sake of it, and more about creating a strong and sustainable conversation-based infrastructure that helps us get our message into the world in a way that’s beneficial both to us and to our readers.

The activities that can go into building an author platform include:

  • Writing and distributing good quality work to your target audience through vehicles which you “own” such as your blog, newsletter, podcast, or social media profiles
  • Sharing your expertise with others via coaching, consultancy, speaking, video blogs and podcasting
  • Increasing your visibility by partnering with others and sharing your writing through their channels (e.g. posting guest articles on someone else’s website)
  • Using your existing communications networks (perhaps through your day job) to help spread information about your writing.

Of course, not all of these activities will suit every writer, and that’s another piece of good news: you should build your platform based on your own preferences and priorities, because one of the greatest strengths of a platform is that it’s authentic.

Why Do You Need An Author Platform?

Well, you don’t – unless you want your writing to be read. It has always been the case that people writing for self-publication have needed to build an author platform in order to ensure their work sells once it’s “out there”. If no one knows about it, it can’t sell. Building and using a platform is vital if you don’t have the weight of a traditional publishing house behind you promoting your work.

In fact, even if you do have such weight behind you, in the 21st century it’s likely that you’ll still want to learn about platform-building, because many mainstream publishers will favour those authors who already have a ready-made platform. When Simon & Schuster recently relaunched their website, they included an Author Portal which encourages writers to use blogs and social media to help promote their work.

How I’m Building My Author Platform

My newsletter, my social media profiles, and my other blogs – all prominent across every page of my sites.

The process of deciding how to build your author platform can be a complex one, because it will undoubtedly be influenced by several factors such as your goals, your personal style, and your workload.

In my case, when I decided I was going to write for publication, I weighed a few options:

  • What was I building a platform for? Should I create it around my books (I had decided to write two) or around myself as an author?
  • How could I build a platform in a way that didn’t take up an inordinate amount of my time?  This was important, because I have a very full-time day job as CEO of a busy charity, in addition to running a part-time coaching practice.
  • I didn’t want to start from scratch, and wanted to build on some of the infrastructure I’d already built over the past couple of years to promote my coaching work.
  • Since I had quite a bit of writing to do anyway, I wanted to build my platform around activities I could easily do from home – such as writing, and perhaps some intermittent video blogging.

After weighing those options, I decided:

Some Resources To Help You Build Your Own Author Platform

Perhaps the best tip I can give you is to just get started.  Spend some time thinking about what your platform-building goals are.  Consider how much time you have to spend on this endeavour, and how simple or complex it needs to be.  If you’re working on one writing project for one niche, then you may only need one platform.  If, like me, you’re simultaneously working on several writing projects that aren’t necessarily natural bedfellows, you may need to build a more complex platform with distinct elements within it.   There isn’t a right or wrong here – you’ve got to figure out what’s going to work best for you.

Here’s some more information to help you get started:

Now – you pretty much know everything you need to know to begin building an author platform.  So go build it!

My book 'HOW TO FIND YOUR VITAL VOCATION: A Practical Guide To Discovering Your Career Purpose And Getting A Job You Love' is now available worldwide. Purchase through Amazon.
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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Marla Turner September 5, 2012 at 12:16 am

Wonderful, Brian! Now I know where to come to refocus 😉
What a great resource ~ Thanks 🙂

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Brian Cormack Carr September 14, 2012 at 8:12 pm

You’re welcome Marla – and it’s great to see you here. Sacred Cyber Space is one of my favourite “refocusing” resources, too 🙂

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Kelly Martin June 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Very helpful Brian, I am feel I am already building a platform before I have even finished my book!

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Brian Cormack Carr June 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Which is exactly the right thing to do, Kelly. Having a platform before you publish definitely helps, and saves a lot of time later. It’s still hard work promoting a book with a platform in place, but it would be som much harder if you had to build the platform at the same time as promoting. What thoughts have you got so far about what your book will be about and how you’ll publish? Are you going down the indiepublishing route, or holding out for a traditional deal?

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Kelly Martin June 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Well, looking at your site I would love my platform to look better, I have not a got a budget to employ anyone, so for now it is my blog, twitter, facebook, google, Pinterest etc.. and once I have my book set up and ready I will set up a website dedicated to the book (or books) who knows. So I am going the self publishing route, but, would like to have the flexibility to contact traditional publishing houses too. Not sure who I am going to go with, createspace or freereader, not sure. I am going to think about that nearer the time. My book is to help people who have had enough of the self help market and want something real, meaty and more where they are at. I don’t want to give too much away LOL

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Kelly Martin June 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I meant feederreader NOT freereader (no idea where that came from?!).

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Brian Cormack Carr June 18, 2013 at 8:20 pm

One thing to check out is how good any print-on-demand paperback publisher is at keeping your book “in stock” with Amazon. Because Createspace is Amazon’s own p-o-d publisher, any book published through that will always show up as being “in stock”, which is good for ensuring buyers feel confident to buy. Some third party p-o-d publishers need a couple of weeks to fulfil an Amazon order – which is why you sometimes see self-published Amazon books as showing “currently out of stock…may take a few weeks to fulfil” on the Amazon site. For that reason, I’m going with Createspace for my paperback….

Andy Bowker June 17, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Thanks for this post, Brian. I must admit I’m a total beginner on these things and I guess for me it’s taking things one step at a time. I have started writing already, about my life story, there’s lots of editing and addition to make to the book and I don’t know how I can get it out there yet .. but I believe it’s a story worth telling.
I am not working at the moment (was made redundant in March) so at the moment I have a bit more time, but it’s a case of getting organised a bit more.
I look forward to reading more of your articles 🙂 Andy

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Brian Cormack Carr June 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Hi Andy – I’m a bit of a beginner myself to be honest, so I thought it made sense to share the information as I go. Hope it’s helpful! The nice thing about self-publishing is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. The key thing is that you’re writing. I’m sure you’ll find your format when the time is right. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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