Years ago, the word “platform” was synonymous with a stage or podium. In the world of authors and speakers today, it is infinitely more. If you are serious about getting your message out and succeeding as an author, then building and maintaining a strong author platform is essential.
Why? Because it is increasingly difficult to cut through the media clutter and get heard in our world’s congested marketplace. People are busy—and their attention spans seem to be getting shorter. To grab your potential reader’s attention and hold it, you need an effective author platform.
What is a “platform”?
Basically your platform is building an audience so you can sell more books. It is your presence online or in person. It’s your persona, your brand—who you are reflected to the world.
Writers today are also promoters. While some of us don’t like the business side of book publishing; others thrive on it. Either way, you can be sure that your agent and editors will ask you, “What’s your platform?” And, if you already have one, how can you grow your author platform. Here’s what industry insider Jane Friedman says about author platforms:
“Platform is not about bringing attention to yourself, or by screaming to everyone you can find online or offline, ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ Platform isn’t about who yells the loudest or who markets the best.
It is more about putting in consistent effort over the course of a career, and making incremental improvements in extending your network. It’s about making waves that attract other people to you—not about begging others to pay attention.”
Remember, the time to create your author platform is not when you get published, it’s before you get published—before you even talk to an agent.
Benefits of an author platform
One of the most well-known authors and speakers on this topic is Michael Hyatt. In fact, he has a book called “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” (Thomas Nelson).
Hyatt’s name is well-known in the CBA publishing world; he is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and he has worked in the book publishing industry for most of his career. He’s also written eight books (who were New York Times bestsellers). Today, he speaks and writes about leadership, publishing (including platform) and personal development.
According to Hyatt, there are three essential benefits to building your platform:
Visibility – “a stage on which you are elevated above the crowd”
Amplification – “to be heard above the roar of the crowd…and extend your reach even further”
Connection – “conversation…engagement”
How to build your platform
Bottom line: you need tools and you need a strategy to create and maintain an effective author platform. Most authors know that they need to have a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a blog, a website and the like. These social media tools are essential, and often publisher-required, in addition to speaking to promote your books.
But now, says Hyatt, there is a “new world of platform-building” and that includes “using courses, [membership sites], software and even affiliate promotion strategies.” He calls this the Platform Revolution.
Revolution aside, many authors need to start with the basics of an author platform--their social media presence. Use the basic (and free) social media sites to create a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and other sites and build a following—build community.
Once you’ve established your social media, you need to be active on the sites. You can choose to schedule your posts ahead of time with tools like HootSuite (However, this is debatable since some media consultants feel that live posts are better than scheduled-ahead posts.)
Essential items in an effective author platform also include: building an author website, making use of audio and video clips, creating a blog, speaking, networking at industry events, conducting book signings (although live events are lessening in favor of “blog tours” or other online book parties and events) and more.
Finding time for platform building
How do you find time to do all this and write books? While you may have a job, family, ministry and other commitments (like actually writing your books), maintaining your author platform takes two things: priorities and focus.
If you have an assistant, you can delegate the tasks. If not, you will need to schedule time on your own calendar. Don’t freak yourself out by thinking this will be a huge time commitment. Building your platform, like building a house, doesn’t happen in a day. And, you can choose which elements you will focus on, and when.
Start by making an appointment with yourself this week to build or grow your author platform and increase your visibility online and/or in person. Make a list (What platform-building activities do I want to start or improve upon?). Then, prioritize your list and tackle one task at a time.
If you can, enlist help. Perhaps another creative professional would exchange services with you or hire someone to take your brand to the next level. If those options are not viable, block out time on your own schedule.
Making platform-building a priority, not an afterthought will increase your visibility, boost your connections with readers (and potential readers), and help you get your message out to the people who need it most.
Jackie M. Johnson is an author, freelance writer and book publishing consultant in Colorado. Previously, she worked at the premiere literary agency, Alive Communications, and the CBA-publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Visit her encouragement blog, A New Day Cafe, or website at http://www.jackiejohnsoncreative.com/.