Platform is a word you often see tossed around in book marketing circles. Unfortunately, you almost never see an explanation of what exactly a platform is. A platform is your reputation as an expert in the marketplace. Many things can contribute “planks” to your platform, such as:
- Your credentials. For example, if you are a doctor or a university professor, all those letters after your name help your credibility as an author.
- Public speaking appearances. If you travel around the country giving speeches to large audiences or appear on television regularly, you have a big plank in your platform. (In fact, publishers and agents may approach you about writing a book.)
- Widely read writings, such as a column in a national magazine or newspaper.
Don’t despair if you aren’t a celebrity or don’t have advanced degrees. Thanks to the Internet, it’s much easier for “regular” people like you and me to establish a platform. At this point, many author platforms are built online with blogs, Web sites, and other online marketing techniques.
You can add planks to your platform as a side effect of marketing yourself, your business, or both. For example, a platform may include:
- A blog. The movie Julie and Julia offers a great example of how a blog can lead to a book deal. If you have a lot of readers, you have fans who are likely to buy your book.
- A community-oriented Web site. For example, I’m the founder of the National Association of Pet Rescue Professionals (NAPRP). I have a newsletter that goes out to people involved in rescue and humane work. From a publishing standpoint, that means I already have a ready audience of readers of books on humane topics.
- A large following on social media. Social media is about relationships, so if you have established an active community on a social media site, you have personal connections that can lead to book purchases.
If you are trying to get a traditional book contract, the bigger and more visible your platform, the more likely it is you can get a larger advance. No platform often means no book deal at all.
Having a platform helps you if you are self-publishing as well. As soon as I told my NAPRP readers about my latest book Funds to the Rescue: 101 Fundraising Ideas for Humane and Animal Rescue Groups, the book started selling. Anyone working in rescue wants to raise more money, after all.
The reality is that in today’s marketplace, authors who want to sell books need to do a lot more than write. It’s important to understand marketing as well. Even if you are traditionally published, your publisher won’t be marketing the book. You will. So start taking steps to establish your platform now.